We’re buzzing to be welcoming Steve Stamp aka DJ Steves (Kurupt FM) from genius BBC comedy People Just Do Nothing to the building on Thursday 5th March, not least as he’s co-headlining with jungle legend Randall!
Promoters 23 Degrees caught up with him for a quick chat before the gig.
How old were you when you first started learning to mix? Which DJ’s inspired you to start?
Around 15 I think. I had some basic belt drives and me and Beats would go back to back after school. We were inspired by the West London pirate radio DJs. A lot of the time I didn’t really know who they were but I remember people like Oxide were playing the darker stuff that I was most into. I also had one tape with Deekline where he was scratching over garage, that was the maddest thing I’d ever heard. Blew my tiny mind.
Your sets are on ode to the Garage sound, what are your top 3 Garage slammers?
It’s hard to pick but there’s a few that have stood the test of time. Stuff like Roy Davis Jr ft Peven Everett – Gabriel, Active Minds – Hobsons Choice, Groove Chronicles – ‘Hold On’. They always existed on the classier end of the garage spectrum, very sexy production. They’re not tracks you’ll normally hear in a rave though, what I hope I can do with my sets is introduce some of the less obvious party tunes and show people some classics that they might not have heard before.
With Garage fully back on the map right now, which of the new school producers are you feeling?
Ah there’s loads of people making good beats. Conductah, Murlo… In terms of new stuff I’m more into grime: Sir Spyro, Swifta, Rudekid, Spooky. What I love about the scene is that a lot of these guys are selectors and their music emerges out of the radio and rave culture. It’s all connected and that’s what keeps it so authentic.
You’ve played in Edinburgh before with the rest of Kurupt FM, how was it? Are you excited to return?
Scotland is always messy. Weird shit seems to happen every time I’m there. DJs ending up in ambulances, McDonalds lock-ins. I blame the Buckfast. Need to add that to my rider actually…
We had Danny Rankin aka Decoy perform back in 2019, he had some serious Jungle music up his sleeve, do you ever sneak in some Jungle/DnB into your sets?
I’ll leave that to the pros. We’ve got Randall on the lineup with me and he’s told me that I’m not allowed to go beyond 140bpm. I mean he hasn’t actually said that, but he’s a legend and I know my place.
Any dubplates/suprises up your sleeve?
At some point during the set I sometimes like to surprise the audience by going briefly into character as Steves and doing a bad mix. So if you hear that then that’s why. And you’re welcome.
Finally, taps on or taps aff?
Taps aff. Trousers down. Red Stripe in each hand. Eyes closed.
Flexout Audio boss Tom Bassi (DJ/producer/A&R/label mgr) and Charli Brix (DJ/producer/vox) make a formidable duo, with a smooth, polished sound that combines deep, dark moods and techy production. It’s a style of drum ‘n’ bass with a broad appeal just now and has unsurprisingly been peppering the sets of countless DJs in the scene.
So, we’re well pleased to be welcoming them to Scotland, as they make their combined Scottish debut for Midnight Bass, and excited to hear what they’ve gone in store for the Bongo on Tuesday 11th Feb. The Midnight Bass crew had a wee chat with them, to see what’s what in their world…
How does it feel to be debuting in Scotland? Have you been before?
Bassi: Amazing. We’ve both never been to Scotland and are so happy to be asked to perform at The Bongo Club. I’ve always loved all the Scottish people I’ve ever met so I’m sure it’s going to be wicked vibes.
Charli: I’m so excited, I’ve never been to Scotland! I have a friend studying in Edinburgh who I haven’t seen in ages so she’s gonna roll through so that’ll be lush. I’ve had a few punters hit me up on insta telling me they’re excited to see us perform which is always lovely. I can’t wait!
What/who would you say is a key influence in getting you started with your musical journey?
Bassi: For me, it was going to Fabric nightclub for the first time when I turned 18, I knew from then on all I wanted to do was be a DJ
Charli: Watching Sister Act when I was 11 and developing a passion for singing and then again on stage at Fabric in 2015 during the ‘Rituals’ Album launch – I realised then I was never going back to a 9-5!
Best party you experienced / performed at in 2019?
Bassi: That’s a tough one for me but I’d have to say our Boat party at Outlook festival as it was so intimate and the energy was just unreal.
Charli: I agree with Tom, either the Flexout Outlook Boat Party or my Kintsugi EP Launch – both were utterly outrageous.
At the turn of a decade, what can we expect from you in the (20)20s?
Bassi: A lot of my focus is on Charli’s album at the moment but as well as that we have exciting projects from the Flexout gang including an LP from Arkaik which is going to be very special.
Charli: So I’m pretty much on lock for the album this year. I have a few releases coming with some regular collaborators, and my Kintsugi EP has been flipped so that’s coming out over the next six months or so. It’s all incredibly positive and moving fluidly which i’m happy with, I feel like 2020 is going to be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
We’re excited to see you DJ and of course showcase your vocals with a live PA set. We’ve read that you’ve been DJing just a few years. Do you enjoy DJing as much as performing vocals?
Thank you! I’m hyped to perform. So I’ve only been DJing 18 months, which is mad when you think about it! DJing & performing give me a very different high. When I write or sing it’s for me, and it’s a bonus if the crowd is vibing and can relate, but when I DJ it’s for the crowd, and my happiness or love of a mix is secondary – does that make sense?
Charli, we’ve read that you work for Glastonbury, write for In-reach magazine, play with the female super-group KCDC, all the while laying down vocals for so many tracks AND maintaining a busy gig schedule. How do you fit it all in and manage the creative flow? Any tips for anyone working on multiple projects at once?
In all honesty, I took on too much last year. I had to step back from a few projects and commitments, but all for positive reasons. I essentially didn’t give myself enough credit or realise how much would change in 2018/19 and just assumed I’d have to do the ‘broke musician holding down 5 part time jobs’ life forever to facilitate my music.
