25-year-old London-based DJ James Connelly, AKA L-Vis 1990 drops some of the hottest sounds on the UK bassline scene. For those few unenlightened readers, that’s a mishmash of heavy electro-bass beats and wobbles mixed with distinctive ’80s sounds. But L-Vis doesn’t just make music and remixes, the electronic genius has also found success making music videos, graphics and sound-sculpture. With a new EP released on Tuesday, L-Vis looks poised to take the world by electrical storm — the sort of storm that pours out of a subwoofer, breaking windows and shaking floorboards.
Q: So how did you get started?
A: I started out when I was about 15, DJing, playing drum & bass, breakbeat, back in the day, back in Brighton. Then I started to get into production a couple years after that, which is just making beats for stuff. It was for fun, really. And I would have my club nights, starting when I was like 16. And that’s that — so I’ve been going for quite a while.
Q: Can you explain what those club nights are?
A: Yeah, they’re these events where we book DJs to come and play, and I’ll play myself, in Brighton, back in the day.
Q: Is that when you created your signature sound, hyperbass?
A: No, not really. It’s kind of … it’s been a massive progression from the early days when I was just playing like drum & bass, but now, I’ve only really found my sound over the last two years.
Q: Can you describe that sound?
A: I don’t know — it sounds like … It’s a genre which isn’t really describable. It’s a mutation of various different sounds from the UK like garage, drum & bass — sounds from the US like house, Chicago house, Baltimore booty bass… it’s all amalgamated into one kind of sound which is my sound.
Q: Part of that sound is doing a lot of remixes.
Q: How do you choose the songs that you’re going to remix?
A: I don’t necessarily choose them. I get sent the tunes from acts that want me to remix them. In the early days, it started out with me kind of choosing tracks just off the Internet that I would remix just for fun. But now my friends send me tracks and ask me to remix them. Then I get those pop artists and stuff. Their A & R [Artists and Repertoire] guys want me to do a remix. So it works like that, yeah.
Q: Do you ever feel like you’re doing it better, or are you just putting your own unique stamp on the music?
A: Ahhhh — I don’t know, really. I’m just doing my own thing, you know, and not really listening to what other people are saying. I’m just doing what’s me, you know, what feels right, I’m not trying to be like anyone else.
Q: And you write your own original music, right?
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Q: And you just put out a new EP on Sound Pellegrino [a record label] — can you tell me about the writing and creating process?
A: There are a couple of tunes that I wrote over the past year, but both at different points. The first, a track called “Compass,” is really heavily inspired by a sound that’s big in London right now called UK Funky. It takes their sound, which is really kind of African and tribal, and takes it into a dark or tech-y kind of side of things. And the other tune, “Zahonda,” is more of a kind of Latin-American inspired piece which mixes UK sounds like grime with house. And that’s that …
Q: So are you trying to go a new direction with the EP?
A: I don’t work in one way. I work by track. So I’m kind of fueled by how I feel at that time. I don’t ever write in one particular way. Everything’s a progression, which might not necessarily make sense to some people. But it makes sense to me, you know? I never write two tunes that are the same, everything’s totally different. So it’s a progression in time, but not a progression artistically, which is quite intended.
Q: Do you have any particular sources of inspiration or does it come from all over the place?
A: Yeah, all over the place. A lot of my inspiration, artistically, comes from ’80s bands, things like that. Yello – do you know Yello?
A: Yello – they spell it Y-E-L-L-O. I mean each of their tracks was totally different and totally crazy, but they all sounded like them. And that’s kind of the way I’m going. Keeping everything different, but still sounding like me, so people don’t get bored of that one sound.
Q: Do you write for a specific demographic or try to make it universally appealing?
A: Originally I was writing for that underground UK demographic. But starting in the last year or so, with my last single with Mad Decent — United Groove — that kind of opened up my sound to a totally different world, way beyond what I could expect. My latest remix — “Sha! Shtill!” the tune’s called, by Gucci Vump — I put it on Sound Pellegrino and it reached another realm which I never expected. People like Erol Alkan as well as people on the underground scene in the UK.
Q: Do you ever write for a college audience?
A: Yeah, my audience are all kind of around college age. It stretches from around 17-year-olds to 30-year-olds. I don’t write for any kind of age group. I just kind of write for everyone …
Q: Do you have any words of advice for college musicians?
A: The best kind of advice, in regards to music, is to be yourself, to be true to yourself. Don’t try to copy or imitate other people. Just make your own sound, and everything will just kind of work out.
I got told that, but originally I was just trying to mimic loads of other people’s sounds – people like Switch, people in the fidget house scene, trying to recreate their sound. I met Drop the Lime, a guy from New York, and then I was like “Fuck it,” like, do whatever, just be me.
Q: And that’s obviously worked for you. Do you have any passions outside of music?
A: Yeah, I did a degree in fine arts and contemporary media. So I’m an artist, originally. I also make music videos — Have you seen any of my videos?
Q: Yeah — tell me a bit about that.
A: Well all the videos I make myself. So anyways, I did fine art, contemporary media, and I make video installations, sound-sculpture, stuff like that, and then suddenly music just took over, you know.
Q: Do you make your own album covers?
A: All the artwork’s mine.
Q: I’ve noticed it’s particularly bloody, as a theme.
Q: Yeah, with the bleeding ears and everything.
A: Yeah, totally. I had right fun designing that, a couple of years ago. It was a theme I started on then, and it’s just kind of stuck. Now there might be a new style in the future, or the near future, so we’ll see what happens.
Q: Tell me about your plans for the future, with your music, your videos, your live DJing.
A: Yeah, well, I’ve kind of reached a point now where I’ve hit all the goals I set out trying to make, and I’m in this kind of weird position where I’m trying to work out where to go next. I’ve got a label starting next year, that will bring in new, young, interesting acts, that are on the same vibe as kind of what myself and the rest of my crew are doing.
And then I wanted to get into film production outside of L-Vis stuff as well, like producing for bands and stuff like that.
Q: One last question — where does the name “L-Vis” 1990 come from?
A: It comes from a band in the ’80s called Sigue Sigue S
putnik — they had a track called “21st Century Boy,” and there was a German remix — I picked it up on vinyl — it had an intro to this track which had this guy describing the ultimate band which would change the future by revisiting the past, and that band was called L-Vis 1990. So I just kind of took it from there.
Q: Thanks for talking. Hopefully we’ll get everyone hooked on your music over in the US.
A: Well I’ll be over there in November.