A true pioneer of the Drum and Bass sound, Gridlok remains one of the most highly regarded artists in the industry. With a discography spanning over a decade and featuring classics such as ‘Moodswings’, ‘Bottomfeeder’, and ‘Standing Room Only’, it’s little wonder that the Gridlok name has become synonymous with timeless Drum and Bass.
Involved with music from an early age, Ryan Powell aka Gridlok picked up a variety of instruments, but it was after experimenting with a cheap radio shack microphone paired with a 4-track tape recorder that he soon found himself in the murky world of production. Now with the use of a computer and an E-mu sampler along with an ever-changing combination of analogue gear and production techniques, this West Coast producer has led by example, constantly exploring new ways of injecting emotion and attitude into his art.
The grimy uncompromising style that Gridlok has developed forms the foundation for his glittering career, gaining him the attention of his peers with household names such as Shy FX, Pendulum, and Dom and Roland lining up to work with the American producer. Acknowledged by artists in and out of Drum and Bass, Gridlok has put his spin on other genres, remixing for the likes of electronica giant Josh Wink and house legend Sasha. Gridlok’s original music and remixes have also branched into other media, with his work appearing in titles such as Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution and MTV’s Challenge series. Covering a wide spectrum within Drum and Bass, Gridlok’s versatile production has allowed him to release on a diverse range of labels, spanning from Ram Records and Playaz to Commercial Suicide and Moving Shadow, whilst maintaining his signature sound.
In 2003 Gridlok continued to forge his own path, launching the Project 51 Recordings imprint. Designed as an avenue for underground cutting edge music, Project 51 has featured gritty no-nonsense tracks from heavyweights such as Optiv, Hive, The Upbeats, as well as Gridlok himself.
After recording the ground-breaking ‘Welcome to Violence’ album on Violence Recordings in 2005 with Hive, Keaton, and Echo, Gridlok began work on the first full-length album for Project 51 Recordings. The result was ‘Break the System’, a record that represented a seminal work for the dark side of Drum and Bass. Featuring an all-star line up of the scene’s brightest stars such as Pendulum, Tech Itch, and Dieselboy, ‘Break the System’ further pushed the boundaries of DnB, and provided the groundwork for American producers to get heard around the globe.
While Project 51 was growing from strength to strength, Gridlok kept close ties to Violence Recordings. Building the Violence imprint into a musical powerhouse, it went on to release some of the most influential Drum and Bass records to ever come out of the Americas. Released in 2006 and a joint project between Hive and Gridlok along with Break, D-Bridge, and Silent Witness, ‘Standing Room Only’ was inevitably one of the biggest anthems of the year, and remains a classic still being heard today.
In 2009 Gridlok put into practice all that he had learned, releasing what he considers to be his first true solo album. A collection of 13 dark, unsettling solo cuts, ‘Void’ represented a milestone in Gridlok’s career, and one in which he reached new levels of creativity and originality. Highly acclaimed in the Drum and Bass scene and beyond, ‘Void’ also saw Gridlok’s brand of DnB acknowledged by the rest of the world, with MTV licensing and regularly playing 9 of the CD’s 13 tracks on the world’s most-watched music channel.
Last year was one of the producing veteran’s biggest years to date, with a host of varied releases on Drum and Bass’s hottest labels. After dropping collaborations with Blokhe4d on Bad Taste and Hospital Records, next came the release of the Playaz anthem “Tru Born Playaz”, a call to arms featuring MC Fats and Prolix. In addition to huge joint projects, Gridlok also kept up his solo productions, dropping the stripped-back ‘Enemies of the State’ on Commercial Suicide as well as unleashing the paranoia-inducing ‘Insecticide’ on his own P51 imprint. The creepiest track of 2011, the cold blooded, fidgety sounds of ‘Insecticide’ found their way into raves across the world, showing Gridlok’s innate ability to set the trend and stay ahead of the curve.
2012 has already given us more first-class production from the West Coast’s finest export, kicking off the year hard with the massive ‘Poisonous’, a venomous joint effort with Prolix. Heavily supported by Radio 1’s Bailey and already smashing up clubs worldwide, ‘Poisonous’ is merely the start of a year that promises to be another exciting chapter in Ryan Powell’s illustrious career. Now with ‘The American Dream’ project forthcoming on P51, more releases on Playaz ready to drop, and a tour de force with Noisia and The Upbeats in the pipeline, Gridlok continues to innovate - pushing the envelope whilst staying true to his craft.
(Words by Curtis Moldrich)