Conrank has just released his second album This Simulations Breached, the follow up to his What’s A FKNG Conrank debut and it is a collection of tracks packed full of his devastating use of bass and its creative executions.
We caught up with L.A & Shanghai-based producer to hear all about This Simulations Breached and how it was made as well as his releases on Circus Records, his return to live performances, hip hop, working with DJ Shadow, remixes and the global reach of his music.
Congrats on the second album ‘This Simulation’s Breached’, sounds hard! Did you have a particular sound or creative process and collaborators in mind for this release?
Thanks! It was born out of love, love for Pendulum, Prodigy, DIOYY, The Streets, the list goes on. I have been massively influenced by them since I started making music, I’ve always wanted to get in the vocal booth, I’ve always wanted to get guitars involved in my music, but I’ve never forced or pushed anything, what happens in the studio naturally is what I will release, and this album is a product of that.
How did your relationship with Circus Records come about and what’s it like to work such an esteemed label in Bass?
I have always wanted to work with a label on a long-term basis, you know, find a home and a label that believes in me as an artist and commits to growing that. My good friend Matt, DMVU passed them some of my music after he started releasing with them. Next thing you know (less than 12hrs) I have the label manager on the phone saying “look no messing about, we want to sign you on a 3-year deal” …. that was that, it was so fast, and just made sense. A few years on and I’ve never regretted it, they let me be me as an artist, and if you listen to how much I’ve changed in the time I’ve been with them, you will realise how open they are with me experimenting and being who I need to be as an artist.
A lot of artists have come out of lockdown feeling inspired and grown, was this a lockdown focus project for you and how did you find it? Do you think you have developed as an artist since your last album?
I feel like I’ve matured as an artist in a big way since my last album, and a lot of it has come down to the pandemic. Suddenly having 18 months to re-think where I’m at and have space and time to write changed everything, this album wouldn’t be what it is without that time off, 100% no doubt about that at all. I used to dream of moving to a tiny town in a sunny place near the coast and setting up a studio and just writing with no distractions, and I did that during the lockdowns, with all the touring before covid, there is no way I would have been able to orchestrate that, the amount my life has changed is insane.
Can you tell us the meaning behind the title?
The world is in a crazy state at the moment, and I started to think, well, if this is a simulation, it feels like a virus has breached it, and on the flip side, I felt like as an artist I also have gone into a massive state of change, and I’m kind of breaching my own sound, I don’t know if that makes sense, it makes sense in my head, who I was as an artist 2 years ago is not who I am today.
If you wanted fans to listen to 3 tracks from the album, which ones would they be?
Purely because I feel like they really represent me artistically right now in the truest form, I would say Moonshine, Psych Out, and Mind State.
What are your weapons of choice these days? Have they changed throughout your career?
Yeah massively, I used to play a lot of other people’s music and that slowly adjusted to the point where now I just play all originals, and now my weapon is me going out the front of the stage and performing my vocals live, the response has been incredible. 2 years ago my show was purely a DJ set, no it’s verging on a live performance, and in two years…. well, you’ll see, I’m very excited.
What’s next following this album and any UK shows planned?
After the album drops, I’m going to be focusing on preparing for next year’s shows, and also just enjoying Christmas with my family and friends. Regarding the UK, I would love to get the opportunity to play more, right now, my tours are the USA, Canada, Australia, and Asia… The UK is my target though, it’s got to happen.
How did your recent shows at Grimefest in New Orleans and in Detroit and Iowa go and what were the highlights?
They were amazing, mind-blowing, the highlight was performing the new tracks from the album, and seeing people sing the lyrics back at me, it stops me in my tracks for a split second and I have to process it every time, it makes me so excited for the future, and feel so thankful of where I am already.
What is the bass scene in the US like at the moment?
Thriving, it’s incredible, so many amazing producers, and equally as amazing fans and crowds. There is a lot of support over there, not just from the fans, but also from other artists around you. There is such a positive vibe, and you know there are snakes just like anywhere, but they get spat out pretty quickly. What I love is that the fans embrace change, they don’t expect an artist to just stay the same.
Did you play much material from the new album at the show?
About 80% of the new album I would say, I’m loving playing it.
You started out in Hip hop and beatboxing, what rappers, beatboxers, and producers were influential to you as an artist?