I spent a lot of years laying good foundations, professionally and personally, and that has allowed me to work as a freelancer, and be more particular with how I spend my time and who I work for – not only in music but my other creative endeavours.
If you’re flat out all the time, just have common sense. Eat, sleep, drink water, make sure you’re looking after your mental health. Get rid of toxic people who hide under the guise of ‘supportive’ during the highs and add to the lows, and most importantly – learn to say no.
What has been your favourite project to date, with who and why?
Charli: It’s gotta be my ‘Kintgsugi’ EP 🙂 It’s such a trip being able to google it (haha) because it still doesn’t seem real. I’ve been doing collabs for so long and despite adoring all the producers i’ve worked with, it’s just different when you’re the one in control and it’s your ideas and your vision. I couldn’t have done it without Tom and Flexout, and I honestly still don’t think he knows how happy it makes me.
Bassi, along with a solid back catalogue of releases under Flexout, we’ve seen you’ve started producing too (we’re a big fan of Reflections). Is there anything in the pipeline that we might catch a sample of at the upcoming show?
In terms of my own production, it has taken a back seat for the time being but I am actively involved in the writing process with Charli and her new album so you’ll hear some new material from that on Tuesday for sure.
Flexout Audio was founded in 2011 and has since become a highly consistent and widely respected record label. Is there a highlight moment or milestone for you in the rise of Flexout Audio?
Yes and most have happened within the last 12 months to be honest. Having Flexout at Star Warz in Belgium was huge, incredible venue and an amazing drum and bass event that has been going for 20 years. Our boat party at Outlook festival was amazing, I’d always wanted to do that and so glad that it happened before they moved away from Pula. Other than that hosting Room 3 and then more recently Room 2 at Fabric was incredibly special for me as that is the club I went to the most when I first started going clubbing.
A 20+ year-old sound that encompasses many styles of music due to the history of sampling and borrowing from other genres of music and working it into a different, faster tempo. It is the origin of what is now known as Drum & Bass. It is a vibe. It was always about the samples and vibes already captured in the music. Now all these years on, artists are writing original works with Jungle and the goal is always to capture a vibe that has soul to it, just like all the samples have.
Has your approach to DJing changed since you first started out?
Yes, when I first was DJing many moons ago now, I used to prepare all my sets and want everything to go perfectly. With more experience of different clubs and set-ups, I realized it was far better to freestyle and go with the flow of the club system and crowd. Some systems don’t produce enough bass, so certain tunes just don’t sound the same and my sets are adjusted to the sound system. I also like to be able to play the odd request, especially if it’s one of our own productions being requested, as I feel that gives a great connection to the fans. Ten or so years ago, I was playing out under my solo name, Vital Elements, a lot. When the Serial Killaz bookings came in, I would change the style I usually played, and I really saw a change in the vibe of the dance floor when incorporating more Jungle style and vocal lead tracks. This was a big influence in the sound I wanted to push more, as that certain vibe captured by Jungle really does make the dance floor a nicer place.
Where in the world do you think the best Jungle crowd is?
I’ve played to so many great crowds over the world, it would be unfair and too difficult to choose.
What’s your top Jungle tune to play out at the moment?
Our remix of ‘Professional Ganja Smoker’ has been getting a great reaction for some time, as is our yet-to-be finished collab with Jaguar Skillz (that) we’ve been testing, but I still think the most powerful track has to be Congo Natty’s “Code Red.” in any of its various forms. We’ve been lucky enough to remix it and have recently updated it too, they always go off, as does the original 20 years on.
What up-and-coming DJs and producers are impressing you?
Upgrade and his brother Limited have been very impressive. And of course our young mentees RunTingz, who have come on leaps and bounds since we took them on and got them in the studio for some vital training.
Describe your creative process in the studio?
It depends on what we are working on but it can usually be boiled down to catching that elusive vibe I keep mentioning: you gotta find the hook, be it a vocal, melody, rhythm, or groove.
How would you describe your sound at the moment?
Modern day Jungle
What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
Classical and differently tuned world music.
If DJing wasn’t your job, what would it be?
A chef, like I used to be.
Any new projects coming up?
Stacks, collaborations, remixes, original works…too many to mention. Just keep an eye out for any release with the name Serial Killaz in it – there will be plenty.
We’re excited to be welcoming one of the founders of the legendary Metalheadz drum n bass label, DJ Storm, as she headlines SSL XL’s NYE event. This recent feature by Becca Inglis for Dazed Digital back in January gives you the full back-story….
The story of Kemistry and Storm, the unsung pioneers of drum & bass. 20 years ago, the Metalheadz duo released their seminal DJ-Kicks mix – here, Goldie, B.Traits, Mumdance and more reflect on their legacy.
In our Under the Influence series, we trace the ideas of underground artists, designers, labels, and collectives, and the impact that they’ve had on pop culture as we know it, examining how the revolutionary aesthetics and attitudes of outsiders make their way into the mainstream – and importantly, how much that should be valued and not forgotten.
Kemistry and Storm hold an almost mythical status in the drum & bass scene. Their mid-90s sets captured their flair behind the decks, defined by an unparalleled track selection, long, carefully crafted mixes, and a potent chemistry between the two DJs that spurred the crowd on. “I knew they were bound for stardom,” says Goldie, who established the Metalheadz label with help from the two DJs and gifted them with their first set of turntables. “They would mix it, man. They were holding shit, arranging the drops, they would drop again into another double drop. They were underrated, and they were just so much darker.”
