Number 13: Handbook

The whole beat-scene is an area of music that I have had extensive interest in the past couple years. I think that a lot of these artists go generally unnoticed yet every major hit hip-hop track has one of these dudes like Handbook in the shadow of the spotlight artist. Handbook has been filling the beat-scene with delectable sounds for years now outsourced straight from his home in York, England. The shear diversity of his beats is what attracted to me to his music off the bat. A beautiful piano piece with soft, catchy drum fills chased with a reverb in “Swansong” puts me into a trance every time:

Feeling an upbeat 90s hat and snare? He’s got that too with “Rose Gardens”

70s guitar and a sample that will become engrained your brain? Checkout “Melon”

you can get jumpy with one of his latest, bass-heavy track entitled “Last Night’s Bibimbap”

Lastly, get an old school vibe going with “Only Girl (For Me)”

You could pour through his past albums all day and you get more of the same rhythmic genius he has seemingly perfected. I really enjoyed his responses to my interview questions below and it sounds like there is plenty more Handbook to come! Stay tuned and keep listening.

For those that have yet to experience your music, could you tell us your name and what city you call home?

Hey I’m Handbook, based in York, UK.

It looks like you’ve been producing music for a few years now. When/How did you first become interested in making music?

Yeah, I started making beats around 2010. In the preceding years, I’d been getting into artists like J Dilla, Flying Lotus and the beat-scene in general, getting bombarded by a range of different, new and interesting sounds. I’ve always loved music and discovering new music especially, so I felt that I really stumbled upon this vast sub-genre that needed to be explored. The one thing these artists had in common was that they were solo operations – they could make these beautiful pieces of music on their own, and I desperately wanted to work out how that was done.

Are there any artists that have influenced your sound? Do you have any artists that you dream of working with?

Absolutely hundreds. Anything you ever listen to has an impact on what you create. If it’s engaging and original, you absorb elements that you would possibly want to see in your own music. If you hear something banal and uninspiring, you either consciously or subconsciously avoid those elements. When I started out though, J Dilla, Madlib and The Avalanches were particularly inspirational. Even the melodies of Miles Davis inspired my early work (not that you could ever tell!)

How exactly would you describe your music?

I would describe it as sample-based electronic beat music. iTunes would probably categorize it as ‘Hip-Hop/Rap’ or ‘Electronic’. It’s hard to place at times. Sometimes it is Hip-Hop, sometimes it is Electronic, sometimes it is a crossover piece.

When I listen to your track “Swansong,” it seems very spacey and beautiful with that gentle piano tune. Then I listen to one of your newer releases like “Last Night’s Bibimbap” which has a much more upbeat tune. Do you feel like your sound is still evolving and moving around?

On a weekly basis! Honing all the influences into one consistent sound is hard. However, I think there is a definite plus for an artist to have a tight array of different sounds. The two tracks you picked out there, follow a similar template, just with a different tempo and different vibe. They’re both sample heavy, with bass and drums, just executed with more aggression and vitality in the case of “Last Night’s Bibimbap”.

You have pretty consistent hip-hop-esque drums throughout your music. Do you just use drum machines or do you also do live recordings for your drums? What is your favorite drum machine?

I think the drums I’ve got down now – I think people could pick out a HB loop now, which is step one! I never have the opportunity to use live recordings, purely because I don’t have the space for a set-up. I’ve played drums for many years but not had the chance to record myself playing, which would be so much fun. I have to thank Native Instruments for all the amazing drum sounds that they include on Maschine and their expansion packs. They’re a big part of that classic HB sound!

You have put out a ton of music but do you feel like you have a personal favorite track that you’ve made? Or one that has been very meaningful to you?

That’s always a tough question. I’ve made thousands of pieces of music over the years and I’d struggle to put a finger on a track that really, really, really stands out. I wrote a track called “Dew” which came out on Modern Filth a couple of years ago and I’m still very proud of that. It’s totally different from a lot of the main Handbook catalogue, but it features my own keyboard playing and an arrangement I’m really proud of. But that’s today – tomorrow I could feel completely different and hold a torch to another track haha!

Lastly, when do you think you’ll put out another full album?

There are a few releases scheduled this year. I’ve just completed Impetus EP with Supreme Sol, my cassette EP ‘Devotion’ is nearing completion via Ital Dred, and there will be an album out in November, and quite possibly another full album in early 2018. Not to mention a variety of other shorter projects dotted here, there and everywhere. You’re gonna have to keep your eyes peeled.

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