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14.02.2020 | Words by: Angelina Nikolayeva

Largely influenced by the sound of his native Bristol, Batu established his own brand of mutated dubstep in 2015. What quickly became a game-changing label and a party series settled in the prison cells of The Island, Timedance was born to represent that polyrhythmic blend of bass-heavy techno-leaning oddities one hadn’t heard before. This February marks the 5th anniversary of the imprint and the crew will stop by our basement as part of their birthday tour. I caught up with one of the earliest family members, Bruce, over a FaceTime call, which turned to be a deep dive into his search of self-identity, the transience of post-club moments and why he said “no” to ABBA.

After my second call, he picked up the phone and asked if he could call me back in a moment – I dialed him an hour too soon, completely oblivious to the time difference between Amsterdam and Bristol. Not having to wait for too long, my phone rang, and Bruce’s smile-lit face sprawled across the screen. It became clear straight off that Larry McCarthy emits this zestful energy, the one that can make you feel at ease even during an often somewhat awkward FaceTime conversation. 

Q: Since this is a party dedicated to the 5 years of Timedance. Could you walk me through how you met Batu and moved into “the house that defined the last few years of Timedance” as he describes?

A: Omar [Batu] and Sam [Ploy] and I went to Bath Spa University and started living together around the same time. Omar felt like there wasn’t a label representing the sound he wanted to produce, and he had a very clear idea in mind of what he wanted to do with Timedance. From the very start, everything was just very straightforward; no pretending, no bullshit. Without even thinking about it, the label progressed, the sound became a little weirder and more mature. Omar always got everything right: the venue, the artists, the sound. It just became such a thing; the label grew bigger and bigger. Through this dedication to sound system culture, he has managed to establish the label as a cornerstone in the UK electronic music history. 

Q: You have been sharing your house with other producers for quite a while. Have you tried working together in the studio?

A: Because we have such proximity of how we grew with each other, we already shared too much and know each other too well on a personal and emotional basis to be able to collaborate. And personally, I've only just started feeling it's a suitable time in my career to start collaborating. I feel this is mostly the result of finding distinguished self-respect for what I can bring to the table and how that is different in comparison to the other person. I think that just comes with practice and experience. When it comes to Omar and Sam, there is this family aspect to our relationship that has a creative intimacy that would be a struggle for me to overcome; there's too much brotherly competitiveness to start with! 

Q: Some producers find working in the studio with someone quite liberating.

A: Most people know me to be a very outgoing, social person, but I actually really love being alone. The way I see it, the music I make is designed for the pleasure and personal listening of multiple people in a large space. To achieve that, my job is to create a functional but creative work that achieves a connection with each individual in a club context. So somehow, a sense of ego and solidarity; an understanding of emotional independence; motives or the dynamics in music: it’s all got to be translated to the people on an individual level. Once that is achieved, simply leave the collective human, spiritual energy to do the rest of the work in bringing those individuals together. This way of thinking helps me to just lock in and switch off: just embrace that spiritual attitude that’s trying to control you almost in autopilot. The solidarity in loneliness is important because that’s, essentially how music is presented at the end of the day. It's one of the reasons loneliness is important, in my opinion.

Q: Your sense of humor, your radiant personality and the way you talk or approach things make you seem like a very cheerful person, who doesn’t try to be too serious. Yet, when it comes to music that you produce and some mixes – take your last podcast for EDWIN for instance - it is often melancholic or even cathartic with concepts touching on ideas such as self-loathing and escapism as in Before You Sleep. Do you feel like music helps you to discover a different side of you or gives you the outlet to express it?

A: That’s something I think about all the fucking time. I believe it is social media that’s causing this disconnection in how I present myself …  Ah, it’s a very good question! I’m honestly not entirely sure how to answer [he drifts into deep thought].

Whilst social media is a marketing tool to sell myself, remaining authentic is my No. 1 rule. I'm a very outgoing guy who doesn't believe in keeping secrets. On the other hand, my creativity is rooted in a deep and passionate feeling. So, I’m a big advocate of opening up and sharing my deepest emotions and my music represents that. But Instagram just isn’t really the best platform to do that. I think all people who use Instagram feel its invasive nature, so I think it's best to be very selective on how I express myself on there. For that reason, I don't feel there's a great deal of point trying to represent my music because not only would that be a bit of a bore to read, I'd like to think that my music is authentic enough that it can speak for itself. I guess it's fun to have a range in character, for anyone that is interested enough to see that.

Q: You mentioned you party “too much”. That’s something I’m guilty of myself too. What fuels your desire to stay up all night each weekend?

