Call it whatever you want: nu garage, UK jackin' house, bassline. Labels aside, there's something special happening at the intersection between UK garage rhythms, house music tempos, and deep, dubstep whomps. Events like AC Slater's Night Bass series in Los Angeles prove that the stateside palate is primed for this emergent style. For the uninitiated, the Certified Jackin' YouTube channel is one of the best outlets to keep track of it all, and if you dig through its archives, one name will appear over and over: Chris Lorenzo.
Lorenzo is one half of the duo Cause & Affect, a solo artist in his own right, and he's the production whiz behind one of the movement's worldwide leaders—Hannah Wants. Alongside artists like Nick Hannam and Tom Shorterz, his name is stamped on many of the most banging basslines to emerge from the English Midlands, proving to the world that not all of the UK's hits have to come from London.
Until recently, much of his production work went completely uncredited. Lorenzo recounts taking one-time payments to do studio work for artists who would then market the track as their own (the unspoken practice of ghost producing). If you're a fan of bassline house, you've heard his tracks whether you know it or not. In hunting down Lorenzo for THUMP, I figured I'd be doling out some credit where credit is due. Instead, I got a whole new perspective on ghostwriting, a geography lesson, and a brief history of how this particular sound came to be.
THUMP: It would be great to have one name for this whole sound.
Chris Lorenzo: A lot of people termed it "jackin'" around here. In my eyes, they got overly excited, took something that was something else already, and completely stole a brand. I'm calling it "house & bass."
I see that a lot of the artists who are part of this movement are from Birmingham, UK.
Yeah. This is Birmingham. It all started right in Birmingham—heavy bass tones and a very speed garage-influenced sound, and lots of low, resonant warps and basses.
Would you call it a revival or a new thing in its own right?
It's a mixture of the both. All music cycles and just comes back. I think it's bassline coming back 'round but in a new form, like it's little brother. I think it's slightly more mature than what it used to be.
When did you get involved?
We used to make a lot of speed garage, like a lot of heavy bassline garage, but it was attracting too much of a moody following—people were getting stabbed and beat up all the time.
Why is that? Is it something about the music in particular?
Yeah. It's got that low, like, 50 herz bass that always rumbles through ya' and puts people in that mood to wanna play up. It caused a lot of problems in the UK, anyway.
Is that because of the music or a societal thing that was going on at the time?
It was to do with everything, to be honest. There was an interview with [the owner of the bassline garage venue] the Niche Club, and they were explaining that there used to be quite uplifting speed garage vocals that would keep it quite nice. When we started making music, it started going really dark and that attracted a load of moodies and stuff. Then we discovered house—like, proper house music—and that was the start for us. We were like, "House music is where all the hot chicks are," but it was a bit too camp so in like, 2008, we merged bassline and house together.
Has Birmingham ever left a mark on UK dance music before?
On the drum & bass circuit. There was a DJ called DJ Hazard, and he really pioneered the jump up drum & bass sound. We took a lot of influence from that as kids. We take aspects from a real dark, warehouse sound. A lot of the clubs around here aren't too glamorous. It's more warehouses, dark clubs, dark rooms.
Would you say that the fact that Birmingham is such an industrial, working-class city affects the way that people consume music there?
Yeah. You're bang on. You've nailed it on the head. Don't get me wrong, you do have your glamorous places but people always end up going back to where they're from originally.
Am I correct in thinking that you have your hands in a lot of different projects at once?
Yeah. I do a lot of ghostwriting.
How did you get started in that?
I got roped into it when I was seventeen years old by a record label. There used to use a ghostwriter who is now Funkagenda. He's from the same area that we're from.
You say "roped in" like it wasn't the best thing for you to have done at the time.
It was ill advised. Basically, artists would come to me and pay me to make music for them. They would take it away and market it as their own and I'd just get the cash in hand on the day. A lot of the tracks went big and there were a lot of big advances paid and I didn't see a single penny. Then I decided that whatever I was going to ghostwrite, I'd put my name to.
Can you talk about who they were or did you sign non-disclosure agreements or something?
Oh, no no no. They were small artists around here. But I'm more embarrassed to give the names more than anything else. They got picked up all around the world for a few tracks, like, real, cheesy, kiddy, bassline house stuff.
Am I correct in thinking that all the similarities that I hear in a lot of the bassline stuff coming out of the UK—particularly the Midlands—is because it was you producing?
How do you feel about other people getting success with your work?
There's a part of me that doesn't really care, but the part of me that does is brought up when people ask me, "Don't you care?" For me, I've never really done it to be famous or to be out there on all the stages and all the flyers. It was more of a passion for making music.
Has your perspective changed as you've gotten older?
Definitely. I went from ghostwriting to putting my name on everything I work on. I used to do five sessions a week for people. Now I do Hannah Wants, a lad called Pete Graham, Donkie Punch, Ill Phil, then some local talent.
How much time do you spend in the studio?
I've been in there every day for the past eight years, give or take a few holidays. Last year I spent every day in the studio. That's not an exaggeration.
What's your view on all of Hannah Wants's success? Are you guys friends?
I think the way that Hannah's success has gone is brilliant. I'm all up for helping people along the way. I don't give to receive.
How many songs do you produce in a year?
About two, three hundred.
Jesus christ. And how many of them get released?
Do you view yourself as the brains behind a scene or are you just some guy?
I'm just a guy like everybody else. I can't take that kind of burden because it takes more than one person to grow a whole scene. It takes people pushing it, people buying it, people influencing others.
Do you ever think about America?
To be honest, I'm kind of self-centered. I try to keep my focus on what I'm doing with my studio work. If you're chasing trends, you're never really creating your own niche. I try not to watch what other movements are going on—I just completely focus on what's then and there in the studio.
How does Cause & Affect differ from your other work?
Cause & Affect is really laid back. However it comes, it comes. I've been working with Kane, my partner, for eight years producing. He's like my brother, one of my best mates, and we never set out to make anything in particular. That's one of our rules.
Cause and Affect's Operation 60 EP drops on April 28 on Bullet Train Records. Their Don't Like to Do EP was released last year on Dirtybird.