Bass Music Education (An Interview With Nomine & Nurve)

Education & Bass combines music and arts education with live performances, and have been building up a strong reputation in the bass music community through their successful workshops, seminars, and live feedback sessions.

We caught up Nomine and Nurve from E&B Online to have a chat about a variety of topics, including the value of music education, having an impact on community, mentorship, mental health and and bass subtle fm

How did the idea of Education & Bass initially come about? Was there anything that you felt was missing from the educational resources available online?

Nomine: Well I was teaching at the time — I was a university lecturer and kinda got disheartened by the whole system really. I was brought in as an industry specialist originally to teach DJ skills, and then that progressed on to teaching sequencing, and eventually was running the whole of the foundation degree. Entered the job with a lot of energy and aspiration, and then that soon kind of dwindled, much like the other teachers around me.

If I’m honest, I didn’t really think of doing Education & Bass Online based on feeling there was a gap. I just wanted to transfer the energy that I was putting into teaching (which was a lot), into something that I felt my followers would be into.

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Education & Bass was just going to be a way for me to leave my job, put the same energy in, and hopefully pay some bills from it. I wanted to have the time to dedicate to an education platform that I felt, due to the ’60-Second Tips’, and how popular they were — that people would give a shit.

Initially, it was just for my target audience. It wasn’t supposed to be any bigger than that, but then obviously when things started to fly, I started to bring in some closer people around me that I’ve known for a long time, like Raff (Nurve), Digital, Ben X=X (who I was teaching with at the time) and Charlie ‘Cocktail Party Effect’.

It was the people in my immediate circle: the people that I respected who I knew had some serious skills and were close to me, who I brought into the equation. We’re essentially a bunch of mates that have known each other for a long time, and we’re doing things in a different way.

It seems like the community aspect is something you really want to push.

Nomine: Yeah, we’ve got different ethos, we do live events. We’re real people — you can reach out to us, so there’s a level of human connection there.

Your love for teaching really shines through in the courses. When did you develop that passion for being an educator?

Nomine: Yeah, I love it. I’ve always done like workshop stuff, unique stuff. Even back 10, 15 years ago I’ve dabbled with things like alcohol awareness programs, ironically (laughs). I’ve always loved sharing knowledge, helping people out, and mentoring.

What was your personal experience with education like?

Nomine: I actually left education with no qualifications. I didn’t even have any GCSEs, no A-Levels. As Rage/Outrage, I was already touring at 16. I was going over to Europe, and by the time I was 19 I was going to America.

I thought I was a superstar Dj and that I was made for the rest of my life. But 20 years later I grew up and realized I didn’t really have much about me.

I got accepted into a Master’s degree due to my industry experience. I nearly had a nervous breakdown entering academia after 20-25 years off from education.

And what that did for me was it kind of just put the theory behind everything I’d been doing for 20 years.

In the studio, we do these things, we press these buttons, we know the result when we press the buttons, but often we don’t know the why.

Did your return to education help shape the way you teach today?

Nomine: What uni did is it helped me develop some research skills, and it helped me apply the theory.

I learn practically and I have to break things down to the fundamentals and in layman’s terms, and that’s very much how I teach. So I think people can resonate with that because it’s very, very base level to the point where I think it can be an advanced topic.

Did you find that teaching helped with your anxiety?

Nomine: When I was teaching, anxiety didn’t touch me. When I was in front of a group of students, initially it was quite intimidating or overwhelming for the first few sessions, especially when you’ve got a bunch of new students and you never really know where they’re at.

You’re kind of in fear that they might even know more than you, and often they do.

It’s better if you just embrace that some of these kids come in seriously knowledgeable on the topic — they can help you teach, you know?

But yeah, so anxiety didn’t touch me when I taught.

It was one of the only times that I could just say that I’m in the zone without having to kind of drink or do anything else to suppress anxiety. I get performance anxiety, I still get butterflies in my stomach, but that’s just, that’s more like excitement.

