Today we chat with Jake from Brainzaps and ½ of Rubber Velvet for a little discussion on his creative projects and process.
W: Hi Jake, to start lets just tell us who are you and what you do? For anyone who doesn't know. J: I'm Jake, Brainzaps and/or one half of alternative duo Rubber Velvet with my mate Liam, I've also got a few other alias's but the one people know about now the most is Brainzaps. Brainzaps is a solo project that isn't really defined by one genre. It's a project where I'm exploring loads of different styles and collaborations, stuff like that. W: Sweet. Where did it all start for you? What inspired you to start making music?
J: I guess it all started when I learned to play the guitar in primary school, my parents are quite musically tuned in and I got a bass for my 13th birthday I think. Then I went to college in 2009 and I realised I could actually study this and take it seriously, and that set me off on a production path and it all came to fruition from there.
W: You briefly just mentioned Rubber Velvet and Brainzaps, can you tell me a bit more about your musical history?
J: Basically, I was in an electronic duo when I was living in Cardiff while studying at university, we were called TLB. I got introduced to my mate through another mate, we both Dj'd old school, early 80's/90's Berlin and Detroit Techno. Then we started producing together and gigging and became quite prominent in the Cardiff music scene, playing a lot of the underground venues in the city. Got some music signed by a few labels.
W: Is it?
J: Yeah when the EP's were getting signed, that's when it started kicking off for me musically.
W: You just briefly mention production, what sparked your inspiration to pick that up full time and what did you start producing with?
J: Just like I said then when I was in the duo it was Djing but also I was producing the tracks with my mate, made a few EPs. I got a copy of Ableton, and just started to sit down try to learn all the basics and just started formulating beats from there. Before I knew it I was churning out EP after EP and ever since then I have just been producing all the time.
When I started producing band related music is when I moved back home about (West Wales), About three years ago. I started to produce the Indie rock thing that Me and Liam do.
W: Have you known Liam for a while then?
J: Yeah I've known Liam for about nine years now.
W: What lead you both to start creating together?
J: When we were in Uni, Liam used to pop round and visit us quite a lot, and all my housemates made music so we used to just record stuff for laughs, so we always knew we had that bond. Then when I moved home three years ago in 2017, I hit Liam up saying I felt I've hit a peak with my production, and I really want you to bring what you got and form something. Fortunately, he was back this way too, so we met up, made like three songs in two days that were solid, and from there knew we had to keep pursuing it.
W: Rubber Velvet is very unique I can hear a lot of influences in the music, what inspiration do you draw from?
J: Yeah you're right with variety, we just don't set out to be anything in terms of style. But the bands that we took influences from were things like The Rolling Stones. That rock mentality and the movement surrounding it in the 1970's where music changed society. The Velvet Underground are also a massive influence on us. But then you got stuff that blends into that rock mentality like Britpop like Oasis/Blur. For Me personally the Cure are a massive influence and Gorillaz. Also bands like MGMT and New Order, all that sh*t man. In short, we were basically mixing 90's Britpop attitude with synthy experimentation of the bands from the 80's and more modern synth shit. Shoegaze is a huge influence on our sound too.
W: Do you have a similar approach and influence when making your own music? or do you draw from other influences?
