Interview with Dub Lemon, Citrus Boy and the Lemon Pharma collectively known as The Secret Lemon Project

If you've been to a Dub Step or D&B night in Wales over the last couple of years no doubt you've been in contact with the sour citrus flavours of the Secret Lemon Project. Well known for squeezing every drop out of a sweaty dancefloor with their basslines that would make your little sister cry (this has actually happened!). Here they talk a bit about how the three got together, how their live set just isn't doing it for them at the moment and some exciting future releases. So hit the salt, shoot the tequila and take a big bite of this slice of lemon.

HJ: Hello and welcome to EMW! Please introduce yourself's and give a little background for those who might not know your work.

Dub Lemon: The SLP started out as a couple of dubstep tracks made by myself around the middle of 2009, for about 2 months it actually did remain secret but once I decided to let the secret out I asked Nick & Rich to get involved and they assumed the identities of Lemon Pharma & Citrus Boy. Working together we have been continuing to produce our own brand of dubstep (most of which we have given away as free downloads on the Internet), playing a fair few gigs (often with the Lion MC on stage with us) and giving out customised lemons.

Citrus Boy: All three of us had been djing for years in the mid wales area. I met DL in 2004 when we were both playing on Dark FM which was run by Urban Kompozure, a mutual friend of ours. I was already DJing & writing dubstep under the aliases Nicky Ruffcut & Borg and promoting a night in Aberystwyth called 3B. I took a break from music for a few years and started gigging again in 2007. At the start of 2009 became a resident DJ for Black House. DL asked me to join SLP early summer 2009 so I made up the Citrus Boy alias to roll with the whole fruity theme lol.

DL: Ah yeah, the first time I met Nick was actually the first time I ever heard dubstep, I think very few people knew about it then but some how Nick caught on in the early days.

Lemon Pharma: I’ve know DL for many years, probably way back to our late teens, I was a Drum & Bass DJ from about 1999, loved every aspect of the genre. Went under the alias ‘Risq’. As time went on tho and the jump up sound took over, I got bored of the lack of progression dnb was making, I needed something new, and ventured into Breakbeat, and Hip Hop, quite often hooking up with DL, aka ‘x2k’ for battle scratch sessions. I did a Music Tech course but didn’t bother persuing it to university level. I also joined up on Dark FM; a little later than the other two lemons, it was also the first place I heard dubstep. DJ Wedge I believe it was, where I first heard the sound. The next trip to Tangled Parrot, my local record shop, I think I bought up almost every dubstep release they had in store.

Lemon Pharma is currently living in New Zealand but still plays a part in the SLP.

On a more recent note, I’ve had to leave the grove, and head off on my own little adventure to New Zealand, currently residing in Wellington and I am loving it here, I’m yet to sort out some gigs and start hitting the scene here, wanted to get sorted with my day job first. As for the scene, the Kiwis are feeling the dubstep sound in a big way, so I’m looking forward to getting involved. One of the only things that's making me want to go home is the whole SLP thing, I know I’m missing out!

HJ: What's playing in your music player at the moment?

DL: I’m a little ashamed to admit it but I don’t really tend to keep up with recent music very well these days, my music listening time is having my iPod on at work, any music involvement I have out of work tends to be working on it rather than listening to it. Because I’m too lazy to keep updating the iPod I’m always a good way behind the times and my chance to hear recent tracks are either at gigs on youtube/soundcloud browsing. The most recent tracks played on my iPod are Noisia’s album, Reso’s Temjin EP and a Deadmau5 album, I’ve also been checking quite a bit of Skrillex’s stuff which is pretty mainstream and a very popular topic at the moment but however you feel about him his sound design & composition skills are incredible. As you can probably see from the names I have mentioned I’m always listening for the cleverest and most technically produced stuff.

CB: Funny you ask that because I just found an old box of tapes I used to listen to when I was in school like Nirvana, Cypress Hill, Dr.Dre & Snoop and old rave tape packs. I’ve got those on repeat atm. It’s always good to look to your roots for inspiration.

LP: Kings of Leon got played on my way to town this morning. Andy C’s Drum & Bass Babylon mix is the latest thing while I'm in the gym, its always good to get some DnB going when you’re working out. Generally I just put my iPod on shuffle in the dubstep genre.

HJ: You’re all established producers and DJs in your own right. How do you find collaborating on tracks as apposed to working solo?