I’ve never really had the anxiety where it’s like social panic attacks. Mine’s different — I’m quite happy to speak in crowds or do the online stuff.

Raff! You also seem like a natural when it comes to how you present your tutorials.

Nurve: That’s actually really nice to hear because I have no experience really in teaching. I mean I’ve always been quite open to helping artists if they ask me about things regarding music production.

I was kind of just thrown in at the deep end, you know, and I’m very fortunate to have Andrew (Nomine) who knows stuff inside-out and who’s been there to guide me. Let’s just say I probably wasn’t always as confident, but I’m getting a lot more confident, you know, with the public speaking side of things. It’s just something that I’ve kind of embraced and moved forward with.

Tell us about The Ultimate Beginner’s Course that you’re currently running.

Nomine: Well it’s not really a beginner’s course, we’re finding out (laughs). I mean it very much is, and it starts off that way — but it’s also very comprehensive. It’s like nothing else out there.

The way we’ve designed the course is if you follow through for the first 30 weeks, you’ll be in a very good place by the end of it. There’s not one stone unturned.

We cover the lot: Midi/audio sequencing, music theory, sound design, mixing, parallel processing — you name it, it’s there in some shape or form. So we cover most bases initially and revisit them in a more advanced level later on in the course.

I don’t think there’s anything out there that does things this comprehensively unless you go to a college or university.

And even then, I don’t think you’re going to get it at that sort of level and have the option or the opportunity to engage with all the other concepts we have on the website as well.

We’ve had people on the site mention that they learned more in one week than they had in their two-year music technology degree.

Our ethos is to make music technology education to be accessible for all. It doesn’t matter if you were good at school, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got loads of money — none of that bullshit matters.

If you haven’t got your GCSEs, does that mean you can’t learn music technology? Well, no, it doesn’t. What it does mean you’re going to have to pay someone else thousands to learn it, though. With the Ultimate Beginner’s Course, we’re making music technology education accessible for 300 pounds for 30 weeks, which is insanely cheap.

Are you actively looking for more tutors to join the roster? What criteria do you have in mind when selecting tutors to come on board?

Nurve: We’re always on the lookout for people, and we’re also open to people approaching us as well. The skill set is one thing — but just because they’re great at creating music doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be good tutors, you know?

Some people pick it up straight away and some people you have to work on it a little with them. But with regards to content, we’re quite open. We do have certain little things that we kind of look for, though.

But yeah, we’re always on the lookout for new talent or established artists. It also goes both ways — from a business perspective, we’re looking for artists that can bring something new to the table.

Nomine: Anybody that comes on board with Education & Bass, it’s likely that they want to achieve something in the industry. So learning the skills is one thing — you can read a manual and learn skills.

Obviously, it’s a bit different to how we do it because we do kind of tend to teach stuff that you can’t really find in a textbook or whatever because we made the rules up through 20 years of stumbling around and inventing new genres and whatnot.

The technical ability is important, but it’s also crucial that they’re actually active in the industry. If I was standing in front of a group of students and trying to teach about the industry and stuff and I’m not actually doing it, I don’t know how I would feel about that. The industry moves so fast. While a lot of people have gotten respect from doing stuff from yesteryear and whatnot, the industry changes so much.

We work with a lot of people, and I’ve worked with some legends, literal legends that have not been in the scene for a few years and they come back in and they’re lost. They don’t know where to go or how to manage things in the new world, you know? So it’s really important that we’ve got all these boxes ticked.

And as Raff said, you can’t always teach if you make good tunes — those two don’t always go hand in hand. They’re different skill sets. It’s also important that you’re making your own moves, you’re doing stuff in the industry and you can be a mentor. That doesn’t have to mean that you’re DJ’ing around the world every week, but you have to actually be doing something yourself in the modern world of being an artist, which is quite different to what it was 5, 10 years ago.

We’re also not just a tutorial company. We’ve got an A&R department, we take people to Prague to Dj, we put them on a radio show. I’ll play someone’s tracks to 3000 people at Outlook Festival, video it and send it to them. There’s no one else doing that. So yes, education is one part of what we do, but we truly want to give the next generation opportunities like being on our labels.

