Friday, 3 December 2010
INTERVIEW: Eliphino [somethinksounds]
Tom Wrankmore is a guy who feels blessed by his luck in music. If there is one thing you can say about Wrankmore, and his work under the Eliphino moniker, it’s that he’s worked hard to get to where he is today. After circulating beat tapes and self releasing his 2005 hip hop tempoed album Out of Phase, he’s now on the precipice of big things. With a record out through Brownswood and his first solo EP for somethinksounds in shops now his music has morphed pace but retains the sort of characteristic that made his early work, re-presented by First Word Recordings, so listenable.
I reach him by phone early on a Saturday morning Melbourne time, 8pm on a Friday night his time, at his current abode - a warehouse space in central London. He is amazingly modest considering he has been working in DJing and at music for the last ten years - since he was 15 years old. Having recently made the move from Manchester to London things are quite fresh for him right now.
"Both cities are quite vibrant but obviously there is a lot more stuff going on in London I think..."
I guess it makes sense for an artist to be close to things?
"When events that I love to go to are so close, and every weekend, I can just see whoever I need to see. But there is so much going on, you literally have to pick and choose what you can afford!" he laughs.
Starting his bedroom production experiments at 17 years old after buying an MPC, he followed with roughly two years of DJing at a big club night in his home town. "I grew up in Leeds and there was a night called Drum Major. I got to be the resident DJ before I was even supposed to be in the club, when I was under 18." He confesses, sounding slightly incredulous about his luck. "I managed to DJ with Madlib, Q Bert and all those sort of hip hop guys who were smashing it around that time in the early 2000s."
"So I was really kind of blessed in the early days and I got to DJ a lot. Then I got addicted to production when I got my first sampler."
How did it feel to be invited to DJ as a resident at Drum Major?
"It was dope man. I think it was basically because I started off with, and I was quite enamoured with, the scratch stuff - the DMC battles and the ITF and all of that. So I practised on that level quite a lot and got to know quite a few people around the city who were into that. There were a couple of guys called Matman and Mike L who have both been in the DMC finals and they took me under their wing. I guess they might have seen some potential and then I got to be the resident of that night as a result of DJing with those guys."
That type of mentoring is commonly a huge part of the hip hop scene but it extends through artistic channels worldwide. As much as there is competition, the leading lights always seem to shine through. "I thought, for a while, that the availability of software might have changed the amount of people who make music. But I don't think that will dilute the quality of music coming out because it's only going to be the good stuff that gets the attention in the end."
Eliphino - Let Me Love You Forever [Brownswood]
"Someone who has been really forthright in terms of helping me out is Martyn. I have never met him because that's the nature of things nowadays, being online. I really look up to him because his productions are super tight and he is really willing to give time to break down one of your tunes. He's very honest about what he does and doesn't like."
"Also there's a guy called Illum Sphere up in Manchester. When I was living up there it was top that he and Johnny Dub were running Hoya Hoya - it was always somewhere good to go. I don't think I would site him as a mentor," he laughs.
A drinking buddy maybe?
Wrankmore has also gained support from a stalwart of music, Gilles Petterson. "We actually hooked up through the antiquated method of Myspace! Alexander Stevenson, who works at Gilles' label Brownswood, was in charge of compiling Brownswood Electr*c for Gilles on the label. He got in touch with me and it ended up being one of the two tunes that got pressed [onto vinyl]. That was around the same time as I moved to London so it was the best welcome that I could possibly have!"
The new Eliphino EP on somethinksounds, Undivided Whole, is a wonderful collection of beats, rolling melodies and morphing synths. The A-side of the EP bursts forth with ‘You'll Know’ - a kind of post-Burial garage gem that rolls out the stepper vibes - and continues with ‘L.F. (I Know)’ which forms a perfect twin track. The B side opens with ‘Condensation,’ is a far more muted house/funky affair, with ‘I Just Can't’ finishing off proceedings with a minimal, shuffling beat that is soaked in a single, mutating, droning synth. All-in-all it's a fascinating snapshot of a very talented producer.
"It has only been recently that I would consider myself to have been making songs," he reflects. "A lot of that has been through using Pro Tools and cleaning it all up."
"I have known the guys at somethinksounds for quite a while actually. We've come up in music together, somewhat. They've had the idea to start the label for a while and they finally put their heads together and got it to fruition. They're planning to have me as the first release on the label."
And for Wrankmore there is an added bonus: "It is being pressed on vinyl which has always been a main aim for me. So it's been relatively successful for me so far but we'll see how it goes. It's been kind of a strange road, I guess. I have always been into music, and I have been trying to make music and play it since I was about fourteen or fifteen. Around that age I was just listening to hip hop, old school Jungle, and a bit of garage as well. So it has always been a big melting pot of genres if you know what I mean."
"Dilla was a big influence, as was Madlib, but recently I have increased the speed of my tracks quite a lot. That's just a result of there being a lot of energy around certain genres and I have been more inspired to make music in that field."
Agreeing that it's a nice place to be right now with a great supportive community around the world he continues: "Yeah definitely. No one is raising eyebrows right now if people skip genres for each different release. You don't have to be dead set on one thing because it's all amalgamating now and everything is feeding off each other. It's good for creativity because there are no rules about what you're allowed to do."
"I'm definitely looking forward to [putting out] more releases. I have promised the lads that I will do another EP on somethinksounds. I have just finished a remix for a guy called Duffstep which is going to be on a label called Join The Dots - FaltyDL and Young Montana are on the same 12" so that's great to be on there with them… There is some cool stuff in the pipeline for next year; some labels are asking me for music... I'm considering changing direction in terms of the sound. I'm not really sure what it's going to be yet but I need to freshen up a bit. I will just keep making as much music as I can."
It's about being true to the music you want to create, right?
"Yeah totally. I usually get a melody in my head or mess about on the synth. Then I will work on a tune until it sounds alright - I will usually do the percussion on my MPC because it's easier for me. But I won't finish it as a song. I leave it for a month and forget about it and then I will load it up. I will either realise that it's awful or I will be surprised and finish it off."
"There are days when you will make something and half an hour later it will be done,” he continues. “I'm lucky enough to not have to work full time right now. I am living in a warehouse with no rent, doing freelance web design and DJing. So I get to sit around and mess about with music ideas all day anyway. I have enough time to get as creative as I can."
Words: Simon Hampson
Eliphino’s Undivided Whole EP is out now on somethinksounds.
Photo: Benjamin Eagle