Saturday, 26 June 2010

Sentinels Interview

We don't know much about Sentinels, but what we do know is this. They are influenced by a decade of listening to pirate radio stations in London. They make deep, futuristic but fun synth-lead two-step, neon grime badness and future garage. They hate souless wobble music. And their bright rave-steppa 'Love Rhythm' is the freshest, bounciest blast of future two-step we've heard all year - when Whista dropped it at last month's Swivel party it sent us running to the decks in that classic open-mouthed 'what THE FUCK is THIS? stylee within the first 6 bars. Oh and Garage God Todd Edwards is a fan and inlcuded said track on his recent podcast for ultra-hip US mag XLR8.  Prop and plays from one of.... actually, fuck it, THE garage scene's biggest legends? It's definitely a good look. So basically, we don't know much about Sentiels, but everything we do know - and have heard - from them points to big tings for this mysterious production force. We thought it was time to get to know more, so we hooked up with James from Sentinels to get the low down.

DLT: First up, who are you and where are you from? What's the story behind the Sentinels name?

J: We are Sentinels, from North and North-West London, Finchley and Edgeware area. There are two of us James and Steve. I (James) take on engineering duties and online stuff and Steve does more of the DJ side of things and also does production. The name came about after driving around and seeing a sign on the road. I think it was for a house building company strangely! It made me think of the X-Men bad-guys and when I got home and looked the meaning up it felt right. It means 'watcher' and a sentinel was a type of Roman guard. I like the idea of the music being influenced from standing back watching things, like people, places and the motion of our city, London.

DLT: You describe your sound as inspired by a decade of listening to pirate radios in London. What were your earliest musical influences on the underground side of things?

J: We went to the same school together and both seriously got into UK Garage. Lush FM was an important station where DJ Luck and MC Neat were residents, Heartless Crew, DJ EZ and the like were all massively important. Getting decks and having banter on the mic was an essential part of growing up for us. Later Steve got into drum & bass and I went down the dark garage, grime and dubstep route. Steve's come back round to the vibes again and I really can't stand the souless dubstep wobble thing anymore, not to say that loads of artists associated with dubstep aren't great. It feels closer to gabba than the Horsepower, Bias, Darqwan stuff that the name comes from. Luckily there is this new breed of garage coming through again and some fringe artists and labels keeping things exciting.

DLT: As well as classic hardcore, the biggest retro influence we can hear in Sentinels music is UK garage - what was your entry into the garage sound? Which producers inspired you early on?

J: It's funny that the classic hardcore thing gets mentioned coz at the time we made tunes like 'Love Rhythm' the genre wasn't at the forefront of our minds, but I understand the comparison. We both grew up exposed to hardcore, from tape-packs to DJs at youthclubs and leisure centres in our earlier years. On the garage side of things, I think a whole range of garage artists do it for us. A lot of what you support with your night crops up. Dem 2, anything 2-step on Locked On, MJ Cole has been consistent throughout the years. Artful Dodger are a bit of an obvious name to check, but they could handle the delicate swing of garage so, so well.

DLT: A lot of people seem to be reaching back to those times and they seem to have inspired so much that is relevant today - be it Burial, Ramadanman, UK Funky, Peugot adverts! What do you think the classic UK garage sound has that so many other genres or sub-styles don't? Do you think it got mistreated or, at least, misconstrued first time round?

J: I think that the two-step pattern allows so much scope to play with. The subtleties of shuffle itself is a whole world of exploration and then you have the delicate balance of light and dark, male and female that all the best rave music deals with equally. I think the genre got closed off to people the first time round due to the associations with rude-boys and violence but I feel there is unfinished business to be had with garage. I respect entirely the nostagia factor of garage of many producers, intentionally or unintentionally but our aim is to push things forward and look to the future. I think two-step will outlive this funky galloping beat pattern that is becoming cliche, I'm not hearing much of a development with it yet. There is not as much room to play.

DLT: How did you first get into production? Did you have a musical background from a young age?

J: Our story is the pretty standard one of getting decks, vinyl and then moving on the making beats on a PC with no formal training. We use Fruityloops and still do for the majority of our productions although Logic is getting used for more recording and mixing these days. I think the Fruityloops program itself doesn't get enough respect in the audiophile world, but so many of our more successful contemporaries use the program to make amazing tunes. I think JME, Skream, Ramadanman (if I am correct) all use the program and cook up such sick beats.

DLT: Where can people hear your releases? And what have you got coming up? Any interesting collabs or tings on the card?

J: We are pleased to announce our first release on L2S Recordings which will be 'Love Rhythm' and 'Synaesthesia' coming out over the summer. Look out for our mix I have done for the Fundamental Mixology series. We'd also like to start up a vinyl and digital label with Fundamental, I'd like to push colourful synth-lead two-step, there are not many labels putting it out yet and hopefully it will become a vessel for our productions.

DLT: What's your exact involvement with Fundamental?

J: I started the site a month ago because I felt there was a need for a garage portal on the net that covers the contemporary sound and there are a few of us involved now with the project. There is so much good garage coming out (and not coming out!) and there needs to be a channel for it all. I didn't want to just create another hype blog, but start a directory for newcomers to get to grips with all of the artists making two-step as well as provide up-to-date information to the more educated heads. There are a few artists and labels that get do great things for the scene that I support, but already get enough press coverage and net hype (say Hotflush or Hyperdub.) Fundamental is about those artists that fill in the gaps. Dark Sky or Submerse are perfect examples. We support all sides of two-step from artists like SBTRKT, XXXY and Pangaea to the future garage boys like Whistla, Night Audio and Fortified. Hopefully it can help the scene build and grow and get more respect from those not in the know yet.

DLT: Safe James, now for our DLT quick questions:
5 favourite garage tunes of all time?

J: Very tough... off the top of my head...

1. MAW feat India- To Be In Love (MJ Cole Remix)
2. Wookie- Battle
3. Dreem Team vs. Artful Dodger- It Ain't Enough
4. Nu Birth- Anytime
5. Colours- What U Do

DLT: 5 favourites tunes of all time?

J: See above. lol.

DLT: Best DJ moment to date?

J: Nothing yet under the Sentinels guise really. But we are ready for bookings!

DLT: Who's going to win the World Cup?

J: I'm starting to fancy Holland you know. I think that ex-colonial dutch thing could spur them on. Hopefully it will be England of course, I'm just a realist!

Thanks loads to Sentinels for their time and also their sick summertime mix which you can download here. Also be sure to check out the Sentinels own Soundcloud page to keep up to date with all their killer fresh beats.

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