Reedale Rise Q&A

Reedale Rise AKA Simon Keat recently dropped his debut release on 20/20 Vision 'Pressure Drop' which see’s him continue his purple patch of form following from releases on other esteemed labels including Frustrated Funk, Common Dreams, Emotions Electric and Boe Recordings.

We caught up with Simon to discuss the release, his hometown, live sets and more. He also showcases a live studio version of the 'Pressure Drop' EP which you can watch below.

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What were the key inspirations behind the Reedale Rise project?

 I've always gravitated towards the emotive, dreamy and melancholic side of dance music.  Much of teenage years were spent listening to drum and bass; I was a massive fan of LTJ Bukem, Good Looking Records, Photek, Roni Size and Goldie because they had that melodic, musical approach to dance floor music, but still retained solid rhythmic foundations and driving bass.  In my university years I delved into the deeper side of house and techno too, listening to Detroit stuff like Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin, Theo Parrish and Derrick May.  These days I find I don't really want to listen to electronic music when I'm not in the studio, so I've been binging on 60s and 70s jazz and soul albums.

 On a more personal level I was brought up in the beautiful Cornish countryside, surrounded by nature.  I think that sense of tranquillity is something that has indirectly permeated into my music as love of melody, harmony and beautiful sounds.  There's quite a few references to nature and the environment in my track titles if you take a closer look too.  I also had a brief career as a biologist a while ago where I was examining and exploring the natural world.

 It’s interesting you took a long time to come out with your Reedale Rise project after being involved in the scene for some time, what ignited this drastic ignition of releases?

I started making music with computers in a very uneducated, experimental way when I was about 15.  I kept this up for the next 20+ years, messing about, testing boundaries and largely making terrible music.  Around 7/8 years ago I started taking things a little more seriously and found that working with hardware was a million times more fun and intuitive than clicking away at a mouse.  This led to doing a Youtube channel of me making music in the studio, which got an enthusiastic little following.

 My first record with Common Dreams was signed after label boss Brad Peterson saw my Youtube videos.  He got in contact and asked me to send some demos.  Up to that point I didn't really feel my stuff was good enough as I set a pretty high standards for what I wanted to achieve. Things snowballed from that first release and then the first Frustrated Funk record.  I've also got a pretty fast work flow in the studio now, so I've been able to keep up a decent schedule of releases. 2019 is going to be a busy one!

Reedale Rise has recently had releases on several highly influential electro labels including Dutch imprint Frustrated Funk. How did you get in contact with these guys to make things happen?

 I'm pretty bad at self-promotion but I did decide to send out a couple of demos after the Common Dreams release.  I dropped a Soundcloud message to Klen from Frustrated Funk and linked my track Light Through a Bird's Wing.  He got back to me after a few weeks to ask me to send some more tracks, which I did straight away.  I had to pinch myself at that point as it's a dream label to work with.  The back catalogue is impeccable with stuff from ERP, Gerald Donald (Drexciya), Gosub; these artists helped make up the foundations of electronic music.

 Did you find that once you had records out on Frustrated Funk doors started to open at other labels?

 Yes, things stepped up a gear, particularly after my second FF release.  That record did really well, got repressed twice and has sold more than a thousand copies on vinyl, which is pretty decent these days.  Since then I've had a lot of nice offers to work with different labels, including of course 2020 Vision.  I guess it's probably helped that electro has been going through a bit of renaissance recently and people are interested in it (yet again).

 You created a youtube channel for live jams in different styles. There’s also loads of different set ups on show. Was it an interesting way to develop your live performance and what is your current set up for live shows?

 I liked doing the jam videos as there wasn't any pressure for it to be a perfect finished article and it was a nice way of testing the water to see if anyone was actually interested in my sounds.  I was involved in a supportive little online community of jam video makers, who were enthusiastic about what I was doing.  This gave me a little more confidence that I might be doing something halfway decent.

 At the time of the early Youtube videos I was using an Akai MPC2000 to sequence the synths and a 24 channel Allen and Heath mixer.  It was a great setup and taught me a lot about the importance of just bashing out ideas quickly and worrying about the finesse later.  Since then I've gradually migrated to a setup centred around Ableton Live and a 16 input audio interface.  I've still got a lot of hardware synths connected to the interface but I do the midi sequencing and mixing in Ableton now because I can get a lot more control.  I try to retain some of the impulsive freedom I had when making music with the MPC when I use Ableton and avoid polishing everything up too much.  The organic, human, emotive feel to music often lurks in the subtle mistakes or slightly wonky playing I reckon.

The current live setup that I take on the road is centred around a Macbook running Ableton and a couple of midi controllers.  I divide each track into eight audio stems: kick, snare, hats, percussion, bass and synths.  It's a bit like DJing with my own tracks, except I have a lot more control over the individual elements and effects.  I can play the tracks in whatever I order I feel like but am somewhat guided by the need for a gradual increase in tempo.  I also take a Korg Monotron and a TT303 synth with me to do some acid stuff over the top; it's great for playing live because it's light, simple to tweak and adds a bit of analogue grime and unpredictability.  I'm pretty happy with this setup and I can get it on as hand luggage on a plane which is important for boring practical reasons.

 Have you developed a visual element to the live shows? If not do you have plans?

 Never really thought about the visual side to be honest.  If I had more spare time there's loads of stuff I'd like to do it but I work full time as well as making music, so it's hard to fit everything in.

 What has been the best show you’ve played to date?