DL: My main problem with working alone is that I get distracted too easily and working with the other guys keeps me much more focused, also the others come up with so many great things which I could never have come up with myself which is what makes the tracks what they are. On the flipside I definitely can’t put in the same level of production when working on some thing with other people present as I can quite happily spend 3 hours on a single bass note or 3 days tweaking a mix but when someone is in the room you can sense the boredom and frustration building as I disappear into my own little zone fiddling about with stuff. For me the most important way to make collaborations work is to be able to be honest and also to be able to accept it when the people you are working with tell you that what you are doing is shit.

CB: Before joining SLP I did a few collabs with other producers. Working together on tracks is definitely more productive than a solo effort. DL does occasionally go deep into the detail on certain sounds but I try and limit his tweaking to a minimum when I’m in the studio with him. Our time is limited as we both work full time jobs. I think a lot of the sounds we finally use in our tracks are the result of DL’s extended after hours tweaking addiction lmao.

LP: I’ve only collaborated on maybe two or three tracks with CB involved, when there’s three of us in the studio the level of production does drop somewhat, but the good thing is there is always someone working on some aspect of the tune while the other two get distracted with conversations. All of the earlier tracks since I got involved were often worked on with a bottle of tequila and a couple of lemons, we got into a good stage of becoming tequila connoisseurs. I have to say though, it’s DL’s studio, and he is the knowledgeable one in the music making and sound manipulation process if it wasn’t for that guy there would be no SLP. As for solo productions, I’ve not really ventured or experimented since getting into dubstep, everything I’ve done has been with DL.

HJ: Your live set at the moment consists of just the two of you ( Citrus Boy and Dub Lemon ) are you happy with the live show? Can you see it changing in any way?

DL: The Pharma is away in NZ at the moment so myself & Citrus Boy have been doing the gigs here as a duo (again often working with the Lion MC), The Pharma is still very much part of The SLP though and hopefully going to gives us some extra exposure in the Southern Hemisphere but how we progress as a unit will be worked out as time goes on and we get a better idea of where we’re at and where we’re going.

In terms of the live set I’m not happy with it at all right now, so much so that we've just played one gig on the 26th November and I’m not prepared to take any more bookings (unless a good NYE offer comes up ;) ) until the live set has had a major rebuild (which certainly won’t be until some way into 2011). If we do decide to take any gigs before then it will consist of a DJ set from Citrus Boy and/or myself but not a live set so to speak. I do have high hopes for the future of the live performance aspect but I feel it’s rather more important to take the time and get it right rather than rush into it and continue with a half baked effort.

CB: Yes the live set is getting a complete overhaul and I’m still taking bookings under the Nicky Ruffcut alias and recently switched back to vinyl and cds for DJ sets. We decided the live set has to be something special..more live..less lap, more top. I don’t want to do another live set until all of us are 100% happy with it.

LP: Yeah, being over here in NZ, this whole rebuild of the live set thing is news to me, haha. I’ve got every confidence in the boys smacking whatever it is they plan, I think its a good thing to step back from the gigs in a sense, it opens up more time for work in the studio, and ultimately thats what its all about, more SLP tunes is what’s needed out there.

"In terms of the live set I’m not happy with it at all right now, so much so that we've just played one gig on the 26th November and I’m not prepared to take any more bookings (unless a good NYE offer comes up ;) ) until the live set has had a major rebuild (which certainly won’t be until some way into 2011)."

HJ: Can you describe your kit list briefly for the tech heads?

DL: I’ve got a fair amount of kit here including an MPC and some synths but to be honest they’re use for the SLP stuff is pretty minimal and 98% of the Lemon stuff is done in the box, I use them more for my own stuff. In terms of what I’m running on the computer, it’s a PC with Cubase 5.5 the Native Instuments Komplete package, u-he Zebra2 & Camel Alchemy for sounds and processing from UAD, Camel, D16, ohmForce and others. Ableton also so gets a bit of use in the studio and obviously is quite fundamental to the live performances.

CB: I have a really basic setup at home that I’ve owned for years. PC running Cubase 5 & FL Studio, monitors, midi keyboard which doubles up as a controller for the live stuff and a laptop running Ableton. I keep FL Studio installed as it’s what I have used for years and I find it’s the quickest way to get ideas down. I’m learning Cubase for compatibility with DL’s setup.

