Cut the Middleman, Drop the Bass

Seasoned explorer in the outer regions of braindance, Chris Jeffs sets sail with his spanking new net label


Chris Jeffs, aka Cylob, has been responsible for a slew of spangled and insanely catchy electronic compositions over the past 14 years. Best known for classic Rephlex releases such as Rewind! and Cut The Midrange Drop The Bass, Cylob tracks and remixes have also surfaced on forward-looking imprints such as Breakin' Records, Lo Recordings, NovaMute and Warp.

This month sees Cylob strike out on his own with his net label Cylob Industries, to be available initially on and The label will be exclusively dedicated to putting out his own material, with a whopping three albums ready to roll in the first batch of releases. To mark the occasion, Spannered whizzed over some questions to Chris to find out more about the project.
(The first single out of Cylob Industries, Rock The Trojan Fader, is up for download from Radio Spannered. If you've not already grabbed it, head over there and fill yer boots!)
So, why have you’ve decided to launch your own web label, and what’s the release schedule looking like?
It had been on my mind to do something like this for a while, then I spoke to a couple of people separately about a couple of months ago, and both were saying that CD sales were going into a nosedive, and that "the kids" are just into downloading. So I thought I'd better jump on the bandwagon ASAP. I've been really skint lately, but I found 40 quid on the street one night and used that to set up my "label": the domain was eight quid, the rest has gone on promotional stuff. I figured on releasing a single and album now, then an album in September and one in October. I don't know if it makes a difference to stagger the releases like that or if I should just release everything now, but I've been sending stuff to magazines and that takes time to come out.
What was the last piece of music you worked on?
It's just a beat and some organ chords. The snare is really bassy, like an old Prince track or something.
You build your own music making software in SuperCollider. Do you have a background in programming?
Not really, before SuperCollider I had only programmed in Basic as a kid. I've taught myself, but after doing it for nearly 10 years my programming habits are finally getting better. It's always a challenge.
How has your current system developed over the years?
It started as a drum machine patch that got expanded to include some step sequencers and more involved synthesis, then I made a new version with many different ways of composing, including more straightforward midi style sequencing.
Do you use a similar system for both making music and playing live?
Yes I just use two copies of the program and fade between them, like DJ'ing but much more complex. Well I only did this once so far, but it gave me sweaty palms.
You say there is “little to distinguish what can be achieved on one [studio] setup from another”. With so many options now available, do you think an increasing number of musicians are becoming too wrapped up in technology and forgetting how to use, as you put it, the most important equipment: brain, ears and fingers?
I've no idea, but I know when I first started using computers, my productivity went right down and I'd spend all my time fiddling with whatever new plugin came along but not actually making any tunes... Now I make my own program and I'm deep inside the world of SuperCollider; I know it will never be as quick and easy as having a load of analogue boxes, but there is a happy medium, and the results are really different from anything else, which is one of the main motivators for doing the coding. There's a lot to be said for paring down what you use to a few things, and really becoming an expert in that, even if just for the fact that you get really quick at using whatever it is.
When was the last time you played the trombone?
I'm not sure, probably about 4 or 5 years ago.
Up until now, most of your releases have been on Rephlex – a label that does little publicity, couldn’t care less about their web presence, and yet has a huge underground following. As one of the original artists – and someone who has made a name for themselves through the label – have there been points in your career when you wished Rephlex had courted the media and played the publicity game a little more?
I don't know, it's not for me to say. Now I'm doing the publicity side myself, I have come to realise what a challenge it is, although it has to be said, that there are lots of little things that can be done to help, and ways to engage people — ie, I have a website, a MySpace, a blog, flickr and YouTube sections... I don't personally subscribe to the idea that it's cool to stifle your own publicity.
You recently posted on your blog that you’ve been grabbing ‘vast areas of MySpace real estate’. Quite a few musicians seem to be relying entirely on MySpace for their promotion and communications, with many closing their own sites down. What do you think of this trend? Should these people be cautious about placing all their eggs in Murdoch’s basket?
Yes, since they can just close your page down with little justification and no comeback for you.
Wasn’t the Cylobotnia album, by yourself and Aleksi Perala, the result of much file swapping over the net? How did that work?
It was CD swapping actually. Basically I had a few half finished tracks and Aleksi finished them, then I did a bit more to a couple of them and that was it. On our MySpace are some tracks we made where we were actually in the same room together, me on my laptop and Aleksi on the MPC 2000.
Tell us about your release with Ed DMX that’s just out. Were the tracks made in the studio together?
Yes, in his studio, you can see it here. We've just been doing stuff for fun. One of the tracks was an anthemic vocoder ital-disco stormer, so we thought it was worth trying to get released; Soul Jazz were into it and that was it. There's nearly an album's worth of other stuff too.
You’ve composed themes for television. Would you like to rescore a film?
No I never scored a film. I would love to do that if I could really collaborate with a director, even maybe from the script stage.
I read in an old interview that you were living below your friend the Aphex Twin? Do you still? Was he/is he a noisy neighbour?
Nope that was until about four and a half years ago. It was a solid building; there was only one track that I heard being made through the ceiling, the jungly one on Rephlexions. There was a good few weeks of that riff. It was OK though, I love that tune.
Back to Cylob Industries… Do you think the label will feature artists other than yourself further down the line?
I don't plan to. If i wanted to have other artists I would have called it something different from my artist name. At the end of the day, there isn't really a "label" at all. There is just me in my bedroom making music and releasing it online. I have to call it something, so...
Do you have some more ‘physical’ releases in the pipeline yourself?
Bounds Green is getting pressed up. all the stuff is available for licencing if any actual record label wants to make "hard" copies.
To finish off, would you be so kind as to tell us which artists you’ve been listening to of late?
I've just been listening to mixes I've found online, old jungle pirate radio and things like that.
 Rock The Trojan Fader by Cylob is available for download from Radio Spannered
 Cylob Industries releases will soon be available on Bleep and Rough Trade Digital
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