El Choop (Harvey Jones) may not yet be a household name but he’s certainly a bright talent making his mark
Sporting a thirst for bone shaking techno and bass pressure – El Choop aka Harvey Jones takes his cues from the dub meets techno infused edges of Maurizio, Rod Modell, Thor and Model 500. Part of a new generation of producers emerging from the dusky edges of the scene that’s making its own boundaries, his signature sound goes all in on making feet tap and heads spin. Initially finding his way into electronic music from the lesser-trodden path of classical and Spanish guitar, Jones was born and raised in a small town in mid-Wales. A place where his first experiences of coming face-to-face with dance music was listening to Drum and Bass at forest parties, held deep in the hills.
Switched on to the potential of what electronic music could bring and wanting to go beyond the usual clichés. He found himself inspired by stories of the 909 and other drum machines, after getting to know different house and techno producers from spending time at the infamous Freerotation Festival. It wasn’t long before he set his mind to making beats and became became a fully-fledged hardware fanatic. After a move to Bristol, he found himself immersed in the urban landscape and he really began sculpting his own sound. Now obsessed with distorted delays and gritty echoes, he spends his time weaving in and out of dubbed-out House and Techno.
Having established a healthy back catalogue of releases on ETUI (Dresden) and Default Position (Berlin), he’s making a solid contribution to the dub techno landscape that hasn’t gone unnoticed. A previous residency at Corsica Studios and slots at Freerotation Festival, combined with the support from artists such as Mike Schommer, Sven Weissemann, Andrey Pushkarev and the mighty Thor, is proof that Jones is not only raising eyebrows, he’s also making waves.
With the recent release of his LP “Render_Series” on Lithuania’s Greyscale imprint, it seemed like the prefect time to touch base and talk:
It’s been a busy year already, how have things been going your end?
“It’s definitely my busiest year so far, I’ve got my head down and managed to maintain a strong chain of releases. There’s been plenty of late night studio sessions, bouncing to tape, and second second mixdowns… but the music is off my computer and out there, and that’s what matters.”
How do you see yourself then, more of a “live” artist or a studio producer?
“I’ve always been a studio nut, hunched over a synth or a bit of software but in the last year I’ve been moving towards live stuff. I’ve been doing hardware jams on Youtube and the odd live set here and there. I’ve always struggled to find a setup that I’m truly creatively satisfied with, however, I’ve acquired an Octatrack this year and got my sights on a new drum machine which I’m hoping together will be exactly what I’m looking for.”
What’s your take on the resurgence of dub being shot back through both house and techno?
“I think it’s fantastic. I’ve always lay on the more dancey side of Dub Techno so to hear more and more producers contributing dancefloor tools to the genre is nice. I’ve spent the last couple of years accumulating records with a very specific balance of dub techno, house, and techno specifically to play when I’m out. It’s one of those in between styles that you can’t necessarily search for. I remember once I just googled the question ‘list of dancefloor Dub Techno tracks’ which took me to one of those cul de sac forums on Discogs which was as hilarious as it was helpful.”
Tell us about your general set up:
“I have a handful of poly synths, a hardware effects rack with a ratty mono reverb, multi effects, and a nice analogue compressor, a quarter inch reel to reel and a cassette deck. I spend hours and hours sampling my hardware, then when I’m ready I’ll drop all the audio into Ableton and try and arrange it all. During the mixdown is where I’ll run anything I think needs it through my rackmount effects. I love hardware but there’s only two reasons I’ll keep a bit of gear I’ve acquired, if it’s better than a plugin or if it’s weird. I bought an Alesis MIDIverb 4 and it was no different to any reverb plugins I had so I sold it. On the other hand, I’ve got this really old 12-bit mono reverb rack unit that I keep because it’s weird and, I’ve got a nice compressor because it’s better than a plugin.”
Do you have any go to pieces of kit?
“Yes, I’ve got a Joe Meek TwinQ 2. It’s the aforementioned compressor, I use it to tighten up my kicks and make snares and claps really cut through the mix. It’s not the most incredible compressor on the market but it sounds fantastic. It’s got a mind of its own, I find it’s hard to get the same results twice with it, then again, that’s exactly why I love the thing.”