J: Yeah, I do draw from other influences. With my own music, it's kind of a story about my mental health really, as people who may listen to my music will know it's quite depressing a lot of the time. The main difference with me is I listen to a lot of midwestern/90s Emo, bands like Snowing, Basement, American Football, Sunny Day. Then there's the Emo Hip Hop shit like Schema Posse, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Lil Peep (RIP), a lot of the early stuff released around 2015/16, it just vibes with me you know? I've always liked Emo music, not what a lot of people might think emo music is today but that older, raw 90's shit. When I heard Lil Peep I could hear samples of bands I used to listen to and made me think these guys know about the true artists of the genre and mixing that with electronic shit. I guess I take the atmosphere of that and the hazy low production values, which I get massively excited about, and mix that with my rock influences. Making low production quality sound good. That's the main difference between me and Rubber Velvet, Liam and I at least try to make things sound a bit polished and take the production seriously, whereas I don't for Brainzaps. I like to record stuff, mistakes n all, and keep it, do a bit of tweaking, but I want it to sound like an expression. My Brainzaps influences are a lot more electronic, stuff like Gorillaz, Massive Attack, Leftfeild, a lot of 90's Trip-Hop stuff, then combining that with stuff like Joy Division, The Cure. I'd even say bands heavier bands like KoRn, who I love, are a big influence on my subject matter and vocal melodies. Black Metal is another one, Burzum, Darkthrone, shit like that. Basically 90's Trip Hop with Emo Hip Hop and the odd random sprinkle. Haha.
W: From knowing you a bit I notice you have a prolific work rate, can you speak about how and why that is?
J: A lot of people who know me knows I tend to make sh*t and send it out, I always get asked if I'm gonna release it. I never really make stuff with the idea of releasing it, for me, my mental health is a thing I battle with, I use creating music as a source of therapy, I know that's cliche but the people close to me can tell if I haven't made anything for a while they notice that I'm down. If I don't constantly create and churn out music my mental health declines. If I don't do it, I get ill. That's the easiest way to explain it. I'm not doing it for others or for it to be liked, that's just a bonus that comes along with making music. But mainly it's just a form of expression and release for me.
W: What do you use to make music?
I have my bedroom studio, it's a fairly simple set up, cheap interface, pair of tannoy monitors, Ableton push for beats and a midi keyboard. Rubber Velvet is mainly made using Instrumentation like Guitars and Basses over synthetic beats and VST synthesisers, a mix of anything really. Ableton's basic instruments are really easy to manipulate and are so sick. With my own stuff it is a lot more Synth based, Hip Hop sample-based, but then I sprinkle textures on top using Guitars and bass etc.
W: Whats the most important bit of equipment for you?
J: For me, headphones are really important, not that I have an expensive pair or anything, but everyone has headphones these days, if you have a Laptop, DAW and Headphones you don't really need anything else like expensive speakers to get your ideas down.
W: I notice you always have good artwork, can you tell me about some influences you draw from outside of music?
J: Personally I get influence from dystopian sh*t, mystical/fantasy stuff and combining them. If you check the artwork for Mine to Own and our most recent tune, Alone and Alone, what I do is find old paintings I love and find an area of that painting that speaks to me and crop that out, stick a tag on it and sorted. A lot of medieval art is a big influence on me, generally stuff from the middle ages.
W: How do you find a balance in making music?
J: I was a boozer, spent most of my time boozing, but I'm sorted now (laughs). But if I'm not making music now I'm usually gaming with my inner circle of friends or spending time with my missus, literally just casual everyday sh*t, but because I'm making music so much it plays into it all. Also, I think exercise is super important for inspiration so I run a lot, rock climbing, hiking also, those are big things for me.
W: Awesome, just to round it off, what can we expect coming from yourself?
J: (laughs).. As you know man, I have a production coming with you, which is exciting. Collaborations are important, I'm not really part of the scene so it was nice for you to extend that offer to me, I appreciate that. I've also got a new single dropping called Ahead of Me that will be coming out on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon etc that'll be coming out on the 3rd of April.
W: Awesome Jake, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
J: No problem man, anytime. _____________________________________________________
Ahead of me is out on 03/04/2020 on Stay Blue Records
Stay Blue Records : https://www.facebook.com/staybluerec Rubber Velvet - https://www.facebook.com/rubbervelvetband/ - https://open.spotify.com/artist/5A6fL9p0v056BwCAEqcxnS
Brainzaps – https://open.spotify.com/artist/0DGiRGYITO2e7Xmlq2oTdb Rubber Velvet - Alone and Alone (Audio) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN5DFeP-uZo