Kemistry (Valerie Olukemi A. Olusanya, or “Kemi”) and Storm (Jayne Conneely) both grew up in Kettering, a small town in the UK’s East Midlands, and would together help shape Metalheadz into one of drum & bass’s most notorious record labels. They inspired a new generation of DJs with their 1999 contribution to the DJ-Kicksseries, a 17-track, one-hour mix that’s at times dark and dystopian, at others smooth and melodic. But their trajectory was tragically cut short when, just three months after DJ-Kicks came out, a freak car accident took Kemi’s life. “Kemi had always tried to find something where she could be who she was, and look like she was, and achieve something – and that was in DJing drum & bass,” says Conneely. “She’d found it and she was so content. She always said, ‘I just want to make a difference.’ And you know, that’s what we have on her plaque. ‘DJ Kemistry, she wanted to make a difference.’ And she did.”
Olusanya first introduced Conneely to rave culture in 1988, after Conneely, fresh from studying in Oxford, had qualified as a radiographer and moved to London to look for work. In need of a place to stay, Conneely took up Olusanya’s offer to split the rent on her bedroom in a Finsbury Park townhouse, where her friend proceeded to bombard her with the sounds of pirate radio stations. Conneely had so far missed the underground dance scene, but through Olusanya’s recommendations she discovered a love for the art of mixing. Together, they began practising on Olusanya’s Amstrad system, holding their thumbs over the belt drive to get their records in time. “We started getting really obsessed with raving and buying vinyl,” Conneely says. “We were kind of asking ourselves the question, how can we be with this music 24/7?”
Then Olusanya started dating Goldie, after he spotted her working in Red Or Dead on his cycle route to Camden. At the time, he was known as a graffiti artist, and had just returned home from painting and exhibiting in the US. While ravers were holding their second Summer of Love in the UK, he had been busy immersing himself in America’s burgeoning hip hop scene. Olusanya and Conneely took him to Fabio & Grooverider’s party Rage, credited as the incubator for early jungle music, at London nightclub Heaven, where he got his first taste for hardcore. “The tunes that these two were playing were the catalyst for Kemi and Storm,” Goldie says. “Kemi was the Fabio, Storm was more the Grooverider. I realised how passionate they were about these guys. I kind of related to that because of my passion for hip hop DJs.”
Goldie was quickly assimilated into this harder and faster genre of music, joining his friends every Thursday at Rage then piling back to their flat for afters. Olusanya and Conneely dragged their Binatone and Amstrad Midi-systems into one room, where they practiced mixing their huge bank of records. “That was my introduction,” says Goldie. “They introduced me to absolutely everybody that was making music in the way that I wanted to.” It was here, in the small hours, that he shared his dream for the trio: he would make the music, Kemistry and Storm would DJ, and they would all be united under one iconic drum & bass label. He paid for their first proper set of decks in 1991 off the back of his first EP, The Ajax Project, and set up Metalheadz in 1994. A year later, the Blue Note in Hoxton offered Metalheadz what would become the label’s legendary Sunday night residency, where they pushed a tougher sound to an increasingly international crowd. Goldie became busier when London Records signed him to produce his seminal album Timeless, and in 1995, he asked Kemistry and Storm to help manage the label.
“I think they were a big part of me getting on Metalheadz,” says Steve Carr, better known as Digital, who made his debut for the label in 1996 and has maintained a tight relationship with them since. “I wasn’t the obvious thing, and neither were they. I’d make one or two of the regular amen tracks, but then I’d make some quirky stuff. And they were into it, they championed me.” Kemistry and Storm helped foster a community of drum & bass devotees who were pushing the genre in new directions. They handled the promotion and A&R for classic tracks like Dillinja’s “The Angels Fell” and J Majik’s “Your Sound”, and hosted meetings where they offered advice to the label’s young producers, helping to steer the musical direction of a song or deciphering which DJs should be given the next release. “They always looked out for artists,” says Digital. “Not just in a music sense, but the people. That’s what made Metalheadz. They got that family vibe. They literally pulled people together.”
DJ Flight is best known in the drum & bass scene for her show The Next Chapter on BBC Radio 1xtra, but she hadn’t even considered DJing when she first encountered Kemistry and Storm. She was transfixed when she caught them at the SW1 Club in Victoria when she was just 17. “I was just staring at them, watching what they were doing,” Flight says. “One of the guys that I was out with came over and said, ‘That will be you in five years time.’” After that, Flight turned up to every gig she could, and with her heroes’ encouragement, created her first two mixtapes. Her big break came one night at Swerve, Fabio’s drum & bass night at The Velvet Rooms, when Kemistry and Storm asked her to make a tape they could give to Goldie. “They said, ‘We want to bring in a new girl into the camp and we think you’re ready,’” she says. But Kemi died shortly afterwards, and Flight only heard Goldie’s feedback months later when she bumped into him at a Metalheadz night in Camden. “He said, ‘Kemi and Jayne think you’re good. That means you’re good. Let’s give you a go,’” she says. By coincidence, Flight’s first set with Metalheadz was also one of Storm’s first gigs since the accident. At the end of the night, she gifted Flight with Kemistry’s decks.
“For women especially, to see somebody like you up there, it’s definitely inspirational,” says Alicia Bauer, aka Alley Cat, who started DJing in San Francisco and now manages her own label named Kokeshi. She met Olusanya and Conneely when she came to support one of their gigs in Germany, and later moved to London where she and Flight both became residents at Feline, a night promoting women in drum & bass that Conneely ran at Herbal in 2007. Alongside artists like Miss Pink, Mantra, and MC Chickaboo, they targeted the gender balance in lineups by filling both the upstairs and downstairs with women DJs and helped to create a space that prioritised women ravers in a male-dominated scene. “The great thing about it is that a lot of girls came out to our night, so it got skewed more toward the female audience,” says Alley Cat.
