JOYRYDE is having quite the year. Just over two years after the first release under his name, his fiery bass house single “HOT DRUM” is just about the most popular song of the dance music festival circuit. Just this year, he’s been featured on HOWSLA, he’s toured everywhere from UMF, Lollapalooza, and EDC, and he’s pretty much taking over the world of house music.
We had a chance to talk to JOYRYDE at Moonrise Festival just after his afternoon set in the Solar Dance Tent. Going into the interview, I was under the impression that we’d be in for a quick chat. As we talked, it became apparent that the English artist wasn’t intent on promoting himself into a microphone as interviews can often be. Instead, I found myself in a heart-to-heart, man-to-man conversation. Leaving the interview, it hit me that we talked about pretty much everything you’d need to know about the up-and-comer.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard your music before?
I think it’s a healthy balance of my history growing up in England, which was like, U.K. garage music, bass music, and house music. It wasn’t really bass music back then, you know, people didn’t say it’s bass music, now it is. But I would say it’s a healthy balance of original U.K. ideas, the vibe of the underground there, and more current U.S. hip-hop sounds. Somewhere between that. A lot of records have that vibe of a hip-hop intro which sets the tone, but then when it bangs in it’s kind of got that dance floor, underground element. I think that’s really the undermining stuff. Sometimes it’s a bit heavier on the garage, sometimes a bit heavier on the hip-hop.
So would you say a way it’s a matter of finding a balance between the two?
Well, between the releases, if you go dance floor on one, the next one’s going to be more hip-hop, you know? And it’s not just that, I mean, it’s kind of hard when you’ve been with this kind of music for so long you want to incorporate everything. I think there’s a big element of rave music to the stuff I make. But to answer your original question in a sentence, I’d say it’s a blend of U.K. urban music mixed with U.S. urban music.
I think it’s fair to say that you’re pretty much blowing up as an artist right now. Was there a specific moment when you realized that your music is really catching on?
Yeah, it was probably when I noticed that a lot of artists were consulting me with ideas, rather than advice. When you start with this, you’re often like “ok, I’m going to try something, let’s hope people understand it.” And hopefully stuff goes well. So eventually I put out a song called “Hari Kari,” and it was the first time I noticed people who really f**k with hip-hop and really f**k with the U.S. sound and the U.K. stuff, they really said “pssh, where are you going with this? This is so crazy, you should really continue with this s**t.” So I started to realize, wow people are hearing it. They’re really hearing it. So I thought screw it, I really need to take a risk.
I started writing and I moved into a studio which was surrounded by hip-hop studios, which was great because I wanted to surround myself with something that I wasn’t used to feeling. I didn’t want to be surrounded with the same type of person like myself. In a way, that would be like inbreeding. You don’t want to f**k within your own gene pool, you should reach out and f**k with other types of gene pools, which keeps your musical gene pool healthy. So I was really excited about that. And that sort of led to a record that I wrote called “Windows,” which sort of solidified it for me. I recognized at that point that I was in love with it enough at that point that it was real. It wasn’t me just trying to look like something that I’m not, it’s actually what I was becoming. Once I embraced that, I felt like myself today. That period, Hari Kari, that really helped with me figuring out who I am.
That whole thing about the creative gene pool, that’s a great metaphor.
It is, it’s true! I mean, in any business, you’ve really got to keep that gene pool healthy. If you’re around people like yourself, that’s only healthy for a short period of time but ultimately your children, if you will, will look like your ugly cousins. You don’t want that, you want to bring healthy genes and healthy elements in.
Being an artist has nothing really to do with being creative or being a tastemaker, genius, or whatever, it’s really about being a good person. If you’re an outgoing person and you’re willing to accept new experiences you’ll automatically compound new material that you didn’t know you could write. But, you could only write that if you put yourself through experiences that you’re not really familiar with. It can have an adverse effect on you or it can come out of you. So basically, you’ve gotta keep yourself surrounded by influence and good things.
You’ve gotta make yourself uncomfortable to get comfortable.
