Rising producer South London Ordnance has been leaving a large wake in international waters with his tasteful blend of bass-driven techno, along with a successful series of releases from buzzy labels like Hotflush, 2nd Drop and Well Rounded. This 23-year-old enjoys a certain degree of anonymity; in additon to concealing his legal moniker, you'll have to work hard to uncover a press photo of him that isn't slightly skewed or riddled with a shield of trippy low light. But it's all meant to direct your focus on what you should really care about—his room-shaking beats.
He's gained wordwide support from all sorts of heavy hitters, including Scuba, Jamie XX, and Claude von Stroke. He recently joined the boss man Richie Hawtin as part of his ENTER night at Space, participating in Hawtin's infamous villa pool parties. SLO is also one smartass mofo—in addition to a law degree, he has some serious skills in graphic design under his belt (check out his super dope website).
While SLO is not one to spend too much time under the scorching rays of the public light, we were lucky enough to reel him in for an interview, in addition to getting our hands on an exclusive download of his newest bassy slice of techno, "Vertigo."
THUMP: You're not completely anonymous like some other producers, yet you keep your real name a secret. Is this just a wish to have some "personal space"? Or because you want to keep SLO a separate identity from yourself? Do you just like being mysterious?
South London Ordnance: In the beginning I kept it all pretty low key, just because I wanted the project to grow organically. Everyone's always ploughing into the public arena with their life stories. It's the plague of our generation. You've got to hold on to some stuff. In reference to being mysterious, I don't know if I could make that judgement about myself really.
How much did South London's electronic scene influence your entry into the music industry? Did you have a mentor of sorts who helped you get started?
No, no mentors or anything. Ages ago there was quite a good record store called BM Soho literally down the road from me that I spent a lot of time at. I was about 12 or 13 and I just copped what I liked the sound of—everything from hip-hop and R&B to breaks and jungle. I just kind of stumbled on it all by myself. In terms of influences, when I was first getting into drum & bass, which is really where I started, I was into more upfront stuff like Zinc and Pascal. Actually most of the Playaz Recordings lot, then artists like Mask, Die, and Krust. Then I moved on to stuff like DBridge, Lynx, Commix and so forth… always touching on stuff like garage and deep house in the background. But mostly I was listening to and going out for drum & bass.
2012 was kind of the year that you really made some waves. What has the last year been like? What are some high points and struggles? Has it gotten easier to do what you do, or are you facing more pressure?
The hype wave certainly makes things a little easiar. The last year has been cool. It was quite hard to adjust to at first but I'm much more comfortable doing it all now. High points undoubtedly include stripping semi naked and jumping in Richie Hawtins pool high on MDMA, vodka shots, and sake, not to mention obviously playing the shows out there in Ibiza. It was definitely a confidence boost to be on the same bill as artists like Nina Kraviz and Marcel Dettman, but also amazing to play alongside artists like Grimes and Demdike Stare. Playing at La Machine in Paris was a lot of fun, as well as Le Zoo in Geneva. The latter is a squat converted into one of the best clubs in Europe. The sound is insane and the people who run it are so dedicated. That kind of attitude just sets the tone for the whole evening.
What were some of the highlights of your summer in Ibiza? What were some big tracks you were dropping?
Yeah I did Ibiza which was often amusing. Definitely my first time working with real top-end promoters and production crews like ENTER which was just mental to play at. The hospitality is just as good as the whole experience in itself. In terms of tracks, Daniel Avery's "Need Electric" was a surefire hit—rolling build, a good bit of silence where you can put your hands in the air like Guetta if you feel like it, then straight back into some twisted 303s. Always drives people bananas. Otherwise, I was playing Jimmy Edgar's "Strike" a lot which is a straight-up party track, no fucking about. It's perfect for big rooms like the Terrace at Space where you need to turn things up a notch.
Do you get pissed when people spell your name wrong? It's kind of a tricky one.
