Calibre is prolific. Take a look through his back catalogue and you’ll see this. 17 albums and countless singles, 12″s and EPs. He just loves writing music. So much so, he says a lockdown-enforced year of no gigs has actually suited him, allowing him to get his head down and write tunes, adding to the hundreds and hundreds of unreleased tracks already sitting around in digital folders. He’s most comfortable when he’s writing, he says it “comes out of me like water”. That flow has resulted in a collection of multi-genre material, either ideal for the rave or moments of pure relaxation. He’s behind some of best drum ‘n’ bass releases of the last 20 years, including the albums ‘Second Sun’ and ‘Even If…’, as well as the ‘Shelflife’ series. But don’t do him the injustice of only labelling him as a d’n’b producer. He’s equally adept in dub, ambient and house, as proved on records such as ‘Grow’ on Craig Richards’ label The Nothing Special, last year’s stunning ‘Planet Hearth’, an LP moving through classical piano chords, beatless textures and relaxing, meditative bass kicks, and latest album ‘Feeling Normal’. Then there’s ‘Shine A Light’ and ‘Valentia’, two eclectic albums under his birth name, Dominick Martin, that span downtempo, jazz and folk. You’ll often hear his own vocals on his tracks, too.
Belfast-born, Calibre puts his natural ability to make a range of music down to the traditional music background he comes from, notably “weird, folk-type” stuff, as well as having no transience with music. “I still listen to punk records, I still listen to listen to stuff I heard when I was a child in the 1980s,” he tells us.
He says when he first started making music, his style was “all over the place”. Now, on ‘Feeling Normal’, the Northern Irish producer deliver his first fully 140bpm record and it feels like this is a real transition point in his career. In classic Calibre fashion, the album’s deep, atmospheric and packed full of emotion as he moves through skippy, UKG-esque kicks, growling, low-end bass and head-nodding dub. Road-tested in clubs pre-pandemic, it’s prime for a hefty club soundsystem, but works just as well at home.
Now based in Berlin after stints in Valentia (a small island on the west coast of Ireland) and Cologne, Calibre spoke to us about the new album, his decision to move into 140bpm territory, the feeling of being an outsider, younger generation ravers and more.
You’ve moved from Cologne to Berlin recently. What were the reasons for moving to a big city?
I moved from Cologne in December and I’ve been here through lockdown. It’s been cool because Hard Wax [Records] isn’t far away from me, so I can get get down there and get a bit of normal feeling going by going to record stores. Just to have music at this time – just like a record collecting thing – is even more important to me and Berlin has been great for that. It’s also a place that’s a good hub. There’s connectivity between different types of artists in different industries and trades.
Before, especially with the coronavirus, would you say you felt a bit isolated before you moved to Berlin?
I think I have an in-built isolation thing anyway. I guess I seek to be isolated in a lot of ways. It’s one of the reasons I went down to Valentia on the west coast of Ireland for years. I just enjoy being in a place where there’s nothing going on. I do like to be isolated and be just working away. I find that makes me happiest. But here in Berlin, there’s such a thing going on. It’s sort of relentlessly happening all around you, so you can’t be too introverted in a situation like this. The COVID thing sort of suits me in a way because I’m able to just sit and write and I’m quite happy doing that day after day. I guess a lot of other people are getting really pissed off, but I’ve been able to turn the negatives into positives.