“Kemi had always tried to find something where she could be who she was, and look like she was, and achieve something – and that was in DJing drum & bass. She’d found it and she was so content” – DJ Storm
Kemistry and Storm’s contribution to drum & bass is crystallised in their DJ-Kicks compilation, which sits in a club culture hall of fame alongside entries into the series by Carl Craig, Four Tet, and Nina Kraviz. The series curators, the record label !K7, hunted for the duo for two years before they finally tracked them down in 1998, when a mutual acquaintance introduced them while walking the streets of Miami. “I thought they were very brave to back Kemi and myself,” says Conneely. “We were women in a male-dominated scene, even though we were doing well in our careers. It was nice to see that they had no bias and they just thought we were the best at what we do.”
Kemistry and Storm made a bold but fitting move for DJ-Kicks. Not only were they the first female duo to feature, theirs was also the first pure drum & bass and jungle entry on a predominantly house, techno, and downtempo-oriented series. “It was a Metalheadz vibe,” says Conneely. The pair seized the opportunity to showcase their favourite producers of that time. Their friendship with Goldie bestowed them a one-off version of “Hyaena”; a dubplate of DJ Die’s “Clear Skyz” illustrated the Bristol sound; and John B., J Majik, and Dillinja were some of the producers championed at Metalheadz. “It’s a good representation of that time,” says Digital, whose track “Mission Accomplished”, a collaboration with Spirit, appeared on the mix. “They covered a lot of the scene. It’s a good album to look to for a bit of proper history for the drum & bass scene and the different artists involved.”
“I’ve never rinsed a CD so hard in my entire life,” says B. Traits, the Canadian DJ who joined Shy FX’s Digital Soundboy label in 2007 and went on to host her own weekly slot on BBC Radio 1. She had just bought her first set of turntables when she listened to Kemistry and Storm’s compilation. “It wasn’t all the big tracks of that year. Every single track was excellent, and it was blended perfectly. Their skills as DJs cut through on that mix, as selectors and as master mixers. To actually see two female DJs that were successful was a game changer for me, especially when I could literally count on one hand the amount that I knew. And they were united. It was like, you can be a part of this crew and you don’t have to be a dude. You can be a part a movement.”
Kemistry and Storm styled themselves as one singular DJ, each retaining their own distinct style while sharing a box of vinyl between them – Storm was known for her deep, growling tunes, while Kemistry favoured more off-kilter sounds. Ordinarily they split their sets down the middle and they took turns to start or finish, but the DJ-Kicks album led them to create a more integrated mix. “We wanted as many artists that we cared about as possible to be on this album, so we had to break it down differently,” says Conneely. “I think that was a real true idea of how Kemistry and Storm work together.
But that union was abruptly severed just a few days after they returned from touring DJ-Kicks around America. On the drive back from a Southampton gig, a rogue cat’s eye, a reflective device used to mark out the centre of UK roads, came loose and flew through the windscreen. Olusanya was killed instantly. “We were very yin and yang, me and Kemi,” says Conneely. “We balanced each other out. So for me to lose half of myself… it was just so shocking.” When Storm returned to play a night run by V Recordings, she continued to split the set between Olusanya’s records and her own. “It was overwhelming at first,” she says, “but actually, it was the best thing I ever did, because it was the place I still felt Kemi. I’ve changed my style over the years to be more ‘Kemistry and Storm’ rather than just ‘Storm’. We were both brave, but I think Kemi was braver first to play that slightly more obscure tune.”
Conneely’s influence has now spread beyond drum & bass with the help of Mumdance, who saw Storm play with Kemistry when he snuck into Brighton’s Essential Music Festival at 13 years old. He’d never heard a DJ mix tracks live before, or experienced a sound system so loud. “That was probably the first dancefloor epiphany that I ever had. It was the first time I’d been physically hit in the face by sound,” Mumdance says. “The Metalheadz aesthetic, and that dark, dystopian dread that Storm specialises in, is probably the prime influence not only on what I do, but on what Pinch does, on what Logos does, and countless other producers.” Mumdance finally met Conneely at a Boiler Room showcase he hosted in 2014, where he invited some of the artists who’d most impacted his style over the years to perform. “She said it was quite pivotal to the next wave of her career,” he says. “A lot of kids who had never heard of her saw her come on deck and smash it. Now she’s been discovered by a whole new crowd.”
In today’s club culture, Storm gets to spread her dark and wild sound to multigenre events like Dimensions and Unsound festivals, and Mumdance’s label Different Circles’ nights. It’s an apt throwback to the genre’s origins, when Fabio and Grooverider were first mixing rave techno with breakbeat, watched by two fledgling DJs who were trying to emulate them at home. “We were like little sponges at the time,” Conneely says. “Fabio taught me how to tell a story, Grooverider taught me how to select. When Randall came along, he put the mixing into perspective. That is what we wanted to achieve, and I think we did. People started saying, ‘We love your style, it’s kind of the rough with the smooth.’ I think Kemistry and Storm took a little bit of everybody and made it into our own.”
Drum n bass duo Hybrid Minds play a sold out show for Electrikal tonight and have just been confirmed to headline the promoter’s Woodland Festival event in May ’20. NB Tickets are non transferable and there will be no tickets available on the door.
For a bit of insight, here’s an interview the drum and bass duo did with the native website, “where they talk production, inspo, and nurseries”:
“Two of the most innovative liquid drum and bass producers on the scene – We caught up with the pair to get a look into the inner workings of Hybrid Minds:
So to start off, what have you guys been up to today? What’s a day in the life of Hybrid Minds?
Matt: It’s nothing very producer-like for me, it’s been more of viewing nurseries – maybe let’s leave that one out. It’s been rock’n’roll really, y’know just trashing rooms, just smashin’ it.
Josh: We did a little bit of work on a new track today didn’t we, we’re trying to get some vocals done for a couple tracks.
Who are you turning to for the vocals?
