NTS resident Breakwave has been a pioneering force behind Liverpool's underground scene, putting it on the map with her wild Meine Nacht parties. Last month she extended the Meine Nacht platform by adding a label arm, with each release set to run on a limited hand-stamped dubplate, as well as digitally. The first release on the label came from Daniel Ruane, a Manchester-born DJ and producer who has had previous outings on Infinite Machines and Natural Sciences, and is full of jarring, glitchy rhythms that exhibit his dexterity when it comes to sound design. After being sent some of Daniel's music for her NTS show, Breakwave knew straight away she had to release it. They met at one of her shows and instantly connected, now they've got a live project in the works too…
Ahead of Daniel's launch party for his own label Failed Units, that he runs with friend Carne, they discuss eachother's approach to production.
Daniel Ruane: You've started leaning hard into your composition recently; the work you've been showing me and progressing is super nice so I'd love to know how you start your approach. Do you have a particular concept or idea guiding what you make or are you throwing paint at the canvas?
Breakwave: I’d say it’s a mix, most of my productions at the moment focus on manipulating audio, I like the concept of using found sound; for example, a track that I am currently mixing down utilises excerpts of audio from the late 60’s. I chopped up a lot of clips, processed them largely and turned those clips into usable instruments and then started on the composition. It’s something really different to what I expected to make (sound-wise) so I was battling with it, but what emerged from that battle was a more cohesive vision of the style that I want to develop in my music composition.
Daniel Ruane: You now helm a record label as well as an event series of the same title (Meine Nacht) plus you DJ regularly across the globe. Where and how are you looking to develop next? What's on your hit list?
Breakwave: I would like to find a suitable home for the music I have been making when it’s finished, it will be my first release so I’m really excited for that. Also on the hit list is to finish our live set and (hopefully) take it on the road!
Daniel Ruane: I imagine you've talked about DJ'ing quite a bit but your sets are incredible. I'd love to know more about your technical practice routines and the creative decisions you apply to putting a set together.
Breakwave: Thanks! It varies according to the gigs that I am playing, whether that’s a warm- up or headline slot but generally I will search for music in record stores and via digital platforms. I group my tracks into ‘moods’ in Rekordbox and similarly organise my records. I’ll then run through the music that I have and decide what might fit theoretically for each gig, it’s important to read the crowd so it is never a ‘set’ formula. I think one thing that I’ve learnt over the years is the importance of knowing how to warm up the room; it’s something I’m used to and that comes from my time as a resident at 24 Kitchen Street in Liverpool. If I’m on for a good number of hours I will start off loose and work my way up, put a track in motion to show where I’m going to next, bring it back down to it’s original energy level then move onto the next stage and so on. I like a lot of different music, sets can range from 120-170 bpm and I mould things together with layers of tracks that are off-beat/beatless or those that focus on sound design solely. I adopt this method a lot when shifting and chopping between genres and BPM’s – it’s challenging, gets me thinking, as I hope it does the listener.
Daniel Ruane: So our new live project. For someone who's been a successful DJ for a bit now, how does it differ from what you're used to? What gets you excited and what are the challenges you've found so far?
Breakwave: The live set is opening up a new collaborative avenue for me, I have been focusing a lot more on production and technique as of late so It’s nice to bounce ideas with someone. The studio environment is totally different as you spend 100% of that time alone but with the live set it's a chance to co-create; I feel that this is an important aspect of artistic development as it allows you to relinquish some creative control even if this is a challenge. In return, you are rewarded with something that is organic, which for us, comes in the form of dual processing, a combination of artistic ideas, experimentalism and merged techniques. It’s a very exciting prospect; we are both in tune with the music that we want to make and It’s also an opportunity to build trust in the collaborative process. It has been a really fun project to work on, particularly performing live together, sharing that experience and the development of future plans is what makes it worthwhile for me.
Breakwave: The arrangement of your tracks look pretty hectic but in actual fact they are really organised and you work with audio mostly, can you explain a bit about your process I.e. Do you use a particular formula?
Daniel Ruane: I don't use any specific formula that I can reproduce as I think most of my more successful pieces were/ are informed by the process itself. I'll push my laptop CPU as far as it can go on a particular process and hopefully the result will inspire any further creation. It usually starts with finding a particularly unique sound or phrase that was derived from the processing and then seeing how much I can unpack it to make the rest of the piece.
Breakwave: Your ‘sound’ has progressed into unconventional and personalised soundscapes, are there particular processes that you always adopt when producing a track?
Daniel Ruane: The reason I started making music with a computer is to try and create a sound I hadn't come across before, after playing in bands throughout my early teens and getting super bored with the guitar. My "go to" attitude is to break my sound sources down so they aren't recognisable using different software (Ableton , Audiomulch Spear FFT Analysis etc etc). I do tend to utilise a lot of found sound recordings (particularly of my partner Gemma) which then get mangled into a timbre I enjoy, and then into something resembling a rhythm. I think the sampler editor in Ableton Live 8 is possibly my favourite "instrument" at the minute.
Breakwave: You recently launched Failed Units with Carne; can you tell me a bit more about the reasoning behind this?
Daniel Ruane: Carne and myself wanted to put a label together so we could create our own universe that functioned however we needed. This way we can nurture our own little ecosystem of people making stuff, events happening, trying out different formats and ways to interact with audience / artists. Mainly for me it's the best way I can think of owning and actualising the maelstrom inside my head.
Breakwave: We are collaborating on a live set, what would you like to gain from it and how do you envisage it to sound?
Daniel Ruane: Yes! I think you summed it up best: "To drink wine and dress like Mary Poppins." Aside from relentlessly working to achieve this amicable target I think I'm ready to start finding out how two minds are better than one. Apart from the fact that it's possible to accomplish twice as much in the live arena when there's two of us playing, I think it gives the improvisational edge a little more structure and meaning as I really can't always predict what you will do – it removes some of the challenge of translating what we do in the studio into the live arena as our approach is completely different and considerably more playful. I think more than anything I'm excited to learn as much as I can from working with you.
Follow Breakwave. Breakwave and Daniel Ruane play the Failed Units launch party tonight in Berlin.