Hailing from Cardiff, Undersound (known by loved ones as a rather more sedate Gareth Evans) appears to have been destined for a hectic life in music. As a 5 year old he showcased impressive promise and an obvious affinity, proven by his ever increasing repertoire of instruments. Ranging from French Horns to Drums, I’d imagine it was quite unclear what music he would end up making once the creating and playing progressed from hobby to full on career. I was first made aware of Undersound through current collaborator and Culture Compass interviewee, fellow Welshman Lucius Brave. From researching for this interview it would appear that we have a prolific music maker on our hands, one with a wealth of collaborations, contributions and solo creations – all warranting attention. I managed to lure Undersound away from the laptop screens, keypads and buttons just along enough to scratch the surface on life as a DJ, Producer, Writer, Performer…. and teacher!
I read that you took up music from a very early age. I know that you are proficient in many instruments including French horn, guitar, drums, trumpet etc. What was the first instrument you picked up?
Probably my parents pots and pans, but properly it was the piano when I was around 5 or 6
Did you grow up in a musical environment? Are your family similarly as musical and creative?
No there’s no history of music in my family. It’s always been a bit of a mystery but apparently from the moment I could talk I would always bang on about playing the trumpet.
Knowing as you did from an early age, that music was the path you wanted to go down career wise, did you bother much with academic studies or did you channel everything you had into music?
When I started getting really serious about the French horn I was traveling 2 hrs for horn lessons in Cardiff (being from Haverfordwest in west Wales), so that used to heavily dent into my school time. And when I was 14 I went to a specialist music school in Somerset on a scholarship so I was able to do reduced academics to focus on music.
Were you the kid who joined all the school orchestras and bands or did you always concentrate on your own projects?
From about 10 I was off playing on orchestra course round the UK in every holiday. Once I’d started playing the guitar and drums at the age of around 10, I pretty much spent all my available time jamming and writing tunes with mates in some shape or form.
Wales is often heralded for its musical heritage. Some artists say that growing up in a small town with little opportunity stirred them to strive for success through their music.How do you think Wales shaped your progression?
For me it’s nog got that much to do with Wales, though Wales does have great and unique music schemes and support right through the school system. I always studied privately and from the age of about 11 to 14 I would be spending my school holidays away on music courses and playing in children’s orchestras orchestras round the UK. Then at 14 I won the aforementioned scholarship.
When did you start to make a living out of your talent?
Probably about 10 years ago when I decided climbing the call centre ladder wasn’t for me so I started teaching.
You have been teaching for a number of years now. Not all talented people have the qualities to pass their skills on to others. What traits help to make a good teacher do you think?
Having patience is definitely essential. But aside from the obvious it’s good to be passionate about what you do. I take pride in each of my students individually and get a great buzz from seeing them improve and enjoy playing.
How did your participation on the High Contrast album change your perspective on what you wanted to do musically?
It was after meeting Lincoln and working with him on his 2006 album ‘Touch Guys Don’t Dance’ that really turned me onto the idea of producing drum and bass. I guess it was because I was playing piano and guitars for him and for the first time I associated playing with producing dance music and saw a future in it for me.
You have been teaming up with Lucius Brave lately. Who does what when creating a track?
I do everything and he brings sandwiches and checks his twitter on his phone!!!! Ha ha ha nah we work in my studio so I generally sit in the captain’s chair and do all the technical stuff, but he has such a good ear for arrangements, structure and sounds due to the amount he djs. He knows the genre inside and out so I trust his views all the way!!!! (He does bring great snacks though!!!)
How do you find collaborating as a whole, do find it hard to relinquish control at times?
I do find it tough collaborating generally unless there’s a new and fresh element that the other person’s going to bring. People who inspire you are generally good to collaborate with. Working with Lucius Brave was really refreshing for me because I hadn’t produced any electro house before, but I really wanted to. So when we first met each other It was always on the cards. I have just started a couple of hip hop projects which I am quite excited about. I am doing an E.P for London based MC ‘Intermet’ and also an E.P with Swansea MC ‘Triple Dot Beast’. With my dnb I always enjoy working with singers as they can often really shape a tune. I’m very lucky to have worked with some brilliant singers such as Oliver Hawksworth, Jane Thomas and Nicki Rose. I also work with House producers ‘Karl G and Jamesie’ as a vocalist which is really refreshing for me because I can just be a vocalist and not worry about the tune production for a change.
As a DJ does your strength lie in the mixing or the performing element do you think?
I would say lately I am definitely more at home in the studio. I have found the older I get the harder it is to go out and chase gigs. It is a great buzz dj-ing though, and I do play as and when a gig comes my way. But my heart lies in the studio these days. Lately I have been doing a bit more ‘session work’ for other producers also so that has drawn me a little more to the studio too. Though having said that, on a bit of a different note I run an open mic night in Cardiff which gives me a chance to play regularly. Variety and all that.
I feel like unless you immersed in the dj-ing world you are largely in the dark about some of the great talents within it. Do you think there is enough awareness and press given to acts such as yourself?
I think there is a massive underground scene in dance music, especially with the internet and the ease of self promotion. So you can get as into it as you want really, but I think it’s the same as any genre. You can scratch the surface with what you hear in the mainstream on TV and radio etc or you can dig deeper and search out more underground acts. Though I wouldn’t say no to more awareness and press for acts such as myself.
In your line of work, how integral is having good promoters and agents backing you?
It’s essential really.There’s only so much self promotion one can do. I find the Labels that I am signed on are very proactive with promotion which is great. I also am very lucky to have massive support from Radio stations such as Bassdrive who are a massive drum and bass station so that gets me really good coverage.
If you want to check out some previous offerings……
-8th sun / Truth serum (Black reign LTD) (January 2012)
-No sensation (Luv disaster records) (December 2011)
-Karl G & Jamesie feat Undersound – Can’t Breathe (Born to dance records) (September 2011)
-Thicker than water (Think deep recordings) (August 2011)
-Burning sand feat. Hayley Toms / Dwelling place (Bassdrive tunes) (August 2011)
-Lost words (Vibration records) (March 2011)
-Ghosts / Marching orders (Point Audio) (February 2011)
– So hush (with Andy Sim / Steam train shuffle (feat Jane Thomas) (Nexgen music) (January 2011)
-Month of sundays (vibration records) (december 2010)
-She’s alright (Hustle Audio) (December 2010)
-Runaway / All seeing (Sub life recordings) (November 2010)
-You dont understand / Sight unseen (Luv disaster
records) (November 2010)
-Karl g and jamesie feat. Undersound – Never should – (born to dance records) (september 2010)
-Soul testify (feat Jane Thomas) / Shadow thinkers (Bassdrive tunes) (August 2010)
– Mondays Lament / Swings and roundabouts – (Funkstar records) (July 2010)
-A thousand memories E.P – (Point Audio) (June 2010)
Rainbows and memories (feat. Oliver Hawksworth)
The extra mile
-Boundaries / Old superstitions – (Bassdrive tunes) (March 2010)
-7th son of the 7th son / sleep walkers – (Black reign LTD) (March 2010)
-Alice Trap / Fall 7 times – (Point audio) (Febuary 2010)
-Into the woods – (digiphunk) (December 2009)
-Nocture E.P- (Hustle audio) (September 2009)
4 Leaf jester
Ute – Lost voice (undersound remix)
A little night music – feat. Jane Thomas
-Last supper – (Influenza) (July 2009)
-Calling all bluffs – (Liquid brilliants) (12 track album) (June 2009)
-Mangrove / Cherry Grove – (Point 9 Audio) (April 2009)
-Happy go lucky / That thing called – (Point 9 audio) (December 2008)