Interview: Hella Better Dancer

Ahead of their January gig at The Lock Tavern in Camden, I caught up with London four-piece Hella Better Dancer in a (loud!) café down the road. Find out what the guys had to say about being back on the stage, abusing instruments, and why they have unfinished business with Lauren Laverne:

Check out more on the band over at http://hellabetterdancer.tumblr.com/, and don’t forget to check out a quick video from the gig below.

Interview: Django Django

Last month marked the return of the Parklife Weekender to Manchester’s Platt Fields Park. Boasting an even bigger and better line-up than previous years, the Saturday played host to British “psychedelic” quartet Django Django. I caught up with Dave (Drums/Percussion) and Jim (Bass) from the group for a chat after their set:

You guys have just come off stage at the Parklife Weekender, how did you find the set?
D: A brilliant crowd, a brilliant atmosphere! I guess it was a proper festival set, good fun.
J: [A guy in the crowd] looked like he was on a different plane. Some guy down at the front was getting lots of funny looks from security staff…
D: …but he was enjoying it, which was the main thing. However you express yourself it doesn’t matter, as long as you enjoy it.

One thing that stood out about the set was the blend between dance and more alternative genres. Do you think about that mix when you put the songs together?
D: Our background is a mixture of Dance music, like House music and Techno, Classic Rock like Fleetwood Mac, and old Rock & Roll like Bo Diddley, so its very hard to stick to one thing for us. We kind of pinch bits and pieces from all types of music and have fun with it really. Its funny being called Indie, its a new thing to me; I grew up listening to Hip-Hop and Dance music, and Indie was always a bit of a dirty word I guess. As long as people like it, I don’t think we should worry too much about how to pigeon-hole it, or what to make of it. But yes, the root of it all is Dance music.

There’s such a diverse range of acts here at the festival, is there anyone you’re looking forward to seeing yourselves?
D: There’s loads of good Dance music here which is really refreshing for a festival. For me, that’s what is missing; good Dance music at festivals! I just met Goldie in the carpark and he’s a big hero for me personally, growing up listening to Metalheadz. Flaming Lips is another one- they’re just a colossal band, really good fun, and there’s loads of good up and coming Dance acts as well.
Both: Pearson Sound, Space Dimension Controller, DJ Hype- there’s plenty!
Its quite interesting that some of the acts you mentioned, such as Pearson Sound, put their live set together in a similar way to how you do.
Both: Yeah!

How does the Parklife Weekender compare then to other festivals you’ve been at?
J: Its great! The sun’s just come out, all the crowd seem totally up for it as well. I mean we were on at about 4.30pm today, but people were still bouncing around, enjoying it and having a good time. They all seem really up for it here, and when you go to some festivals and it seems a little quieter, its more difficult to get people worked up.
D: It seems to me like there’s an area of music catered for here that’s maybe missing at some festivals. Acts like Pearson Sound, Jackmaster; I think for me that’s what I would want in a dance tent, so whoever’s done the booking has done an amazing job I think.

What have you got planned for the rest of the summer then, and beyond?
J: Festivals from now until the end of summer. We’re going over to Australia and Japan, we’re doing a UK tour at the moment so we’ve got a few more festivals in there, a few shows in Ireland and Scotland. Just working out, doing the festivals.
D: You’re working out?!
J: I’m working out. Asides from doing the festivals and going to Australia, I’m going to start working out.

 

Keep checking back on the blog for more Parklife Weekender interviews to come, including those from the likes of Ghostpoet and Factory Floor.

Interview: WU LYF

WU LYF really are a band that are going from strength to strength right now. From playing a blinding set at the Manchester Ritz last month and wowing crowds all around Europe, they’re proving that they come across just as good live as they are on their debut album ‘Go Tell Fire To The Mountain’, while all the time promoting a DIY ethic to the music industry that I love! (see my post on Futures going it alone)

Last November I was given the chance to interview Tom McClung from the band, something very special indeed: WU LYF are a band renowned being introverted and keeping an air of mystery about them. While making them seem pretty damn cool, its moves like this that led some of the initial press reaction to brand them as pretentious and lacking substance, something Tom was very keen to set the record straight on.

Check out the interview via Soundcloud below:

Interview: Benjamin Francis Leftwich

In what is probably my favourite interview that I’ve done with an artist to date, last October I got the chance to talk to Benjamin Francis Leftwich ahead of his date in Manchester. Listen to him chat about his ‘bullish stare’, crashing cars, and the state of Fallowfield’s chicken outlets. Plus, listen out for my ‘golden question’- not to be missed!

And as a Brucey Bonus, a video of the interview and an exclusive session performance of ‘Pictures’ is available on YouTube, check it out below!