Matt: Well a bunch of different people really, we’re sort of deciding who we’re gonna send things to – we’ve sort of got an idea in mind but nothing concrete yet. We tend to just send tracks around to different people and if we’re feeling it we roll with it and if it’s not quite right we’ll send it to someone else – we’ve just worked like that for a long time.
I read in one of your previous interviews that vocals aren’t really your area, you give it to other people and maybe have a little bit of input.
Josh: We sometimes give people a direction, but we really appreciate what vocalists can bring – that’s what they’re good at, so I don’t feel like we should get in the way of their ideas and, they sometimes bring things that we weren’t expecting that can really give a track a new life.
Do you feel if you give them directions you’re somewhat limiting the potential output?
Matt: Exactly. Yeah, we feel like we wouldn’t want to be restricted. They do what they do and we do what we do, and we wouldn’t wanna restrict anyone’s creative ability – just let them crack on. It usually works best that way, we usually find they’ll do a good job and we’ll just roll with it basically.
So I’m going to start my actual questions now! Can you guys talk me through your musical backgrounds and how you met?
Matt: Right, how did we meet Josh? We both ran record labels, god knows how long ago, it’s a long time ago.
Josh: At least 10 odd years ago.
Matt: We met through that and we used to do a little radio station together, it was like a little community and sort of how we started out and met each other. We were both into running record labels at the time and we sorta spoke and got to know each other through that really.
When did you decide to DJ and produce as a duo? That’s quite a big commitment.
Josh: We’d been quite close for a while, and then we did one collab that went really well and just enjoyed the process of doing it.
Matt: Yeah we were both really feeling the same things at the time, a lot of the liquid stuff. We weren’t really setting out to go anywhere with it, it was just more for fun really. It all sort of fell into place when we had our first tune released – it was actually under Sensa and Haste, not Hybrid Minds, it’s essentially to us the first release we ever did.
A lot of people know about it, it went up on UKF and did well. It was from then on out we kept on going and that’s it.
I’m curious to know about the creative process when there’s two of you – do you both have your specialities in terms of who provides what to each project or do you do a bit of everything?
Matt: It’s a bit of everything really isn’t it? We both do the same processes but we also have different areas where we specialise I suppose. Josh is a big details man, with me I like to bang out an idea, I get bored of it and then I wanna start a new idea.
With Josh he wants to go in on all the details, he thrives on these things – when we make a quick idea together Josh will go in on it and it’ll go from my repetitive loop to this thing that really comes together and doesn’t get boring.
Josh: We work over dropbox and share one folder that we have a bunch of tracks in and we can just individually open and work on them.
Matt: For instance, Josh could start an idea and if we’re both feeling it we put it in the dropbox but we might not get to work on it until, well it could be years later really. Like today, we’re just going through an old track, I sent it over to Josh, I didn’t actually know what it was and that’s sort of how these things come to be.
Old tracks that you forget about and you listen to a year or two later and you’re you like “actually, there’s something about that”. That one I sent him earlier, that’ll be going into the backlog of things to do. I tend to go through all the old ideas because we forget – there’s so many of them we just forget and end up working on new things instead. That’s how we work really, straight out of dropbox.
Sometimes you need some time to be able to breathe new life into a track.
Josh: Yeah you can get fed up listening to something again and again, like 8 bars. It’s similar to what vocalists do when they bring something new to a track. One of us might start something and fall out of love and the other person will find it a while later and give it a new lease of life.
Matt: Sometimes one of us isn’t feeling it as much as the other, I could send an idea to Josh that he doesn’t really like but give it a few months and we’ll both come back to it and think “actually there’s something about this”. You can’t usually make decisions on the spot unless it’s a really obvious straight up hit. Some things aren’t so obvious and need a lot more work but we get there in the end.
So presumably you both listen to a lot of the same music, but do either of you make or listen to anything that the other finds a bit questionable?
Josh: As we’ve been making music together for so long, we’re definitely not precious, and we tend to focus on the negatives rather than the positives and we’re quick to say what we don’t like in a track.
Whose the harshest critic?
Matt: I’d say Josh.
Josh: Yeah probably!
So you guys started your own record label, Hybrid Music, in 2016 and I’ve read in one of your previous interviews and you said the label had been even more work than you’d anticipated. Now you’re almost two years in, is it still hectic or do you have more of a handle on it?
Josh: If anything I’d say there’s even more work, we’re branching into doing a small club night, working on music all the time, dealing with distributors and whatnot – it never ends. But, it gives us such a drive to continue working hard and trying to put in enough hours every week to making music so it is, I think, an essential part of us working.
Matt: It’s a positive thing, you’ve got no restrictions. On other labels you’re gonna be working to their demands, what they want, what they expect from you. We can just put out anything, even if we don’t think it’s going to sell particularly well, we can still do that if we wanted to. We’ve got a good creative output to do whatever we want. It’s definitely more work but a lot better.
A labour of love.
Are there any record labels that you draw inspiration from in terms of both the music they put out and the way they operate?
Josh: When it comes to promotional approaches, I suppose we’ll constantly be inspired by what we see. We do keep our eye on what other people are doing and what we think are good ideas.
Matt: I think early on we had a lot of inspiration from labels but since it’s got busier we don’t listen to much music really. Well I know that’s the case for me anyway, if I’m doing a set I’ll go through my emails and pick the best sort of thing and most of the time I don’t know what the label is, sometimes I don’t know what the artist is!
So it’s hard to say where we draw inspiration from creatively as producers, but Josh especially listens to a lot of music outside drum and bass and links that to me, so I think a lot of inspiration really comes from outside.
Josh: Yeah, and just individual artists rather than labels, because we’re the only artists on our label, so we don’t want to be some big factory churning out loads of music, it’s not our aim. So I suppose we look up to individual artists rather than labels.
So you guys are playing at Volks on April 20th. Have you been to Brighton before? What’s been your experience in our great city?
