Photo: Holly Gillman (Bruce)
The music that Larry McCarthy makes under the Bruce guise seems both meticulous and chaotic, incredibly detailed and brimming with ideas. Since releasing his debut LP on Hessle Audio in 2018, the Bristol-based artist has teamed up with Bambounou for an EP and also started the XRA project together with Lurka, putting out two releases, most recently the single Invisible. After bringing his Get Loose! event series to end, McCarthy is still running the Noods Radio show of the same name and is recording studio mixes again after a long hiatus. The one he contributed to our Groove podcast may just be one of the wildest in the series yet, meticulously crafted and somehow chaotic, oscillating wildly between styles and tempos. It also includes some new material by Bruce himself.
You’ve recently teamed up with Lurka again under the name XRA to release the single Invisible that features—in your words “sad-boi”—vocals by you. How did that come about?
So it starts like so many other Bristol-cum-bass-nerds stories do: a long time ago, Ben Lurka and I met at a Young Echo night at the long withstanding Bristol venue, The Exchange. Batu introduced us under the common ground that we had both graduated from the same course at Bath Spa University. Much like many other alumni from the Peverelist coined “dubstep finishing course,” we soon realised we had the same penchant for both nerding-out on bass heavy UK dance music and a very dumb sense of humour. Back in August 2018, we had the lovely idea to plop our asses down in front of a DAW and see what happened. It didn’t take long to establish what we wanted to bring to the table: combining our forces of Bristol-bass sound design, we felt there was a real window for system-wrecking IDM that went to sometimes whacky lengths in waving the flag for all things hardcore continuum. We didn’t actually come to finalising anything we started until many remote sessions during lockdown two years later. To be perfectly honest, the creative journey did not follow the same ease of its beginnings: whilst each idea was born relatively quickly, our approach was meticulous and sometimes frustrating; the importance of technical detail and the cohesive alignment the music had to the contextual theory we were quickly cooking up, was central to our process. Fortunately, despite the borderline anally-retentive back and forth, we had our stupid sense of humour keeping our sanity afloat and in later lockdown-lifted sessions, very much enjoyed the comic relief from the likes of Adult Swim’s cartoon Xavier Renegade Angel that went on to become the project’s namesake. And whilst it sounds like an ordeal, given each of our respective meticulous sonic reputations, we couldn’t have had it any other way! I’m so proud of what we have achieved and really feel we have brought the best out of each other. Invisibile was originally completed in the first batch of tunes, but we agreed it stood apart from the ideas of the first record and deserved it’s own platform. Given its somewhat house music design, we also liked the idea of releasing it with different functional mixes, giving DJs a juicy snack in a range of different flavours. I’m looking forward to seeing where the project takes us next!
Besides another collaborative EP with Bambounou in 2021, you have released two remixes for Sub-Love and Das Spezial, respectively. The former was originally released in 1992. How did you go about remixing a 30 year-old track?
Yeh I didn’t have a huge amount to go on haha! Friends Sam and Gav from the label Few And Far Between approached me and after being such a big fan of the first record, I leapt at the opportunity of reworking a classic slice of hardcore history. As you can imagine, there were no stems, so I chucked the WAV into Audacity and nabbed little snippets here and there from moments of space within the track. Being of a classic hardcore structure, there were fortunately a bunch of little dropouts and refrains I could pull sounds from, and after sourcing the original vocal sample, I only had to add a snare and some sub bass to have all the sounds I needed – a bit of sound design sorted the rest. Like time and time again, having such limitations in creative practise massively helps inform a project like this. It not only helps streamline the music down the vein of the orignal track’s hardcore continuum origins, maintaining the original palette and tone, but also to technically mimic the limited equipment available in 1992 in comparison to what’s available today. It’s also pretty jokes that I was born the year this track was released – hardcore will never die!
You have also written the music for the short documentary Against The Grain about a group of people building “one of the most extensive permaculture experiments in the UK” with no prior agricultural experience. How did it come about that you ended up scoring the film, and how did you approach this task?
After many glorious visits to the farm, I’m very lucky to be able to feel like a part of the Three Pools Farm community. Two friends of mine with whom I’d often frequent the magical grounds wanted to tell its story and I was honoured to soundtrack their tale. Having a resonant connection with the place and it’s personalities, I had a decent head start in mapping out the themes and aesthetic I felt fit, and the beauty in the final edit made it easier still. I pulled upon my old loves for cinematic folk, pop and ambient from my youth, such as Bon Iver, Noah and The Whale, and Foals to help give the story the emotional ornamentation it deserved. It was a super rewarding project and something I feel I’ve got a bit of a calling to do more of at some point. But maybe best I make the most of my dance music practise before my youth and hunger for loud dance floors is better put behind me.
You’ve recently celebrated the last edition of your Get Loose! event series in Bristol. Why did it come to an end?
