‘Young producers, keep hold of your first tunes!’ says Bristol producer Muttley aka Alex Hughes. His first solo vinyl release, Architect dropped on Von D’s Dubs Galore last week, though it’s actually the first track he ever uploaded to SoundCloud nearly 10 years ago.
Muttley’s second solo release to be laid to wax will follow shortly afterwards on Southpoint, as part of an EP with contributions from Opus, 9TRANE and more. Showcasing the murkier side of Muttley’s production, the track, Sudoko, is a mellow, suspenseful grime banger.
Showcasing the murkier side of Muttley’s production, the track is a mellow, suspenseful grime banger
Diligently behind the dials from the age of 15, it finally feels like Muttley’s time to blow – though it’s less a case of finding his groove and more about getting the recognition he was always owed.
Muttley was propelled onto the underground stage when Pinch put out his Ishan Sound collaboration Still Smoking on Tectonic
Muttley was propelled onto the underground stage when Pinch put out his Ishan Sound collaboration Still Smoking on Tectonic last year. However, industry support has been swelling for a long time, with props from industry titans including RSD, Youngsta, Mala, Kahn and Neek, Bukez Finezt, Foamplate and plenty more.
RSD was the first guy to play my music that wasn’t my mate in college
‘RSD was the first guy to play my music that wasn’t my mate in college. We had him down to play a charity thing me and my now-wife did when we were 18. It’s just great to be able to be in touch with the guy. Youngsta has been giving me a lot of time and advice, as well as supporting my tunes and inviting me on Rinse FM. Ishan Sound has also been a massive help and a big supporter.’
While, arguably, most Bristol 140 producers draw reference points from Bristol’s heritage of reggae and dub music, it is one of the biggest audible influences in Muttley’s music, with other nods being given to R&B rhythms, grime and trap.
dub (…) is one of the biggest audible influences in Muttley’s music, with other nods being given to R&B rhythms, grime and trap
Muttley began his music journey playing guitar as a young teenager, which is what he says led him to reggae and dub, with electronic music following naturally after that; graduating from delay pedals to production software.
‘We were trying to guess our way through software, without really having much access to anything. But that’s kind of what dub and dubstep is – chucking stuff through effects and seeing what happens.’
We were trying to guess our way through software
This heavy nod to dub and reggae has earned him a place in the Hold Tight Records family, who have gladly made room for his 140-orientated sounds within their palette.
‘There’s a core group at Hold Tight, then there’s a few of us who release with them and DJ with them often. So I’m part of the family, let’s say. I was a big fan of theirs, I didn’t know any of them beforehand, but from being at their nights and chatting to them – it just made sense.’
While Hold Tight tends to pay homage to the original sounds of roots reggae, Muttley draws from a more recent pool, working backwards from the likes of Skream, Coki and Kromestar who took influence from London steppas and digi dub.
Muttley draws from a more recent pool, working backwards from the likes of Skream, Coki and Kromestar
‘Hold Tight don’t necessarily venture towards the heavier side of dubstep too much and I don’t necessarily play the rootsy, older side of dub and reggae – even though it’s something I listen to and own a lot of. I’ll generally turn up and blend some 140 and play some trap or something, which is a bit of a counter to what they’re doing.’
It’s definitely a happy musical meeting, with one Hold Tight release under his belt and more to come next year, he tells us. However, Muttley has many different sides and another big influence comes from soul and R&B, an interest he explores in his releases with Eat My Beat and even more so on unreleased tracks like About You.
I listen to loads of R&B and soul
‘I listen to loads of R&B and soul, stuff that maybe isn’t necessarily what people would assume. It’s something I listen to a lot, in terms of a playlist on your phone for travelling or whatever. Stuff with vocals, stuff with guitars and keys and horns. Some of the stuff I did on Eat My Beat has that kind of flavour and things I will do with them in future is going to have that kind of flavour.’
The one abridging feature across Muttley’s music is his kinship to the 140 tempo. Over the past few years, artists like Commodo, Eva 808 and Bristol’s Bengal Sound have blurred the line between grime and dubstep so much that they’ve effectively created a genre of its own.
That’s what I’m aiming to produce a lot of the time – that question mark stuff
‘That’s what I’m aiming to produce a lot of the time – that question mark stuff. There’s a lot of creative freedom within it, you can be dubby, you can be heavier, you can be more on the deep meditative side of things. There’s a lot you can do within 140 and that’s what makes it so interesting.’
Though Muttley has released a fair amount over the years, behind the scenes, he is far more prolific than you could imagine – to the point of becoming a running joke among friends.
I feel like I can’t sleep sometimes unless I get a couple of tunes out
‘I’ve definitely slowed down recently, but there is a joke amongst my mates within the scene about how much music I make. Sometimes it can be four ideas in a night that are a couple of minutes long.
‘Throughout the month there are probably 10 or 15 things that are kind of worth working on, then I whittle it down and whittle it down. I feel like I can’t sleep sometimes unless I get a couple of tunes out.’
Although Muttley has a lot lined up in the coming months, including another release with Transient Audio before 2019 is out, this is down to industry timing, rather than feeling a need to keep putting out tunes.
‘After the Tectonic release, I felt a bit more pressure on myself to be aiming for those dream labels. Up until that point, I was trying to release every couple of months.
‘So hopefully there are more things coming that I can’t really talk about at the moment, but I think I oversaturated a bit before. Within a 12 month period, there were too many tunes – I don’t want to do that again. It was a lot of four-track EPs as well, which was a lot of work.
Dubstep is a single-led culture
‘It’s slowing down to two or three releases a year, which I think is better. People always told me that’s better way of doing it. I just want to do A sides and B sides, or maybe just an A side and a remix. Dubstep is a single-led culture. I like the fact that someone goes out and spends ten quid on a piece of vinyl – it’s a lot of commitment.’
As well as hinting at those dream label releases, Muttley confirms releases with Eat My Beat and Hold Tight for 2019; plus more collaborations with Ishan Sound hopefully coming soon as well.
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger