Bruise is basically a creative collective. When arranging this interview I was asked to think “kind of Mad Mike at the centre of Underground Resistance”, with Christian Campbell in that core role. The outfit`s first output was the Presentation E.P., “Executive Produced” by legendary London DJ, Diesel, and released to cult acclaim on R&S offshoot, Meda Fury. The music contained was / is a magical mix of house, techno, and jazz, with a definite sense of leaning toward Detroit`s considerable heritage. Grand Hi in particular paid homage to both the aforementioned UR and Terrence Parker. A brilliant remix for Lady Blackbird quickly followed, topping dance-floor charts and end-of-year polls. Bruise`s new 2-track single hit digital stores last Friday, this time care of Ross Allen’s fresh imprint, Foundation Music. Joy sorta reprises the irrepressible pounding piano power of Grand Hi. The fantastically feelgood, cascading keys still bearing a terrific touch of the TPs, but perhaps also a tribute to Italian “scream-ups”, such as DJ H & Stefy`s Think About. Theme on the other hand is a breath-takingly bonkers big room banging bastardization of Sheffield bleep and D&B`s deadly dark subs, that, in addition, borrows from Hardfloor and Eye Q`s teutonic, TB-303-fuelled, trance. Ready to rouse recently released, unlocked down, rebels and rabble, with cross-faded breaks, renegade rave snares and sirens.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Birmingham, but now live in London.
Where are you based?
When did you first start DJing?
When I was about 17, after buying some wonky old belt driven Citronic turntables and a really basic mixer from Maplins with my best mate. The good thing about wonky belt drives is that when you finally mix on 1210s they are an absolute joy to use.
Were there any particular parties or DJs that inspired you to start?
Not really, it was just a way to make mixtapes and put on our own parties.
What kind of music were you playing?
House, Hip Hop, Dub, Rave. A mixture of everything really, as long as it was good and made you want to dance.
Where were your first paid gigs?
That would be a party me and my mates put on at the local social club. We paid ourselves out of the profits of the night which allowed us just enough to all go and get beers and a curry afterwards.
Can you remember where and when you first heard a house record?
Yes, it was at home and my sister’s boyfriend was yelling at the radio because they had played Jack Your Body by Steve Silk Hurley and he absolutely hated it. I asked him what type of music it was and when he said it was ‘House’. He’d provided me with the name of my new musical obsession.
Can you remember the impression it made?
A feeling of Joy.
Prior to the pandemic did you have any regular DJ gigs or residencies?
Nope, never been a regular gigging DJ. I’m a producer first and foremost.
When did you start making music?
I’ve always made music for as long as I can remember. My parents had an old dusty out of tune piano which I loved playing on, but one birthday I got a Yamaha PSS 680 keyboard, which was really basic but had a simple digital synth built in – which was great to make some weird noises with.
What sort of music were you making?
I guess with the Yamaha, together with an old tape deck, I started to make really basic electronica, as much as you can with such simple equipment.
What instruments can you play? Have you had any formal training?
I’ve never had any formal training, save for a few piano lessons which I hated when I was growing up. So the only instrument I would say I play is the keyboard..
When and where you first meet Darren / Diesel?
At PRS for Music almost 10 years ago.
How did the idea of making music together come about?
We had similar music tastes and I knew he produced with X-press 2, so after sending him my demos we ended up making some tracks in my studio.
What equipment do you have now?
I’ve got a studio at the bottom of my garden which is a great space to create and means I can make music whenever I want. Most of the productions are made ‘in the box’ using Ableton Live, Komplete Kontrol, Reason Racks, Arturia synths and a handful of soft synths. I’ve also started to build up a bit of hardware such as the Behringer synth clones and most recently a Polyend tracker which is ace.
Are there any artists or pieces of music that have had a direct influence on the music that you make as Bruise? To my ears at least your music references the classic sounds of Detroit – Terrence Parker, the house-ier end of Underground Resistance`s output. Is this intentional, or is it just me?
Obviously we’ve not been exactly shy in referencing Detroit. So The Belleville Three and Underground resistance were a direct influence on the initial records. There is never any clear plan when going into the studio but you’re right in that the first tracks leaned heavily on that classic Detroit sound. The new release draws on some of the same influences, but the Bruise sound will probably evolve over time.
There also seems to be a big jazz influence? Again, is this actually the case?
Everything goes in the melting pot including jazz, but the jazz influence derives more from house and techno records that themselves are influenced by jazz instead of a direct influence.
How did you hook up with Meda Fury?
When the initial tracks for the first E.P. were created, Diesel, who is mates with Nick Williams – the head honcho at Meda Fury – sent him the tracks for consideration. Nick really liked what he heard, and the Presentation E.P. was born.
How did you hook up with Ross Allen and Foundation Music?
Ross contacted Bruise after hearing the Presentation E.P. He then asked if we would be interested in remixing Lady Blackbird which we did. The Lady has such an amazing voice, so it was easy to see the potential for a great remix.
At the start of the year you sent me an amazing round-up of 2020 house tracks – thank you! – where do you go to pick up new tunes and / or vinyl? Do you have a favourite store or site?
New tunes come from a variety of places, be it from record stores such as Phonica or Honest Jon’s or from radio shows such as Benji B or just recommendations from mates. Diesel always has some great selections to share.
Could you please give me 3 pieces of music that you are currently enjoying?
Ocsav – Marcel Prosed (Bunkaball Records)
Mad Rey & Jules – Joe Da Zin (Omar S remix) – (Ed Banger)
Jarren – 4U (forthcoming on Apron Records)
Were you surprised by the success of Grand Hi, and the Lady Blackbird remix?
Yes, and what a great surprise. Grand Hi nearly wasn’t on the first E.P. It just came from Nick Williams asking to hear more tracks. To be honest I thought Jagged Angels would be the track that people liked most because it’s a bit mad. As for Lady Blackbird, we thought we had a good remix, but you never really know until you get that feedback and once Pete Tong gave it Essential New Tune status it became clear things were going well.
Did this result in a lot of remix requests?
Quite a few which is great, although we have to turn many down now because each remix does take a lot of work to put together.
Would you consider working directly with vocalists?
Definitely. I love working with vocals which is why I really like remixing tracks with a strong lead vocal – so working directly with a singer would be great.
When we spoke before you talked about Bruise really being a collective. Can you tell me more about who else is involved?
Who’s involved in Bruise really depends on what the track is, be it an original Bruise release or a remix. The initial Bruise tracks involved myself writing and producing the music and beats, and Diesel providing feedback on the sound and arrangement. The current release is a sole production but the plan is for Bruise to be an ever-evolving collective that brings in different artists.
What are you working on at the moment?
New Bruise originals for the next E.P. on Foundation and some more Bruise remixes. Just finished a Bruise remix of poet Kameelah Waheed`s America The Beautiful, which I think is a really strong remix. It’s got quite the epic feel to it so hopefully it will be well received.
Has the lockdown period been creatively productive for you?
Yes and no. Whilst the lockdown meant I had more time to work in the studio, the initial stress of having to balance music, work and home-schooling wasn’t exactly conducive to being creative. But being at home all the time has meant that I can write whenever I want to.
Are things beginning to open up again where you are?
All restrictions are being removed in England on Monday, July 19th, so hopefully things are beginning to slowly get back to a bit of normality.
All being well, what are your plans for the rest of the year? You mentioned before about potentially playing live, does this still look possible?
A Bruise live show would be great but it’s too early to know whether that’s a possibility yet. In the meantime, Bruise will continue to be locked in the studio making more bruised beats.
Bruise`s Joy / Theme is available directly from Foundation Music.