To give those who desperately needed a place to party following the Houghton 2019 cancellation, I threw together a club event for the first time since my university days. After the event came together surprisingly well, I decided to give it another crack under my Noods Radio residency guise Get Loose! I wanted to try emulate an alternative party model to the “headliners sell tickets,” one we are all too familiar with. Of course I am aware that such a model has helped me have the career I’m so grateful for, but by not announcing guests, hiring in a powerful soundsystem across two rooms, using an unusual venue with a late license and a careful and conscientious door policy, I wanted to pay more attention to all the important factors that are so often overlooked in favour of big and expensive lineups. From the faith of many DJ friends who trusted my intentions, I was able to stack up the line-ups, giving the people a party to remember whilst demonstrating they mattered just as much as the artists, venue owners, bar staff and security. Unfortunately, like everything else, COVID took its toll and tore holes in the party’s vision, highlighting how idealistic such a model is when it relies on such a careful balance of party principles. Not only did the venue have to make significant changes to survive the hit of the pandemic, losing its original charm, but also after two years of students not informing the newcomers about the underground parties and music cultures of the city – Bristol’s dance music community relies heavily on its large student population – parties off the beaten path like Get Loose! have lost their previous footfall, making them much more of a struggle to put together. Without the financial security/privilege, the events simply couldn’t survive without me making significant losses that I really couldn’t afford. I’m aware of the irony in the situation and it hurts me to see the party change like it has, but clearly there is only so much we can do for dance music when recovering from a pandemic. It was important to finish the parties before things went downhill, so we left whilst still enjoying ourselves. I’m really happy to say I’m proud and hugely grateful of everyone that was involved and made them so special. Maybe the calling for another event series shall arise in the future, but for now, I’ll leave the promoting to all the amazing trailblazer promoters Bristol has to offer, like Shcwet, Accidental Meetings, PTS, O.S.T., Dirtytalk and Health & Beauty Club, to name a few!
You continue to run the monthly Noods radio show of the same name. What’s important to you when programming the shows?
To be honest, very little programming goes into them! After over three years of chatting shit on the mic, I’ve realised that all I want is for it to be an authentic representation of my state of mind towards DJing at that given time. Sometimes this snapshot is based purely on the mood I’m in as I step foot into Mickey Zoggs, the home of Noods Radio. So what I come up with is often as much of a surprise for me, as it is for listeners. Needless to say, they can sometimes be a little rough around the edges, but this approach has massively helped tackle the struggle I’ve often had with over planning and when it comes to DJing; by trusting my instincts and the beautiful nature of creative flow, I have slowly set a precedent for the levels of creativity I strive to reach when out of the comfort of the radio studio and in front of a crowd in a club. DJing is so often celebrated when consistent and of a logical nature, but the more and more I do it, I feel all that should matter is that the DJ is bringing a performance that is authentic to their tastes, joys and energy. When they are respective of the context and/or crowd they’re facing, it’s just a matter of maintaining confidence in this, and what better way to build up such a confidence than blasting blends into the inter-webs with a monthly digital broadcast? Who even cares if anyone’s listening!
You hadn’t recorded a studio mix in years until March this year, when your Truancy mix came out. Speaking to the magazine’s Villella, you said that live recordings have “a limit to [their] relatability and function for the listener.” What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast in that respect?
It’s interesting as that didn’t really cross my mind at all with this mix. At the time of recording for Truants, I was near the end of a very long post-“what-the-hell-is-DJing-in-a-pandemic” recovery: I’d been through something of a musical existential journey and had a lot to prove, which is probably why the mix was nearly two hours long haha! Given I was still getting to grips with playing out again, it took a long time to put together and held a heavy importance for me. Fast forward to now and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with DJing and no longer worry about the limiting function of a studio mix. So with this mix, I simply want to take the weight off and follow on from where I left off last time, venturing into some tempos and styles that the last mix left unexplored (there aren’t many!). I’ve even found myself freely including personal productions , something I haven’t done in a while! It was much more spontaneous and was completed from start to finish in a couple of days. It still feels weird to imagine I’d ever pull off something this well-formed in a live setting, but given I find it so hard separating myself from the memory and context of each performance, forever tainting my opinion of how a show went, I guess there’s no reason why in the right setting, I couldn’t pull this off live. So let’s assume its a decent possibility and at the very least, something that could come pretty close to what a functional Bruce set sounds like in the club, lol.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
I have been busy in the studio working on a few new projects that I’m looking forward to unleashing into the world – some maybe more unexpected than others! Perhaps a little more time on the mic. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out ;-)
Stream: Bruce – Groove Podcast 345
01. Des Hagenasty – Bruce Intro
02. Philipp Otterbach – Lottering [R.i.O Label]
03. Cleyra – Superman [Unreleased]
04. Zomby – A Devil Lay Here [4AD]
05. Sagat – Way Down [Forthcoming]
06. Apple – Messed [Apple Appsolute]
07. Paul Johnson – Ha Ho Ha [Chiwax]
08. Abstract & Lady P. – Dub In Love [Confetti Records]
09. Bruce – Burned Alive [Unreleased]
10. Mundo – I Stand Rasta [White Label]
11. Thee J. Johanz – Rhythm Flow [Ballyhoo Records]
12. Leeway – U 44 RN [SELCHP Recordings]
13. Nazar – ATL – LAD ft. Brodinski [Self-released]
14. Austin – I Get High (Munchies Mix) [Suburban Bass]
15. Hodge – Where I Wanna Be [Forthcoming]
16. Bruce – Just Getting On With It [Livity Sound]
17. This Heat – 24 Track Loop [Piano]
18. DJ Spanish Fly – Uzi Tool [Select-O-Hits]
19. Element – Xpander part2 [Riddim Chango Records]
20. Terry Cotta – Locked Away [Unreleased]
21. Second. – Rasuba [Tenet]
22. Ploy – Finally [Forthcoming]
23. KWC 92 – Night Drive [L.I.E.S.]
24. Bruce – ??? [Unreleased]