If I hear something that Goldie’s going to like I’ll send it to Goldie. If I hear something that Mala’s going to like, I’m sending it to Mala. Youngsta, Slimzee — you name it, if we genuinely hear some potential, we’re going to hook that person up if they’ve come from Education and Bass.Nomine

Have you uncovered any upcoming talent through your group?

Nomine: We have. We’re working with a 10-year-old drum and bass producer who’s really, really good. So obviously with the supervision of his dad, because the kid’s so young, but he’s got so much potential and it’s quite amazing really.

So we’re working with him. We’re working with another drum and bass artist that’s got some massive, massive potential, more in the commercial side of drum and bass. We can’t say too much about that project yet.

We’re also working with a producer that’s had a UK number one and stuff like that as well.

So behind the scenes, we’re doing a lot — we’re literally going in to assist with breeding some amazing talent.

With you guys listening to so many user-submitted tunes over the years, what are some of the biggest areas you see new producers suffering with?

Nurve: I mean if you’re looking at the production side of things, what jumps to mind straight away is congestion around the low-end area. Too much bass, too much kick drum, not enough separation. And for me a lot of top-end.

Even when I’m mastering music it’s a very common mistake I hear. It’s tempting to want to make things sound bright and people just turn up the top end. Sometimes arrangements could be a little bit of a thing as well.

Sometimes people don’t have the access to proper monitoring setups. Andrew’s a really strong believer in cross-referencing with other music. So much so that I do it a lot now — and it makes such a difference. Having a track that you admire and checking your track against it helps keep you in line with what you’re wanting to achieve from your music.

Nomine & Nurve will be hosting Subtle FM Presents: Education & Bass this April 26th at Five Miles. Find out more information about how to register here.

Nomine: If anyone asks me for one tip, it’s exactly that… I mean I do it at least 10 times in a studio session, if not more. Okay. I might not get it as loud as the next person, but I don’t necessarily want it that loud because, in order to get it that loud, they’ve sacrificed quite a lot of dynamics.

I A-B a lot and it’s the one thing that is probably the easiest to do. I would say 90% of people I speak to don’t ever do it.

It’s the most important thing because you’re ears are tired in 20 minutes, and as they get fatigued, you’re gonna push the highs and then you want it louder and louder. The big problem is there are a thousand processes that contribute to a good mix and we’re in a generation where people don’t want to engage with those thousand processes.

We can say “you’ve got too much top-end in your mix”. But it’s not a case of just turning the tops down. You’ve got to dig into the track and find out what you’ve done to get to that point and reverse engineer it to fix it.

Don’t just pull out the EQ because there are all sorts of things that have gone onto contribute too much top-end. We live in a generation where people haven’t got the time or the patience, and everything’s ready-made with plugins claiming to mix and master your tracks for you.

So it’s one of the battles we have with artists — it’s not one process that’s going to fix this. I do these feedback sessions. I can give you a half an hour feedback on your track. I’d probably need a week to do it properly because I will pick it apart and tell you exactly what’s happening with every strand of that track to get the desired result.

It’s a problem because we are living in a ready-made world where people haven’t got the patience to engage and learn from their mistakes.

One of our subscribers asked the other day, “isn’t there a fast-track way to do this?”. Well, no (laughs)! 25 years I’ve been producing and every day I learn something new. When they say you need to put in 10,000 hours to become a master, I’ve probably put a hundred thousand hours in and I still don’t feel like I’ve mastered my craft. It’s tough, man.

But also we recognize that, and we’re aware of the fact that we can’t change the world we live in.

For better or worse, social media has definitely changed the landscape of the music industry.

Nurve: I think as well, like one of the things with social media I see happening a lot — is that someone who’s finished a track will go and upload it to their Soundcloud, and while it might not be particularly good, they’ve got a hundred friends on Facebook all telling them it’s absolutely amazing. And not from a technical perspective either. So they’re taking that feedback and running with it.