A: I actually have to behave myself a lot more these days. Having gigs on the weekend and trying to produce during the week - I make sure to never lose sight that being able to do this for a living is a dream come true. However, it is really hard work sometimes and whilst being able to travel to new continents throughout last year was amazing, I've had to seriously check myself and my attitude towards life. When this busy, something has got to give; partying and alcohol are sadly the weakest links.

At the same time, it is still super important for me to engage with the people organizing and attending every party. So, when their social engagement revolves around partying and alcohol, I’ve got to make sure I’m capable of maintaining a balance of doing that whilst remaining professional to be able to perform to the best of my ability. It can be tricky because the hedonistic nature of the industry can really grab a hold of us all and if I party too hard after two gigs on a tour or short string of shows, I’m not going to be in the best headspace for the next one. This makes me very sad because there is so much love and effort put into this industry, especially when it comes to younger promoters that don’t have a night club supporting them. I believe my love for and engagement with them is just as valuable as my performance. Because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have this industry and this career.

That aside, let's not forget the magical power of the “crack on" [meaning: to start or continue doing something, especially more quickly or with more energy after having completed another task]! The release of tension once the night is over; you’ve got nothing hanging over you. Your inhibitions and stresses of the week are no longer there and you’re hanging out with people who you've bonded with on a near-spiritual level for several hours. This moment can be transcending. Now that you’ve got the space to talk and relax, you can talk about any sort of daft stuff or develop ideas or attitudes that out of context are silly and ridiculous! You can create some incredibly special bonds in those moments. I believe there is so much value in appealing to this rather unique sense of childlike play: a rarity in our modern lives. The sun rises, everyone is in a squishy pile around the room. Time to enjoy the unique grace of levity and meditative mindfulness! 

Q: Have you often found yourself seeking escape in a club?

A: Not necessarily escape; as a term, I've always believed escapism to be an easy way out. For me, it’s more about being mindful and being able to meditate on yourself and your feelings or problems currently surrounding you. Club music has the range to be able to do this through a really deep Donato Dozzy set or through DJ Marcelle’s absolute madness. If you’re able to disconnect and lose consciousness of your worries just for a moment, that means the DJ has done a good job and the whole night has been a success.

Q: You set the bar for Friday pretty high!
A: Haha! No pressure! Actually, whilst I have experienced this sensation countless times in the crowd, there have only been a few moments when I've experienced this while DJing. And, I have to say, in De School were most of them.

Q: Does your experience on the other side of the DJ booth inform the way you DJ? 

A: Yeah, almost entirely. There is always a tricky dance to be played between you performing your artistry and entertaining everyone in the room; trying to set the scene in your own way. I’ve always thought of myself as a producer first. Only recently have I started having true faith in my DJing ability. Through a better understanding of the relationship between the crowd and the DJ have I been able to find my voice. For me, it’s about trying to connect the dots with the music I make and the personality I present; DJing being the glue to stick it all together. I always try to play stuff that people don’t expect without it being pretentious or forced, without me looking like a fucking "selector" or showing off.

Q: And how do you find the balance between staying true to your artistry and pleasing people?

A: It’s a large battle for me. I’m a bit of an empath and people pleaser and in the past, I’d always move towards wanting to make people happy. But, recently, I’ve come to realize that with the confidence and ability instilled in me through the support of people around me, I have learned how to perform and entertain without compromise.

Sometimes you just have to be stubborn! Last Friday, I had an all-nighter in a quite tricky venue in the UK. The place was filling up and I was setting the tone, slowly moving from ambient to more bassy stuff. Two people came up to me saying, “Can you play something we can sing along to?”

“Yeh? What sort of thing?” 

“Oh, you know, some old party classics or something!” 

And I was really building my confidence at this point, growing with the room, with the space; I had lit some incense sticks; friends had arrived and given me confidence. So, I slammed down the fader, cutting the music, and asked, “What? ABBA?” 

“OMG Yeeeah!” 

And I just go: “Fuck off,” and slap the fader back up again. There were cheers from the crowd but as they walked off, my initial anger at the situation immediately turned to shame. There was no need to be that rude. But I've learned over the years that it's just the best way to act when you're trying to work. Plus, “punk” attitude (for lack of a better term) is what often inspires me in music and acting with such a sentiment is in tune with the rest of my performance.

But the best thing is - I carried on playing a set I was eventually very happy with and at the very end of the night, the same two people came up to me and said:
“We are still here! You were right! We had such a good time!”

Without being dogmatic or control-freaky about it, I think I’m coming to learn the importance of responsibility as any sort of entertainer presenting an art. You have to embrace the powers presented to you sometimes. Trying to please people who don’t know what they want and don’t know how to be pleased, at the end of the day is a fucking losing game because you are just going to go around in circles. 

Photo by: Miri Matsufuji

Bruce plays our basement tonight alongside Batu, Ploy and Jasmín. Tickets are still available here and at the door.
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