The Fear Ratio was formed in 2011 by heavyweight UK techno producers Mark Broom and James Ruskin, originally setting the alias up to combine their passions for electronica, hip-hop and dub beats beyond the parameters of 4×4 techno. Over time, the duo have created their own signature style consisting of abstract synths, heavy baselines and experimental soundscapes that fit somewhere in between IDM, electronica ad ambient. Since their acclaimed debut album Light Box in 2011, the pair have released a slew of formidable records ranging from Refuge of a Twisted Soul to the more recent LP They Can’t Be Saved — every record demonstrating the couple’s innate ability in crafting some of the best electronic music to date.
This year The Fear Ratio continue their ridiculous run of form with today’s release Slinky via the esteemed Tresor Records imprint. Best described as an ever-evolving project, Slinky was initially unveiled a a live show for the 30th anniversary event for Tresor Berlin alongside King Kashmere, as the pair served up rough-hewn fundamentals, roving melodies and investigative power throughout. By bringing a voice into their work and continually pushing the boundaries of electronic music with their incredibly-effected rhythmic styles and wondering synthesis, The Fear Ratio never miss a beat. Upon release we caught up with Mark and Jame about their new project and life as TFR.
“The Fear Ratio gives us both a bit of escapism from our solo material, and it also gives us the opportunity to go down different avenues that we wouldn’t necessarily explore to the same degree with our solo work.”
Can you tell us about how and why The Fear Ratio was first established?
Both of us have a love for hip-hop and the weirder side of electronic music, so after releasing run of more club-based Techno together we decided it was time for us to branch out and try something more indulgent than the larger part of our previous output. We wanted a project that gave us a platform to explore any avenues we were feeling, and the first fruits of this resulted in Lightbox which we released on Blueprint before moving forward with Skam for the second record.
Veterans of the UK techno scene in your own right — how, would you say, does The Fear Ratio differ in terms
The main aim with the project has always been to steer away from a more 4/4 techno style that is crafted predominantly for the dance floor. What is important fo run as The Fear Ratio is to push ourselves in a different direction, which also allows us to indulge in other aspect of our musical passions. One of the main difference is also in the production process, where the emphasis is to look much deeper sonically, and create a more detailed sound template.
Eleven years on from your debut Lightbox, do you think your sound has evolved over the years?
There’s a definite theme to the TFR sound which has been fine-tuned over the years, but the overall vibe of this project has remained in tact throughout each of our albums. We are not trying to reinvent ourselves with each record, the idea is to move forward, refine the process and have fun with the music. We do always tend to add something new from a studio perspective, even if its an old bit of kit that hasn’t been used for years, or a process that we can explore to influence the end result.
You played a particularly magnificent set for Tresor’s 30th anniversary on ARTE. How do you personally prepare for live sets?
This was a very exciting event for us as it had been a long time since we had performed live as TFR, and the first time we’ve used a vocalist in a live environment. We wanted to focus on recreating tracks from the album, but to also incorporate elements from other things we have been working on. Visually it came together perfectly on the night & we were very lucky to be able to perform in that incredible space that Tresor provided.
It’s clear you two complement each other well. During live sets, do you think there is a natural chemistry between you and have a good sense for where the other is at?
The groundwork for how we communicate in a live setting actually stems from how we work together whilst recording in the studio. Each project begins with jamming together, so you tend to become aware of the others sense of timing and movement. We’re still learning when it comes to live performances and seeing what works in certain situations, and this is an area that will be constantly evolving. There’s a fair amount of preparation behind the scenes so that the set has a structure on the night and things can run as smoothly as possible, that then lets us enjoy the overall process.
You’re about to drop your brand new album Slinky. What are the main influences behind this record? Both musical and non-musical related.
We don’t normally begin with the record mapped out in our minds, so there’s no particular influence for this album, but what Slinky gave us the was the chance to do something we’ve been wanting to do for a while which was to feature vocalists. We reached out to Ella Fleur and King Kashmere who gave us the inspiration we needed to progress this part of where we were heading and what we wanted to achieve.
King Kashmere joins you for two tracks on the record. When did you guys first meet and why do you think you work so well together?
We’re big fans of Strange U, and Kashmere has been on our radar for some time so we knew he’d be the perfect fit to flow over our productions. We hadn’t actually met prior to the Arte filming as we had worked remotely on the two tracks that Kash features on, so it was great when it all came together. He’s such a massive figure in the UK hip hop scene and we’re so happy he’s involved with this project as we had been planing to use an MC on previous records but had to be sure we worked with the right person that could make the colliding of the two worlds work.
I’m particularly intrigued about the fourth-track, “STMS”. What was the creative and production process behind this track in particular?
This track actually went under a few transformations before we found the right balance. The main elements were from one of our modular sessions, and the idea was to try and work the very phrenetic percussive elements around parts that may not naturally sit together. It’s not always the case that our original recordings become every element for a given track, and sometimes the smallest part of a recording opens into the complete opposite of the intent.
The record is dropping via the esteemed Berlin-based imprint Tresor. Why have you chosen to release on this label in particular?
There is a long standing relationship with Tresor that dates back to the 90’s, so after we had begun to formulate a new album we passed them what we’d been working on, and they loved what they heard and from that a plan was hatched. The record may not be what some people would associate naturally with Tresor, and this has made things even more interesting for us. We feel the label is a great fit for the project, and it’s exciting to see what the future holds.
If you had to pick a favorite track from the album, which would it be and why?
We don’t really like to separate any particular tracks as we love Slinky as a whole piece. As with any music, it depends what mood you are in.
Tricky question, but between your personal monikers and The Fear Ratio, which do you prefer when playing live and producing?
This project gives us both a bit of escapism from our solo material, and it also gives us the opportunity to go down different avenues that we wouldn’t necessarily explore to the same degree with our solo work. From a live perspective, preparing, and then performing as The Fear Ratio is a very different dynamic that allows us to delve a lot deeper into other worlds, and what excites us musically.
Post album release, what’s on the agenda for The Fear Ratio?
We’re doing another live show with King Kashmere for Tresor in July which we are preparing for at the moment, then we are planning to begin writing the next record soon afterwards. There’s also a remix forthcoming on Evight Records.