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Introducing

Bristol dubstepper Culprate talks Pink Floyd, jet-engine PCs, and his new EP

By Sean Lewis
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UK dubstep producer Culprate’s tracks and remixes are usually marked by different sonic twists and turns, but they always seem to be ranked amongst the top selections in our charts. His originality has made him a name to remember of late, and he continues to build notoriety with releases like his latest EP, Nightmares In Reality, and his remix Skrillex and Damian Marley’s “Make It Bun Dem.” But despite his growing popularity, little is known about John Hislop himself, so allow us to introduce you to him properly.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where did you grow up, and where are you based now?

I grew up in a place called Watford. I lived in a tiny house with my mum and two sisters. Being the only guy in the house, seclusion was necessary. I guess that’s why I got into music. I now live in Bristol with the missus.

What was you’re first introduction into electronic music?

It was in Scotland in ’96. One of my cousins was really into happy hardcore.

How did you get started producing?

I started producing in college in 2002. I went there to do music practice (learn to be in a band), but during our Reason lessons (on Reason 2.5, state of the art at the time) I became fascinated by the possibilities.

Is there any specific track whose production amazes you?

Anything off of Meddle by Pink Floyd. I can’t specifically say why, but for me, it’s the pinnacle of audio engineering.

Was there a point when you recognized that you had finally developed your own sound?

Yes, definitely. It was before I started making dubstep. Maybe five years ago. But, it was more because other people would point out that my tunes were starting to sound consistent.

Do you DJ or play live (or both)? How would you describe your sets?

I started DJing simply because I got offered sets. So at first I used Ableton on my laptop. I’ve since found that a laptop running Windows is too unreliable to use live, so I learned to mix. But, not having decks has always been a problem. 

I try to fit as many different styles and genres in as possible. So I guess my sets are like a journey through all the dance music I like.

Did you have any mentors when you were starting out producing?

Nope. Only my college tutors. But they were more skilled in recording and all-around studio work (old guys with beards).

Are you the type of musician who knows what kind of track you want to write before you sit down to make it, or do you create music more from a process of experimentation?

Most of the time I go into the studio with a vibe, but how that vibe materializes is spontaneous. I find doing things this way insures something organic and unforced.

When you sit down to make a track, what’s the first thing you typically do? How long does a track typically take you to make?

It depends what kind of track I’m making. If it’s a dance track, I would usually start with some drums to make a groove, then add the bass around that to build a counter groove. My more experimental music would often start with me playing a few notes on a guitar, or playing with some chords in Ableton.

Where do you record?

I record in dedicated studios mostly. It just gets the best results. But recording in my home studio is often necessary for efficiency. When recording at home I would run a cable out of my control room into one of the bedrooms for two reasons. Firstly, in bedrooms there in lots of soft things; this helps reduce ambient noise; and secondly, my PC sounds like a jet engine.

Do you currently have a favorite piece of gear?

I’ve always been too skint to afford any proper toys. But software-wise, I try and use Ableton to its fullest. So 99% of the plugins I use are Ableton’s own. Saying that, there is one plugin that has stayed with me from my college days: the PSP Vintage Warmer. It just has a really sweet character.

Is there any gear that you don’t currently have but have been obsessed with owning?

There are a couple of things I’ve had my eye one for a while: the Alesis Andromeda and the Nord Electro.

Are you a morning person or night owl?

Night owl.

When you’re not listening to electronic music, what do you listen to?

Most of the time it’s old prog rock, jazz, and classical. I rarely listen to electronic music.

When you’re not making or playing music, what’s your preferred pastime?

Sleeping.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing with your life?

I’d be miserable.

Tell us about your upcoming gigs and releases…

I just released “Nightmares in Reality” on Inspected. As far as I’ve been made aware, it’s doing quite well. I have to be kind of vague on this one because things can change. At the moment I’m working on a new EP and some more experimental material.

As for gigs…
- September 21 – H.E.N.C.H @ Cable
- September 22 – Seville, Spain (Stereopoly)
- September 28 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
- September 29 – UKF Antwerp, Belgium
- October 19 – Edinburgh, Scotland
- October 20 – Rennes, France
- October 27 – Toulouse, France