Culprit 1 Interview

By terry church

Beatportal starts the interview with Culprit 1 [a] by telling him some bad news. We think he might have attention-deficit disorder (ADD), characterised by a persistent pattern of inattention and impulsivity.

His new album ‘Running In Order’ refuses to stick to one genre for more than three minutes.

One minute it is chunky hip hop grooves, the next it’s banging drum & bass, pop, electro-breaks, or chill out. Clearly he’s got a problem.

“Ha ha, yes I get bored very easily,” admits Culprit 1 aka Welshman James Hannam.

“I can’t look at a website or listen to someone talking for more than ten seconds and it’s the same with music.

“I can’t stay in the studio for more than 25 minutes at a time, I just get bored and have to do something else for a while which usually involves lying on the floor and drinking green tea.

“I’m too hyper to stick to normal musical arrangements, so I chop things up, play things backwards and mash up the drum beats in order to maintain both my interest and that of the listener.

“This style of composition doesn’t work for everyone, but I don’t think I could work any other way.”

They say there’s a fine line between genius and insanity, and whilst Culprit 1’s music and approach to production might be a little unconventional, his debut LP is masterful.

Complex arrangements of electronic sounds fuse magically with live instruments, thought-provoking vocals and drums, which provide an engaging listening experience rarely found on an electronic music album.

It’s no wonder then, that James cites dance music greats like Orbital, Underworld and The Prodigy as his main musical influences.

“I received a keyboard for my ninth birthday. All my other friends had guitars, so I was quite disappointed at the time,” says James.

“However, it was the best present my parents ever bought me.

“I became obsessed with The Prodigy because I thought the keyboard sounds on their ‘Jilted’ album were fantastic.

“Gradually, I found out more about recording and saved up enough money to buy a Tascam four-track tape recorder.

“I used it to make jazz tunes for school projects and then started covering Prodigy tracks such as ‘Break & Enter’ during the holidays, so I could learn about production techniques.

“The Prodigy are my biggest influence, I’ve bought every single thing they’ve released and been a fan since the age of 11.”

‘Running In Order’ is incredibly varied for a debut album, something that Culprit 1 [a] attributes to electronic music’s infinite possibilities.

Whilst rock music is always based on the same old conventional instruments, electronic music has no boundaries reckons James.

“I think electronic music wins hands-down over other genres when it comes to creativity,” he says.

“The problem with indie and rock music is that, because of the instruments used, every track will sound similar.

“How many times do I want to listen to the same chugging distorted guitar riffs? The answer is never again.

“There are exceptions of course – Radiohead and Enter Shikari being the most notable.

“But in general, I find that stuff very uninspiring.

“With electronic music, producers can conjure up sounds from any source we like; sounds around the house, people outside in the street, your friend who plays the cello – anything.

“The possibilities are endless and that’s why I love electronic music.”

Whilst many electronic music producers create tracks mainly for the dancefloor, Culprit 1’s album makes for excellent home listening. That was deliberate.

“I was determined to compile a mix of tunes that would sound equally as good at home as they do in a club.

“I based my album on the greats – Underworld, Leftfield, Orbital, The Chemical Brothers.

“They all considered the dancefloor and the home in harmony.

“All the best electronic albums work well in both contexts.”

Another factor that makes Culprit 1 stand out as a producer is the fact he looks to r&b producers such as Timbalake and Rodney Jerkins for inspiration and ideas.

“Their quality control is impeccable, and I mainly look to those guys for production tricks,” he comments.

James created much of the music for ‘Running In Order’ after he graduated from uni, which makes his album all the more impressive.

You’d be hard pressed to find another 26-year old producer who can make music of this caliber.

“Listening back to the album reminds me of a time just after I’d graduated from university,” says James.

“I was living in Cardiff, Wales and just spent hours and hours building up tracks – I used to write about three a week.

“A lot of that material ended up on the album, so I guess ‘Running in Order’ is a paean to hard work, experimentation and boundless creativity.”

If you’ve got electronic music ADD, Culprit 1’s ‘Running In Order’ will surely cure it.