As one of the Drum & Bass scenes most recognised figureheads Friction has been plying his trade on the underground dance scene for many years. His latest single ‘Kingpin’ is a bass heavy workout created in collaboration with UK producer, Skream. We caught up with Friction to chat about his influences, the rise of his Radio One show and Skreams worst habit.
For people who may not be familiar with Friction can you briefly describe yourself and your music?
I’m a dance music producer & DJ, predominantly drum & bass. I also present a radio show on Radio One.
What made you first want to start producing music?
It was just a natural progression really. I started DJ’ing when I was really young and making music was the natural thing to do after DJ’ing. I started by learning the ropes in the studio and began producing straight up underground Drum & Bass for a few years and then a few years ago I started switching it up with tracks like ‘Led Astray’ and the track that I’ve just done with Skream. It’s still Drum & Bass but with a slightly different take on it.
How old were you when you started DJing and what made you want to start?
I was about 15 and I got into it from going to clubs and watching DJ’s play. I was going to see people like Carl Cox and Andy C and getting the vibe from there. I just thought “that looks like a good job, I’ll do that.”
As the Winter months are starting to fade away and Spring begins to creep back into our lives, so the influx of music festivals are once again thrust upon us as we begin to make plans for the Summer.
Today the line-up for the Parklife Weekender 2013 was announced and it is looking extremely tempting if we don’t say so ourselves. Based in Manchester and brought to you by the team behind the infamous Warehouse Project, the Parklife Weekender is a festival that has slowly been growing in size and popularity over the past few years and looking at this year’s line up it is going to be one of this year’s festival highlights. 2013 will see the likes of Plan B, Rita Ora and Johnny Marr playing alongside rising stars such as Jessie Ware, TNGHT and AlunaGeorge. Not only do they have a stellar live band line-up but Parklife are also playing host to some of electronic music’s finest DJs such as Benga, Jamie Jones, Julio Bashmore & Boys Noize.
Head over to www.parklife.uk.com for more information & get your wellies at the ready!
As the announcement of this year’s winner of the Mercury Music Prize looms ever closer we at Shazam were invited to the last in a series of gigs showcasing this year’s nominees in association with the War Child charity. To conclude the series it was up to underground upstart’s Alt-J, BBC Sound of 2012 winner Michael Kiwanuka and indie’s long term sweethearts The Maccabees to bring proceedings to a close.
The gig was held at LSO St. Lukes, an old converted church in East London. This was to be the perfect surroundings for the first act of the night, Alt-J. Opening with Interlude I (The Ripe & Ruin) Alt-J were accompanied by a choir which complemented their intricate acapella harmonies beautifully, the voices of the choir really bringing to life the environment of the gothic setting. Throughout their set Alt-J continued to weave their distinctive vocals with their refined, sometimes obscure take on Indie music, showing why they are one of the UK’s freshest most polished live acts out there at the moment and in with a good shot of winning the Mercury prize this year.
Next up it was the turn of Michael Kiwanuka performing tracks from his debut album Home Again. Tonight Kiwanuka was backed by a full live band which brought a whole new dimension to some of Kiwanuka’s most loved tracks from his critically acclaimed debut. Tracks such as Tell Me A Tale and I’ll Get Along sounded incredible reinforced by the fuller sound of the band, but it was when Kiwanuka was alone with his acoustic guitar that he really shone. Left only with his guitar for company Kiwanuka’s soulful rich voice was given space to project and really show off his vocal talents. Running through fan favorites such as Rest and Home Again left the crowd awash in silence, dumbfounded by Kiwanuka’s incredible voice.
Finally it came the turn of The Maccabees to take to the stage. Seen as long term veterans compared to the two previous acts The Maccabees stepped out to perform tracks from their third album Given To The Wild. As the more seasoned of the night’s acts The Maccabees commanded the stage from the moment the first chord rang out across the venue. Although the overall sound of ‘Given To The Wild’ may have lost some of the energy compared to their sprightly debut ‘Colour It In’ the London boys more than made up for it with their live show.
This year’s Mercury awards seem to be wide open with no clear front runner in sight. With incredible albums from the likes of Jessie Ware, Richard Hawley, Lianne La Havas and Plan B this year’s contest is going to be a hard fought battle. After seeing these three artists though my vote would have to go to alt-J. Their album An Awesome Wave is a mature and intriguing blend of Pop, Indie and Electronica, which sounds as if it was produced by a band that have been in the music game for a lot longer than these eccentric debutantes.
