Bristol-based producer and DJ, Borai delivers the details on his musical influences, evolution of his selections, a brief history of DnB and Dubstep, as well as the early Bristol scene. Providing an in-depth conversation of Borai’s experience navigating the UK club scene and how he came to production, on top of the formation of Club Glow (with Denham Audio and Mani Festo), we also chat about his most recent EP “Need U”.
Just the second vinyl release for the Club Glow imprint, Borai provides four immaculate tracks packed with emotional selection of soft vocals, rolling breaks and a high intensity jungle vibe throughout. The versatility of this EP is both dark and light; a true combination of club closers and mood lifters.
Excited to see what Club Glow brings next, listen back to their latest Balamii show with Estella Boersma, and stream Borai’s latest EP on Club Glow.
How are you? And what have you been getting up to recently?
I am very well, all things considered! I’ve been trying to knuckle down and spend more time in the studio. My work hasn’t stopped throughout lockdown so I’ve still been going into the Dubstudio and cutting dubplates pretty much everyday. Apart from that I’m starting to get excited at the possibility of DJing again and we (Club Glow) are slowly starting to re-organise parties that we had to cancel due to Covid. The first one was announced today in London and we have plans for other cities around the UK, till we can travel internationally of course…then the world is our oyster!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your musical journey over the years?
I am in my late 30s and grew up in Bristol, UK. I still live here as I feel it’s one of the greatest cities to work and live in. My musical education started around 9 or 10 years old when I began to learn the violin, I played this up until i was about 14 and dropped it when I discovered dance music (you can’t play Jungle on a violin…..maybe someone can, but for me the two were worlds apart) using my upcoming exams as an excuse to my parents to justify the decision.
Between the ages of about 12 and 13 I started to become very interested in the whole dance music “thing” and began my journey into the styles that I hold dear to my heart today. Most of the earliest music i was introduced to was via my classmates with cassette tapes recorded off the radio or copied from an older sibling being passed around and I’d make copies for my own collection. I was wedded to my walkman pretty much 24/7 and used to carry around a large selection of tapes.
Where I went to school was in same area that had all the independent record shops and cool clothes shops, so everyday after school I would try and visit as many of these as I could and pick up flyers or the odd tape (I had no money for records at this point) but this was fantastic to me as it gave me insights into the local scenes and who the greatest DJs/Crews were and gave me a kind of “target” or at least showed to me that you could make music and DJ for a living and Bristol was at the very heart of what was an amazing and creative cutting edge scene with artists who lived in the city that were internationally renown and made some of the wickedest tunes.
My musical tastes have always been quite varied but it was the Jungle/DnB scene that held my interest the most, crews like Ruffneck Ting, Full Cycle, Smith & Mighty/More Rockers released records that went on to become classics and Bristol was thought of very highly amongst those outside of the city. Along side night clubs like Lakota, The Black Swan, Thekla, The Blue Mountain, Native, Level, Dojo’s and many others I’ve forgotten I was spoiled for choice and had this amazing source of inspiration right on my doorstep.
I was very much into the idea of creating my own tracks as well as DJing and I started to research how to go about it. My parents were very supportive of my plans and I found out that there was a Music Technology course at a local Further Education College (that’s where you can go and study after school, before applying for university) where I could learn how to write and produce music and I applied to do that (I was about 16 at this point).
ust before I started college, all my friends from school that had previously been “ravers” like me nearly all drifted onto other genres/scenes and were basically all into Rock/Indie and I found myself one of the only people I knew that was deeply into DnB. Thankfully I found likeminded friends on my course and became part of new crew when I started visiting a record shop that specialised in DnB called Breakbeat Culture that had just been taken over by what become my best friend and his mates. I was soon welcomed into their midst and started getting involved in everything they were doing, it was a collection of likeminded friends who all were either pursuing DJing or production (usually both) and were also putting on club nights under name Timecode.