“HOT DRUM” is huge right now. Just about everybody’s playing “HOT DRUM,” whether it be at festivals like Moonrise, clubs, or anywhere else. How does that feel as an artist?
It’s killer. It’s one of those things where it’s like, I’ve always felt like I have something to prove. Artists always have to go the extra mile, so when someone picks up your record like that and so many people are down with it, you feel like you’re a part of their life now. When you think back to ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, maybe they’ll think of you. The music can become a part of their regularly everyday occurrences if that makes sense. I wrote most of that record a year and a half before it released, before JOYRYDE was even a thing. I didn’t know how to finish it though, there wasn’t really a culture around it yet. Once I realized what was going on with JOYRYDE, I developed the bass sound and that really helped me implement it into this market.
It’s insane to see people vibing with it and it shows that sometimes you have to be patient with ideas. Sometimes an idea can be over people’s heads, not because it’s much better than anyone else’s, but because it doesn’t have the cushion of a culture to embrace it. I mean, how many artists aren’t recognized until after they’re dead? It’s a regular occurrence. It doesn’t have to be that extreme but it just shows that sometimes it’s possible to have a good idea that shouldn’t be put out yet. I’m glad I was so patient with it because, well, it’s going great. And I think that’s what’s so satisfying about that. A great idea can pass the test of time.
So there’s a lot of talk about over-saturation in electronic music, but you’ve seemed to break through that barrier. With that being said, what would you say to someone who’s trying to get into the electronic music scene?
First off, what you’d want to do immediately is stop thinking about parties. Don’t think about stages, festivals, any of that. Let’s call that a given. If you make good cheese, it’d end up in a supermarket. If you have a good product, someone would end up distributing it. If you try and be appreciated right now, you’re only going to sound like someone else. If you just look to the dance floor you’re going to want to sound like that because you’ve all heard that, and you’ll end up sounding like that.
What you’d want to do is think about how people, on an individual level, will react to your sound. When I make records, I think of two or three friends in the car, like “dude, you’ve gotta check out this track I found,” and how the intricacies and the details of the song would resonate in that way. Think about how human beings, individual human beings, can connect to your sound and fixate on that.
Those 3 friends will bring their 6 friends, who will turn into 10, 10 to 50, 50 to 100, 100 to 500, 500 to 1,000. If you can get a thousand people listen to you, and you keep pushing without thinking about the goal of having a manager and being in the festival scene: f**k that s**t, think about how you’re going to make human beings enjoy their time on earth. Once they cherish it, it’s only a matter of time before someone says “this needs to be playing right now” and makes sure that happens. You’d have to make them fall in love with you, deep in the soul. You have to know in your soul that there are humans out there that will fall in love with what you are as an artist, not people who will fall in love with you for giving them what they want. That’s the best advice I could give to anyone: don’t try to do what you see, try to do what you love and hold your course. Sooner or later you’ll find a team.
You mentioned the concept of being in a car as a source of inspiration. Would you say that’s your main source of inspiration?
It’s not necessarily the car, more of the intimacy of the car. For me personally, when I meet my friend that I haven’t seen for a while, we’d go for a spin. We’d go for a spin in the car and bump records and that was where we’d be like “let’s listen to this. No, f**k that song, let’s listen to this.” In a way, we’d have a battle. Without realizing it, you’d start to hear music you’ve never heard. You don’t think about how big it is, whether people are jumping to it, it’s just a matter of “oh, I like this.” And that’s really it, the intimacy of being in a car is so dope to me. And plus, car systems sound pretty good and you can blast it as loud as you want. That’s definitely a part of the culture I was a part of in England.
So as far as production goes, what would you say your go-to plugins would be?
You wouldn’t believe it, when I first started with JOYRYDE I was messing with just about every plugin, every synth, every patch, and I deleted everything. I kept Serum, I kept Massive, I kept some other not-so-special EQ plugins. I didn’t want any preset, I started from scratch and I wanted to keep my production pretty simple. I like to write from collecting vibes and samples and stuff like that. So, I would say that the most used plugin for me is Massive. Not because of it’s complexity, but because I like to mold sounds from the basics.