With the meteoric rise of the Dubstep sound in recent years we thought it was only right to catch up with one of the pioneers of the genre who were there during it’s initial beginnings. Caspa is a DJ, producer and record label manager known for his innovation and involvement within the UK’s thriving underground music scene. We caught up with Caspa to talk about his latest single War which features none other than The Prodigy’s Keith Flint . We got to find out what it was like working with the Prodigy front man, his forthcoming second album and how he finds time to DJ, produce, manage two record labels and also have a life.
Can you give us a brief description of yourself and your music?
I’m a white guy who lives in Fulham; I’m five foot nine and….. Dubstep (Laughs)
You first got into music after your sporting career was cut short. What was it that made you turn to music?
Well music has always been a passion of mine, it’s in my family. My dad’s a record collector so I’ve always had music in the household. I think that music is a passion for everyone deep down so it was logical when I couldn’t play sport anymore, I had to think “what do I love most after sport”… and it was music. The stuff I loved was the underground kind of music and then I came across Dubstep when it wasn’t even known as Dubstep. I latched on to that sound and just rolled with it.
Which artists have influenced you to make the music you make today?
I listened to a lot of Hip-Hop because my brother was a scratch DJ and record collector, so I listened to stuff like early Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep and Gangstarr. All of that was killer for me, I loved it. I loved the west coast Hip-Hop sound as well such as all the Death Row records stuff like Snoop and Dre. When I was at school all I used to listen to were Jungle tape packs that I got from the older guys at school, stuff like DJ Brockie. So I grew up around a lot of Jungle and Hip-Hop and my dad was really into Punk so it was a mash up of everything really.
Your latest single ‘War’ features Keith Flint from the Prodigy on vocals. What was he like to work with and how did that collaboration come about?
He is amazing to work with and really forward thinking, he liked my ideas and was really supportive with everything. If I wasn’t sure about something and I asked him if he thought it was alright he’d say “Yeah that’s cool let’s run with it” and that was really refreshing to get that response from someone of that calibre. I hooked up with him through my manager Nick who does A&R and a bit of management for The Prodigy. Keith is into his Dubstep so I sent him over a few of my tunes and he liked them so he wrote a vocal to some of the tracks and then I asked if he could write something new for one of the tracks. It took a while to get together but when it did it really took off and he loved it, so the rest is history as they say.
Are there any plans for another full length album from you in the near future?
The next thing for me is obviously the single then I’ve got a mix compilation that I’m doing for New State which is going to be a more underground bass compilation rather than the mainstream Dubstep you hear, so it’s going to reflect the kind of style that I play. I didn’t want to do a typical compilation where it’s just filled with all the hits you hear on the radio, so I’m really excited for that to get released. That should be coming out around the end of August. Hopefully then my second single should be coming out around October and then the album will be coming shortly after that. It’s definitely in the pipeline as it is pretty much finished but I think there is always room for improvement.
Are there any other producers or artists that you are currently working with or hoping to work with in the future?
Off the back of ‘War’ I’ve had a lot of people asking to collaborate. I’d like to do something with Mr. Hudson again but maybe do something a bit darker with him. I’d like to work with some people in America, like some Hip-Hop artists and I’ve always wanted to work with Adele. I think she’s just got an unbelievable talent and she reminds me of a good London girl, someone that I could just vibe with because I think we’d be on the same type of level. I’m working with a couple of producers like Subscape and Trolley Snatcha. Trolley Snatcha actually helped me out on ‘War’ and he’s a really talented producer. I want to try and keep it close to home I don’t want to really work with any Pop artists, I want to make music that I’m happy with. Banging, underground music.
As well as producing your own music you also run two record labels. Do you find it hard to find time to create music, have a life and manage two record labels?
It’s pretty tough but it’s such a passion for me I just love the job. When you’re DJing on weekends, playing new tunes from artists such as Subscape and testing them out can be great. In the week I’m usually writing music or heading down the office to sort through stuff like what we’re going to release next. To be honest with you it is a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. It does take up hours and hours of your time but because I love it so much it’s not really a job to me. I’m getting paid to do something I love so I never look at it as a bad thing.
