Lost In Translation: Rustie
It was back in 2011 that Russell Whyte found himself hoisted atop the shoulders of music critics and gurning 9-5ers alike for his thrilling debut album Glass Swords. Following the progress made from previous releases, the album fused the nostalgic and psychedelic at jaw-breaking speeds. Three years later, it’s time for new album Green Language, and the Glasgow-born producer is waiting for the bell to ring on round two of his bout with the hearts and dancefloors of electronic music.
As we sit opposite one another in the well-fed belly of a gentrified east London hotel, surrounded by the refried, leather-plastered contents of a Sutton charity shop, the Glaswegian expresses himself with shy mannerisms and is reluctant to analyse his work too deeply. He speaks slowly and cautiously, eyes hidden from view behind large black sunglasses, “I chose the name for the album because there’s a lot you can read into it. I feel that music can speak to your higher-self and kind of cut through the bullshit of everyday language and get a direct response”. Historically, ‘Green Language’ existed as a description for a perfect language which transcends human speech. It’s a neat metaphor for music in general, but more importantly it seems to reflect Rustie’s own relationship with self-expression.
Since his defining Glass Swords album three years ago, Warp Records have handed Rustie a licence to kill. “The way I made this album, I had a bit more freedom, because I guess Warp were happy with the success of the last album and let me do what I wanted”, he explains. And rightly so, Glass Swords was a fixture of 2011’s end- of-year ‘best of’ lists, adding yet another bold classic to his label’s back catalogue’. In contrast to Glass Swords’ relentless and hyperactive temperament, Rustie’s new effort plots chaos carefully, with post-climactic moments of clarity, an interlude at its mid-point and a final song suggesting a shifted focus towards storytelling. So why the change of heart? Rustie brings his hand up to shift his cap, before answering; “I think when I sent the first versions of Glass Swords, the album flowed a lot more than what it ended up like, it had a lot more weird stuff.” He brings his hand down to join the other in his lap, “I thought it was weird that they knocked back a lot of the weirder stuff, it annoyed me a bit”. Regret over missing out on a weirder version of Glass Swords aside, from where we’re standing, any restrictions imposed by Warp worked a charm. The record left a potent taste, and in the three years since we’ve developed a sense of dry mouthed anticipation for Green Language.
"I feel that music can speak to your higher self, and cut through the bullshit of everyday language"
While on Glass Swords, rare fragments of voices were submerged within the synthetic alloy, here vocals are pushed to the foreground. D Double E, Danny Brown and Face Vega of the alt-rap duo Gorgeous Children appear as sharp-tongued MCs whose voices are galvanised by Rustie’s fuzzed-out, neon-lit instrumentals. “I like tracks with vocals on a lot, but I never really managed to make it happen last time”, he explains, “I guess when you’re not as well known, it’s harder to get people to work with you”. Asking if there was anyone who he’d hoped to include on the record but couldn’t make it, he reveals that unspecified members of the ASAP Mob were asked, but “it ended up taking far too long, so that never happened”. However, in contrast to “waiting around for fucking months” to hook up with vocalists, Rustie reveals that it was his Detroitian collaborator who was especially quick on his toes. “Danny [Brown] was really quick actually, he got it back 2 days later or something, I was amazed by that.”
Fortunately, talking to creeps like us in hotel bars and touring the world doesn’t seem to restrict Rustie’s opportunities for creativity. As is common with modern day producers, finding inspiration while 30,000ft in the air and under the glow of a laptop screen is all part of the job. Indeed, this style of production is something he’s learned to adapt to. “The majority of Green Language was sketched out on planes and in hotel rooms and then finished at home, I rarely sit in front an actual keyboard, which I used to do a lot more. I end up typing things in on the qwerty keyboard”.
There’s little to suggest Green Language wasn’t conceived, raised and educated in an expensive studio space. Rustie’s sharp production skills deliver a bold listening experience. After all, it’s been seven years since his debut Jagz The Smack EP surfaced on Stuff Records. That’s a lot of practice time.”I don’t spend as much time analysing everything and listening over things. I have more confidence so I don’t have to keep reassessing things as much as before”, he explains.
And more so than any of Rustie’s previous releases, Green Language sounds as though it would flourish in the live setting. He reacts to the suggestion as though he’s been asked a million times before, as he no doubt has. “I’ve thought about it but at the moment it’s just not something I’m that interested in doing. It would take an awful lot of work, and I just don’t know if I could get the same kind of sound live”. The likes of labelmates Mount Kimbie are known for their live touring, but as Rustie believes his brand of electronica would be a steep logistical mountain to climb. “The instrumentation and all the production that’s needed would make it difficult. I never hear any electronic artists who do it really well”.
Speaking on the future of his music, and the amount of old material he has sitting on old hard drives, he says “I’ve got hundreds of unfinished tracks, most of them will end up getting abandoned. But every so often you’ll go back to something you started a few years before and you’ll work on that again”. It could be unlikely that any of the tracks will see the light of day, but then again, it’s easy to imagine Rustie cannibalising something he made in the past and forging it into the sound of the future.
As startlingly extroverted as Rustie’s music sounds, every morsel of it was forged from introspectiveness. There are points during our conversation where I try and squint past my reflection staring back from his shades to make eye contact, but fail. His creative expression is most articulate when channelled through the nostalgic amalgamation of sounds blasted into the ears of whoever wants to pay attention. Green Language is the most accurate and complete reflection of Rustie yet.
Green Language is released 26 August via Warp. Rustie appears at Warehouse Project, Manchester, 25 October