So for a good few years we were deeply involved in the local DnB scene, as we attempted to go about making the tracks we wanted to hear and DJ the sets we wanted to play (and get signed to a record label) but as time went on people started to move away from DnB and discover different styles and genres that were bubbling up, the Broken Beat and Nu-Jazz scene was very big with us as well as Breaks and we started writing tunes, DJing and putting on parties that weren’t just DnB. It was Dubstep that really shook things up, we suddenly found (at least to me) that there was this music that encompassed everything that made DnB great but new and exciting at the same time. It was Rob Ellis (Dj Pinch) that showed me what Dubstep was all about, another friend Diccon (Dj Thinking) had kinda discovered it first and was playing it to as many of his crew/friends as he could (I shamefully ignored his advice for months before I really checked out what it was all about) I was blown away, here was this new genre that was like DnB in 94-96 where there was a very loose set of “rules” and basically you were free to experiment with any number of influences and styles that you could incorporate. There was different styles of dubstep in the very early days, with breakbeats (Break Step) without (Half Step) and all manner of different interpretations. It could be dark, light, swung like Garage, have vocals or not. It was an exciting time for me, as I had fallen out of love with Breaks and the other genres that were popular at the time.
I first experienced Dubstep in its “Natural Environment” when a couple of car loads of us from Bristol would drive up to London on Thursdays once a month and go to Forward at Plastic People. Some of the Bristol crew has begun to reach out to the artists in London and start building relationships, we soon went from having nowhere to listen to it in Bristol to one of the only Dubstep nights outside of London at the time (Dubloaded) where DJ Pinch would book the cream of the crop from the London scene and install a HUGE soundsystem for us all to come down, listen to the latest dubs and hang out and chat business.
What I really liked and connected with the most was the very earliest Dubstep, by the time the genre had become established worldwide it had taken on a form that I wasn’t really that into any more. I much prefer the bass heavy and foggy vibes of the early tracks to the later midrange wobble step that it became. I also really loved the tracks that were built with breakbeats and weren’t just half step beats with a drone bass, but sadly this style was very short liven in Dubstep and soon enough no-one was making it anymore.
I, like a lot of my contemporaries in Bristol moved across to the Deep Techno and Minimal Techno scenes with Berlin and Detroit/Chicago becoming a focus for many of the tracks that inspired us. I released a few records and had my first solo EP with the American label Tasteful Nudes thats a straight up Deep House record but as it became more popular in Bristol and everywhere I started to look elsewhere for my inspiration.
I decided that I wanted to go back to the Breakbeat based tracks that i so loved, there was a burgeoning Dubstep “revival” and I thought why not take it back to the early days and see if these new fans would respond to some breaks. I also realised that there was very much a crossover into the older Hardcore and Jungle Techno genres as well, you can take the vibe and maybe some of the sounds from those old tracks and fit them at a more modern tempo (140 in this case) I started to work on some tracks and the Anybody From London EP was born. When I finished it I had no idea who to send it to, all my Dubstep connections were playing tracks there were nothing like it and I wasn’t sure if the DnB crowd would be into it because its so slow. I sent it to Dan Ossia as he is a friend and thought he might have a better idea of who to send it to. He replied saying he loved the tracks and could he release them on Hotline Records, I of course said yes and the rest is history.
Your new record “Need U” is another stunning release, can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the EP and how you would describe it?
I would call Need U an “Emotional Banger” with its powerful synths and top lines, the idea behind it is pretty much the same vibe as Make Me. Keep it simple, keep it musical and make sure the beats are heavy. It’s one of those tracks that kinda wrote itself, I probably didn’t spend more than a day on the original session. One thing I did pay attention to was switching the octaves of the arp lines at certain points and giving some edge without changing the key, it’s a funky trick that I use quite a bit. It’s quite hard to pin down how to describe the EP in genre terms as its such a selection of different tempos and vibes, but i suppose if I were to say what I was aiming for it would be….”Heavy”.
Step Off is a tune I made for myself to play as my opening track in DJ sets, it worked so well that I felt maybe others would want it and I’ve also been asked about it quite a few times since I started playing it. It can be hard letting your dubplates go, but honestly I’d rather more people had the chance to hear and enjoy it than have it as an exclusive track for ever.
