Although artists and listeners alike have dubbed it a dying genre, pure drum and bass, I’ve found, is far from dead. You just have to know where to look.
In the city of Philadelphia, Mike Harrington is hard at work producing his own breed of D’n’B. His listeners know him better as Structure. Entirely self-taught, Structure has been producing drum and bass since 1996, although his passion for the music began in 1991, when he spent a year studying abroad in Germany.
“I got to experience art and music from the very core,” he said during our interview. “I got to go to clubs in ’91 when it was called hardcore. I’d go to the club until like six o’clock in the morning, and then I’d come home, change and then paint all day.”
Structure learned how to use Cubase when he decided he wanted to start producing music, and then quickly picked up Logic, Reason and Traktor. The beat and break matching, he admitted, took time.
“I taught myself to beat-match by ear. I do all the beat-matching and break-matching by hand. There’s no digital syncing, it’s all live,” he said.
According to Structure, who was originally drawn to the technical intricacies of the genre, learning the skills is worth the extra effort. His incorporation of complex rhythms and breaks complimented by atmospheric melodies lend his music a smoothness that is both refreshing and easy on the ears.
“I try to follow the original sound and producers but keep my own kind of thing…not what everybody’s doing now,” said Structure.
Originally a graphic design artist, Structure used to pass his tracks along to labels that hired him for artwork. “Once they knew I was an artist, they would listen to my tracks, give me feedback, and let me know what worked and what didn’t. I took that and modified my tunes,” he said. He also brought exposure to his music and the drum and bass scene in Philly by running PhillyJungleMassive.com, a popular bass music blog.
Ultimately, Structure said he’d like to see his music signed by a UK label, namely Good Looking Records, which has released artists such as Tayla, Big Bud and PFM. His most recent album, ‘Machina Complex,’ is part of a four-part tech-step production representing different concepts behind drum and bass. Using only custom sounds and original breaks, track completion can take anywhere from a weekend to months, according to Structure. “It’s a labor of love and it definitely takes dedication to get where you want to go,” he said.
When completed, the project will be the single largest body of work produced by one artist in the world of drum and bass.
While his primary focus is currently production (Structure is in the midst of completing ‘Subjugation,’ the third installment in his concept project), he prefers preforming live to spending hours in the studio.
“It gives me a chance to hear my tunes thrown onto a big system,” he sad. “You can hear it in the studio but a studio’s a still environment. A live system gives you the enhancement of a studio, except speakers are better, the sound is better and you get a crowd’s instant reaction.”
In Philadelphia, Structure enjoys performing at different venues rather than sticking to a residency. As far as the bass scene in the area is concerned, Structure maintained the driving energy behind it is still very much alive and ever expanding.
“Dub step is now getting mixed into drum and bass, and then you have drum step for people who don’t like dub step all the way but they don’t like drum and bass all the way either,” he said. “Its been just more people coming to that scene and just growing from there.”
Call it drum, dub, tech or just D’n’B, here’s to a genre for which artists like Structure have proven themselves consistently innovative and able to adapt to EDM’s ever-evolving audiences. Long live bass!