Sepia, aka Theo Bennett, has seen his career build massively over the past year. With on-going support from American dubstep purveyor Joe Nice, and his single "Amber" selling out within a week; he now has a much anticipated EP on the way with Bristol label Transient Audio so we sent Dred Collective's Neil Pruden to talk to the man himself.
Hey Theo, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. How are you doing?
Easy guys. Yeah not bad thanks. Getting into hibernation mode now winter is here.
"I listen to a lot of bands, particularly really atmospheric ones like Explosions In The Sky and Sigur Ros, and a lot of metal so I enjoy riffs a lot. I try and apply that to the music I make so add loads of ambient atmospheres and riffs. "
So what's your process in building a tune from start to finish? Does it differ from track to track or do you stick to a similar method?
To be honest, it varies each time. And half the time I don't know what I'm doing until I'm fully immersed in the vibe or essence of the tune I'm making. Generally, I start by building a loop. So I'd start with either a sample or playing around with pads and synths and melodies to grasp an idea of what key and vibe the tune could potentially become. Then I'd make a 8 bar drums pattern and give them a quick mix down so they are punchy enough for me to add sub and mid range basses. Once I'm happy with how it's sounding and direction it's going, I completely strip that loop back and build and intro, build up more drums, melodies, samples, bass lines and structure the song from thereon. Other times it can go differently. I use FL Studio so it's a pretty easy interface and good to play around with.
What labels/producers draw your attention at the moment?
To be perfectly honest with you, I draw most my inspiration from other types of music out of the electronic scene. I listen to a lot of bands, particularly really atmospheric ones like Explosions In The Sky and Sigur Ros, and a lot of metal so I enjoy riffs a lot. I try and apply that to the music I make so add loads of ambient atmospheres and riffs.
Though producers I'm rating highly atm are: Foamplate, Karma, Etch, Egoless, Wize, Gundam, Kreed, Saule, Bukez Finezt, Commodo, Joss Ryan, Ishan Sound, Congi, Titus 12, Muttley, C-Side, whole Teklife crew, Machinedrum, Om Unit, Moresounds etc. Oh and Jabu. They have an album coming sometime, it's incredible. Too many to mention.
Label wise: Deep Medi, Bandulu, Zam Zam, Peng Sound, Hotline, Teklife, Critical, Exit, Hyperdub. Infernal Sounds, Gourmet Beats, Well Rounded, Hold Tight, Transient Audio, Antisocial etc . Again, too many to mention.
My taste is pretty sporadic and jumps from all corners of music haha.
"I guess next year, I wanna be touring more. Meeting more great people, collaborating with more artists and finishing my album."
With 2016 drawing to a close where do you see yourself this time next year musically?
That's quite a tough one, because a year ago I never expected to be where I am right now haha.
I had 2 records out this year, one of which sold out within a week (Amber, on Well Rounded). Played a lot of amazing shows. Had Mala drop a tune of mine for a nice period of time too.
I guess next year, I wanna be touring more. Meeting more great people, collaborating with more artists and finishing my album. Gotta fit that all round a heavy kitchen job though so we'll see how it goes haha.
Aside from producing what else sparks your interest?
Nature, books, video games, TV shows/movies, travelling, seeing live bands, astrology, skateboarding, festivals, summer. The usual really.
"Bristol is mad. Literally, sometimes I need a break cos there is ALWAYS something happening its so diverse"
You've received a lot of support from Joe Nice over the past year or so, how did that first come about?
I’ve been listening to Joe’s shows since I can remember, so many years now. And at the time, back when Skream was on Rinse doing Stella Sessions and Youngsta had his show on Rinse, they’d both only play tunes by a handful of guys. Which of course, was sick, so many good dubs. But what struck me with Joe’s show is he’d have dubs by all these new producers I’ve never even heard of before. So I thought it won’t hurt sending a few tunes over via email. If I remember correctly, I think the first time I sent him my music was in 2012. And he replied saying he’s gonna cut a couple of the tunes. So next time I tuned into his show, there it was. He was playing my tunes. I was gobsmacked. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and he’s always the first person I send my new music to and he’s cut so many of my tunes, that really means a lot to me. So that led to my debut vinyl release last year. He hit me up to say ‘Yo, I’m finally starting a label. I want you on it’. So I sent him some tracks and that’s how Music Box EP happened.
Last year, we did a couple shows together in the UK tour along with Foamplate, Karma, Sleeper, Sun of Selah and the Kiroku guys. That was a brilliant weekend.
"Don’t watch what everybody else is doing. Don’t get caught up in hype, trends, forums, bandwagons or any of that. Do what YOU enjoy doing."
What is your view on the current nightlife scene in Bristol?
Bristol is mad. Literally, sometimes I need a break cos there is ALWAYS something happening its so diverse. I've been to a night on a Monday that went on til 4am lol. So yeah, the nightlife is strong.
My only qualm, thought the same problem occurs nationwide, is that promoters do recycle lineups a lot. I've seen the same artists play SO many times over the course of 6 months. Would be great to switch it up a little.
With club closures becoming more apparent in London do you think it will have an impact on nightlife in other cities across the UK?
It's been a fear of mine for a while. But hopefully with the knowledge of what happened to clubs such as Fabric, other establishments round the UK are implementing new systems to make sure they don't suffer the same fate. I don't think it will effect Bristol. Bristol is so laid back and everybody is pretty cooperative. Only time will tell though I guess.
Any advice for the budding producers out there?
Don’t watch what everybody else is doing. Don’t get caught up in hype, trends, forums, bandwagons or any of that. Do what YOU enjoy doing. Stay humble and real. Get out of your comfort zone. Experiment with other genres, styles, textures, sounds, tempos etc. And most of all, have fun and believe in yourself
And last of all, Hilary or Trump?
Fucking neither. Randy Marsh for president
Ancient Tribes EP is out on 25th November on Transient Audio
You can see him play this Friday 4th Nov at CRTRL Sound @ Lightbox, London
Hear our exclusive track from Sepia below:
Follow him at soundcloud.com/sepiamusicuk