So many, Killa Kela one of my closest friends still was a huge influence and mentor to me when I was a youngster and still, artists like Foreign Beggars and Skinnyman, Dizzee Rascal, producers like Jack Beats who were born out of hip-hop had a big effect on me, DJ Shadow, Scratch Perverts, Jehst, Predator, Rudekid, Swindle, oh and Dj Vadim, in a huge way, when that dude released Terrorist, oh man, that bassline, jheeeeez.
How exciting was it being part of the UK underground hip hop and grime scene in those days?
It was such a vibe, I remember going to Kung Fu in Camden back then and the energy was like nothing else, oh and Scratch at Scala, damn, I mean that was where I first performed in my entire life, standing there as a 17-year-old kid on the stage at Scala with legends like Task Force, 360 Physicals, Sin Crew and Mud Fam the crowd, I was absolutely shitting it… you can imagine, this lil boy from Sussex… I wouldn’t be where I am without that scene, Mr. Bongos, Deal Real in stores every Thursday and Friday… Jazz Cafe, Fabric, the Mass in Brixton, I can’t put into words what those times meant to me.
What was it that made you progress to bass music?
Drum and Bass was the first thing that got me into bass music. Then one day I went to Fabric with The Mixologists, shout to Go and Benni, and I was in the booth in room 3 and they started dropping Benga, Skream, Caspa, etc, etc… and it hit me like a ton of bricks, that was literally the moment it all opened up to me, whether I knew it at the time or not.
You’ve done remixes in the past for The Prodigy, G Jones, Zeds Dead, and more, how was the experience of giving a Conrank vibe to those artists’ tracks?
It was always daunting, like fuck man, remixing The Prodigy, mad…. but I just tried to chill and just do me, my team always kinda gave me that pep talk, “they asked you because they like what you do, so do you” kinda vibe. I love remixing people’s stuff and taking what they’ve created and just flipping it.
Who would you love to do a remix for in the future?
Run The Jewels, Chase and Status, The Streets, Dizzee Rascal, Subfocus, would def be a start, that would be doooope.
You had a release on DJ Shadow’s Liquid Amber label and worked with him on music, how was the experience of linking and working with Shadow?
He is such a chill down to earth person, I remember getting an email from him for the first time and just collapsing internally..,… like WTF….. then next thing I’m on the phone with him, he’s an absolute legend. Working with him and his label was amazing, professional, and welcoming. Shadow for sure is everything you would kinda hope he would be ya know.
Having lived in Shanghai, what would you say is the key difference between the scene there and your following? Do you think it inspired you, living in a different country and essentially a different culture?
When I first go to China the electronic scene was super niche, it existed but nothing compared to now, now it’s mental, growing every day and there are so many producers, it’s amazing. I think that traveling and experiencing new things, seeing new things, meeting different people with different views, etc has a massive effect on you whether you know it or not. Something as simple as the buildings you pass every day can influence the music you make, it’s all about emotions and vibes at the end of the day. I’ve lived in the US, China, France, and the UK, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, it really made me who I am.
What are your thoughts on the bass music scene in the UK and what artists are you feeling at the moment?
The UK will always be on the cutting edge of electronic music, it’s the most incredible creative hub, just constantly pushing boundaries, it constantly blows me away. Regarding artists, I love what Chime is doing at the moment, he’s sick with it. Then there’s Pengshui, if you don’t know, get to know, guys are nuts.
Do you think it gains the recognition it deserves?
I think so, Rinse for example is world-renowned, and anytime I travel around the world people comment on how amazing the music scene is in the UK… People have nothing but respect for what the country has done for music, I mean dubstep, DNB, grime, the list goes on, and the list keeps growing, it’s beautiful.
What have been some of the sheer highlights in your career in music so far?
Coming back to the US this summer, after 18 months of no shows and playing in front of 20,000 people at Sunset Music Festival was just … I mean, speechless, I’m sure you can understand, it was literally overwhelming and a couple of times during the set I was close to tears, straight up tears. This album would be the other one, for real, I just feel like this is a milestone for me, and I feel so proud of it and it will stay in my heart for the rest of my life, I’m so so excited for the world to hear it in its entirety.
Thanks to LJ Collier for help with the interview
The Simulations Breached is out now. Buy here.
I’m a music journalist based in the U.K. with a love for bass music in many forms from drum & bass and dubstep to hip hop and grime. Always looking to check out new music as well as digging back for the classics and attending as many events as possible.