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Track Teardown - Bricks Don't Roll - DJ Hazard



This tune is undoubtedly a certified Drum and Bass anthem with a bassline so catchy, the track almost doesn't need vocals to have a DnB crowd singing along. Harriet Evans of Forge magazine describes perfectly what this track does to a crowd with his report of a DJ Hazard live set; "As soon as ‘Bricks Don’t Roll’ began, gun fingers ready, the crowd began moving together as one. Everyone in the room was chanting along to the legendary bassline". (2018) So let's break it down and find out what exactly makes this jump up tune essential to any Drum and Bass catalogue.



A typical Drum and Bass drum pattern

For any other track I probably would have split the entire song into it's different parts but because of it's repetative nature, I've only split up the first few sections of the track as they feature throughout.

From the very beginning, the track explodes into a classic Drum and Bass beat with beautifully syncopated shakers sprinkled over the top for 12 bars. There is very little warm up in this track as it apologetically drops that chantable bass-line underneath another 4 bars in, accompanied by a vocal sample of Mariah Carey's We Belong Together. The beat charges on with little to no change in pace, intensity, or even melody, just that same catchy bass line and ripping drum sequence for 4 minutes and 52 seconds. Now that's probably not a description of the most interesting tune in the world, but it works wonders in the hands of a DJ, just check out the video below of Andy C (another legendary DnB Producer and DJ) dropping this anthem on a unsuspecting crowd.



Again, this track definitely isn't complicated by any means, so it's easy to recognise the specific instruments that reside within. The first first thing we hear is of course those drums, super snappy and clean with that sprinkling of what sounds like shakers over the top on an unrelenting and classically DnB 16th note sequence. Underneath it all is the sub bass line, this is just a simple synth patch with no harmonic content, so most likely it is just a sine wave playing the same sequence that the later bass line is following. The chorus bass line is something I've heard in a lot of bass music like Dub-step and Drum and Bass and I have a slight idea of how it's made but I've never been able to create it myself accurately. I wasn't able to find anything online about DJ Hazard's production techniques but I did stumble across a discussion on a FL Studio forum about this exact bass-line. One user suggested that it was FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis, the process of taking a simple wave form and altering it by adding another waveform at a similar frequency. Check out this Pro Audio Files article for more about FM Synthesis. This user made the suggestion that DJ Hazard uses one sine wave at a lower frequency s the carrier wave and another sine wave at a slightly higher frequency as the modulation wave, which to me sounds like it could work but it would be hard to be sure without trying it myself. After watching a video about FM synthesis I think I heard something that was close to the sound I was looking for, you can hear it at about 2:20 In this video, it is described as dissonant frequencies, when the modulation wave is added at a ratio that is not a multiple of the of the original frequency and is "inharmonic". Anyway, that's enough of that lesson on FM frequency, but I think we may have gotten to the bottom of the sound design behind this bass line.


Sonic Characteristics

Interestingly enough the bassline of this song is present almost all the way through, where as most tracks of this nature would save any sort of sub bass (about 30 - 100hz) for the chorus or whats commonly known as "the drop". Dj Hazard has chosen to start the bassline off straight away, giving the beginning of the track a sort of full and intense feeling. The actual bassline (what I'll call the Bass Top Line) thats so recognisable is actually sitting up a bit higher than usual (approx 250 - 500 for resonant frequencies, higher frequencies are spread across the spectrum) rather than down in the sub bass frequencies, this is called Sub Bass Separation and is used to keep the low end nice and tidy, while the top end of your bass can sound more distorted without getting in each others way. In this tutorial by Production Music Live we can see this technique put into action.

Those drums are also taken care of quite nicely. In order for that sub to breathe and relieve the need for side-chaining, the kick is taken almost completely out of the sub frequency range and is pushed up into a punchier region (100-500 resonant frequencies), a punchy kick like this really hits you in the chest on a big sound system, rather than rumbling below your feet, giving the track even more energy. The hats as well are pushed right up into the top end of the frequency spectrum, but aren't really that loud, as we can see in the example above, the very top end of the hats are turn all the way down leaving the mid range to bite through, and cutting out that nasty sibilance.


Everything is fairly simple in this track, there's not too much to think about when you're listening to it, there's not a lot going on, it's just a really catchy bass-line and well mixed percussion. In my books, when it comes to this sort of "Jump Up" Drum and Bass track, the simpler it is, the more impactful it sounds.


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