When it comes to drum and bass, its history, evolution and character, Darren White aka dBridge, is a figurehead of the genre. With his music dotting the annals of drum and bass history via labels like Metalheadz, Autonomic and R&S, he founded his own influential Exit Records in 2003, a place where he and his artists continue to push a unique edge of experimental music culture that White has helped fuse and develop over the past 15 years.
It’s no strange thing to see the music it’s released tagged as IDM, downtempo and leftfield alongside dubstep, jungle or even juke, and it was naturally Exit that released White’s long awaited A Love I Can’t Explain album last year, the only solo dBridge LP to come a full decade after The Gemini Principle (2008). And while White might sometimes argue that producers can become set in their ways, he feels “in drum and bass there is a lot of sculpting going on.” It’s something you can hear from the get-go in “Gen 19” - the opening track from A Love I Can’t Explain - and as an intro it weaves a cosmic soundscape of field recordings through a cavernous ravine of deathly bass stabs and the industrial booms of rock hard two-step drums.
“I'd say a good third, almost half of my LP was done in Bitwig,” White reveals, stating: “I needed a program that could work seamlessly.” Bitwig’s integration between the Clip Launcher and the Arranger is what immediately appealed to White for his writing process, he says, eliminating the tedious hours spent realigning cue points and getting things to sync up with other programs. It would reach a point, White remembers, “that you almost lose the vibe,” however in Bitwig, White explains, “I start in the clip view and I just record things in, record ideas… and the simple thing is when I play them back, everything plays in time.”
“It captures my imperfections which is what I like...I like things being loose, I like to record straight in and not have to worry about it.”
“Other programs have never done that for me,” White explains. “I think the way Bitwig handles my samples and the way I record in is what appeals to me,” he says. “It captures my imperfections which is what I like...I like things being loose, I like to record straight in and not have to worry about it.” For example, White says, “I'm working on a track at the moment and I couldn't tell you what the tempo it is...it says on here 85bpm and I'm tapping it out and it’s not… Something weird is going on, and I like that. It’s working.”
“I use a lot of other equipment where I record things live so I want to be able to keep that feel and the integrity of what I've done too,” White says. “I use a lot of pedals, I do live sweeps and live tweaking, so I want to be able to capture that and not have that flow interrupted,” White says. Other programs would always offer, “the long way around of doing things,” White adds, while in Bitwig Studio, “I can just put a gate or a sidechain onto the reverb-out and it’s there.”
“I use a lot of other equipment where I record things live so I want to be able to keep that feel and the integrity of what I've done too,”
“I have found as well that I’m using the Bitwig plug-ins more and more,” White continues. “Whether it is the filter, delays, the rotary stuff...I’m getting into working with those, especially in the ways you can modulate things,” White says. “There seems to be this endless way of possibilities in terms of saying: ‘OK I can take this wet signal from the verb and do all kinds of stuff with it.”
“I'm learning that the modulation possibilities will add to the natural feel of what's going on,” White says, suggesting that the appeal of his workflow comes from having a DAW that doesn’t get in the way of seamless playback, no matter the delay lines, effects or modulations that are adding to what he calls a “controlled mess”of sound.
“I've been working with the program since Bitwig 1.0,” White says, and “the tracks I work on with other people,” he adds, “have started in Bitwig, or in other outboard machines..I’ll get them over to Bitwig, work some more and send them back, currently I'm working on a project with Joe Seven and we just share the same project in Dropbox. It’s great that we don’t have to worry about incompatible plugins as Bitwig has and can do everything we need"
A Love I Can’t Explain features a handful of collaborative spots and productions too, be it from vocalists or others associated acts like Kid Drama (“Wij Zijn”) and the triple bypass that is “They Loved”, a joint collaboration between Poison Arrow and Exit Records duo They Live. “Basically anyone I talk to,” White says, “I'm like; ‘hey, you gotta try this out...I'm discovering new things every day.”