Prodbear first came to my attention back in March 2015, when I Won’t Stop You was submitted to Fresh On The Net. I loved how the track immediately burst into life with intricate, broken beats and thumping bass, topped by vocals that glide across the sonic urgency, almost in slow motion. I loved his voice and those uncomplicated lyrics.
Rightly enough, the track appeared on Tom’s BBC Introducing Mixtape the week after, and you can hear it below.
I wanted to know more. At the time, there was precious little information about Prodbear online, beyond coming from the South East of England. His Soundcloud page included quite a few drum & bass tracks that I enjoyed, and I Won’t Stop You sounded like an evolution of that. Here’s someone who could craft complex rhythms and top them off with a delicious sprinkling of chill. I Want Your Soul is a great example from his Animus EP: lyrically straightforward (well, a single line), with music that hooks you in, lifts you up and tells you to get down.
Interest piqued, I awaited new material. It was months before any showed up, but Mr Bear surprised once again. Your Choice takes the tempo right down a lazy reggae and social commentary on the futility of the daily grind:
And the man says…
Go get yourself a job
A mortgage that you can’t afford
Spend all your money just getting to work
Buy another latte to make you feel good
With its crisp production and amusing sounds, this track was voted by our listeners into Fresh Faves 162, appeared on Tom’s BBC Introducing Mixtape in August and received support from BBC Introducing In The South. It’s now available as a free download from the Prodbear website and will feature on his forthcoming album, Loose Narrative, along with This Place (which also appeared on Tom’s BBC Introducing Mixtape last week), Superheroes and my first love, I Won’t Stop You.
I finally caved and did what anyone would under the circumstances: ask Prodbear for an interview and, if he’d be so kind, a playlist of his own music and influences, which you can find below. That is how music people get to know each other, right?
Hello Prodbear. Who (or what) are you, and where are you from?
This is gonna freak you out Steve, I’m not really a bear, this is just a good costume.
*totally freaks out*
I’m a music lover at heart and Iove spending my time listening to music instead of whatever else I should be doing. When I’m focusing on something I tend not to listen to interesting music as I get engrossed in the tunes too easily. If I get really distracted I might start to dissect parts of it in my mind or wonder how the artist made a particular sound. That’s who I am, someone who falls into music and forgets I’m in a conversation, just because I noticed a song on the radio.
I’m from what I thought was a conventional family until I grew up a bit and realised I wasn’t, but then what’s normal? I grew up in a turbulent environment, with little guidance or support in terms of education and spent a lot of my childhood waiting for something amazing to happen to me, until I woke up and realised I needed to make things happen myself. As a kid I would walk about with headphones on or sit in my bedroom listening to music dreaming up stories that loosely related to the lyrics. When I hit my teens and got given a massive stereo all I wanted to do was play music for other people. I think this was me trying to share my love for music with others, not like your typical DJ these days I suppose.
I enjoyed your playlist immensely. It’s pretty varied, includes gems such as Pet Shop Boys, Bowie and Imogen Heap, plus a healthy slathering of reggae and hip hop, but in many ways it charts some of the history of electronic music. I take it beats and bleeps are some of your favourite sounds?
Yes, I love weird sounds! I remember listening to the Pet Shop Boys when I was young and a number of their songs have a little section at the end where they put a different sound in or change the song, just for the last bar. It hints at something else, something some people miss when they listen. I always paid attention to the content of the music. In the 90s there was a lot of crossover warehouse music in the charts and I moved from listening to pop, into a mix of American hip hop and the more rave-orientated music from the UK . Generally whatever I found in my local record shops really. This all led me to my own discovery of underground music. I was soaking music up and totally enjoying it for what it was, so yeah I do love beats and bleeps, and I also love a lot of the great pop music too. I was brought up on the likes of Michael Jackson and David Bowie and some other terrible albums that parents inevitably bought!
Karl Hyde of Underworld said recently that rave was more punk than punk. I can see where he’s coming from with bedroom producers and the way it spread through the underground, but that it also spoke to a disaffected youth, not with protest songs, but more like the line from The Prodigy’s Their Law: “Fuck them and their law.” I see that non-conformist attitude in Your Choice too, in an understated way. One of the more recent tracks on your playlist, JME’s Work, sounds like the antithesis of that, and doesn’t acknowledge that for many, life can be a hamster wheel of wasted effort. This is a VERY longwinded way of asking whether your latest tracks are telling people to think for a minute?
I do believe in working hard which is why I really love that JME track, and its brilliant bleeps and beats. I think it’s even more critical to work hard on or toward something you are passionate about, be it a cause, a dream, or just something that you love doing. You can still do that in your day job, but it’s about taking the time to think about what you want rather than jumping on the hamster wheel, like you say. So my short answer is yes, stop from time to time and think. I think rave culture could well have been a reaction to that expectation of what we should do with our everyday lives, but in my case it was simply the most exciting sound I had ever known compared to the music I was into, and far more exciting than my boring life at the time!
Your D&B work was characteristically light on vocals, but now you seem to have found your voice in a variety of ways. Did something prompt that?
I spent a lot of time crafting the electronic sound and getting the technical stuff right with D&B. I wanted some vocals for I Want Your Soul, to make it a bit more interesting. Naturally this more pop-orientated style evolved from me trying out my voice and experimenting. I think more of my deeper influences started coming out once I started regularly using my own voice. What you hear today comes from me trying out different things and progressing.
Will the album continue this theme, or do you see it going other places too?
Since I made Your Choice and really started putting more of myself into the music, I’ve enjoyed the results and started to do more freeform lyrics, songwriting and storytelling. So you’ll definitely hear more of me in the album, perhaps not so much of the high tempo stuff, but never say never. It’s all a journey.