The latest in a series of new signings at Paul Arnold’s Certificate 18 is Stuart Cullen, who followed Hi-Ryze’s contribution to the Electronic Projects sub-division of the label with some stripped out electronica. His debut LP “Antenna” is hard to describe with light melodics and thin synths easing the way forward for broken, lo-fi beats. Kingsley Marshall met Stuart in his studio in Brighton, to talk about his recent successes.
Stuart explains how he first came to sign to C18. “I first started recording for my own pleasure although it was only two or three years ago I started taking it seriously as more and more people told me to do so. Series 500 signed me on the back of a record I’d done with a friend of mine on a label called Curor, Domino got hold of it and asked me to do a record for them.”
Continuing he says: “I was surprised at Certificate 18’s interest as I thought they were just a drum & bass label. They’d heard the record as they were based in the same office as Domino, but I talked with Paul and from that first conversation he seemed really keen. He was confident enough in the material he’d heard to offer me an album, even before ‘Tonic’ was released. He doesn’t seem to share the attitude of most label managers, as music is all important for him with a desire to look forward and take his artists further.”
Stuart’s first twelve for the label, “Tonic,”was critically acclaimed. Its genre crossing fusion of breaks and tortured orchestration quite unlike anything else. “I felt that the tracks were some of the best material I’d recorded so was more pleased than surprised to reactions to that record. The first twelve I did for Series 500 was really ropey, in that it was mastered to audio tape and had a lot of hiss on it and I’d say that I’m much more aware of what I’m doing now production wise. Although I still have very little studio equipment, I feel this is more strength than disadvantage. I think you can see that where people do have a lot of gear it becomes easier for them to make something that sounds alright and therefore the tendency is not to try too hard.”
“I’ve been making the same sort of stuff for ages and tend to leave descriptions to other people and, as such, don’t think that it matters too much where your material gets released. I like material from people like Autechre and Warp records though I find that the digitalness of a lot of electronica can sometimes be overpowering. With Pilote I’m trying to create something with more of an organic sound – focusing on material that flows as opposed to being reliant on loops. Without knowing it you draw your influences from everything you listen to, to the extent that you can hear pop influences in my music.”
“It’s been a struggle for Paul.” Stuart states, “As my first material for the label was still being written about in the drum & bass section but I think that people are starting to realise that Certificate 18 is doing something different. I think this illustrates a more general point that because magazines feel people like to know where music ‘fits’ you’re starting to see more and more categorisation.”
He continues: “This has become increasing prevalent this year with the more abstract material – so in addition to an abstract column, you also have a downtempo and breakbeat section. Though there are quite a few people doing more abstract material, particularly in America and Europe, sadly a lot of these artists aren’t receiving much recognition as reviewers are missing releases and therefore its unlikely that the more general public are going to hear about it.”
The album was compiled mainly from his favourite material of the last couple of years, as he explains. “Although I recorded a few of the tracks specifically for the album, the majority was made up of material I’ve had lying around for sometime, loved and felt should be released. I think that having an album deal must affect your outlook on some level or another, as if you have something specific to do, you start thinking about how your tracks fit together in terms of a large project as opposed to just making them for the hell of it. Having said that it remains to be seen whether it will affect me or not – I hope that it won’t too much as I’d rather just continue making music and put albums together from the stuff that I do.”