LP: As I said earlier all the production work I got involved in was done at DL’s studio, which I like to call ‘The Lemon Grove’. Personally I can’t justify spending all that cash on plug-ins and such, maybe I just didn’t have the commitment level that DL posesses. As for gigging, I use Traktor, with a Behringer BCD3000 USB controller, its cheap and plasticy, but does the job nicely and i’ve not had a single problem to date. This kept the gigs relatively interesting/challenging as with the other two on Ableton all synced in together, I still had to manually beat-match to get in time through each transition.

HJ: A lot of producers who perform live are now trying to avoid looking at their laptop screens so much. Using interfaces like the Lemur and Monotone. Can you see your live act using these sorts of technology?

DL: Looking at the screen is something I have been very conscious about and really hated since I first started using a laptop out when DJing with Serato, the less direct interaction with the laptop the better (although I won’t be using a Lemur any time soon since sadly they have just been discontinued) and direct control through some hardware interfaces will definitely be the future for me. The idea of turning the laptop round so I can’t see it seems a bit more of a gimmick, but I really want to rely on the screen as little as possible for sure.

CB: I’m keen to try out the new Ableton Serato Bridge to bring more of a live element.

DL: Yeah I’m certainly into the idea of getting some scratchin into the sets but we need to get a laptop with enough juice to rub Ableton, Max & Serato.

LP: I can’t really consider any live element mixing until I’m back in it with the other two. I’m sure there will be something sorted by the time I’m back and I guess I’ll be looking at a nice expense to sort out all the hardware I’ll need.

HJ: If you could give a bedroom producer one piece of advice ... what would it be?

DL: Do some research, learn some techniques then practice as much as possible. There is no point endlessly searching for the secret technique/plugin which will make you famous because they don’t exist, all the electronic producers round the world are pretty much doing the same things with the same tools, the difference with the people who are succeeding is that they just put the work in to do it well. So yeah by all means read a few Computer Music magazines and browse through few forums but then get on with it and make some sounds!

CB: Yes, exactly what DL said. Trial and error basically. If you get bored try writing other types of music or do some sampling. Studio time is not always writing tunes. Make the time you have in the studio as productive as possible.

LP: Keep on keeping on! Save lots of little pieces of work, a few months down the line you’ll listen back to the earlier ones and realise that you have progressed, and when listening back you might be able to change and improve on those earlier sounds you were trying to create. I also recommend getting involved with a like minded friend or two, you learn SO much more, and at a faster rate too.

HJ: Would you say that the Welsh music scene is in good health?

DL: The music being produced & made in Wales now is really good and there are some promoters putting on some great nights so in theory it should be healthy, however the attendance & enthusiasm for going to a lot of these nights always seems sub-standard to me. I don’t think this is a problem with Wales in particular but rather the state of the UK as a whole, it seems to me like people are always worrying about spending money or there are too much legalities around having a good party that a lot of people don’t seem to be bothering. Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of great nights on but for some reason the never seem to feel more that ¾ full at best to me.

CB: Yes. I think promoters could do with some more venues and less intimidation from the police.

LP: The underground/free-party/illegal rave, scene that Wales has a bit of a reputation for is in serious recline. I guess due to the illegality, and the stupidity of advertising them on social networks. The producers known to me are of a high standard, yet few are getting signed up to labels or getting official releases, perhaps due to the lack of locally based labels, or a lack of promoting skills, or a surplus of very poor "artists" online, flooding the scene with sub-standard tracks that to find these guys is hard for any promoter/label, I don’t know, what I do know is that these guys making tunes in Wales are simply doing it for the love of doing it.

The other two summed up the club scene; lack of venues and a lack of punters willing to get they’re sh*t together to go out and support the artists that they all listen to at home, which they’ve more than likely acquired those tracks for free... but on the other hand, a massive respect to those that do go out, enjoy & support

HJ: What's your favourite venue/club night in Wales and which venues do you look up to from elsewhere?

DL: For me I think Roach Me & Black House have been putting a really good effort into putting on really professional nights with really nice stages and lighting, they have also been very supportive of us and have some great artist down, again I still think more people should get out their houses to attend these nights and witness the great events happening right on their doorsteps.

CB: Fave venue for me would have to be the now defunct Bay Hotel Basement bar in Aberystwyth. It was a grotty little venue but the vibe in there was electric. Black House & Roach Me put on some ridiculous nights, check the photos on Facebook!