Josh: Yeah, we play Brighton at least a few times a year and it’s always awesome. It’s a really nice place to visit, to go out for dinner before a show, grab a couple beers. We usually tend to get a hotel so we can chill out. Crowd-wise it’s always full of smiles which is good and people know our music down there which is definitely always a bonus.
That’s got to be the most important thing.
Josh: Yeah it is, sometimes you can play club shows and crowds can be enjoying themselves but when they actually sing your songs back to you it’s a whole new level, and that’s the sort of thing we get in Brighton.
Couple more questions for you. What other projects are both you working on right now? Music or otherwise.
Matt: We’ve got a few things in the works at the minute haven’t we? We’ve got a collab project with InsideInfo in the pipes.
We’ve been fans of for a while and, even though he’s in a completely different world to us, he understands our world and he brings that into the tunes. With this project we’ve been working on with him, it’s something different, I can’t put it in any category which is always good. Well, it could be bad I suppose, but I like the fact you can’t pigeonhole it and its not really a particular sort of style, it’s just a new thing.
But aside from that we’re just working on finishing a bunch of singles at the minute. We’re just trying to finish all the backlog of music we’ve got, which there’s quite a lot of, get that out to vocalists and hopefully be able to deliver some new music very soon. So the next single is actually going to be with Charlotte Haining, called ‘Paint By Numbers’, so that’s going to be the next thing out that people can expect from us. Then following from that we’re not sure ourselves, we’re just gonna finish the music and schedule it accordingly I suppose.
Josh: And we’ve also got our club night in London. The last one sold out way in advance so we’re quite excited to see where that goes and branching out to different cities and bigger venues hopefully next year, so that’s quite exciting.
So last question, what are you guys listening to right now?
Matt: You’ll be better for this Josh, I’ve been listening to nothing.
Josh: When I’m travelling or sat at my laptop working not on music, I’ve been listening to the album Dawn by RYX because it keeps me calm and not want to shout at people which is good!
Hybrid Minds – Solitude feat. Alexa Harley
AI – True Colours
Hybrid Minds – Never Change feat. Grimm (GLXY Remix)
Dualistic – Station Six
Hybrid Minds – Skin & Bones feat. Grimm & Laurence Baker (Mitekiss Remix)
LSB – Rolling Sideways (Spectrasoul Remix)
Jome – Cinnamon (Hybrid Minds Remix)
BCee – Little Bird
Dawn Wall – Shy
Monrroe – Dawning feat. Emily Jones (Technimatic Remix)
Camo & Krooked – Ember (Hybrid Minds Remix)
Halogenix – Blej Alix
Perez – Forsaken
Dawn Wall – Never Say
Eastcolours – Keys
DRS – I Will feat. Patife & Vangeliez
Hybrid Minds – Skeletons feat. Grimm
BCee – Lost & Found feat. Rocky Nti (Hybrid Minds Remix)
D Kay – Thinner Edge
Indiana – Mess Around (Etherwood Remix)
Jakwob – Blinding feat. Rocky Nti (Hybrid Minds Remix)
Mitekiss – Some People
Artic Lake – Heal Me (Spectrasoul Remix)
Tokyo Prose – Dawn Chorus
Spectrasoul – Remember Me
Hybrid Minds – Pretend feat. Rocky Nti
Mohican Sun – Fixation
Alix Perez – Number feat. Benabu
Tokyo Prose – Saving Grace VIP
Feint – Take It In feat. Koven (Hybrid Minds Remix)
We’ve lost count of the number of times Shy FX has played Edinburgh, not to mention the Bongo. One of the original ruffneck, Ragga Jungle pioneers from the Nineties, he bulldozed into the public eye with stone cold classic anthem Original Nuttah, scoring his first UK Top 40 hit in the process, alongside equally legendary MC and ruffneck vocalist UK Apache, back in 1994. [There have been a fair few more since, not least his massive collaboration with T Power and soul/r n b vocalist Di, Shake Ur Body, in 2001.]
His light speed riddims married with rude boy rhymes create a unique sound that Edinburgh, and especially the Bongo, loves and he’s somehow managed to maintain his edge throughout a career spanning more than 25 years. Oh yes, we’re set for a proper scorcher tonight!
Check out the great interview/feature (from last year) below, courtesy of Skiddle’s Marko Kutlesa, where Shy talks about his many productions, recording style and reggae soundsystem culture.
Though he often wears a cap, perhaps in part to hide the hair he’s lost, I still wouldn’t like to guess the age of Andre Williams, aka Shy FX. Though he’s been consistently releasing music since his 1993 debut, barely a sign of ageing registers on his face and his voice, quite softly spoken, gracious and impeccably polite, sounds like that of a man in his late teens or early twenties.
However this is not a man whose appearance alone defies his years. Throughout his two decade plus career he has managed to produce music that sounds so fresh that, while maintaining a consistent fan-base, has also managed to appeal directly to the youngest ravers amongst us.
Brought up around reggae soundsystem culture (his grandfather was famed 1970s London DJ, record label owner and soundsystem chief Count Shelly), Shy FX’s first forays into music production were in the reggae indebted spheres of jungle. He scored a huge hit right at the start of his career with 1994’s ‘Original Nuttah’.
He established a trend for collaboration thereafter and has most closely been linked with studio partner T Power with whom he released two albums, 2002’s Set It Off and 2005’s Diary Of A Digital Soundboy, the former containing top ten UK chart hit ‘Shake Ur Body’, the latter released on Shy FX’s own label Digital Soundboy (which has also released music by Breakage, Calibre, B Traits, Zed Bias, Skream, Benga and Caspa).
Shy FX has since collaborated with and produced music for the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Plan B, Yasmin, Naughty Boy, Wiley and Emeli Sandé plus Kano, Donae’o and Roses Gabor and re-emerges in 2017 with amazing new single ‘We Just Don’t Care’, which displays a wildly different music approach to previous offerings. You can’t, however, say that it’s a comeback, because Shy FX has never been away and you can’t call it a reinvention, because he’s made different musics throughout his career.
