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Touching Bass: Pedestrian

We chat to Pedestrian about life in Bahrain as well as loving all-weekend house parties, getting banned from driving, the origins of the Oyster Card and of course, walking.

Errol Anderson

Did you know that Hong Kong were the innovators of the Oyster card? Well, before talking to Pedestrian, neither did I. I would have boarded the Metropolitan line with an unfamiliarity paralleled only by those tourists that take pictures of shopping centres. Beyond increasing my worldly knowledge, Pedestrian has released a robust string of releases for the likes of Push & Run, 2nd Drop, Brownswood and Metalheadz. We chatted to the worldwide globetrotter about life in Bahrain as well as loving all-weekend house parties and, of course, walking.

Hey Pedestrian, what are you up to?

Pedestrian: I'm just chilling in Maribou State’s studio at the moment because we’re working on a new project that we’re trying to tie up. We’re working on a full on live set with a drummer so we’re almost ready to go for the summer. I’ve always been quite wary of me just doing live sets on Ableton. I always envisaged myself with a few people on stage. What’s good is that now we’ll be able to do our own solo tracks as well as our collaborations. It’s more enticing for the audience rather than just having three guys on synths and samplers. We’re not doing a Kraftwerk thing.

I read that you have an imaginary pet. How’s Jim Bob?

He’s well; he’s been a bit under the weather.

The first half of April hasn’t really helped…

He’s a bit of a sucker for sunshine as well. There’s also a parrot and some kittens in the studio.

You’re quite the animal man aren’t you?

It’s not my place but yeah, I like my animals.

Dogs over cats any day. Growing up you lived out in Bahrain, how was life in the Persian Gulf?

It was quite a western expat community so it was kinda like a 7-year holiday. You had access to more Arabic music and culture, but there were a lot of British, American and Australian people. I had normal schooling with the same curriculum as over here.

Did you manage to embrace much of the Arabic lifestyle?

Yeah, we went to visit different mosques quite a few times because my parents were keen on us not being in this Western lifestyle bubble. We went to Saudi Arabia for a bit and other neighbouring countries, which was cool.

Have you caught the love of travelling bug?

Yeah, I love to travel. My favourite place so far has probably been India. I was there for a couple of months just over a year ago, I also really want to visit South America the next time I get an opportunity. India is such a beautiful place with loads of nice countrysides and lovely people. I was in Hong Kong in January for a week because my sister is studying out there and I was expecting much more of a culture shock like in Mainland China, but actually it’s very westernized. They drive on the left hand side and they also have a thing called the Octopus card, which is the equivalent of the Oyster card, but you can use it in shops as well. That’s actually where they tested the system before bringing it over to London. They have the Metro, which is aesthetically just the same as the Tube if not better run. They also had a really good nightlife. I recommend it.

Onto the music, your remix of Maribou State’s "Olivia" was genuinely one of my favourites release of last year, but what was it like making that and can you remember the scenario?

Thanks. Typical of me, whenever I do a remix, I usually do about five different versions or at least start a few versions. Even if you think you’ve got something really good on the first try, you might come up with something even more special on the next go. With that, because I love the original, I tried all these different things and it just wasn’t working and it was quite a short deadline. I just remember getting the dusty, Rhodes-like sample and banging that into one of the versions. It didn’t really work but I liked the sound of it so I ended up scrapping everything and started a fresh version and didn’t sleep until the deadline. I wanted it to be quite a sunshine happy-plod-along song that had a bit of a nostalgic feel about it. I can’t actually remember too much because I was so sleep deprived.

One of my favourite bits comes halfway through, where some hard-knocking rimshot emerges from the ether.

I think that was me knocking on the table. I do quite a lot of field recordings actually. I’ve got this one pack that me and one of my friends from Cambridge made when we were a bit twisted. We did this 'organic sound harvest' of his flat, so I went around with my iPhone and recorded anything to make some noise. We ended up rolling spray cans around on his roof, putting mugs and cutlery in the washing machine and we got about an hour’s worth of recording, which we chopped up and put into folders. I try and use something from that in a lot of my tunes. Organic is a bit of a shit word, but it does have a real field-recording feel about it.

