Belfast based producer/DJ Chris Scullion goes under the alias of MS82 to release his debut album Inception this month. The 10 track release has been carefully crafted to demonstrate the breadth of his artistic vision as an emerging artist. Alternating between deep, dark and melodic techno, Inception is a bold opening statement for both MS82 and his record label, Altered State.
Intrigued, UK Editor Simon Huxtable sat down with Chris to find out a little more.
Hi Chris thanks for finding the time to chat to us at Decoded Magazine. How are you today?
Hi Simon. Thank you for inviting me to do the interview! I’m doing great thanks. It’s been a busy few months; the last week has been crazy, but all good… been enjoying the buzz coming up to the release.
We recently published an article outlining how vibrant the scene in Belfast is right now. Can you tell us a little about how you became an artist and the sights and sounds of home that inspired you along the way?
Great article! The scene here is definitely thriving and it’s great to see so many talented artists paving their way in the industry. I got my first set of decks (Numark TT100s) and started DJing at the age of 14. I did the rounds as a teenager – playing some local clubs in North Belfast, before I was allowed in for a drink – nothing too serious. Hard trance was at the forefront of the local scene at the time but it wasn’t long before I started introducing techno to my sets. The turning point for me was seeing Chris Liebing play the Matrix, Dungannon when I was about 16 – I’ll never forget that night!
In the years that followed, Shine, Thompsons, Stiff and Yello were all go-to places for me but I’d say my biggest inspiration came from outside of Belfast… I’ve spent a bit of time in Ibiza over the years and a brief stint working for Carl Cox at Space in 2012 was massively influential. It was around that time that I starting getting my head into production, with the help of Rikki Sawyer. I’d picked up his number from a guy at Planet Love Festival in 2010. I’d always had the intention of getting into production – it just took me a while to act on it.
By the beginning of 2015 I had swapped Cubase for Abelton and came up with the moniker “MS82”. My production was starting to sound more on point and I had a few tracks sitting almost finished – “The Crow” being one of them. I had been struggling a bit with my mixdowns and a chance seating arrangement on an August flight to Ibiza led to a conversation with Gary Dickenson (Miniminds). He had a listen to a few of the tracks I had saved on my phone and said get down to Dave Lievense (Psycatron), he’s only a few minutes down the road from you he’ll help you. So I got his number and started going down to Dave’s about a year ago – each time with at least one new track ready for a mixdown and master. We’ve lost count of the number now but there’s been between 15 and 20 mastered by Dave in the last 12 months, and the mixdowns are no bother at all now!
Industrial cities like Belfast, Glasgow, Detroit or Berlin seem to naturally find Techno soundtracks their experience. What is it about the genre that piqued your interest and how do you think you’ll mature your sound?
The early introduction to Chris Liebing was definitely the catalyst for me but at 16 I was still a bit young to fully experience techno in the clubs in Belfast. Instead I was a regular at the old HMV store, I was down every weekend to sound out the latest vinyl. I still remember Richard who was always there when I went in, he grew to know what I was into and used to keep records over for me. Those early influences have definitely stuck with me.
Of course I have also drawn inspiration from the club scene… the sheer passion and energy that Carl Cox brings to his sets week in week out, year on year is nothing short of incredible (absolutely gutted I missed the final closing this week! The main room on a Tuesday night was always special); the outstanding musical creativity of Laurent Garnier; the twisted and contagious performances of Green Velvet – all this has intrigued me over the years. I always find DC10 terrace on a Monday to be a place of inspiration too! As with the change in my ability to get the tracks finished, I can also notice my sound developing. I’m not sure where it will take me but I enjoy being experimental and I’m always looking forward to the next track to see where it goes.
The new album is fantastic and you’ve garnered quite a bit of industry support already. Talk us through the tracks. Which are your favourites?
