TF Archives

Plutonic Lab interview: Beats in the Lab

Author: Benjamin Preiss
Friday, December 2, 2005

Melbourne hip-hop producer Plutonic Lab has released a raft of albums and collaborations throughout his career. His latest solo LP, 'Codes Over Colours', marks a turning point in his personal musical evolution.

Leigh Ryan set out to create an atmospheric and instrumentally-rich album geared more towards listening with headphones than burning up dancefloors. 'For the last one [solo album] I was really happy because even though it was instrumental, the tracks still meant something and were about stuff. With this one I think I nailed that even better and I like the flow of the record as well'.

'I just think the way I've put it together is way more focused, both the overall concept of the album and the individual tracks. I seem to have a line of where I wanted it to end up from when I started making it. Other times I've had tracks from here and there and tried to make them fit together into an album.'

'Codes Over Colours' is also imbued with an emotional depth for which many hip hop producers strive but few achieve. According to Ryan, the album is representative of his personal thoughts that political, emotional and meditations on the state of the local hip hop scene.

'"Codes Over Colours" represents your own personal code of conduct over, say, a group mentality or having an individual set of morals above peer pressure or a group. Also the record is about issues of trust. A lot of the songs are about those sorts of issues,' Ryan explains.

'It's more or less about the way I see the hip hop scene going in Australia. It's also about other personal things that were happening to me around when I started the record.'

But personal tragedy was also part of the motivation for the new album. Some tracks pay homage to his mother's influence, who even suggested some of the particular samples he use in his work. Ryan explains that although the generation gap meant his mother did not have a strong understanding of hip-hop music, 'she understood the process of it'.

Ryan's parents have clearly played an important role in his musical development. His father, a jazz musician, introduced him to drums at a young age. 'They must've been very supportive. They bought me a drum kit when I was a kid, that's a pretty loud instrument so I thought that was kinda cool. There are obviously generation gaps so they're not going to get into everything I want to do musically, but there were supportive in that they let me do what I wanted to do.'

It was Ryan's passion for drums that led him towards a career in producing hip-hop. As a child, Ryan would sample loops from albums and record himself playing drums so that he could dub the beat onto another tape player. The means for making beats may have been rudimentary and rough, but it laid the basic foundation for the skills he would need as a producer.

Codes Over Colours comes at the end of a busy 12 months for Ryan. Towards the end of 2004 he completed an album with long time collaborator Muph and more recently produced Pegz' latest LP, 'Axis'. Ryan claims learning to juggle various projects simultaneously has been another important step in his artistic development.

'I think I've got a lot better at finishing things and having finite dates to work towards. Having done a few records now I know what stage I'm up to and where I need to be at. I love doing it so I don't often struggle with it. It's just about being in the moment.'