My First CDR… Blacksmile / MODOLO

Some individuals dazzle us and then disappear; Gavin Campbell is one such diamond. In a parallel Brum dimension he’s the West Midlands answer to Moodymann, or Theo, or Dabrye/James T.Cotton. That’s not to see he’s a Detroit echo, no no no. MODOLO (the artist formally known as Blacksmile”) has a voice that is distinctly his own. Quirks and all. Apparently he’s also been “relatively big (medium) in the cycling blogging game…” too. Read on to get to know MODOLO. 

When and where did you first attend CDR? What do you recall?

I’d heard about this event run in London where budding beat scientists could go and jam their creations on the Plastic People soundsystem. Sounded amazing but being from Bham, amazing as the concept was, it just seemed so far away for me to travel the 100 miles to play a single beat (I’m a pessimist like that!) I’d always put it off. Until Adam Regan approached me and said CDR was travelling. They were now coming to me.

A bleak night, sometime during the winter of 06 in the bar of my favourite club was the spot and I was one of the first there, eagerly waiting to see what this was all about. I’d been to seminars and demos by the likes of Charlie Dark but never anything like this so I was hype – my beat was going to be played. With strangers near. On a big system.

Birmingham is a strange place. People don’t come out to these functions. This was different though. They all came out to represent… Jazz musicians, pro-ducers, MPC masters, music fans in general… and me.

As the night got going the thing that struck me most to be begin with was the calibre or music being played, all by unsigned artists from previous sessions. I was literally blown away. Then the Birmingham session started proper. Damn! I’m thinking ‘I know this guy personally, we hang out all the time but I never knew he made crazy shit like this’. Again. Blown away. Truly inspirational.

The time came, it was near the end of the proceedings, so near the end in fact that I thought my submitted track didn’t make the cut. Considering all the greatness I had heard throughout the night I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had tossed my CD in the trash.

They didn’t. I heard the opening chord and almost let some wee out. “This be my jam!” I’m looking around and a few people be nodding and swaying to my 130bpm intricate black techno. ‘Fly Sunglasses’ was the track. I remember. Still a classic to this day and at the time I thought I was some kind of young Theo! In all seriousness though it was a smash and I remember very little about the remaining 8 minutes except this; the track has started, the intro is done and we’re getting into the guts of it when I look over at Gavin and Tony and they both look at me like my shit be sounding special. You know when there’s that nod and the middle of the mouth turns up a little- that look.

That night I felt like a million bucks, honestly. I was so happy to have been involved and more importantly to have been given the opportunity to have been involved. I think everyone after that night became friends and had a different level of creative respect for one another.

Please could you describe your work life/creative life tussle. Any tips or tricks for managing to keep making music?

Einstein said “life is like riding a bicycle. To maintain the balance you have to keep moving”. I don’t create music anywhere near as much as I used to. I had to keep moving. Focus on my career and such but always with an MPC or laptop powered up and ready to go when i got home and needed to express.

Everyone is creative. Some just know how to use their creativity in more efficient ways. Some want to be creative 24/7, as a job. I on the other hand use it as a release. I’m not trying to be the next Dilla, the next Moodymann, I simply enjoy locking the door to the spaceship and losing my mind every now and then. Blank canvas. Let’s make something.

Please describe your current production set up.

X1 technics 1200.
X1 MacBook Pro
X1 MPC 2000
X1 set of Sennheiser phones
Lots of records.
I don’t have monitors, sound card none of it… I’ll make a beat in the MPC, in a single sitting, play it through house speakers as I mute and unmute tracks (perform) and while I’m doing this I’m recording the track through the internal mic of the laptop. Unorthodox. Raw. Terrible sound quality but it makes me happy.

Favourite piece of kit would have been Reason 2.0. That was awesome. 99% of my work was done there. Now though its the MPC. For what I’m making, the workflow is amazing. No longer do I labour over tracks for weeks and months on end. I switch it on, load my chops and commence. Then when I’m done (usually an hour or so later) ill record it as above and switch it off and go to bed. No editing, no nothing. I don’t know how to save creations on the thing but I don’t want to know. What the MPC and I have right now is special and I won’t be changing that.

Have you any advice or words of warning for producers/musicians developing musical works in progress to play at CDR?

A tip I have for young ones coming up, and I’m no expert by the way but I’ll tell ’em this… Nike said it right – Just do it. If you’re waiting to get a record deal, forget it, it isn’t coming because you’re most likely making the music that you think they want to hear. You think Jay Dee RIP would be world famous and considered the best beat maker to have lived if he was making music to cop a record deal? If you do what you do and continue to experiment and innovate, the door bell will ring.

Connect with Gavin at or @gavinkcampbell.

To appreciate his excellent eye peruse

Listen on: (Re)Play Blacksmile’s ‘She Makes Me’ from burntprogress VA2.1.

And from the Archives..