Tell us all about the making of your album “Render_Series”:
01 – render_001_[primer]
“Primer is the oldest track on the album, I put this one together years before as a live jam. Just a poly synth with about 4 sends all going to different delays and reverbs. I wrote out a chord pattern quickly and as soon as I began sequencing it I knew it was right. The whole thing is a live jam with me just opening and closing a filters and sending to different delays. The entire track materialised in about 15 minutes. I’m not trying to say that I’m a magician at the controls but sometimes it just happens that way…I find the best tracks are the ones that you finish in one session. There’s plenty of tunes that I’ve worked on for months and those ones are the ones I’m usually not as happy with.”
02 – render_002_[proximity]
“Proximity render got ball rolling on the whole series. Sitting up late in my flat in Bristol with nothing but a drum machine and a poly synth jamming it out with the reel to reel rolling. The entire arrangement was done live with other bits embellished later in a DAW. But I like how the arrangement is a real live jam, you really get to feel the energy from a live take, much more than when you’re programming perfectly predictable phrases in a DAW where everything is divisible by 4 and grid like. I’ve got Mike Schommer to thank for pushing me with this track, I sent it to him the next evening and he gave some compelling feedback which spurred my interest in making the album.”
03 – render_003_[untitled]
“Untitled is cut from the same cloth as Proximity but the arrangement is mostly programmed within a DAW. When working with software I like to take advantage of the stupidly long sequences you can make. I enjoy making a 128 bar loop for example and only changing very small aspects of the loop in small places. This kind of thing is nice to break up repetition but more importantly it’s to see just how deeply people are listening to the music, are they fully focused and can spot minor deviations in a pattern or is it just background filler..Both are fine, both are good.”
04 – render_004_[nue]
“Render Nue materialised as a result of another album I was making. I love the chord stabs so much I lifted them from another project and made a sludgey dubbed out cut from them. In that regard I guess that makes it a (version). This is one of the stronger tracks on the album that I’ll be playing out, perhaps the beginning of a set…or the end.”
05 – render_005_[polypattern]
“Polypattern is one of the cuts from this work that I feel most reflects the Greyscale sound that I fell in love with the first place. More or less the same more-ish locked groove loop with filters modulating up and down over and over at different rates. I used to love sitting up late listening deep into Gradients tracks trying to track his filtering, seeing if it was done by hand, set to a rate, random, what wave shape etc. The interplay between two filters opening and closing is really satisfying – if done right. On polypattern I spent hours getting the filtering right so there wasn’t too much going on at once.”
06 – render_006_[jade]
“I have no idea how I made the drums sound like they do on jade. This render sticks out on the whole album for me as the single, if there were to be one. I listen to a lot of Delano Smith and Bluetrain records and always envy the strength of their drums, the ample amount of compression without compromising dynamics. I got a new analogue compressor in my rack half way through this album and it helped me get that raw punchy drum sound. Also there’s a sneaky cameo from the Casio CT810 keyboard in this track. I’m always looking for cheap consumer keyboards for decent sounds and in the CT-810 I found some special hats, you can hear them scattered through the album. “
07 – render_007_[metro]
“A couple of years before putting these tracks together, Mike Schommer became active online and started putting out music again. He posted some incredible historical informative bits about how the old deepchord records came to be. It was a god send for me as a Deepchord addict as it answered a lot of questions I had regarding production. Metro, much like proximity, is a true live jam. Although in this render I wrote a loop I was happy with and live dub mixed it on an old 12 channel mixer with a couple outboard FX – straight to reel to reel. This was my least favoured track on the entire album until someone put it in a mix I was listening to and it completely altered my perception of it, I feel very different about it now.”
08 – render_008_[valve]
“I’ve always leant more toward the dancefloor dub techno cuts that you get from Jaunt Records and Berg Audio and some Redscale releases. Valve render was my attempt to contribute to that sound. I’m just in love with those fast and syncopated dub stabs in a techno tune…It’s the sound that gets me up in the morning. This one I’ve been playing out a lot.”