Over the past 20 years, Mark Pritchard has been one of England’s steadiest electronic music visionaries. He’s a figurehead who, without a touch of hubris, has been praised for groundbreaking work in both the mainstream and underground press, and has operated across genres – from techno to ambient, jungle to hip hop – with apparent ease. If anyone deserves the badge of ‘pioneer’ today, it’s Pritchard. Just ask some of your favourite producers. And he’s not done yet.
Raised in Somerset but now based in the sunnier climes of Sydney, Pritchard has long had a fondness for aliases that has challenged even the most dedicated musical trainspotter. At my last count, there have been over 20, both solo (Harmonic 313, Troubleman) and in collaboration (with Tom Middleton, Dave Brinkworth, Danny Breaks, Kirsty Hawkshaw, and, most recently, Steve Spacek). As such, the recent announcement that he would be retiring all his noms de guerre and consolidating his work under his real name led many to assume that some of his better-loved musical projects had come to an end. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth: in a day and age where even legends such as him can struggle to expand a dedicated following, Pritchard has simply opted to make life easier for himself.
Tidings of the name change were accompanied by news that Pritchard’s next solo album would appear on Warp, his most regular home since the late ’00s. The album will be preceded by a string of EPs, the first of which, Ghosts, came out a couple weeks ago. It’s a record with a clear club music focus that touches on Pritchard’s varied expertise, tilting from low slung, bass-heavy dubstep riddims to paranoia-inducing drum’n’bass and footwork. The latter sound is particularly important: in the past few years, Pritchard has, alongside Planet Mu’s Mike Paradinas, been one of the loudest supporters of the Chicago sound (I hasten to add the loudness of his support relates to his DJ sets, not his actual shouting – he’s more the softly-spoken type, letting the music, as it were, do the talking.)
“By changing the name, I’m hoping it leaves me open to releasing more diverse styles of music at any time, not just having to wait for the correct project. If I do another hip hop tune, I don’t want to wait for another Harmonic 313 album, or if I do a techno tune, where will that fit? Same with an ambient track, and so on. Having it all under one name means I can try and make the releases more diverse. It just so happens that the next three EPs are more club friendly, but that will change through next year. From then on, there will be more varied releases happening all the time. That’s the general plan.
The albums should be broader style-wise. I still need to make them into albums, with the limitations that brings, but there are so many tracks that have been sitting around for ages that don’t really fit anything. At least now, with just one name, I can do something with them. I can vary the styles of the releases and it allows it to be freer and more open. The way I’ve worked so far hasn’t really helped – in the last ten years, it’s been difficult to make all the different styles I write fit. It got to the point where I had to make a change, really, otherwise some of the strongest music I’ve got just sits there for years because it doesn’t fit anywhere. After a while it gets annoying. You have tracks you know are strong and they sit there, then you go back to try and finish them, which doesn’t always work. I want to get to the point where if I write something, I can get it out there into the world quicker.”
“The main thing with drum’n’bass to me is trying to make it feel loose and funky, and capture that feel of the original times. What I don’t like about a lot of new drum’n’bass is that it went very clinical. So that’s one thing I was wary of – keeping the funk and looseness of it. And also basslines, trying to get basslines in there because that’s also something that’s gone out of it, I feel. Trying to get all that back in. “