SURLY: Surly EP + Interview
Auckland beat constructor Surly is making waves in the footwork scene with his debut release through LA based label Juke Bounce Werk. The Surly EP opens with Burn, a track driven by a rhythmic guitar bassline along with some female vocal chops, before lightly placed bass drums help steer the track in an upbeat direction. Long established UK bass pioneer and founder of Hyperdub Records Kode9 cosigned the track by giving it a spin during his BBC Radio 1 Residency show. Full Nelson starts off feeling somewhat like a superhero theme song, before Kush Jones vocals are triggered over slightly villainous sounding horns.
One of the great things about the EP is the diverse range of samples used. Throughout the 18 minute experiment you're treated to cuts of breakbeats, jungle loops, jazzy horns and tribal drums laced underneath rap soundbites. On the final track Drown listeners are treated to smooth R&B-like vibes, which is perhaps more reminiscent of the typical footwork/juke sound. This is only the beginning, and we can't wait to see what else Surly has in store for us through his affiliation with Juke Bounce Werk.
We reached out to Surly to chat about his connection with JBW, and how he got into footwork in the first place:
ITNOR: Tell us about how the connection with Juke Bounce Werk was formed?
Surly: It started with DJ Noir stumbling upon a track of mine, The Tradition, on Soundcloud. I signed a tune for an upcoming compilation, and started sending them all the music I was making, did a few collaborations with Scatta, Kush Jones, and Swisha Sweet. We hit it off pretty quickly, the crew are a real family, and after getting good feedback from RP Boo after he played down here, they asked me to join. Big thanks to RP for his part in this! Buuuuuuuuuu!!!
Wow, that must've been extremely encouraging to get that kind of a response from one of the pioneers! Did you get along to his dance workshop? How do you rate yourself at footwork (dancing)?
Yeah I went to the workshop, it was really inspiring, my dancing was less inspiring. I really should practice at home more, I'm sure it would help my music. Many of the best footwork producers started as dancers first. This music is driven by the dance, its form follows its function.
What drew you to the Chicago sound (of footwork)? Rashad we're guessing?
It didn't happen straight away. Until about 2 years ago, I was still focused more on UK flavoured stuff - inspired by garage, grime, techno and jungle. The first footwork stuff I heard, I didn't really understand, until I heard the Phillip D Kick edits. I love old school jungle, so I think having that reference helped me to get a "foothold" in understanding the music, though I still didn't know enough to try it myself. When DJ Rashad's Double Cup came out, it was like the Holy Grail. On that album I heard such a wide range of sounds, moods, and beat patterns, and the only rule tying them together was that they were written for dancing to. I loved the references to other styles, from West Coast hip hop, to acid techno, to jungle, and these dynamic arrangements that swung from frenetic and paranoid, to lush and expansive. I was hooked. I felt like I'd found a genre that would let me get away with anything, as long as the dancers could still move their feet to it. When I moved back to Auckland 18 months ago I made some new, really good friends who were really into the music, and so having other people around who were passionate about it really helped.
I see a lot of the pioneering footwork producers use MPC's. Is that the case for you or are you more of a software guy?
No MPC, all software. Though much of it is still sequenced or played live.
Impressive. Finishing up here, what are your plans for the rest of the year - in terms of releases, and performing? Do you have a vision for creating a footwork/juke scene here in New Zealand?
As far as a local scene.. there have been a few gigs, and I've seen a few people who could footwork, but really, for a scene to build, we don't just need listeners and DJ's and people who buy alcohol and keep bar doors open, we need dancers. I would love to see a thriving scene here, but it's probably not going to start in the club, it's going to be in dance studios and high schools, in youth dance troupes. Footwork is not something you wanna try for the first time after drinking two litres of craft beer. Local interest in the music is definitely growing though, even in the short time I've been back in Auckland. As far as myself, I'm hoping to head over to LA before the end of the year and play a few shows, meet the rest of the Juke Bounce Werk family and make some music with them. I have some other exciting stuff lined up for the rest of the year, but I will wait until closer to the time to share.