Interview: The Count & Sinden

Way back when, I had the pleasure of interviewing dub-pioneering production and DJ duo The Count & Sinden. While it may be an old interview, these boys are still prolific in as a duo and in their own right, with The Count lining up his latest release ‘How Can I Live Without You’ under his own alias of Hervé, while Sinden continues to smash up dancefloors with his track ‘Pull Up Wheel Up’ and releases from his label Grizzly. Check out them talk about their roles and also some interesting stories from their collaborations:

 

So for those who haven’t heard you before what can people expect from your DJ sets?

C&S – Just something different I guess. We like to mix together exclusive remixes of our stuff with some of our more familiar material, reaching back into the past and bring it up to date. We’re try to bring across a live band experience but without a full rig, playing some of our old a cappellas over new, less well known tunes. It’s not going to be all club bangers, we want to be able to entertain the crowd yet hold our own.

Would you ever perform a live show?

C&S – Its early days for the album, so we would need to give it six or seven months and see where the album’s been and how much success it’s had, in order to make it financially viable. For the meantime we think that a DJ set is just as legitimate. We’re still performing , we’re still giving you the Count and Sinden and ultimately we want to give you the best night possible and a DJ set gives us the most flexibility for that. Also since we recorded some of the tracks, some of the artists who lent vocals have become huge. So it would have to be a pretty special occasion for us to bring back Katy B, Bashy or The Mystery Jets, so maybe a festival type event, a Glastonbury or something.

You’ve got some huge, up and coming names on your album like Katy B and The Mystery Jets and you often get there before the big labels. You both have your own labels, so would you ever try and sign these names up?

C&S – We would certainly like to, however to get there’s often issues in the way. Katy B, for instance, is closely affiliated with the Rinse FM crew so we couldn’t just go and steal her away. Also it takes a lot of time and money to make these type of acts in to number one chart hits, time and money we both dont have. So we’re, at the moment, both happy to be mere talent spotters and if we get these stars to record tracks with us before they’re big then of course we are going to be happy. It makes us look good and opens our album up to listeners who maybe haven’t heard of us before but like Katy B’s work.

Are there any people coming up on your labels – Cheap thrills and Grizzly – that you’d like to tell us about?

S – Yeah coming up on Grizzly there is a future disco producer called Jon Giovanni who is making some interesting stuff. Mele who is in the post-dubstep, poly-rhythmic area of music, again I think he’s got potential for great things.

C – I’ve got Jack Beats preparing their album which is looking really good, some really promising material on their. We’ll probably be teaming up with a bigger label to release it, but I cant wait for that. Also Fake Blood says he is half way through his, so we should see that sometime soon hopefully.

Interview: Kissy Sell Out

A while back I chatted to world-renowned producer, DJ, radio presenter and record label chief Kissy Sell Out about his new album ‘Wild Romance’, forming his own Electro Speed Garage Mafia and dropping some classical music in his sets.

 

How’s it going?
I’m fantastic! I’m a bit sniffly- I haven’t had hayfever for years, but my body has suddenly decided that I do have it. But, it’s so sunny its worth it!

You played at [Manchester venue] Sankeys on your ‘Wild Romance’ tour, as well as having residencies there before- what is it about the place that keeps you coming back?
It’s got a lot of heritage to it, and I know I’m quite young as DJs come and go, but I’m quite respectful of that. I’ve never had my own night or residency before so I jumped straight onto Sankeys when they offered it. I think it’s a very special place for me and I love the crowds that turn up. Manchester’s a great place anyway, any place you play here is pretty cool, but the crowd that come to Sankeys, you know, they come from far and wide to go there and they just want you to give it to them, and I love it!

How has the recent tour different from your previous ones?
The tour just gone had this production element to it in terms of having a huge set of sophisticated lights, which I think is great because, say last year, I did some really massive gigs with Manchester being one of them, and I was quite aware I couldn’t just go back and just DJ, because I’m already using 4 decks and mixing classical music, speed garage, baseline etc., so I guess you start to think about other ways in which you can make sure the crowd and the audience have a great time.

You said in an interview that a while back, you became aware you were just playing one record after another every 3 minutes and wanted to develop beyond this- was this tour a development of that thought?
For me now, my DJ sets are something that I practice every single day and I try massively hard. I have upped my game a lot in the last year and a half, so I’m totally content with my DJing, which is why its an honour for me to have this extra production element. Its great to have something extra, something a bit bigger.