I really like the new single ‘We Just Don’t Care’. Where was the video filmed and what was the idea behind it?
Thanks! The video was shot in South Africa. I’m a fan of Craig (Moore), the director and I just wanted to get a high energy dance video that wasn’t, well… you know you can get some videos like that which can be kind of cheesy? I wanted something that was visually pleasing but still had a sense of urgency and was still pretty gritty, but polished at the same time. I know that sounds like a really mad description, but I definitely think it caught the vibe of the tune.
Is the other music you’re currently working on in a similar vein to ‘We Just Don’t Care’?
Yes and no. Everything’s completely different. Before playing ‘We Just Don’t Care’ to people I found it really difficult to describe. A tune at 128 bpm that sounds like me, quite tribal, that’s the closest I could get. Everything else, again, there’s a mixture of loads of different things thrown into the pot. Again, it sounds like me, but you just can’t quite put your finger on what it is or put it into a genre.
I suppose no is the easiest answer [laughs], because the next tune is at a different tempo and has a completely different vibe. It still doesn’t sound like anything else.
Is this single the precursor to an album?
Not so much. It’s just me getting loads of music out there. I think next year I’ll try and focus on putting an album out, but right now it’s about getting different styles and vibes out there.
I ask because, although you’ve been quite prolific as a producer, you’ve not really been that prolific in making albums (you had your debut and the two albums you did with T Power). Why is that?
I just think it’s important for you to have something to say when you do an album. I set up Digital Soundboy as well and along with all the touring and stuff… to sit down and think this is what I want to do and this is what I want to put out as a body of work, I take that seriously.
I think now is the time for me to do that. I had my head in the Digital Soundboy thing and in helping other people with production with their stuff and everything else that comes with being involved with running a label, other acts, but I’ve now put that aside and I’m fully focused on my own stuff.
What happened to the material you were putting together for the album that had the working title Cornerstone/Larger Than Life about 5 years ago? Did that material come out?
[Laughs] No, it didn’t, but it’s going to. With that project it was straight up reggae, but I always find that, when you do projects, people expect, for the rest of the year at least, for you to tour that and that kind of defines you for a period. And although I really love reggae I didn’t want to do a whole campaign around it, which is what would’ve been expected. But there’s over an album’s worth of music for that project which will come out as EPs. That way I can do it as an ongoing thing.
I didn’t want it to be like, “Here’s my reggae album and that’s that” because I’m always going to make it. I think ‘Cornerstone Vol 1’ and ‘Cornerstone Vol 2’ is going to work much better. That way I can keep it moving.
When the music you’re recording changes style should people expect the music you play as a DJ to also change?
Anyone that’s seen or heard me play knows that it’s very eclectic. It’s not so eclectic that it’s bordering on wedding DJ, the dots always join. And what I make is generally what I play in my set, but what I play in my set is also what I’m making, if that makes sense? It’s just what I’m feeling like at the time, what am I trying to say, let me make it, let me play it. I don’t really think any deeper than that. I’m fortunate enough to be able to make whatever’s in my head, whatever I’m vibing with, so that’s what I go with.
I just had this conversation with someone recently and I just think it’s nuts when you walk into a studio with a blank canvas, you don’t know what’s going to happen and a few hours later you’ve got something new in the universe. That’s so mad. For people to stick to one particular thing, I just don’t get it. There are so many different vibes you can put out into the world, I never know which one it’s going to be.
Which DJs that operate outside of drum ‘n’ bass music do you enjoy listening to?
Oh, wow. Right now, today, the answer would be someone like Benji B. Still Gilles Peterson, as well. They seem to catch my vibe, you never really know what you’re going to hear when you listen to those guys. It’s always a bit of an education, but you always hear grooves, music that touches your soul, when you listen to those guys. So, right now Benji and Gilles, but tomorrow that changes. There’s so many.
What do you see as being the similarities, if there are any, between ‘Original Nuttah’, ‘Shake Ur Body’ and ‘We Just Don’t Care’?
Woah! Erm… I think with all those three tracks I definitely went in the studio in I-don’t-give-a-shit mode. It literally was just sitting down making music until I was jumping up and down. I can’t say tempo, that’s for sure. It’s just touching on groove and mixing loads of elements together, which is what I generally do, I guess. With ‘We Just Don’t Care’ I think the closest thing I’ve done to that is ‘Bambaata’ in terms of it being tribal and the bass, the cinematic feel as well. But I don’t know if I can join those three. Can you?
I think you can join the dots between ‘Original Nuttah’ and ‘Shake Ur Body’. And I think you can join the dots between ‘Shake Ur Body’ and ‘We Just Don’t Care’, so yes. Not in the tempos maybe, not in the rhythms, but maybe in the vibe, maybe in the excitement of the music, yes. For me, they all sound like you.
Yeah, I think there’s a sense of urgency in there. Definitely the vocal, harmony wise, between ‘Shake Ur Body’ and ‘We Just Don’t Care’, you can join those dots. But generally I’d have to pass on that question, ha! I couldn’t tell you mate.
On the cover of the Simple Tings EP you’re pictured with your dog. Do you still keep a dog?
No, not anymore unfortunately. That was a Great Dane. Nobody’s ever asked me that question before, ha!
My mate, Shane Loughlin, used to work in a big secondhand record store in Manchester, Vinyl Exchange, and he was in charge of the drum ‘n’ bass. They had that record on display and he’d stuck a speech bubble above your head and wrote “I’m Shy FX and I love my dog” on the cover, so I never forget that sleeve.
Ahahahahahaha. Oh, wow. And that’s when I had hair as well. I had hair and I didn’t wear a cap.
