NewTracks New Artist: Isdale

NewTracks New Artist: Isdale

With three from three of his singles finding their way onto a NewTracks playlist Tāmaki Makaurau DnB producer Isdale quite reasonably presumes he’s doing it right. Inspired by music of The Upbeats his latest big-dropping track, Change Direction, features the inspiring vocals and lyrics of Reiki Ruawei, and features on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this October.

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Andrew Isdale, I’m from Auckland and I play all the instruments and make the music.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Yep, I went to Lynfield College which has a great jazz program that provided me with tons of experience playing in jazz ensembles and improvising. I then went on to study jazz performance at the University of Auckland, specialising in saxophone.

Any other projects that we might know you from?

I’ve played in quite a few different groups in and out of Auckland. My main gig at the moment is Katchafire.

What’s the background story of how Isdale came to be? Who else is directly involved?

I’ve been into drum & bass since my brother introduced me to it while I was still in primary school, and I always experimented with trying to make it while I was growing up, but due to the opportunities I had at high school, I ended up spending most of my energy on getting good at saxophone and playing jazz. I was in third year uni for the 2020 lockdowns, so I just practised heaps of saxophone, but in 2021 when we had that super long lockdown in Auckland I got back into making drum and bass.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I’ve never really been much of a songwriter. All my musical efforts growing up were focused on my instrument playing ability and improvising, and I’m definitely not a lyricist. For all the music I’ve been working on, the ‘song’ part of the track is all down to the vocalist. Since putting all my effort into music production I don’t think my music has really had time to evolve yet, as I’m still releasing my first album.

What made you decide to go with your last name as your artist name?

I was talking to my friend Thabani Gapara, and he was being super supportive (as always) and hyping up my new electronic music he’d heard bits of, and I said I couldn’t think of a name to release under. He just said, very assertively, “Isdale. Simple. Do it.” So I went with that! Definitely took a huge burden off my shoulders, as I can be pretty indecisive.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

As a musician, it would have to be Homegrown earlier this year, when playing with Katchafire. The gig was absolutely insane, and then meeting a whole bunch of NZ electronic artists backstage afterwards was great. For me as an artist (Isdale), the highlight has been these last few weeks. I got a slot on George FM at 9am on release day, Change Direction just hit 7000 plays on Spotify, and tons of people have shazam’d the song while it’s been playing on George. Really stoked.

What makes Change Direction stand out for you as a single?

Reiki’s vocals. He’s got such an incredible and unique voice, and I’m really proud of the song we wrote together.

What is the story behind Change Direction?

The instrumental was actually one of the first projects I started back in that 2021 lockdown. The working title was ‘2021-09-17 jazzy dnb chords’.

I’d been listening to The Upbeats’ album ‘Not Forever’ every day since it came out, and was inspired by how some of the tracks had a really downtempo, hip hop-style verse, then went into a heavy drop, so I was just experimenting with that. Originally I was thinking of getting some hip hop/RnB type vocals for the verse, but then I met Reiki and heard his song Somewhere with Grafix and realised he’d be the perfect voice for the track.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the song?

Probably the final drop, where a gritty bass comes in and the drums pause for a moment, as the chorus continues.

Who did you produce it with and where? 

I produced the instrumental by myself, but wrote the vocals with Reiki. As I said, I’m not a songwriter, so it was a really cool experience working with someone who’s amazing at it. I had some themes in mind for the lyrics, and we just had some beers and he put them into words right in front of me.

Shoutout to Tom Lee, I got a lesson from him on DnB mixing and it’s really helped me step up my production game.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I don’t have any process for this, I’ve made three tracks that have vocals on them, and all three are singles, haha.

Who else is in your team?

No management and just me producing. For this release, Mukuka (Creative Pwele) did my press release for me which has been really helpful, I’m super grateful to have had her support.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

My mate Nat Hathaway has some great solo stuff released. I’ve been somewhat involved in production, plus I play in his live band. Also Reiki Ruawai’s solo material is really good, and I’m in his band too.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song. 

  • The Upbeats: Say Go (feat. Mara TK)
  • State of Mind: Preset 42
  • Shapeshifter: Lightspeed (Flowidus Remix)

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I listen to Vision Radio quite often, and used to subscribe to their producer Patreon during lockdown.

Any last words?

Thanks NZ Musician, and thanks NZ On Air for putting me on NewTracks. Thanks Abeiku and the rest of the music team at George for the support.