You can’t stop people from telling you that they like your tracks. That’s insane. But what you can do is get feedback from people that you trust will give you constructive feedback and won’t just tear it to bits.

Listen to what these people are telling you — if you know someone that’s been the industry for 20-25 years, telling you to cross-reference because it’s helped them make the tracks that you love and go out and buy, it’s probably a good idea to take that onboard.

Because I have people that send tracks for feedback and they just don’t, they just don’t progress. It’s like they are just constantly making tracks but not exploring the technical side of things and working out what is and what isn’t working.

Nomine: It also depends on what you want from it as well, though. I always say that if I hear a track that’s got a wicked vibe and a shit mix, I’ll mix it down for you. It’s all about the vibe — I know so many technically brilliant producers who make tracks that are dead, they’ve got no vibe. It’s just technical brilliance (laughs). It’s just like wow, that is impressive technically, but yeah — it’s fucking dead. I wouldn’t even nod my head to it.

Some golden mentoring tips here guys, and probably a great opportunity to touch on the mentorship program you’re offering. Can you give us a rundown of how it works?

Nomine: We’re working on the first one, which is DJ Rap. We’ve just literally finished up her content, which is a comprehensive, 50-part Ableton course. And it’s by Dj Rap, who’s been involved in the scene for 25 years, she can teach very well.

And it’s not genre-specific at all, it’s basically a very in-depth, and comprehensive Ableton one-on-one.

In addition to that, there’s going to be an element of mentoring where you will have one-to-one’s with her. That will then progress into a jungle drum and bass course that she’s currently writing. She’s also got a business music business course in there as well. It’s going to be a game changer.

So after that, I’ll do one, Raff will do one, we’ve also just got Dj Yoda or on-board for a masterclass, which is just immense. He’s worked with Dr. Dre, Jungle Brothers. It’s such an honor and privilege to have all these incredible people on board.

It’s not going to just be a master class. You’re going to have the opportunity to be mentored by that master.

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It’s a noble pursuit you guys are on — what drives you to succeed?

Nomine: Because I came from the whole school system — one as a shit student who then became an okay student — to then becoming a teacher in the education system, I’ve seen gaps and I’ve seen ways that I think we can help the education system, and everybody we’re in talks with can see that too.

So that’s very exciting for us because we’re on the verge of potentially changing the education system with some of the things we’re working on. As long as I can feed my kids and pay my bills, what I care about is just honestly just really giving people opportunity.

I know that sounds cheesy and corny, but honestly for my kids to be proud of a legacy that I’ve left behind.

Nurve: There is nothing more rewarding than doing a workshop and having people come up to us and saying “you guys are killing it, it’s amazing what you’re doing” — you can see that they’re genuinely grateful for the work we put in. It gives me goosebumps and you just can’t put a price on that.

You could give someone 10 Bentleys but it’s never going to equate to creating an impact on people and being a positive role model. We all share that and it’s what drives us, man.

On The 26th April 2019, you’re hosting a workshop with Subtle FM. Can you tell us more about that?

Nomine: Because we’ve done so many of these, we have to keep it interesting for ourselves as well, instead of doing the same thing over and over again. So we’ve got this new concept that we trialed tried last week.

Last week was at the Drum & Bass Market at the House Of Vans. So Raff, Leon Switch, Occult and myself started a drum and bass track together — we all did our bit, sent it on and then we did a walk through it and in-depth masterclass on how we made it.

This time we’re going to start a dubstep track. Leon Switch (formerly of Kryptic Minds) started it. I’m going to jump on it next, send it over to Nurve, and then Occult is going to finish it off.

So then we’re going to do a breakdown and a masterclass on what will primarily be a 140BPM audience I would imagine because it’s with Subtle FM who are waving the flag for dubstep.

So yeah, we’re just kind of tailor making bespoke masterclasses now and each of them is going to be different — we’ll hopefully end up with an album,  and some great tracks made by the tutors because we’re launching the Education & Bass label as well.

Find out more about Education & Bass’s courses here.