The new album ‘Wild Romance’ seems more like an album for the dancefloor rather than having the live band element that your last one had. What made you want to make that change?
The funny thing is that I think the first album is the one that’s different. With this new album, the reason that I’m so excited about it is that it feels like the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve never said that before about anything I’ve made before. I think that I have a much greater understanding of what I am, what I sound like and where I belong now, and thats mainly because of the people that come to see me at my gigs who I’ve learned a lot from- learned a lot about how to work the floor and stuff.

On the one hand this new album is quite out there- we’ve used classical instruments and some of the melodies are incredibly complicated- but the other 50% of it is really really banging baselines, and it works in a nice way. My records have always been essentially dance records, but they have been quite openly obscure, because I guess I’m that kind of guy.

One of the things that comes out of the new single ‘Homesick’ is as well as having a dancefloor vibe also has a pop sensibility to it with the vocals.
Maybe- I don’t there’s much chance of a drumstep tune getting onto the Radio 1 playlist or anything, but it is one of the tunes that has proper singing on it whereas the album is predominantly instrumental. There’s lots of little MC spots, and a lot of it is me. There’s one track which I did with MC Cobra, and the new single ‘Homesick’ is done with Oh Snap!, who are both very familiar faces and names from the radio shows, so I like the idea that the audiences will recognise the voice. I can’t sing to save my life, so there’s a bit of singing on ‘Homesick’ from me, which only sounds good because it’s been AutoTuned!

Having mentioned collaborations, if you could form your own ‘Kissy House Mafia’ who would you put in it?
Can we not call it the house mafia? I hate house music! Maybe we could call it the ‘Kissy Electro Speed Garage Mafia’? I don’t actually have much interest in doing any collaborations with any other artists in the foreseeable future for one specific reason: it’s because I’m such a big fan of other people’s music, and that’s something really important for me to keep my feet on the ground. I always want to buy other people’s music. I never want to get into a situation where I’m ‘on the same height’ as some of the people I absolutely adore. Even though there’s DJs I idolise, I don’t really want to make a record with any of those people because i’m too much of a fan. I don’t want to tell them what to do, I just want them to do their thing.

As someone who has their own radio show on BBC Radio 1, is there any tips or advice you would give to people wanting to do in radio?
I was talent spotted on the back of the records that I was putting out more than anything else, so the only advice I could offer really is to have fun and to do a great job, and people will start noticing. I certainly never expected to ever have my own radio show, and actually I never wanted one- I grew up as the teenager who desperately wanted to be a DJ and a record producer, so I never thought in a million years that I’d get a radio show. I guess that’s where the energy, the pace and the wackiness comes from on my radio show, because right from the start I treated the first one like it was the last one I was going to do, and I still do that now. It’s the same as the live gigs: you’re only as good as the last one you’ve done.

How do you find the time to balance being a radio DJ with being a producer and a live DJ?
I don’t sleep much to be honest with you, but then again I’m having so much fun, I don’t want to go to sleep! Even when, you know, a train or something’s been cancelled in Amsterdam, and I’m sitting there in the rain with nobody to talk to, and the cashpoint won’t take my card or something like that, I’m still smiling inside- I’m always smiling. I’m quite lucky to get this opportunity so, you might as well make the most of it. I don’t understand how anyone could ever get to have some of the opportunities I’ve had and not be making the most of them. I suppose the design aspect does catch me out sometimes as I design everything- all the artwork for the record label (San City High). I love doing it, it is quite a cool thing to do, but that’s the thing that usually makes me lose a lot of sleep.

How do you feel when playing sets to people who aren’t necessarily into dance music, say at more ‘mainstream’ events like Radio 1’s Big Weekend?
Something like Big Weekend does make me a bit nervous as, it not being a dance festival, people aren’t there to see the electro speed garage thing- they’re there to meet Chris Moyles. I don’t plan ways to necessarily win over a ‘mainstream’ crowd. I work so hard on my DJ sets and on my shows so I think the best type of DJ set you can do is where the crowd go absolutely crazy- like, pinging off the walls and stuff- but you’re playing music to them that they’ve never heard before. I think there’s a real art to that, it’s something really difficult to do, and it’s something that I practice so hard at doing.

There a few moments in my DJ set where I play something that I guess you would say is quite ‘cheesy’, but it is meant to be a joke. If you hear me play something like ‘Mr. Boombastic’, it is a joke! I like that kind of thing where I might be, say 15 minutes into a DJ set and I play something like a piece of classical music. People look at me a bit confused, but I know there is a baseline coming, I know what I’m doing- it’s just supposed to be a bit of a joke! I don’t really know that much about mainstream music. For example I don’t really know what Tinie Tempah’s new single is, so I guess that technique will be the thing in my armoury to draw people in I suppose!