dBs Insider

The dBs Music Interview: Culprate

John Hislop, AKA Culprate in front of the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol John Hislop, AKA Culprate in front of the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol

A friend of dBs Music and a regular guest speaker, Culprate has crafted a sound that has made him a household name in the underground world of Dubstep. With a exploding fanbase and support from some of the biggest DJ names in the business with his last Mask EP we caught up with Culprate shortly after he played our recent dBs Music Bristol freshers boat party at Thekla to ask a few questions about his career, gear and early days in music education...

Tell us a bit how you got into music?

"I first got into making music through 80s and 90s rock and metal. I was in bands before and throughout college where I studied music practice and audio recording. The first tracks I managed to record were awful, in every sense of the word! [laughs] It wasn’t until we received listening lessons that my engineering became better. We all used the same stuff. An ancient Allen & Heath desk with an equally ancient Tascam one-inch reel to reel. 'Production' didn’t come until my second year, when the college got Propellerhead's Reason 2. My first attempts on Reason 2 were just as fruitless as the attempts at recording but I continued to improve after more and more listening sessions. At the time of my first productions I was really into IDM and a bit of DnB. As IDM seemed way out of my league at that time, I decided to begin with some DnB! Something I’m only just revisiting now with my latest EP."

Even DnB producers need to catch some rays... Even DnB producers need to catch some rays...

Did you do any formal studies in Music or Music Production?

"I did a couple of college courses round 15 years ago. They were just BTEC qualification courses and don’t really mean much in the real world now. But the information I acquired has been really valuable. The first course I enrolled on was a Music Practice course. This was basically how to exist in a band and this taught me about the industry with some guest lectures from massively inspirational artists. The most memorable of which was the drummer of Marilyn Manson, who showed us the reality of touring and more importantly, the art of restraint. He’s one of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in a room with.

"The second course was on recording as there were no production courses at this time. Back then a music producer was still someone who showed up to the studio and told the engineer what to do and this was a real eye opener for me. I though it would be all fun and games but it was all physics and nail varnish - for the tape editing - and this was the course which really taught me my craft, to the point where I don’t know how people function as artists without this kind of knowledge."

Has Djing and playing live changed for you as more options are available from a technical perspective, is it more complex or easier to put on a great show now?

"I’m not sure that new technology is required to put on a great show… Some of the greatest shows I’ve seen have been just a guy with two Technics 1210s and a proper crappy mixer! For me, DJing is all about tune selection and reading the crowd. Technology can’t do those things for you. Having said that, it has gotten much easier! Mostly, it’s been a shift in culture. It’s become more important to have exclusive original tunes, which some DJ’s just don’t have. This has meant that more and more producers have been forced into performing as DJ’s. Where as when I started producers made tunes and DJ’s played them out."

What do you think makes a great performance? Who are your heroes when it comes to DJing and/or playing live?

"I don’t have a hero as such but for me, a great performance is when the DJ plays for the crowd rather than planning a set that they want with no thought of how that’ll affect the dance floor dynamic. After all, we’re there to entertain, not to have our ego rubbed."

The bit of kit that changed Culprate's life, the Subpac S2 The bit of kit that changed Culprate's life, the Subpac S2

What bits of kit couldn't you live without in the studio? 

"This is an easy one. My Subpac S2. This piece of kit has changed my life and I can now remain productive when my family are in bed and don’t need to crank the volume."

What has been your proudest moment in your career so far and why?

"My proudest moment is probably the response to Deliverance an album I made around two years ago. I was always under the impression that it would be a labour of love but it’s turned out to be audibly and spiritually rewarding. It’s also helped support me and my family since it’s release and I’m really grateful for all the support!

You recently played for our dBs Music freshers party in Bristol, how was it? Any advice for the next generation of producers and artists. Any mistakes you made which you learnt from in your career?

"Yes, it was the kind of party I like to play these days. I’m not really a fan of huge shows with thousands of spectators as I can never tell who is enjoying the music and who isn’t. The only piece of advice I like to give is - always make music for yourself! If you spend your career trying to fit in, you could end up wasting your life while never achieving what you wanted to in the first place. If you start out wanting to be rich and famous, you’ll fail 99.9999% of the time. Plus, if you do manage to achieve this, you’ll soon learn that it’s a hollow victory.

"There’s a real deluge of formulated music in all genres and styles. One thing I’ve noticed is, as long as your music is high quality it doesn’t matter what it is! Sometimes the more obscure or unique it is, the better it’s received! At the end of the day, music is supposed to be a personal expression, not a formulated regurgitation! Oh, and stay on top of your accounts and taxes too, it’s often overlooked but is very important."


Sign up for our newsletter


Recent Posts