T Power, your old production partner, is quoted as saying the reason he made his 1995 debut album in a more experimental drum ‘n’ bass style was he wanted to get away from a lot of the politics that were around jungle music at the time. Did you ever experience those politics and how did they affect you?
Yeah, every day, but just like now I don’t really care, I just get it done and keep it moving. I think that’s the only thing you can do. People come, people go, opinions are like arseholes etc.
At the time, when I was younger, there was loads of different camps and everyone was trying to fight for space, everyone was talking about what you should and shouldn’t do. Whenever that happens it just makes me fall into my own space and just make music, kind of like giving a middle finger up. I never really get involved in all of that. I just do what feel is right.
What, for you, are the parallels between reggae soundsystem culture and jungle/drum ‘n’ bass culture?
From basic stuff like rewinds to dubplate culture?
Whichever way you want to take the question…
[Laughs] OK, cool. Well a lot of us came from the reggae culture so I suppose we brought a lot of that vibe with; the way we played and selected music, the rewinds.
In fact, it’s pretty strange now where a lot of the younger guys who haven’t grown up on that culture and maybe not on the grime culture either, they just don’t understand the idea that when you get a tune that’s so sick, you rewind it and play it again from the beginning. They look at you like “What. Are. You. Doing?” I think they get it more now, but playing dubplates with your name on as well, they can sometimes be like “We know who you are. Why have you got your name on every track? What’s that about?”
The bass, the sense of community as well, particularly with the early jungle scene, not so much with drum ‘n’ bass. Yeah, I think because a lot of us came from there we just brought it into what we were doing.
In your own words, can you define what kind of unique voice the world of drum ‘n’ bass has lost with the sad passing of Marcus Intalex?
Oh, man… Can I think about that and maybe e-mail you an answer? I don’t just want to say something and not get it right, it just means too much.
[Unfortunately Shy FX’s incredibly busy schedule and perhaps the obvious sadness he displayed meant that no addition to this answer was sent]
Did your paths cross much? Did you see him regularly?
Not so much over the last couple of years. It was a couple of years ago I last saw him, at the Soul In Motion night. We were just vibing and, as always, talking about music and technical stuff, plug ins.
Which of his releases have you most frequently played when DJing out?
Probably ‘Lover’ by M.I.S.T. And the ‘I Like It’ remix which goes way back to 1995. When he did that I did ‘This Style’. It was the same kind of vibe. He definitely influenced me in making that. Obviously I play a lot of his stuff, but those are the two that stick in my set.
Award-winning Brazilian drum ‘n’ bass champion DJ Marky returns to the Bongo for the first time in almost ten years (last seen at Xplicit, Moray House, 2008) when he headlines for Loco Kamanchi. Behind one of the biggest, feel-good d ‘n’ b anthems of the early Noughties, alongside XRS (LK, sampling Brazilian heroes Jorge Ben and Toquinho’s timeless number, Carolina Carol Bela and injecting it with some proper favela funk – see below), he’s guaranteed to bring all the warmth, sunshine and colour of his trademark South American sound to nice up our midweek dance.
With over 100k fans on Facebook, almost 50k followers on Twitter and almost as many again on Instagram, tours across Japan, Australia, Singapore, China, Korea, Europe, Russia and both the north and south American continents, these days the man known better to his mum as Marco Antônio Silva is a fully fledged global phenomenon. Over 100 releases deep, his Innerground label is one of the foremost d ‘n’ b labels in the world, while the likes of Madonna, Fatboy Slim, Claude von Stroke, Deadmau5 and Everything But The Girl have all lined up to bag some instant south American street-cred and a chunk of Marky’s funk via a remix of one of their own tunes.
Not bad for a guy who started out playing parties and clubs in Sao Paulo in the early Nineties, before a chance meeting with UK junglist legend Bryan Gee (boss of Bristol’s seminal V Recordings label), in ’98, led to him being introduced to the UK scene. Marky had actually already met DJs Goldie and Hype in London, in ’97, but Gee was so blown away by the young Brazilian’s DJing skills, not least his ability to seamlessly scratch his own funky drum patterns with the records and then mix equally fluidly between them, that he invited him to come back and play in London. Marky went on to be crowned Best New DJ by the British critics/media, in 1999.
Christ, the man’s even put on his own festival (‘DJ Marky and Friends’), having programmed his own tent at the massive Skol Beats festival in Sao Paulo for a decade. After over 20 years in the game with an incessant tour schedule, he’s still one of the friendliest international DJs you’re likely to meet. No wonder he’s also one of the most respected and still very much at the top.
This date happens just a few days after he plays the Supersonic festival in Puna, so there may even be some Indian vibes on the dance floor…! In any case, he’s guaranteed to get a warm welcome from everybody here.
Loco Kamanchi welcomes veteran UK MC/producer Congo Natty (aka Rebel MC) featuring Congo Dubz & Iron Dread on 25th.
Scoring a slew of crossover hits between 1989 and 1992 (Just Keep Rockin’ and Street Tuff with Double Trouble; plus Better World, The Wickedest Sound and Tribal Base), Natty and co mashed up dub, reggae, soul, hip hop, breakbeat and hardcore styles, ushering in jungle and bringing black and white together under one roof – a true pioneer and a proper legend.
There’s a great interview with him in The Guardian, where he talks about what it was like when jungle first broke and the power of music to bring people together, no matter what their colour, creed or culture, among other things….
“Black and white, they should be taken out of the dictionary, in regards to people… By the time jungle came in 94, you’ve got all nations together in London, as one. There’s no colour ting.. Music, for a moment, it cancels out all the shit, and” – he clicks his fingers – “we are one.”
Sentiments such as these resonate deeply with us at the Bongo, especially at fractious times such as these. But, quite aside from all that, jungle and drum n bass has had a massive impact on British pop music and culture and this man is a true original.