A conversation with Ashee

Following a two-year hiatus, Life and Death is honored to re-introduce Ashee, the punk-inspired, genre-blending rave producer who first made an impact on the label with their 2020 release Techno Face

After Ashee’s June release of their Country Classic EP, a two-tracker containing a brooding, fist-pumping self-titled A-side, and a dynamic, hazy, atmospheric B-side titled “Rampage,” listeners can finally reacquaint themselves with the enigmatic producer. The new release continues Ashee’s typical, swirling mix of sounds, ranging from drum n’ bass and garage to Detroit and German techno. 

In a special interview, Life and Death caught up with the UK-bred Ashee to discuss their musical background and creative process, the sonic ethos of rave, electronic music’s attachment to anonymity, and their overall love of dance music culture.

What first drew you to rave music? 

I gravitated to acts like Chemical Brothers and Prodigy as soon as I was first able to buy music, and saw Leftfield live in Bournemouth (my hometown at the time) when I was 14. It blew my mind in many ways but, in particular, I was blown away by the distorted dubby sounds and huge sub bass on that gigantic sound system, This lead me into Drum and Bass, my first musical love (in particular tech-step acts like Ed Rush & Optical, Teebee, Calyx, Dom & Roland). When I moved to London I discovered (extremely) late nights, house, techno and minimal (and even had an electro clash phase). But my taste has always revolved around the sonic space that music is in rather than the genre.

Your sound is an amalgamation of different club sounds from within the UK and around the world – what are you trying to accomplish by mixing these styles together? 

It’s never a conscious effort to mix styles, and I think it would be a struggle for me not to. My ethos as Ashee is to make very impactful dance floor music with a lot of energy. I adore music like early Nightmares on Wax, or more recently Special Request, where things like breakbeat and sub-bass can work in a 130bpm house music context. Equally, my favourite DJs are people like Villalobos and Ben UFO – people who have a strong identity and pull things together from all over the place, but in a way that works and comes naturally.

Why do you think dance music producers have a propensity towards mystery and anonymity? What was your motivation for keeping your identity secret?

Personally, all of my favourite dance-floor experiences have been in a relatively small venue, DJ booth at the level of the ravers, barely noticeable or in sight. Some people worked out who I am pretty quickly, it’s not a huge secret, but for the moment I’m loving the music being the sole output. More generally, producers aren’t always people who love the limelight – they spend endless hours on their own in a room, and are probably quite introverted, so it’s understandable that they try and find a way to release their music without too much exposure.

Your music has been described as having a “punk ethos” – could you elaborate on that? Do you think there’s a connection between dance/rave music and punk in general? 

The punk ethos refers to making music with the mistakes left in, and capturing the chaotic energy of dance music, and not falling into the trap of over-thinking or being too clinical (as opposed to punk aesthetic and style). For example, I just did this mad remix of Diplo with Beatfoot. It’s 140bpm with Uzi shouting the pop lyrics over a filthy baseline. For a low-key underground DJ/producer releasing vinyls, a remix of a huge pop artist might seem like a weird idea but we found a way to turn the whole thing on its head. In general though, I think there’s something “punk” in all my favourite people in dance music, from Ricardo, to Omar S, to DJ Tennis.

Who are some of your biggest influences, dance or otherwise?

I have so many! Aside from the ones I’ve already listed, DJs I adore are Derrick Carter, Goldie, Margaret Dygas, Nicolas Lutz. Producers who inspire me all have bold, strong identities and personalities, so I’m hugely inspired by legends like Rick Rubin and Trevor Horn.

Why did Life and Death seem like a good home for your project?

DJ Tennis is a long time inspiration, but also a friend and collaborator. He actually suggested the name for the project. We’re connected in so many ways and I trust him massively as an A&R (as well as him being one of my favourite people in the scene).