Serum is also an amazing tool but my problem with it is that so many people now are doing patches of synths and plugins and presets that you can download and purchase everything to the point where you can sound like Getter in a single night. And that’s great, that’s fun, but it’s difficult to sculpt originality from the same tools that everybody else has. Remember that, it’s hard not to sound like an artist when you’re using their own preset kit.
That seems to happen a lot, too.
I mean, if you buy a sample pack, there’s probably five other kids who did the same. Maybe you’d be the first to find a preset and roll with it, but maybe not, and maybe you just wasted three weeks on a record or an EP that’s not really even original. For that reason, I try to keep it simple. Massive might be kind of past generation, but it’s capable of doing killer low end, and that’s what most of my music is. Low end bass, and vocals. Singers. Darnell Williams, Freddie Gibbs, Rick Ross, they’re all about those vocals.
As far as samples go, I like to use cellos, trombones and stuff. The majesty of these big orchestral instruments is so huge, and when you hear that over sub bass and trill hats, it’s got some sort of simpleton element to it which is beautiful. I think that these are some of the most beautiful things in the world.
I was big into grime, which is a lot of simple mechanical samples. I think there’s something beautiful about that too, the simplicity in it. I like to listen to sounds with charisma. Or I’ll listen to some horror movies from the ’80s or ’70s. You’d find some huge score that somebody wrote and that’s like, damn, that sets the tone and everything else can fill the gaps. You want to find the visual aspect.
So, your Rick Ross collaboration. How did that come to be?
It’s crazy. So I got an email from some guy: “How would you like to collaborate with Shaquille O’Neal?”
I know! So I’m like, well, “who is this? What do you mean, collab? I make beats and he shoots hoops!” So the guy is like, “I manage him, and he wants to get into the music world.” So I think, f**k it, lets go! I just moved to L.A. two months before, so I started writing a beat, send it to them, they’re like “wow this is insane, keep going with this.” I found this acapella, I don’t know it was used by anyone, but I used it because was scared that otherwise I would take too much space in the instrumental and not give him enough space to be him. I went through some acapellas that I could use and I found something from Rick Ross. Now, he’s huge, I don’t mean successfully (though he is) but I mean as a person. So I put it on and I send it back. Shaq says “this is amazing, I’ll get the official vocals back to you soon!” A few weeks go by and he’s super busy: he’s on Jimmy Kimmel, he’s on shows, he gets sick for a while. I thought, it’s going to be tough to pull this off but hey, maybe next time.
I get a call five days after I finished the record, Shaq called me at 10 a.m. as I’m waking up drinking my espresso. He tells me it’s dope, and that he sent it to Ross. We got the okay from Ross, and the okay to release it, and the rest is history. I’m glad it worked out though, it’s a cool story and it was definitely quite a turning moment for me.
Totally! Final question – what should we be expecting from JOYRYDE in the near future?
Wow, uh, a lot of s**t. I was really blown away recently by a few artists that I’ve seen perform. I mean, I have a car stage, it’s a Dodge Challenger. It’s interactive with the sound system and everything, but I still perform on it like I’d do a DJ set.
I’m looking towards making a fully integrated album or long-standing collection of music that would work with my show perfectly. Kind of like what Porter Robinson does, but more of my sound, obviously. The intricacies of those kinds of those shows, but more of my sound, urban and hardcore. I’m hoping to go underground with it and take on as many mainstream collabs with vocals and combine that in a tasteful way. I think it can be done. I don’t think you can substitute for the power of vocals, and I don’t think you can substitute for the power of the underground. I want to be one of the artists that fuses those. That would be my little gift and that’s my next goal. We’ve gotten this far with it, so hopefully we can keep going with it. You’re gonna really find out what I’m capable of and what’s inside of me, and hopefully it’ll create something beautiful.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah man, I’m really grateful that everyone’s f**king with my sound so much. It’s been an amazing journey, but we’ve by no means even scratched the surface of what we’re going to do.
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