LP: Haha, yes mate! The bay rocked! never DJ’d there but did enjoy a few nights out. That was a grimey place. wasn’t that where Black House started? If you’re talking about closed down ones, I’d have to put in a shout for The Palace, Swansea, raved my ass off in that place many a year ago, where I first got into all that really.

Again the other two have said it first, Black House & Roach Me/Project Roach Events are very well organised and a pleasure to attend.

HJ: Where in the world would you most like to play?

DL: I’d definitely like to get around the world and play in some interesting countries Austrailia, USA & Japan definitely sound interesting but for me some of the big festivals and big clubs in the UK like Fabric really appeal to me too.

CB: I’m a big fan of the show Lost, would love to do a gig on that island. Will &; Kates Royal Wedding, DMZ or Outlook Festival.

DL: Nick has actually been hired but Will & Kate but not to DJ, they’ve asked him to be their honeymoon gimp.

LP: All over, if the name gets big enough and the fan base increases, and the bookings come from where ever, any place would be a great experience, but I’d also love to play at some of the main festivals in the UK.

HJ: What's the wierdest gig you have ever been to/played at?

DL: It would have to be Kenya for New Years, a hot New Years was we’re enough but playing dubstep to people who had never heard of it before was definitely interesting.

CB: A wedding reception at a housing co-op in Wales. Apparently I was making people cry with my music!
LP: The story goes, as CB was rinsing some heavy dubstep beats, some chick came up to him and asked him to stop as its making her little sister cry... looking over, there she was, tears running down her face... poor thing, needs to change her taste in music I reckon. Jokes!

"The story goes, as CB was rinsing some heavy dubstep beats, some chick came up to him and asked him to stop as its making her little sister cry..."

Can’t really think of a weird one myself, maybe the one that stands out the most in a weird sense, which will remain nameless, was in a dive of a town, in a dive of a club. All the people there seemed to be out just to get hammered, nobody was out for the music and the vibe, there were a number of fights seen that night, and the one where a couple of bouncers kicked the crap out of a guy really made us think ‘what the hell are we doing here?!’.

DL: Haha, oh shit I forgot about that one!

HJ: What can you see happening in the near future in terms of your live act and gigs?

DL: Like I said earlier the near future I think is really a couple of months break to get some material and set worked out and them come back with something much better.

LP: The New Zealand take over ;-)

CB: SLP Live 2.0

HJ: Three favorite Acts at the moment?

DL: Assuming you mean artists, Reso is at the top of my list right now, always looking out for his new stuff. Locally Rezaloot & Rural are both well worth checking.

CB: Out of the acts I've heard live it’d have to be Goth Trad, Bass Clef and Rural. Three fave artists atm are Reso, Scuba and Wickaman.

LP: It’s real hard to pick out favorutites... but biggups to Reso, production levels are high-grade, gets all three of our votes. Downlink & Tek-one just picking two more off the top of my head.

HJ: Favourite festival?

DL: Man it’s been so long since I’ve gone to any big festivals, hopefully get to some next year!

CB: Ain’t been to many. Newfoundlands 2009 was fun.

LP: Props to the local ones, Blue Rock, in Pembrokeshire, and the new Teifi Roc 900 (I think thats what its name was) I hope their futures prosper.

HJ: Favourite Beverages?

DL: Tequila shots is the official SLP drink, the making of track Tequila Sunrise was the beginning of an endless tequila binge, it’s got to be Sierra Gold though!

CB: Brandy

LP: Sierra Gold, been a while now... haha, the salt intake went through the roof when we were hitting the studio hard, 3 or 4 bottles a week... other than that I’m into Jack Daniels, Jaeger Bombs & Sambuca.

HJ: Any other shouts and links?

LP:You’ll find a couple of mixes up here:

CB: I’d like to give shouts to so many people but it’d fill up the whole page. Bigup everyone supporting the lemon sound.

LP: Big Shout to Wickaman, the Rural crew, MC Lion, and again everyone who supports the SLP

AIDS EP by The Secret Lemon Project

 "The AIDS EP is out on Monkey Dub in February 2011, you will be able to get it from juno, beatport, etc."

"We have lots of requests for the t-shirts and hoodies we wear to gigs. You can buy t-shirts at our website"

A big thanks for this interview. Don't forget to watch out for SLP releases in 2011.

 Law by The Secret Lemon Project