Last month Tom Russell released his first solo album ‘Kymin Lea’ since 2012, under his Truss moniker. With this in mind I caught up with him to a few questions and get an insight to the mind of a man who loves The Smashing Pumpkins just as much as he does the UK’s early rave scene.
Truss has had a few aliases over the years each with their own distinct sound, from the overtly club orientated sound of MPIA3 to the more introverted work under his Melbion alias, each brings something a little different to the table. By his own admission however, Truss has always been his “primary alias” and after a few years of collaborations and side projects he felt the time was right to get back releasing under his main name.
With this decided he set about constructing his first solo work under his Truss moniker since 2012 and the result was his latest 3 track EP ‘Kymin Lea’. The EP is slightly more experimental take on techno that those who have been following Truss for a while will have come to expect. The whole EP is well worth multiple playbacks and just watch out for how much ‘Wyefield’ will really grow on you.
Q. You’ve had quite a few aliases over the years so do you strictly separate each of your production identities or do you like to let them bleed into each other a little?
They all bleed into each other. I do like the way that having various production pseudonyms allows me to compartmentalise things but there will always inevitably be some blurred lines along the way. Where my various identities do all merge into one, however, is in my DJ sets.
Q. There seems to be a lot going on in these new tracks, quite different to some of your MPIA3 work. Are you chasing a specific sound at the moment or are you still just making stuff that you would like to listen to?
I just make music that happens naturally in the studio. It took me a long while to realise that I make the stuff I’m most happy with when I simply let creative ideas flow with little regard to achieving a specific end.
Q. Building on that, have there been any new influences that have provided a base for the EP?
I’m always on the hunt for new music for my DJ sets. Discovering new music or revisiting old records and seeing how a crowd reacts provides a constant source of inspiration.
Q. And what sort of set up did you use to produce this album? I’ve heard you say the MPIA3 stuff is a bit more a live jam, was that the case this time round?
Lately I’ve settled into a combination of ‘live jam’ production work and resampling, utilising the benefits of both hardware and software. Generally speaking most of my sound sources are hardware based, while most of my processing and arrangement is done ‘in the box’.
Q. To me your ‘Kymin Lea’ track sounds quite experimental in nature, do you tend to think about where and how your music might be played, or do you let it get taken how it is?
Considerations such as the environment a track will likely be payed in, the context in which it may be placed in a DJ set or how it would fit with other tracks as part of an EP are all generally afterthoughts. This is a way of working that I’ve found is best for me personally. It’s also the reason I’m never likely to be able to successfully write an album.
Q. Any particular reasons you picked three towns in Monmouth as the track names?
Nearly all of the tracks I’ve ever released as Truss are named after streets or areas where I grew up.
Q. Obviously your brother is involved in DJing and producing as well, did you guys have quite an open musical family or was it largely self-discovery?
Our dad is a musician, as was our granddad. Music is something we were both involved with from an early age whether we liked it or not.
Q. Building on that, you’ve said before that the UK rave scene had a large impact on your musical taste early on, what other sounds and styles did you strongly associate with as you were first cutting your teeth?
Aside from Rave music I was mostly listening to bands. Anything from Def Leppard to Smashing Pumpkins. I still love Def Leppard.
Q. When you had just started to come on to the scene, you were doing a huge amount of work with Donor, I’ve heard you say that you guys had a very similar background, in terms of your musical influences. How did that relationship and discovery come about and how much common ground do you guys share?
I did a remix for him. He was really into it. We got chatting and it soon became apparent that we had very similar tastes in music. Not so many of my friends at that time were into techno and so you need to appreciate how rare it was for me to meet someone who was, for instance, into the ‘Birmingham’ sound of people like Regis, Surgeon and Female. We became very good friends and remain so to this day.
Q. Any plans to work with him in the future or are you sticking with the solo work for a while?
Our collaboration is ongoing. It’s just a question of finding the time as we both lead busy lives. Greg (Donor) has a successful career away from techno music as well as a family, and then there is the small matter of a few thousand miles of Atlantic Ocean between us. We will be playing one or two shows together in Europe this summer though, which I’m looking forward to.
Q. I want to touch briefly on the work you did as part of the Blacknecks collaboration, to me the music comes across as the producers having a lot of fun working together but there is a definite cerebral undertone to tracks such as ‘clubbing’. What was it like working as a part of that trio and how did it all come together?
Technically speaking, Blacknecks was a duo. Joyce D’Vision, our MC for the infamous House of God gig in Birmingham, was not involved with the productions. The project came about when Al (Bleaching Agent) forced me into making and releasing music that is even more substandard than I would usually feel comfortable with.
Q. I’ve also heard you mention that you feel there is, or at least has been, a solid community of UK based techno producers. Do you think this is still the case at the moment, given how many more people are making and listening to techno?
Yes I think it is still very much the case. That’s not to say that everyone knows one another, but I think we are all generally aware of each other’s output.
Q. Also do you actually agree that more people are actually making and listening to techno at the moment, or do you think there is just perhaps a greater public perception of the genre than there has been in the past few years?
Both. There is no denying the surge in popularity of techno in the past few years in Europe and the UK. Generally speaking, where you have an increase in one, there will be an increase in the other.
Q. I’ve seen you DJ and heard your productions, do you associate with one more than the other or do you see them as parts of the same parcel?
I see them as being very much intertwined. They both influence each other and I would find it difficult, or at least less enjoyable, to do one without participating in the other.
Q. Which UK based producers (of any genre) are you a fan of at the moment and why?
At risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m a huge fan of Blawan. Genuinely one of the most creative talents to emerge in recent times in my opinion. Great to see him releasing new music again recently. Randomer is finally getting the wider recognition he deserves. He’s been constantly making some of the most inventive dance music for a number of years now and is a wicked DJ to boot. He should already be massive, but thankfully it seems he’s now on his way. And last but not least, my Blacknecks partner in crime, Bleaching Agent. Quite ridiculously talented, prolific and humble. Just a shame he’s a bit of a cunt.