Thanks, I’m really grateful for the support. The Crow is characterised by a squawk-like snare and a sinister tone that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie sequence. For me it’s not the easiest track to mix and that is a telltale sign of my earlier production. Shudder on the other hand is a pretty functional track and I really like the arpeggiating chords leading to the main break. Shaker and Your Face are quite energetic tracks. Shaker is the most upbeat track of the album really. It’s predominately percussion led but still goes deep in parts. Your Face on the other hand is that bit darker. It has some pretty intense builds but for me it’s all about the drone in the main break.
The other 6 all have vocals – I had a lot of fun with that. I’ll not go into them all in detail but hopefully it works for anyone listening. I just wanted to add that extra element to some of the tracks. Purple Dress is quite quirky, Intruder was inspired by an incident in the states – they were produced around the same time. She Likes and White Lines are another two that were made quite early on, and Can’t Sleep and Wake Up are a bit heavier.
With many of the tracks featuring your own vocals, how did you find the songwriting process?
Ha ha… quick!! Most were done first take using my Rode NT1-A and processing through my Mininova Vocorder. Nothing was even noted down for any of the tracks this album, apart from the names. I’m handy enough at manipulating vocals so I played around with them until I was happy with how they worked into the tracks. There will definitely be more in the way of vocal elements coming through in my productions… it won’t always be the dark masculine voice though…
When it comes to performing the album, have you considered a live show or will you stick to DJing for now?
Initially any performance of my productions will be DJing but I am hoping to gradually implement live sounds and I am certainly considering live performances in the future. It will be a natural progression through. I’ll just take it as it comes. I’ve dedicated most of my time over the last few years to the studio so I’m really looking forward to getting a few DJ sets in to be honest. It will be nice to strike the balance if/when the time comes.
As an emerging artist, you’ve done exceptionally well to get so much attention. What would be your advice for others looking to break into the scene?
Thank you. It’s all new to me so don’t really have much to compare it to but it feels like it’s going pretty well! I would say, take time to create a sound that is true to your own style and run with it. If you have family or friends who share your passion, let them get involved. Maybe they have skills that can help get your music out if you decide to take a similar route to mine. I guess we struck lucky with the pre-release part but it wasn’t by accident… we did have a scheduled and specific promo/marketing plan laid out and we did stick to it religiously – it has been a pretty intense 6 weeks keeping on top of that.
Of course there were concerns… New artist, new label… Will anyone listen? Will the individual tracks see the surface? Would we be better to split it up into EPs or should I just try to get them signed? None of the tracks were made with a specific artist or label in mind, no reference tracks were used or anything like that so I wouldn’t have really known where to start with sending demos. It was always going to be bit of gamble but it would have been a shame not to put it out as an album so we did it.
It was reassuring to hear Dave Haslam and Mark Lawrence speak at AVA Conference back in June when we were just starting to set up Altered State… Mark said, “It should be to create not to copy and I think that’s the bit that I see most – I want to be that, rather than, I want to be me.” and Dave reiterated, “Don’t ask permission from anyone, just use your imagination and inspiration… and work hard.” – Sound advice from the guys who really know what they’re talking about… so I’d say go with that! That’s pretty much the approach I took.
It’s been great to chat, MS82, we wish you all the best with the album and the rest of your career. In closing, is there anything you’d like to add?
Simon thanks again for having me do the interview – it’s been a pleasure, and thanks to everyone who has supported the release so far.
01// MS82 – The Crow
02// MS82 – Shaker
03// MS82 – Can’t Sleep
04// MS82 – Shudder
06// MS82 – Coming For You [Exclusive]
07// MS82 – Purple Dress
08// Green Velvet – Flash (Eats Everything Remix)
09// Mark Grandel & John Flux – Deployement
10// Paul S & Antony Pl – Headsock
11// Planctophob – Autoscopy
12// Dubfire & Oliver Huntemann – Terra (Joseph Capriati Remix)
13// Rustek – Everybody (Ilija Djokovic Remix)
14// Ixel – Viral