Pedestrian, do you like to do a lot of walking?

Well I got banned from driving about six months after I did my test. To be honest, I was pretty glad about it because it’s fucking expensive and then there’s everyone wanting lifts all the time. I had a really shit car as well. When I went to Anglia Ruskin, it was pointless to drive round there and now I'm living in London I just use public transport.

How many minors did you get on your driving test?

Think it was something like 11. It’s better for the general public that I'm not driving.

Do you do that thing when you walk at the same tempo as the music in your earphones?

Yeah, that’s part of the reason why I picked the name because I was a big hip-hop head and then really got into drum and bass. All the housey stuff that I had heard back then wasn’t really from good sources so it was all very generic. I first got introduced to the better stuff when I was in Cambridge and used to walk to work and uni. 120 BPM is the perfect speed to walk to. It was a quite a big change in my musical taste at the time, so the name represented that.

Drum and bass is more like power-walking territory isn’t it.

Yeah, that’s more of a punch-someone-in-the-face speed.

Hardware or software?

I use quite a bit of software but I am on the hardware team. I stand by the fact that hardware naturally sounds better. You can get a good soft synth but because it’s all binary you don’t get that crackle, noise and harmonic distortion. You can spend ages piling effects onto those soft synths to make them sound meaty, but a decent hardware synth doesn’t really need anything. I also like the whole experience of using hardware; just twiddling things and using your ears rather than looking at a screen. It’s much more of a tangible experience.

What do you like to do aside from music?

I like going to picture houses and watching more independent films. I go to Hackney Picture House quite a bit and I just love the seats and the fact you can take a beer in there. There are films that you won’t find at Odeon. I’ve got a couple of cameras too. I use the Olympus OM10 sticking with the whole hardware topic. You get this lovely grain that you can’t get with digital.

Have you seen Memento by any chance?

The guy who puts post-its everywhere! I haven’t seen it in ages. Have you seen that Sightseers film?

Not yet unfortunately…

It’s really good, dark British humour. It’s quite slow but subtly very funny, I definitely recommend that one.

Cool, I need to check it out. Your latest release "Hoyle Road" has a beautiful feeling of the outdoors, as does a lot of your music. Is "Hoyle Road" a particular place?

It’s a house in Tooting. The tune is about me and the Maribou State boys going to a house party on the Friday, waking up the next day and feeling quite haggard but then there are loads of sound people around so you want to stay and then it blurs into a whole weekend. It was one of them ones where we had just started being friends but it felt like we’d known each other for much longer.

And you’re experimenting with vocals...

I’ve continuously used my vocals but more in an abstract way just because I got bored of using the same R&B samples and acapellas that you’ve heard a million times. I normally just hum something and then try and make it all make sense. I really love the lead singer from the Black Keys. His voice is really rugged and wouldn’t get anywhere on X Factor but he doesn’t need to be any better. Funnily enough, I normally find myself listening to instrumental based stuff.

I saw that you also love a bit of Reggie Watts…

Yeah big time. I'm a fan of humour that just doesn’t make sense and he’s the king of that. He freestyles everything and his jumpers and afro are amazing.

What vibe did you go for on the mix?

I wanted to put a bit of hip-hop in there, now the weather's getting better and I love hip-hop in the sun. There’s a few classics from my teen years and also some new stuff. I also put a live cover version of Nas ‘The World Is Yours’ by Will Sessions but I put an acapella of KRS-One on top. And then there’s some new tracks by me as well.

What have you got coming up post- "Hoyle Road’?

I’ve got a 12” coming out on Second Drop Records, which is the polar opposite to "Hoyle Road" with dark afrobeat rhythms. Then there’s the EP, which I'm finishing off with Maribou State that is much more along the song side of things. I’ve never really written those kind of tracks but bearing in mind this will be for live performances, it’s quite a different angle to be writing from. After that, there’s an EP for Born Electric, which should be out after summer.

Cool, thanks man!

Pedestrian releases "Hoyle Road" on April 29 via Born Electric

Follow Errol on Twitter @elzan1

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