 I just came back from Paris, where I played in a pretty industrial looking club called NF34, warming up for Nicholas Lutz.  It was the biggest crowd I've played for (maybe 500+ people) and I managed to hold people's attention okay I think.  A lot of my earlier releases were quite deep and melodic and it's hard to keep the dancefloor energy up if everything is like that.  As a result I've been slowly adding some more stripped back, bass heavy stuff to my set to keep the dancers excited.  A certain Mr Lawson in fact suggested that for my 2020 Vision release I should have something a bit more dancefloor oriented, which resulted in the lead track Hydraulics.  I now feel I've got a nice balance in my live set between the emotive tracks and more the energetic bangers. So yeah, Paris was a lot of fun.

Have to also say I really love playing outdoor gigs.  This summer I played outside at a spectacular 14th century hunting lodge near Lyon and on the riverside in Lisbon.  Both of which were really special experiences because of the obvious freedom of not having a roof overhead and seeing beautiful nature all around.

 Do you DJ as well or see yourself as a live recording artist first and foremost?

My time in the studio is limited, so I really focus on the production side of things as much as possible.  I love DJing but don't consider myself a real DJ because I don't have time to practice or dig for new stuff in any great depth.  I get asked to do podcasts quite often and so I tend to put mixes together in Ableton as I don't have a decent DJ setup at home and my beat matching is dubious.  For podcasts I prefer a more home listening style when I DJ so that I can take in more varied styles and genres without the pressure of having to move people.  I did DJ a little with Ableton at a gig in Mallorca and took quite a lot of pleasure in blasting out some classic 90s techno at around 6am.

 Have you always collected records? What are the most important records in your collection?

I've had decks in the house for a long time and have been through various phases of enthusiasm about buying vinyl and DJing.  At the moment my two Technics are set up in different rooms so mixing isn't an option.  I do love listening to vinyl at home in the living room if I get a quiet moment and a cup of tea on the go.  I'm a big fan of digging for old music in charity shops and second hand places; jazz and soul stuff mostly.  I'm very selective about what electronic music I buy on vinyl as I don't DJ and I want to have records that I will treasure and that can stand the test of time.

To answer the second part I have just quickly flicked through some of my record collection to pull out a few favourites.  I've fairly randomly picked three old ones and three newer.

Stevie Wonder - Fulfillingness' First Finale - a classic which reminds me of my girlfriend, who is a massive Stevie fan.  Her favourite track is Boogie on Reggae Woman and she sings it beautifully.

Minnie Ripperton - Perfect Angel - super deep soul album from 1974.  I used the play the opening track Reasons a lot when I DJed in bars in Liverpool, to my friends and basically at any given opportunity.

Billie Holiday - Volume II - a compilation I picked up years ago.  I melt inside when I hear her voice.  If I could capture a tiny fraction of her melancholy in my own music I'd be a happy man.

Panash - Unicorn/Cheval - a lesser known pseudonym of Pepe Bradock, the French deep house master.   This house record combines my love of weird, alien synth sounds and neck snapping funk.

ERP - Afterimage - obviously I own a great debt to ERP as the purveyor of the finest deep electro around.  Great to see Gerard maintain his career long standard of excellence with this super LP.

Ovatow - In Loving Memory of Juvenile Jay - this one's by Klen, the boss of Frustrated Funk, and I think it's an exceptional work of art; the perfect record really.

Which current artists do you feel a connection to and is there a recent record that has literally flawed you?

There are two artists whose stuff I always follow and check out: ERP/Convextion and Versalife/Conforce.  Both these guys have a real signature sound but with an experimental edge at times.  They also both inject a real emotional resonance into their music, which takes it beyond the club and to something you can listen to at home, or on headphones, and fall deeply into.  It's probably obvious from some of my own tracks that I'm a big ERP fan.

 Some other artists who I think are doing the do at the moment are John Shima, Morphology, Colophon and Kosh.

 How important has Liverpool been as a city for you as an artist?

 I came here to university and went clubbing a lot during that time to places like Bugged Out and a lot of drum and bass nights in the late 90s and early 2000s.  I saw tons of great artists play here like Derrick May, Aphex Twin, Dave Clarke, Goldie, Surgeon, Carl Craig.  In that respect Liverpool nightlife shaped my taste in dance music quite profoundly.

As an artist I've remained pretty isolated here.  I rarely go clubbing any more these days so it's I don't tend to make local music contacts. I'm actually happiest when I'm at home twiddling away on my own at the synths in a dimly lit room, ha!  There are a few crews here in Liverpool who have really supported my music and had me play at their nights, so big shouts to the beautiful people from Upitup, Emotion Wave and Attik!

 The internet has really been my main connection to like minded artists and listeners around the world.  Facebook groups like We're Going Deep and Electro are a real source of inspiration, enthusiasm and knowledge sharing about the deeper shades of dance music that I identify with.

What are your release and live plans for the 2019 ?

Busy!  Obviously I have my release on 2020 Vision, which I'm very excited about.  I'm also doing an EP on a relatively new label called Propersound, which is nearly in the shops.  I have a track on a various artists release on Assemble Music from Portugal out right now and have a mini album to come from them too.  My Frustrated Funk releases have both just been repressed for the second time.  Counting up, I also have another three EPs and a couple of various artists releases that are boxed off and will be coming out this year at some point; the details are secret for now...  Have also just done my first ever remix; it's of a new artist from Romania and will be out in the next few months.  There are also thoughts of doing a second album but I actually need a little studio rest for a bit first, after a rather hectic winter.  

Gig wise, things are hotting up nicely too.  Have just come back from Paris and will be heading to Leeds, Manchester, London and all around again Europe in the next few months.  It's a really wonderful position to find myself in as an artist as I never really planned for any of this to happen.  Turns out that locking yourself in the studio for 20 years and then reluctantly popping your head out can actually work as an unconventional model for musical success, ha!

Reedale Rise’s ‘Pressure Drop’ EP is available on 12” here.

He is also set to join us for the very first edition of Exit Planet Earth our new event series launching at Sheaf St Leeds on March 22nd. Register for free tickets here.