House producer Bruise has just come off a busy few years, with the piano-led Grand Hi and a well-rinsed remix of Lady Blackbird’s Collage among the biggest tunes of 2020, 2021 seeing the release of the Joy/Theme and When Pianos Attack EPs, and Brass Tacks and The Dassy Slide landing last year.
Having formerly released alongside X-Press 2’s Diesel, Bruise is now a one-man show, led by producer Christian Campbell, who also records under the Sona Vabos alias. You can download/stream The Dassy Slide here.
909originals caught up with Bruise for an interview, to see what 2023 has in store for the producer once referred to by Terry Farley as ‘Rotary Connection meets Mad Mike’.
Hi mate, thanks for talking to us. 2022 has just come to a close – any particular highlights?
The DJ and radio support for Brass Tacks and The Dassy Slide has been awesome. I love the power of radio, and nothing can beat hearing a track you’ve made played live on air or in a club – so when I had three spins on Radio 1 on the first night of release day, that was a huge highlight.
Also, I played a Bruise live set at the North Fest 10 Carnival Special over the summer. I performed mostly unreleased Bruise material, so it was the first time I road-tested the new stuff. While I was a bit nervous, thankfully the new tracks got a great reaction.
Your latest single, The Dassy Slide, has a more 2-step, even hip-hop sound, while other tracks of yours have been more deep-house oriented, dub techno or hands-in-the-air piano house. I think it’s fair to say you like to keep things interesting with your productions?
When I first got into dance music, it was at a time when the selection of music in clubs was broader so you could hear a hip-hop track next to a house or rave track. That said, I think a more musically inclusive approach is creeping back, which is great.
Whilst I’m mostly into ‘electronic music’, for me that includes so many genres. So at home, I’m always listening to a broad range of music. For example, looking at the tunes I’ve been playing today includes music from Jeshi, Crackazat, L’Rain, Jarren, Nel, Mansur Brown, Anz, Anish Kumar, Lauren Auder, Koreless, CASisDEAD, Jeff Parker, Chrome Canyon, Knucks, etc.
I’m nowhere that diverse in my productions but I think just being into a lot of different genres is reflected, to a degree, in Bruise productions. That said, I like to think there is a ‘Bruise’ sound that you can hear in most of my music, but this doesn’t happen consciously.
Unless I’m remixing a track, I never have any real plan when I go into the studio. I just enjoy the music-making process and genre-wise I like experimenting and making cool interesting tracks, for my own pleasure first, regardless of style.
I think this can be a problem for some people as listeners tend to want something in the style of the last track they loved but hopefully, people will keep their minds open and enjoy the different directions Bruise swerve into.
Where does the name The Dassy Slide come from? It sounds like there’s a story there?
I know what you mean but actually, there isn’t much of a story behind the name. When I finished the track, I just imagined that this type of tune ending up with its own dance move, and The Dassy Slide was the made-up name I gave this imaginary wiggle.
It feels a bit weird to admit this, but that’s the truth of it. Now I just need someone to produce a signature dance move!
Bruise began life as a double-act with yourself and Diesel from X-Press 2. Are you still working together or do you plan to again in the future?
Diesel and I met through work, and a shared love of dance music meant that it was only a matter of time before we started working on music together. In fact, it was Diesel that came up with the name Bruise.
However, trying to balance work and other commitments has meant that Bruise is currently just me but I still hang out with Diesel and we share music and who knows maybe in the future will produce together again.
A lot of people would also know you from your Sona Vabos work – did you pause your Sona Vabos work when the Bruise project got big, or are you working on both projects together? Do they represent different sides of your musical personality?
Sona Vabos is still a working project, but you’re right that the alias was paused when Bruise began to gain more attention. The Vabos stuff is something I would associate with more obvious main room bangers and whilst I have paused productions, he’s not gone away entirely, I just need to find extra time to make more tracks.
For now, the focus remains on Bruise productions. That said, I did consider remixing some of the Sona Vabos tracks like Hotblade or So Good under the Bruise alias to see what would happen, as I reckon that might result in something pretty cool.
Terry Farley once described you as ‘Rotary Connection meets Mad Mike’. We presume Detroit was very influential on you, particularly UR stuff?
Firstly, I’ve got to say that I love that quote from Terry, which we have hammered to death as it’s a total gift for the promo. I believe it was in reference to the lead track of Jagged Angels which was a pretty hard tune full of distortion, jazzy pianos, and ethereal choirs. It was a perfect label and to have a house legend give your music that seal of approval was just great.
Detroit techno like UR’s Galaxy 2 Galaxy and The Belleville Three undoubtedly influenced the earlier Bruise sound, particularly with the release of the Presentation EP. And whilst ‘Detroit’ has become a byword for a type of dance record that has a certain depth and soul, it’s also a bit of a tired reference.
I still think the influence is there and it is a sound that Bruise naturally gravitates towards, but as I’ve said Bruise is also influenced by the many genres that feed into electronic music, and as such Bruise productions will continue to explore lots of different styles and directions.
You’ve been quite prolific on the remix front. What do you think makes a great remix?
That’s a super tough question. Firstly a good remix must deliver something that the original doesn’t and deliver it well. This can be done in many ways but generally by either elevating the parts that are there through a different arrangement/mix to create a bigger, better version of the original or by taking the original ideas and moving them in a completely different direction.
So for example, if you listen to Todd Terry’s remix of Missing, by Everything But The Girl, which many consider one of the greatest remixes ever, many of the original parts and arrangements are used and elevated to make a dancefloor-friendly version of the original. Whereas with the remix of Tori Amos – Professional Widow, which is another contender for the greatest remix ever, Armand Van Helden goes the other direction and creates something completely new and unique based on a few samples of the original record.
For Bruise remixes, I generally like working with tracks that have really strong vocals and then writing completely new music underneath to hopefully deliver something that is unique, interesting, and lives in its own space away from the original.
I think the Bruise remix of Collage by Lady Blackbird is a good example of this. The original is wicked but in the remix, only the vocal was used, with everything else written to place the vocal in a completely different world. The other thing I’m really proud of about that remix is that it’s got loads of energy, but for a house record, it’s pretty slow at only 114 bpm.
That’s a hard trick to get right and the reason it wasn’t any faster was the vocal started to degrade when warped at any higher BPM. As it’s such a lush vocal I wanted to make sure the remix honoured that.
What does 2023 have in store for you?
There are four new Bruise originals scheduled to be released over the next couple of months, some live gigs, and some new remixes and I’m writing a tonne of new Bruise material… then maybe Sona Vabos will step out of the shadows and make a triumphant return, who knows.
Find out more about Bruise’s upcoming gigs and releases here.