Introducing the latest Toolroom Trax signing Ellis Moss, the young producer who is making waves within the electronic dance scene at the moment, with his debut single ‘The Shake’ charting in the Beatport top 10 Main Chart as well as garnering support from big industry players such as David Guetta, Todd Terry and Toolroom boss Mark Knight.
We caught up with the young DJ and producer to find out more about his early inspirations, his favourite clubbing spots and how he keeps motivated during lockdown.
Hey Ellis, welcome to the #ToolroomFamily! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into electronic music??
I’m honoured to be welcomed into the family! I’m Ellis, a record producer hailing from Brighton, a busy seaside town on the south coast of the UK. My parents were big ravers back in the day and so I grew up listening to a lot of old trance records, Massive Attack, guys like Leftfield and Moby all the time. Labels like Perfecto, R&S and Suburban Base had quite a big influence on me and my dad was always touring with his band. He’d take me along for the ride, so I was getting a look backstage at festivals and seeing how the whole show runs, almost before I could walk.
Massive Attack – Teardrop
Moby – Go
Looking back, I think it was the tribal nature and sense of community that surrounds music that grabbed hold of me from the very beginning. I started off playing drums in a few bands here and there as a teenager, and later on got hooked on the club culture of Brighton.
What was the local scene like in Brighton whilst you were growing up? How did you cut your teeth as a DJ / producer?
I’m lucky to have grown up in a place that’s got as much musical DNA as Brighton does. As a teenager it was really all we did. Every weekend felt like a festival, who’s playing where? What time are they on? Who’s hosting the pre’s? Afters? A lot of fun. There was a club called Audio which I’ve still got a brick from that I nicked on the final closing night. That club championed the south coast’s underground culture booking DJs like Skream, Boddika, Mak & Pasteman and Bicep constantly.
Me and a few good friends started playing out at private parties as drum & bass DJs for a couple of years, and then I moved onto producing my own material which I’d play out at venues like Volks and the Green Door Store.
Fast-forward a few years and I’d moved to London where I eventually landed an incredible opportunity to work as an understudy to legendary dance producer James Hurr. While there I got to meet a ton of my idols and began to work in close proximity to some of the industry’s greatest artists.
It sounds like you’ve done a lot behind the scenes working as a music producer and mix engineer on a few records. How does working with other people differ to writing your own music?
I love working with all kinds of different people to make good music and I think that’s essential in this industry, because every person is going to bring a new flavour to the production that you would never have come up with yourself. A great record can have lots of different influences.
When I’ve worked as a producer or a mixing engineer, I have to respect what the artist’s original intentions are, and use my tools to build on that and make it a better version of itself. Finding that balance without changing the soul of the record can be very tough. Conversely, working on your own can be tough because you can easily lose sight of the original goal and go flying off on a tangent!
Totally agree with you there, so tell us more about your DJ name, where did the Ellis Moss alias come from?
It’s not my real name, because unfortunately for me I share the same name as one of the most famous pop singers in the world. I’ll leave it to you to guess who.
As far as the alias, growing up I was a huge car nut and there was this really famous race car driver called Sterling Moss, which has got to be one of the coolest names I’ve ever heard, so I took that. And then I liked the idea of something androgynous, so I gave myself Ellis.
Congratulations on your first release on Trax! How did it come about? What made you go to Trax for your first release? How does it feel being part of the #ToolroomFamily?
Thank you! I think the thing about ‘The Shake’ that people really love is the vocal loop which carries the whole thing along.
I was in the studio working on a separate project and was looking for a good half-bar section of a vocal acapella that I could drench in reverb and echo and turn into a sort of atmospheric pad effect. I was scrubbing through the acapella and that loop just came out of nowhere, it stunned me and the other guy in the room and we both looked at each other like “Whoa, stop everything. What was THAT?”.
I put these big tribal percussions over it and it was instantly clear that the track would be a great fit for the Trax imprint. It’s deep, rolling and techy. Thinking back, if you’d told me five years ago that I’d be welcomed into the family here at Toolroom I would never have believed it. Everyone here is so supportive, passionate and just a good bunch of people and I can’t wait to see where it leads!
It’s a killer debut release, breaking the Beatport Top 10 Main Chart and gaining support from some big artists in the scene. How are you finding the response to your debut single ‘The Shake’?
The response has been so incredible and I’m still struggling to get my head round it all. For my debut release it’s certainly not what I was expecting! Seeing it being played by guys like David Guetta, Todd Terry and of course the boss Mark Knight makes me almost light-headed. I got into electronic music because I wanted to give to people what those DJs in Audio gave to me.
So now we’re into a year of lockdown, what are you top 3 tips for keeping motivated and the creativity flowing?
Mix it up. Routine is a good thing, but lockdown has made our lives a bit too repetitive, I think. It’s important to keep your mind on its toes by trying new things. Read a book, try a new genre of music, learn to crochet!
Mood boards! I love to look at things while I create music, and lockdown’s been keeping me inside more. When I work, I always like to find images that stir up emotions which help me come out with new creative threads that help the song writing process.
Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t feeling creative. Mental health is a major issue that many of us are dealing with under lockdown and so it’s important to treat yourself with respect. Every artist will come across creative blocks that can last days or sometimes weeks. If you aren’t feeling it don’t push it and it’ll come back naturally.
A few great tips there, thank you for sharing them! Moving on, what your top 5 all-time favourite House records?
1. Cajmere – Percolator (Jamie Jones Vault Mix)
2. Leftfield – Open Up
3. Octave One – Black Water (Full Strings Vocal Mix)
4. Julio Bashmore – Battle For Middle You
5. Orbital – Halcyon And On And On
Some amazing tracks right there! Practically everyone is itching for the return of live events in 2021, what is the first party and or venue you’d like to go to? If you could DJ on the night what would you play?
Oh man. It’s been a long year… or two…
I think the reopening of clubs and festivals will be an unforgettable moment for all of us. If I could, I’d play a sunrise set somewhere hot. I’d play Hot Since 82 – Want You and watch the sun come out and shine!
Hot Since 82 – Want You
You’ve had a huge start to 2021 with your release ‘The Shake’, what are your plans for the rest of 2021 and the future for Ellis Moss, any more releases planned?
Yes, it’s been massive! I’ve had a lot of radio slots come up and had a chance to connect with many other great artists! I have huge plans for 2021 and beyond with many more releases in the pipeline.
One last question, are there any upcoming fresh new artists and talents you are into and we should keep our eyes on?
Yes loads. I think the Toolroom Academy release Leaders of the New School is evidence enough of that. Listening to that album it’s clear that we’re all in good hands. Some other artists to keep your eyes on in 2021: Ki Creighton, Sophia Essel, Because of Art, Jansons.