All You Need is BASS

Transforma Pounds Neurofunk in Western Canada and Motion Notion


Transforma Interviews with

Australian drum and bass producer Transforma (Neil Bartlett) loves the Western Canadian music scene. In his latest journey here, he was living in Vancouver for five months where he was collaborating with artists while teaching classes at The Harbourside Institute of Technology, a Vancouver School of Audio Engineering, Recording and Music Production. “I grew as an artist in Canada, having so much time to work on music instead of spinning,” Neil points out. “When I come back next year, I’ve got a lot of interest in playing Calgary and Edmonton because the drum and bass scene is so big in those cities.”

Transforma’s neurofunk tracks like Illusions from his debut EP Enigma, released by Adapted Records last year, reached the #2 spot in the top 100 glitch-hop charts on Beatport in the first week of its release.Transforma is on the leading edge of the neurofunk genre.

Neurofunk Defined

“The word Neuro in music these days means a style of sound design that’s got a lot of intricacy and a lot of detail. The neurofunk genre really started with Ed Rush, Optical, and Nosia. It’s always been really dark drum and bass,” Neil says. “A lot of artists these days using so many different drum patterns and drum and bass productions so it does come off as like that hardcore kinda vibe. It’s just the creators of those tunes going crazy with the drums.”
Neil’s music has powerful anarchistic qualities to it – it doesn’t follow convention, is unpredictable and hard hitting. He reveals, “My name is based on the fact that when I started, I was mixing a whole lot of different genres. My sets a few years ago would have at least seven different genres in one: Transforming into different genres. I did the whole Cookie Monsta and Trolley Snatcha kinda thing.”

Motion Notion 2015

Motion Notion 2015

Transforma’s set at Motion Notion on Friday night could be described as deep and dark basslines with so many layered drum hits I felt like I was dancing to happy hardcore. It reminded me of Latino music and how you’ve got to be on top of that shit to dance to it. Neil notes, “I think sometimes people have to be really fucked up to dance to some of the stuff I play.” How rave refreshing.

Neil remembers about playing at The Cabana stage, “I looked out at one point and there was over a thousand people and thought this is so surreal. It was like peak hour, 3 o’clock in the morning. It was just ridiculous. I thought, I’m gonna get heavy on these guys.”

Motion Notion 2015Transforma hit that mark for sure. People were heard saying that “it was unbelievable” and “some kind of future drum and bass.” That leading edge original sound was a common thread at The Cabana stage, which has seemed to surpass all other stages at the festival in music originality.  What Transforma played, most people had never heard live before, and they loved it. For the lucky few that managed to hear about it, he also played a secret set the next night at the Renegade stage.

Neil stated that what separates a headliner from an artist that’s in small print on the festival poster is, “A lot of hard work, years and years of playing and starting from the bottom and making your way up really.” He’s appeared at a dozen or so music festivals, some include: Motion Notion and Awakening in Canada; Discombobulation and Marble Mountain in New Zealand; and, Dragon Dreaming and most recently Psyfari in Australia.

“It’s also who you know,” Neil continues. “I met Keven [Harper] in Sydney, Australia and he asked if I wanted to play Motion Notion 2015. It comes down to a lot of who you know and that’s where you build from. You really, really have got to get to know people.”

The Australian – Canadian Connection

There seems to be some kind of Canadian-Australian DJ exchange program going on. Rumours that a sister Motion Notion festival in Australia is in the works, called Ocean Notion, perpetuates this idea. Canada and Australia have a lot in common. They both are young nations with a British colonial background, thinly populated, beautiful and resource rich, and love to party.

“They have festivals year-round in Australia. Rainbow Serpent, and all those ones through January and February, are ridiculous because it 45°C all day. Mainly during the day, its hip-hop music and so chill. People carry around these large bags of wine on their shoulders called ‘goon sacks’ [boxed wine bags] and that’s what everyone drinks.”

“The drum and bass scene has always been big in Australia. Perth is one of the capitals of Drum and Bass in the world. Pendulum and Shockone for example are from there and now Sydney is getting just as big.”

It’s an exciting time for drum and bass and electronic music alike. Artists like Transforma are doing the leg work in both hemispheres to keep the innovation in full force.

Check out the soundclouds of the artists that were inspiring Transforma locally at Motion Notion 2015:

Black Sun Empire

Doctor Werewolf

Far Too Loud


Om Unit

Transforma Motion Notion

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About author

Carolyn Russell

Carolyn Yates was born in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. She has lived most of her life in a variety of communities in Ontario and Alberta. A graduate of the Technical Communication degree program at Mount Royal University, she is a music article writer. Carolyn writes about her experiences as a music lover, female anarchist, sex object, and facetious business woman. Carolyn currently lives in Calgary, Alberta. She's lovely tell your mudder.

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