A chat with Tetrad
It’s been a hot minute since we last interviewed an artist for UKBM, so it’s a great pleasure for us to be publishing our latest chat with US artist Tetrad. We sat down with Cheyne to chat more about his musical endeavours, including his influences and future musical plans!
Hi Tetrad, it’s great to be able to have a chat with you. Firstly, tell us a little about your musical history… When did you start creating music?
Glad to be talking to you! I’ve been writing music since I was 11 and in a lot of different forms. I started out writing punk rock with a couple different bands, like Issue 89, where I did vocals and guitar, writing street punk and ska. I also did vocals, and wrote lyrics and music with a metalcore band called MidMourn while in high school. But I started creating electronic music at 15 when my good friend Matthew Olmos (aka Endor/DD 2-14) showed me Ableton Live. I started creating experimental stuff and minimal techno, and through an interest in UK Garage and 2-step I discovered dubstep music, through artists like El-B, Burial, and Shackleton.
You’ve released your music on the infamous ZamZam… How did that all come about?
I’m really lucky to have had that opportunity. I always appreciated ZamZam Sounds’ approach to releasing music, emphasizing music releases as individual works of art with gorgeous design and screen printing. I had been sending music out to a few different producers and labels including ZamZam Sounds via SoundCloud and email, and at some point, Ezra (aka E3, co-owner of ZamZam) showed an interest in some tunes of mine and asked others about them; eventually word reached me that he was interested and we got in touch via the web. Took a while of decision-making but eventually we got a release together that Ezra, Tracy (co-owner), and I could agree on. I’m honored to call myself a part of that family, and working with them gave me one of the biggest confidence boosts I could have asked for.
What do you prefer… Sitting in the studio cooking up beats or touring/djing?
It’s funny because if you asked me a year or two ago I’d probably say cooking up beats because at the time I liked the solitary act of creating something, but to be perfectly honest, I get so much joy from performing for people and seeing people’s reactions to my music and the music of my friends these days. That’s where I get my most enjoyment from music nowadays. It’s just too much fun.
Any forthcoming releases we can look forward to?
Right now I’ve got two announced with a few in the very nascent planning stages. Both are 10” vinyl records, one with the fantastic and far underrated Well-Rounded Dubs in the first of a remix series, myself on the B-side with my remix of NZ dubstep stalwart Headland’s “Local” flip from the A-side, which is the naughty Headland remix of NUMBer’s “Æther.” The other 10” is one I’m equally excited about, with the sound-system destroyers at Unity Through Sound, a fantastic UK label that focuses on the individual sounds of each track, keeping each 10” white-labeled with a hand-stamp for good measure. This one will have“Green Crack,”a dub of mine making the rounds for a bit, and on the flip my first collaboration with Headland entitled “Crossed Out.” Very proud to be on both of these wicked labels, and to be able to showcase musical collaborations with such an excellent fellow producer.
If you could collaborate with one artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
That’s tough for me, because this could go so many different ways musically. If we’re talking dubstep or dub-oriented music, I’d have to say Space Ape (RIP). His lyrical style is so unique, I feel like you hear his influence now in the lyricism of great MCs like Rider Shafique and Werd2Jah among others, but what a loss his passing was. “9 Samurai” by him and Kode9 was one of the first dubstep tunes I fell in love with.
Do you have any stand out influences?
My main musical influence overall comes from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter, Krzysztof Penderecki, György Ligeti, Igor Stravinsky, and Steve Reich, as jazz and classical is where much of my primary musical understanding comes from. I have to include King Tubby and Mad Professor, because their innovations in using the studio as an instrument has had an incalculable influence on my approach, as well as my biggest electronic music influences Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, both artists that made me want to make electronic music. As far as dubstep/grime, it’s always changing because I’m listening to new stuff all the time, but the primary influences for my sound are Loefah, Appleblim, Kromestar, Coki, Stagga, LAS & Mikael, and VIVEK.
Best/worst you’ve played gig and why?
I’ve been lucky enough to have so far played a ton of great gigs as Tetrad, with only one or two that were less than ideal. But nothing I’d describe as the worst gig I’ve ever played, considering some of the gigs I’ve played in the past with bands I’ve been a part of. I’ve been lucky to play with Hatcha, Mesck, Joe Nice, Vivek, Youngsta, LAS & Mikael, Leon Switch, Fill Spectre, Kursk (the Innamind Recordings label-head), Biome, Sepia, but to be honest the most fun I’ve had is going back-to-back with my brother Ahkur, and especially at small venues with close friends like SRB and B-Side Los Angeles. It’s those shows that truly hold a place in my heart.
By contrast, one of the worst experiences I’ve had playing live wasn’t as Tetrad, but at a Battle of the Bands at the sadly now-closed venue Cobalt Cafe in Canoga Park, CA with metalcore band MidMourn. I was playing guitar and doing vocals, and I had a tendency to jump in the audience and mosh around with friends and fans while I wasn’t singing. On this occasion, someone decided to try to take myguitar WHILE I was playing it. They literally grabbed onto my guitar and tried to pry it from my hands, and at some point in the struggle they hit me square in the head with the headstock of the guitar, and I got a long cut in my head with blood running down my face. I still have a small scar from it. It broke out into a big fight, and I remember my friend Kim socking the guy right in the face, which frankly was awesome. He ran out, and security and some others chased him away. I won’t soon forget that time, and to be honest it is kind of a great memory, but it was a disappointment at the time to be sure.
One record you can’t live without?
Just one? Hahaha. I grew up with records, so it’s tough for me to pick. Across all genres it’d have to be Miles Davis “Kind of Blue.” No album has had a bigger impact on my musical creativity. If it’s a dubstep record, it’s gonna be DMZ009, Loefah’s “Mud” and “Rufage.” The bass on that 12” rips a hole in your soul.
Any advice to upcoming producers/djs?
I have two things to say. A) always be free to experiment; not to say you should always be completely free, you can always create limitations just to force yourself into a certain path, but don’t let that self-imposed limit force you to conform to what the music industry or even your peers think you should do. And related to that last point I’d say: B) take advice, take critique, but ALWAYS consider the source. If some tutorial on YouTube tells you that you have to do something a certain way, do yourself a favor and figure out where this person is coming from. A producer of rock/pop music isn’t necessarily gonna immediately know what works for an electronic track, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. A YouTuber may be trying to come up with ways for you to quickly sound “just like Carnage or Metro Boomin” when they’re really just guessing themselves. Often those who claim to know the most really know the least. If you’re unsure about someone’s critique or their approach, listen to their music. If it doesn’t sound like something you’d do, then take that into account. Don’t take anything you hear from a YouTube production tutorial as the word of a god.
Any producers we should keep our eyes on?
I’ve gotta give the first shout-out to my brother Dillon aka Ahkur. I love collaborating with him because our sounds are different enough that they complement each other, but his solo tunes are so damn on-point and are consistently of high quality, you cannot sleep on him. If I gave a paragraph to each artist I think people should focus on, this would go on forever, so I’d just have to say keep looking out for Akcept, Watchmaker, Rasper, Vexxe, Nytrikz, Raikov, Kali, Cyclopian, Chad Dubz, Krook, Zygos, Soukah, The Greys, Six Sunsets, OldGold, and of course, Headland and Oxóssi. Every single one of these producers is pushing what I see as the next progression in dubstep, beyond the established viewpoints into a new world of possibilities for bass music.