Interview: ConRank

Rankadank Records, a label home to dnb, dubstep, and drumstep, is gearing up for its first release this week. Hao Ting is a 7 track wonder, ready to introduce you to the finest Rankadank has to offer. We took some time to chat with the founder and artist, ConRank, about how he got here, what’s coming up and what Hao Ting is going to bring to the table.

How has 2010 been so far for you? You’ve dropped some singles, an EP, set up a record label, relocated to Shanghai among other things. How has it been so far?

2010, it has been possibly the best year of my life to be honest. I founded Rankadank in March and the rest just seemed to flow from there. The singles , the setting up of the label, I didn’t think anyone would take any notice and 9 months on I have been signed to Suicide Dub, I am working with one of the greatest beatboxers in the world (Killa Kela), the label is launching with some amazing new talent signed to it and I have played my first festival which was a pretty unforgettable experience. Moving to Shanghai has been dope, I couldn’t have hoped for more , I have met some great people , eaten some great food and jumped into a whole new way of life. If 2011 turns out to be anything like 2010 then bring it on!

So let’s talk about your first foray into music – you started beatboxing in a gas station with Killa Kella?

Yeah wow, many moons ago. I lived in a town called Horsham and next door was a petrol station. I used to pop in there for my daily chocolate dose (I was a plump child lol) and met this guy who was working there who I started to chat to from time to time. Next thing I got a part-time job there and found out that this guy was called Kela, which I thought was weird, and that he was a beatboxer. I was a big beatbox fan but had only seen Rahzel and Michael Jackson do a bit , so I got him to teach me. We used to use the microphone and the forecourt tannoy and scare the crap out of passers by with these crazy distorted beats… really good times. About 6 months on and I was doing beatbox shows with Kela and also solo and I even did an advert for Levi’s. I still dabble from time to time, but usually in the shower ahahah…

How did you go from gas station beatboxing to producing drumstep? What lured you into that genre?

I have always been a huge drum and bass fan. I used to put my old Ltj Bukem albums on repeat, they were just so deep , you could close your eyes and lose yourself. I heard some Instra:Mental tracks and DBridge stuff and within weeks of hearing it I had made my first tune which is called Buck Sound , production wise it was very amateur but its basically that track that fueled all of my music up till now. After that first track was written I spent the first few months listening to no drum and bass, no drumstep, no autonomic, I just made what felt right, and I think you can hear that in some of my beats. Its not autonomic , its not straight up drumstep and its not dnb, its just how I make my music.

Tell us about the “Kela and Conrank” project?

I’m loving it. Kela has been one of my best friends since the petrol station days and since the beatboxing we had never worked again together on anything music related. One evening he hit me up and this was even before the name ConRank had been thought up and said, “lets do something together” , he proposed an idea of spending a few hours in the studio and creating a podcast each time, he said “lets call it Kela & ….. “. I obviously was up for it and within 2 minutes of putting the phone down I blurted out “Kela & ConRank” and that was it, I was ConRank. We hit the studio and created our first podcast the following week which is available now, its basically us in the studio for 4/5 hours making a 5 minutes podcast freestyle , he sings a bit , I add a synth and a bass , he spits some beats, I add some kicks etc etc. We now have a series of four ready to drop and they will be coming over the next 6 months… brace yourselves!! Its great to be in the studio with such a great friend, things just flow, there’s no ego or beef, its just a jam.

You played the Secret Garden Party in the UK this year – How did it go?

That was a big milestone for me, it almost went horribly wrong. I flew in from China the day before so I was knackered and I had never really been to a big festival before. I properly f**ked up the camping part – arrived late, no sleeping bag, no pillow, no air pump, no food. I was supposed to play at 5am, so I was preparing for the worst case scenario (graveyard shift/small crowd etc.)

As it turned out the DJ before me couldn’t make it and I was told I needed to be on stage in 20 minutes. I was half asleep, slightly drunk – basically unprepared, I turned up to the tent and there was about 1500 ravers going for it in a big way. Big Surprise! It turned out to be an amazing set for me, the sun was rising , and in front of me was a huge crowd dancing to my music.. what can you say …. it has to be one of the most awesome sights I have ever seen, my highlight of 2010 for sure.

I have the mixcloud.com boys to thank for it, they have been behind my music since day one, I can’t thank them enough.

On that note, what was one of your worst gigs?

It was at a rock climbing club at 5 in the afternoon.. lets just leave it at that .. I’ll let your imagination do the rest!

Now let’s talk about your new label Rankadank. What brought this on and how has it been going so far?

Originally I set up the label to allow me to release my own stuff. It gave me a goal when I was in the studio , I knew that when I finished this track it would go out and be released to the world , even if no one listened. As I started getting better known and started meeting producers and getting sent demo’s, I was hearing amazing music that wasn’t getting released and it just seemed like the natural next step to sign some of these artists, relaunch the label properly and go from there. Up till now I have had a great response, and I’m really happy with the current roster of artists signed to the label. All together the genres that are covered are Dnb, Dubstep, Drumstep and Autonomic.

Who are artists we should watch out for on Rankadank?

There are currently 6 artists getting ready to release in 2011. Steven Lorenz a dubstep producer based in Shanghai, Winnie a very talented autonomic producer from London, Drifta who makes some of the nicest dnb I have heard for a long time, Koya, a 3 man dubstep crew from the UK who I had been watching for a couple of years , Blynk also from the UK who is really making a name for himself on the dubstep scene and last but not least myself , ConRank. There’s also another dub producer called Didjelirium from Uprooted Sunshine (Shanghai based reggae crew) who has done a remix for the E.P and who we are discussing future releases as we speak. I would say keep an eye on them all! Quality not quantity (I hope).

Tell us about the upcoming EP?

It’s actually close to being an album, it’s 7 tracks deep and it’s a chance for everyone to get a taste of what’s to come. Some of the artists have done remixes of my past release State of Play and some have provided original tracks. Its a heavy EP and I know some people will be wondering why we are giving it away for free, but the point of this release is about spreading the word and giving people an opportunity to hear what Rankadank is all about. There’s dub on there, drum and bass, dubstup, drumstep, remixes, originals, bootlegs – and if you like the E.P then your gonna love what we have in store for next year!

JUICEonline is dropping Hao Ting this Wednesday! Keep an eye out for it and for more ConRank – check his site.