Bubblin' Up: South London Ordnance
- Words: Si Truss
South London Ordnance politely requests that his real name does not appear in print, but calling the UK producer anonymous would probably give the wrong impression. It's true that he's careful to keep some details of his background sketchy, occasionally sidestepping questions about his musical past and extra-curricular activities, but in conversation he makes no attempts to join the masked men, hood-wearers, and shut-ins of the UK's league of enigmatic dance musicians. In fact, he comes across as a cautious, and occasionally unconfident, fledgling producer, trying to keep the focus on his music as the wave of hype that surrounds his sensual, garage-tinged takes on house and techno builds at an ever-dizzying pace.
"I just didn't have any press shots in the beginning," he semi-jokes. "Plus, the music was terrible, so I didn't want people I knew hearing the rubbish I was making." As things have progressed though, it seems that remaining just out of the spotlight has suited his master plan. Throughout our interview, he alludes dismissively to other musical projects—potentially other aliases and almost definitely involvement with a label—that he'd rather keep separate from the South London Ordnance name. "I've got some plans that I'd like to put into action over the next couple of years," he explains, "so I think it's important to keep your cards relatively close to your chest."
Suffice to say, he is a post-graduate student in the earlier half of his twenties who hails, somewhat unsurprisingly, from south London. So far, he has only a small handful of official releases to his name, debuting with the "Sanctuary" b/w "Roofy" 12" on the 2nd Drop imprint back in May, which was followed by another, "Trojan" b/w "Pacific," for Well Rounded in July. Nevertheless, the ripples of excitement around his work stretch back maybe 12 months further than that. His SoundCloud account is a constant revolving door of unreleased tunes that quietly appear and disappear with little explanation. Creatively, his background lies in illustration and graphic design, and he's spoken in the past about how he approaches musical composition in the same textural way he approaches visual arts. Along with a handful of other rising producers, such as fellow Londoner Thefft, and Bristol producers Artifact and Ziro, he sits at the head of a new crop of emerging UK artists who are making house-tempo music that bridges the gap between the multi-textural experimentation of post-dubstep and the floor-filling sensibilities of classic British techno.
South London Ordnance's history as a DJ goes back considerably further than his discography (he's actually only been making music for a little over 18 months), but hearing him detail his evolution behind the decks, it's easy to see how his sound—impressively eclectic yet ever respectful of classic UK dance music—has its roots in his DJing style. "When I first started DJing in clubs in London, Leeds, and Bristol, etc., I was running a lot of jungle and drum & bass," he explains. "But I quickly found it quite a restrictive BPM and a lot of people find the sound a real turn off." A drop in tempo led him to explore garage, grime, and funky, with the occasional foray into dubstep, but he found himself preferring to dip into each sound, rather than devoting full sets to any one particular style. "I've always been drawn to certain tracks from certain scenes," he says. "I know the kind of sounds I like and I guess what's great about dance music—especially in the form that has been developing over the last few years—is that these sounds pop up all over the place."
It's only in recent months that he's combined the two outlets and started DJing under the South London Ordnance moniker, but these years of experience have set him in good stead; his reputation as a DJ already precedes him, aided by an assured, expertly mixed addition to LuckyMe's mixtape series. But the confidence one can hear in his mixes is less evident when he talks about his own music. "It's only really very recently—the last couple of months—I've actually produced music that I feel comfortable with," he admits. "[Music] that represents where I want to go artistically and showcases some of the tougher technical stuff I've been working really hard to crack. I've still got a long way to go in terms of developing my technical skills and getting better at the songwriting aspect itself, but at the same time, that's what excites me: that there's loads of interesting stuff still to uncover." These limited inroads into the more technical ends of production are matched by the minimal setup of equipment he uses; he works in Logic because he found a cheap copy and had watched friends use it in the past, but that's pretty much the extent of his production arsenal. "I only recently got a MIDI keyboard—I don't really have the space or the cash to be building a studio. I did the last two 12"s plugging the keys in on my laptop keyboard, which was actually a fantastically restrictive way to work. I think in reality, you have to earn that stuff; when you outgrow the kit you have and you're releasing on bigger labels, and the sonics demanded are perhaps a little more refined, then maybe you need to go out and drop stacks of cash on gear. Right now, I'm pretty happy just using my laptop."
One of the most fascinating things about South London Ordnance's output to date has been the volume of mysterious unreleased tracks that seem to be lurking in the background. Countless impressive cuts have appeared on his SoundCloud account and in mixes, only to disappear again without a trace. "I write a lot of music, because that's what I love doing. I love being busy and making things," he explains. As a result, he's sitting on a wealth of unreleased and unheard tunes. "Lots of them are rubbish," he admits, "but a couple of them are good. The reality is, you're never going to release everything you make. Even if you make something you love that goes off every time you play it out, you just might not find the right label that's willing to put it out. And that happens a lot—to me anyway." He use SoundCloud, he explains, to host the tracks he likes, but he doesn't realistically see getting a proper release.
His elusive online stream aside, he has just released his most substantial official release yet, in the form of the Big Boss Theme EP on Audio Culture, and he has another 12", "Chase Scene" b/w "Witch Hunt," due soon on Danish label TEAL. He also has plans on the horizon to unveil a label attached to the South London Ordnance name. "It won't be the first label I've been involved with, but I'll be looking to gather up all the things I've learnt in the past to put together something exciting—I hope anyway. I'll be releasing some of my own music and alias' of people you and I know, as well as completely unheard of producers who are just doing interesting stuff."
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