Nah, I mean, it goes with the territory really doesn't it? No pun intended.
Your website is great. How did you put it together? You have interests in graphic design, right?
I love design and more abstract fashion photography. I used to do a lot of graphic design projects for people; small stuff, but yeah, it was really only for pleasure. I just like making things. With the SLO page I guess I wanted a basic visual representation of what the music was about. More the textures than the actual content of the images. I always see music in colour and texture. Different tracks are different hues and hold different shapes, so it all kind of adds up for me.
You use your Soundcloud in an interesting way, constantly adding and taking off tracks.
Sure. In the beginning it was a good way to test sounds out. I used to just whip stuff up for a couple of days, then take it down to see what people were feeling. It definitely helped me build a bit of a profile and get the attention of some of the labels I wanted to release music with.
You hadn't been to America since you were a kid until your first US tour, right? What were some of your impressions of American culture?
Obviously there's so much great American pop culture. There's also loads of shit too, but that's more to do with contemporary society, not a particular country. Every nation has its Miley Cyrus! What I love about America is the fucking size of it. I come from a really tiny island so it's always just mental to me how big the US is. I got a great vibe off NYC and I have a few mates in LA, but I'd have to spend a bit of time in the place to know if it's fully for me. Instead of the experience of one rather jetlagged evening.
You're gearing up for your second US tour in March of 2014. What was your first experience playing in the US like? Any funny stories? What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming tour?
Ha, yeah it was a mixed bag for sure. I played some really cool smaller shows like Turrbotax in NYC; those guys are great, then bigger stuff like WMC in Miami with Hotflush. It was all pretty amusing; it was the first time I'd been to the US since I was a kid. A lot of the experience was a bit nervewracking; getting around Texas during SXSW, but as a whole it was a pretty amazing experience. I have some dope shows actually lined up; I can't announce any of them yet but yeah there's some fun stuff booked.
How have your tastes and what you like to play in your sets changed from when you were just getting started?
I think in the beginning I was taking my lead from DJs who mixed very fast. My sets looped up and down very quickly with big peaks and big troughs. Now it's more of a development. I feel more in control so I like to take it a bit slower, working in some more abstract stuff and then slowly building up to peak time tracks. When you start playing in Europe regularly you hear people do this well and it makes for such a satisfying experience. You can really hear people thinking about what they're playing, and you only really understand the significance of certain records towards the end of the set which obviously makes it all more exciting.
Tell me about this track of yours, "Vertigo."
It's a track I enjoyed making a lot, and it's been doing pretty well in clubs, but I didn't feel it fitted any particular label. I wanted to share it with people so I thought the best thing to do was to give it away!
Who are some of your best friends in the DJ world?
I get on relatively well with all the Hotflush guys because we all have massive ego's and like wearing black leather jackets. Especially Locked Groove, I always have an amusing time with him.
What's your vision for SLO for the upcoming year?
I feel a lot more comfortable making music now. I've got to a point where I have a decent idea of what I'm doing with the tools, and as a result I can actually start to get music out that really sounds how I want it to. Before there was certainly an element of the "happy coincidence" in what I was doing. I'd fuck around and something would pop out that I liked the sound of. Now I can take that process a bit further and really sculpt sounds. Obviously I'm not disregarding the trial-and-error element, in fact I can push it it even further now that I know what's going on. But yeah it's all less nerve-wracking these days. It's also been good to learn how to mix stuff, and then how to degrade that process to a point where it's honed but not stiff and lifeless. That's what I struggled with on my last record. I wanted to get the mixes to a certain point, but I often overdid it to the point where I sucked a bit of the raw energy out of the tracks.
In terms of releases I'm obviously going to do some more records on my label Aery Metals, and I'll be back on Hotflush too. I've remixed JD Twitch for his new label so that should be around soon, and I'm working on some collaborative stuff with Nik Void of Factory Floor as well as some amazing vocalists.
David really wishes he was more mysterious. - @DLGarber