“At that time I could never have imagined that I could make anything commercial” says Zed Bias speaking under his alias Maddslinky about the classic UK Garage anthem ‘Neighbourhood’. We’re supposed to be talking about Make A Change, his latest album out on Tru Thoughts, but while I’ve got him on the phone for a short while, I couldn’t resist asking him about the massive club banger. Those who remember will recall that ‘Neighbourhood’ was accompanied by an Andy Hylton video showing scenes from the Brixton community. It turns out that ‘Neighbourhood’ only took three hours to make in total and was the result of a favour for a friend.
“In 1998, a friend of mine called Glenn Woods used to DJ at a local club in Milton Keynes and every week either one of the Dreem Teem would come up, or it would be Norris “Da Boss” or Mike “Ruff Cut” Lloyd and he wanted a dubplate that would basically smash it before they came on because he would always play the last record before the guest came on, so I made him a dubplate. When Glenn started playing it, it was going off so hard that a lot of the guests would want to go home with the dubplate, and as soon as we knew that, there was thought that this record could be released.”
Since then the sound of UK Garage has lived on through various sub-genres. I wanted to know why Maddslinky thinks that the dance music landscape has become what it is, a melting pot of electronic sounds. “People’s tastes have got a lot more broad. 10 years ago, if it were a Garage club it would be Garage played all night. You’d hear the same songs being played a lot if they were big tunes and that would be it really, but these days, I mean in the same set you can hear UK Funky, UK Garage, Dubstep, all sorts of stuff. I know I play various genres across the board now” he says, and this is reflected by the variety of production on Make A Change.
Appearances include Mr Scruff, Skream, Mighty Moe, Ghost1 and Paul Randolph then there’s the chilled out moments offered up with Omar, Tawiah, Nile Sugar and Jenna G. “Probably my favourite track on the album would be ‘Further Away’ with Tawiah just because of the way it turned out; the vocal performance was amazing. There’s something a little bit magical with that, especially with the backing track which I co-wrote with a lady from Croatia called Jana and it just turned out really nice.”
One of the most creative productions can be found on ‘Lost On Tenori Street’, where every sound is made solely using the Tenori-On instrument. I tell him that I spotted people on forums commenting on how clever the title was and he replies “aww, that’s nice. I wasn’t trying to be clever I was lost on it. I got given a Tenori-On by a client of mine, and basically it was really confusing one day. I thought I’d make a track from scratch using it and it took me all day.”
As we continue to talk, he let’s me know that producing came to him at a late stage, only making his first record at 23, after realizing that he could produce properly a year earlier. “I personally feel that I learn something every single session, you know, no matter how boring it is. Whether it’s a little shortcut on the keyboard, or a kick drum sound could be better EQ’d a certain way; there’s always something that we’re learning.”
To upcoming producers he has this advice: “keep sticking at it. If you think you’re good enough, chances are you will be good enough, you just need to put the hard work in” says Maddslinky and he’s continuing to stick at it with a new Zed Bias album in the pipeline, possibly with Skream making an appearance. He’s also writing a new album with Rodney P & Fallacy. Before I let him go I can’t leave without asking about the new name. “That’s another thing, where I get my words from. Sometimes I make word’s up. I think I saw the word ‘slinky’, like the American toy, a spring that falls down. I’d seen that somewhere and I thought of making a word using that word.”