Yellow (Well Well Well) came out of a session I had with a really cheesy (but quite charming) portable kids toy that has an onboard sampler (The Yamaha VSS-200, for those of a geeky persuasion)`You can record your own samples to it and play them back via the keyboard, it’s about 4bit and has a second or so of memory you can use. It also doesn’t save anything when you tun it off, so you use it, record the results to audio and then move on to the next sound. It’s got this amazing gritty character to anything you throw into it. There are some youtube videos around that are worth watching if your interested. I used it for the pads and the main synth sound in the track as well as some of the vocal samples (it’s why they are so distorted).
Shadow Law is my attempt at a Dillinja track at 140bpm with a bit of Tech Itch thrown in. Crushing breaks that I sampled and processed through the desk and the spooky sci-fi vocal sample that was fun to track down. It’s from the Manga version of Street Fighter believe it or not. (If your a fan you already know this by the Shadow Law reference….) first heard on Moving Fusion’s classic DnB track Turbulence.
What was the creative and production process behind the record?
Like all my tunes right now I’m drawing on my love of all things 90s, those tracks that I grew up with and the sound those producers achieved is something that I strive to try an incorporate in my work. I have collected effects boxes and samplers that were used at the time and they defiantly give a vibe to whatever your processing, I’d go so far as to say its easier to get the sound of those 90s records by just using the same equipment they used. I made this discovery a good few years ago and really do enjoy using those boxes far more than tweaking a plugin with a mouse. It’s also where I started, when i was first learning to produce it was all external boxes and not much computer processing, so today I use a combination of the two. I get the sound and vibe from the external hardware and I can use the precision tools in the box to easily tweak it to my hearts content, its also much easier to work with audio, so most of the time I use the samplers and synths etc to build the basic foundation of a track and then record the elements into the computer and mix and edit it there. I do also process individual tracks externally both before and after I record them.
If you had to pick a favourite track from the EP, which one would it be and why?
That’s a hard one as I saved my best demos to put on this EP. They are all my favourite in some way but I will say that Need U edges the others for me. I really enjoying playing that out (it was written before lockdown, so I’ve had a small chance to road test it) and I cant wait till people can play it in clubs and parties themselves.
Coming as the second release on Club Glow what’s it like working with the team and how has the label helped your development, what does Club Glow mean to you as a collective and label?
Club Glow is pretty much my whole world right now, we are all very much involved in all aspects of running the projects we do and that gives us plenty of scope to work together to achieve the results we want. Also through lockdown its been good to have some likeminded compadres that I can discuss stuff with, not just music but other things as well, and as were starting to look at the beginning of the end of lockdown (here in the UK, for now at least….) its been good starting to get back into arranging bookings and events. I also run my own label Higher Level, alongside Club Glow and to be honest I very much enjoy the collective experience a bit more, there more people to help out with all the things that need to be done arranging a release and bouncing ideas off, it can be a bit of slog sorting it all out myself. Another thing I really like about Club Glow is the ability we have to grow, bringing more artist into the fold as time goes on…there are plans afoot as I type for the next generation of the Club Glow crew, but that’s all I can say for now.
What in store for the rest of 2021 and are you able to shine any light on any upcoming releases?!
Hopefully 2021 will be a bit nicer to the music and events industry than 2020 was and we can get back to putting on some parties and celebrating together again once more. Club Glow are planning events over the year if things go well, and we are lining up the next 2 or 3 releases (I’m not a liberty to give any more info just yet, so keep your eyes and ears open for future news)
Personally I am going to spend a bit more time developing Higher Level alongside Club Glow as I feel that I’ve got a nice opportunity to have a space thats totally separate for me to experiment with different sounds and vibes, but we’ll see, for as the poem goes “The best-laid schemes of mice and men, Go oft awry”.
“Need U” is out now on Club Glow and is available to listen and buy on Bandcamp.
Tracklist: 1. Need U 2. Step Off 3. Yellow (Well Well Well) 4. Shadow Law