Heavy drum sequences, rhythmic percussion and colorful cinematics. In front of Joseph Ashworth’s Trooper” EP on Life and Death, we caught up with the London-based artist covering the 12″, new studio approach and connection to DJ Tennis.

DJ Tennis’ highly acclaimed Life and Death imprint continues to traverse sonic boundaries without limitation. Following onwards from Marvin & Guy’s excellent “Solar Warriors” EP, the record label returns with a strong bundle of cosmic diversity, colorful cinematics and heavy-duty drum sequences by London-based producer Joseph Ashworth, and features outstanding remixes by legendary Chicago house tastemaker Ron Trent and Sebra Cruz.

“Trooper” is the outcome of Ashworth’s recent sound exploration where grit and excitement take charge rather than finesse and tidiness. In front of next week’s release, we caught up with Joseph covering his studio approach, connection to Life and Death head honcho Manfredi Romano and remix artists involved, next to housing the premiere of “Laminated”. A heavy drum layered dance floor tool!


Welcome Joseph, good having you here! First things first, how have you been and where do we find you today?

Thanks for having me! I’m great thanks, typing from my home in London – I got back from LA yesterday so relaxing a bit today.

It feels like you had another big year with a multitude of well-received releases and maintaining a heavy touring schedule – among which your recent debut at London’s legendary Printworks. How do you reflect and tell us a little about your experience at Printworks?

Last year felt nicely balanced for me. My time was spread evenly between working on my music, doing other music/film projects and touring. I never felt burnt out, but always had something to work on. Looking back I think maybe I could have released a bit more music, but i’m glad to be happy with everything I did release. Printworks was a big deal obviously – a beautiful venue and for such a big room, I still felt very free to explore the strange corners of my record collection.

So, let’s dive into your upcoming record on Life and Death. Following some of your previous EP releases on Needwant, Pets Recordings and Anjunadeep, how did you approach this new record, and can you tell us more about its narrative and development over time?

It’s been a long time coming, I can tell you that!  I actually made the track in mid-2017, and even then, that was a reincarnation of this demo I made in 2016. Manfredi asked to sign it in Jan last year, but, the mixdown took so long to get right, as well as figuring out the B-side, pressing the vinyl – things always take a while but this set a new record. I wouldn’t change anything though, it really feels like a good time right now!

Joseph


As the press release states, “Trooper” is the result of a new sound that you’ve been exploring recently. What’s the story there, and can you shine some light on what motivated this inner exploration?

This has all happened very gradually, but in short, I convinced myself to be a bit more playful and bold, and less mindful of achieving polished production values and club playability. I found that I was often over-thinking myself into a corner while making music. For instance, if I wanted to make a track with a ‘grand/epic’ feel to it, then I’d have a nice idea, but over-work the mixdown and finish with something that sounded too close to all the other ‘melodic big room’ tracks of the time, and eventually give up on the track. This would often push me into focusing on a more mellow sound, but not necessarily mellow for the right reasons, or worse still to write good melodies, but self-consciously submerge or obscure them. I eventually realised that this was an entirely internal process that I needed to overcome. Trooper, and much of my other upcoming music is more more free and positive in terms of genre, production technique and intensity.

I’ve to say, title track “Trooper” is a beautifully cinematic track, which wouldn’t be out of place in a closing sequence of a Christopher Nolan movie. Was there any specific source of inspiration that led up to its creation?

Thanks! As a huge Nolan/Zimmer fan, i’ll accept that gratefully! With Trooper, especially at the time I made it, in any large capacity venue, it felt to me like most DJs relied too heavily on either ‘big room melodic’ or ‘hard big-kick-drop techno.’ There’s obviously good and bad in both those genres, but to me it all started to feel so routine. So when I made Trooper, I was trying to trigger the same emotions and energy from the crowd, but with a new sonic palette. I wanted to rely less on a slamming kick-drum cutting away to silence before the drop, etc etc, and instead, generate the energy with this stompy, war-march sort of aesthetic.

With “Laminated” you take a more straightforward approach with an abundance of drums, rhythmical percussion and a heady dose of bass. Have you found yourself experimenting with a new range of instruments, as you’ve been exploring this new approach towards music?

Laminated was this drummy DJ tool that I made many years ago. Every time I played somewhere like Berlin, it would be a track that I would choose when I needed to strip things back to the raw elements of dance music. With a bit of extra production, it somehow became the perfect B-side, working as an antithesis to Trooper.


I really dig the selection of remix artists involved! Sebra Cruz and especially Ron Trent are not necessarily artists I would have expected to find on the record. How did both artists get involved and what are your thoughts on their interpretations?

Manfredi and I talked a lot about remixer options. With Ron Trent, we felt like it would be really interesting to look to America rather than Europe, and to approach one of the legends who could bring out the core ‘house music’ elements of the track. I really love what he did. Sebra was a fan of the original, and I was so impressed with how he totally turned it on its head and made it this strange hybrid of genres and ideas which really works!

Were you already familiar with label head Manfredi on a personal level before the whole idea of a release on Life and Death came into the picture? And how did the two tracks find their way onto the record label?

Yes – I met Manfredi through a friend a couple of years ago and I worked on some of his mixdowns, fine-tuning some of his tracks for him. I cant speak highly enough of him – he’s a guy who’s truly devoted his life to music over many decades, I respect that a lot. He asked for some unsigned music of mine, and instantly loved Trooper and asked to sign it. He has been playing it in his DJ sets for well over a year now!

What can you tell us about the record’s cover art?

I have Manfredi and the Life and Death team to thank for that. They always try to approach a new artist for each Life and Death release. I love the playfulness of it. Actually I visited the Broad gallery when I was in LA this weekend and discovered a new-found appreciation for pop-art, which feels well-timed!

I’m very interested to hear what your studio setup looks like at the moment. Any piece of gear in there that you’ll never get tired of and stands at the base of your recent productions?

I hire a studio run by the Secret Sundaze guys, so there’s always a mixture of my own gear, and a revolving door of other peoples’ gear along with a few studio staples. I think most of my signature sound comes more from the musical ideas themselves, and from processing recorded sounds and samples, and using unexpected sample libraries with heavy processing – quite ‘in the box’ really, but I always experiment with what I have around. Currently in the studio we have the Jen monosynth, Sub-37, Korg M1, Vermona drum machine, a Juno 2, Korg Minilogue, an XP-60, a Rhodes 73, an MS20 mini. Im always in different studios for one reason or another, so I always make the most of it and try out gear that I haven’t used before. For example, a friend of mine has a Memory Moog which I had an absolute blast with recently!


What inspires you outside music – be it watching movies, reading or long walks into the sunset?

I’m going to sound like the worst kind of cliché here, but i’ve recently got into meditation, which I have found really inspiring and energising. In fact, just living a bit more of a wholesome life has filled me with more ideas – contrary to the usual ‘heavy drinking, tortured artist’ stereotype. But yes, art, films and nature too. I just watched the film Roma, and the colours and atmosphere of the film inspired me to get straight in the studio to make more music

What’s on the horizon for Joseph Ashworth?

Aside from Trooper EP, I have just finished remixes for NeedWant and Eskimo recordings. I’m in the process of signing the next couple of EPs for 2019 but don’t have anything I can announce at this point. I’ll be playing a bunch of shows with Life and Death (New York on 8 Feb and off-Sonar) and a bunch of other shows over the spring and summer already locked in.

Trooper is scheduled for release February 8th on Life and Death. Grab your copy via Deejay.

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