Rust Never Sleeps
Scottish producer Rustie brings home the beats.
Photos by Timothy Saccenti
Rustie’s music is massively visceral and poignant. When meeting him at the Warp Records office in Brooklyn, however, his soft-spoken and modest demeanor reveals another side of this producer, whose vision is about to impact the world of music yet again. Clad in an all-over-print tee, fitted cap, and red Nike “trainers,” as sneakers are known in his native Scotland, Rustie projects excitement about his forthcoming album, Green Language. He also tends to avoid eye contact when speaking, giving off the air of an artist constantly drifting through a sea of his own ideas.
Hip hop, grime, prog rock, jazz, and even video games are all part of the fabric of Rustie’s sound, which is easily some of the most forward-thinking and original electronic music today. It’s clear that the lad born Russell Whyte in Glasgow, Scotland, has influences that run deeper than most DJ/producers. In recent years, the Scottish capital has become a hub for innovative dance-influenced music, thanks in no small part to friend and fellow Warp label-mate Hudson Mohawke, and the LuckyMe collective whose sound is constantly at the forefront of the producer-driven scene.
As the follow-up to 2012’s Mercury Prizewinning album Glass Swords, Rustie’s new album, Green Language, demonstrates maturity and progress. Rustie explains the overall aesthetic shift from Glass Swords’ “cartoon-y, synthetic sounds” to this album’s more natural aesthetic. “Green language,” he says, means the language of the birds, hence the intertwined flamingoes on the album artwork, replacing the two crystals seen on the cover of his previous release. “It speaks directly to emotions without the mind interfering with the message.”
While writing Glass Swords, Rustie went back and forth with Warp, sifting through around 100 demos to select the tracks that would appear on the album. This time around, though, Rustie says he had “free reign to do whatever.” When asked what he listened to while working on the project, Rustie mentions looking for new hip hop to play for his stadium-capacity gigs—including tracks from young producers like 808 Mafia, Metro Boomin, and Young Chop. To complement that, he chilled at home and dug into his personal collection of jazz and classical staples.
His mention of classical music is appropriate given the post-classical and modern classical influence on the album (in the most electronic sense of the description). But don’t get it twisted, the new project definitely has some bangers such as the thundering, oscillating “Raptor,” alongside hints of more atmospheric work. The title track from the album is an ambient number full of twinkling keys and birdcalls, marking a departure from Rustie’s more maximalist productions.
It’s worth noting, especially on the topic of maximalism, that Rustie and Danny Brown collaborate once again on Green Language. The creative relationship that initially developed through Twitter resulted in three beats from Rustie appearing on Brown’s latest album Old. After Rustie developed an idea of where he wanted to go with Green Language, he circled back with Danny to get a feature on the massive single “Attak.” Rustie says, “Danny gave me a chance to get my foot in the door a little bit,” adding that hip hop can be “a hard world to get into unless you’re super involved in it.” Rustie seems optimistic about linking up with vocalists for future collaborations, too, mentioning Travi$ Scott, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, and Meek Mill as artists he’d like to work with.
Even though he’s likely to work with other vocalists, don’t expect Rustie to collaborate with many producers. Though he plays guitar solos on the intro and outro of S-Type’s Rosario EP, Rustie admits that he’s not very good at working with other producers. There are often too many conflicting ideas, even when he collaborates with his girlfriend Nightwave or label-mate HudMo. The sessions end in arguments, since Rustie always wants to have his way. However, when it comes to checking names of knob twiddlers he respects, he is not hesitant with praise, especially in the re-emergent grime scene. Darq E Freaker, Preditah, as well as guys from Glasgow like Inkke and Milktray all get nods from Rustie.
With Green Language, Rustie has pushed the boundaries once again and it’s clear that his evolution is just beginning. Plugging away in the studio with a continued commitment to pushing his own sonic boundaries, his most recent sessions are more for “fun,” and this “fun” will help inform where Rustie takes us next.