Which artists or releases should we be looking out for that will be coming out on your labels?
Subscape is doing an elements EP focusing on wind, fire, water and earth and from July he’s going to be putting out a tune every month. For me Subscape is going to be the next big thing that comes out of Dubstep. I really think he’s going to be massive because he’s got some great music. Trolley Snatcha has got a new EP that will be coming out on my label Dub Police and a couple of remixes he’s been doing as well. We’ve also got a load of new guys that will be coming out that people would never have heard of before. There’s a guy called Filth Collins and another guy called Dirty Dog who’s on Dub Police who is another really talented producer. So we are trying to put out brand new stuff as well as the main guys. We also have a new album from one of our main artists ‘The Others’, their first single ‘The Way You Make Me Out’ is out at the end of July and then the album should be coming before the end of the year, so we’ve got lots going on.
What advice would you give to a young producer or someone who is looking to start their own label?
For a producer my advice would be to find something that you love in music, don’t just go out and try to copy other producers that’s the worst thing that you can do because you’re always going to sound like a watered down version of someone else. Try to find something in music you love and make that into your sound, bring your own style and that will make you stand out. For someone looking to start a record label I’d say don’t do it, it’s a pain in the arse, but if you really want to do it though putting out quality and not quantity is the main thing for me.
As one of the pioneers of Dubstep are you surprised by the cross over that the genre has had from the underground dance scene to the main stream?
I saw it happening a good three years ago it was just a case of who’s going to do it, with what tune and when. It was building up so much steam that it was eventually going to cross over. The Nero guys have done especially well over there, they’ve kept their sound but managed to cross over. It’s the same with people like Chase & Status. I’m not surprised at all and I think you’re going to see a lot more tunes cross over. I think soon half of the top twenty is going to be Dubstep if I’m honest, it’s a big movement at the moment especially in the USA. I’ve been playing in the US for around the past five years now and every time I go back it just gets crazier and crazier.
Which current artists or producers are you tipping for success in 2012?
My favourite producer would have to be Subscape because he’s young and he’s got so much good music around him, I think he’s just so talented and over the next six months he’s just going to blow up big time.
What are your plans for the rest of 2012
Obviously as I said before I’ve got the single ‘War’ then the Dubstep compilation and my own album coming out before the end of the year. I’m probably going to release another underground EP on Dub Police after the Summer, that would be cool to put another three track-er out of club tunes. Apart from that I’m going to be getting my head down DJing as much as I can and push the new music and artists on my labels. I’m getting so much good music from them all it would be nice to help push them through to a similar path that I’m on at the moment.
Caspa Feat. Keith Flint – War
Out 30th July 2012
Available on iTunes
After the release of his debut album – Diary Of An Afro Warrior. The man known as Benga has become the poster boy for the Dubstep scene. He is back with his latest single Icon and a forthcoming sophomore album. We managed to grab some time with the much sought-after producer to talk about the influence of Dubstep, his future plans with Magnetic Man , losing his laptop and of course his new album Chapter 2
How would you describe yourself to someone who might not have heard of you before?
I’m going to try and keep it short and sweet. I would say that I’m a black male who makes underground music and whether you like it or not it’s very popular (laughs). I dress very smartly a bit like an American rap star, I guess I’m going to have to leave it at that.
What past or current artists do you feel have influenced your sound?
The biggest things that have influenced me would be stuff like Prodigy and Nirvana, even things that go back to Michael Jackson’s Bad album. When I was between the age of ten and thirteen I also listened to a lot of Jungle because my brothers were MC’s. The key thing was the energy of the music that drove me to do what I do today.
A lot of pop music in the charts right now is heavily influenced by Dubstep. Do you think this goes against the whole ethos of Dubstep and how it started out in underground club nights such as FWD for example?
No because if you think about Dubstep no matter what people say it was all about innovating and moving things forward. I think if there’s one thing that does go against Dubstep, it’s the people who are making music that all sounds the same. Not the people who produce Pop records and make it sound different to what it used to sound like because that’s what Dubstep was all about in the first place, pushing things forward.
Are you surprised by the impact that Dubstep has had over in America?
I never expected Skrillex to win three Grammys. The shows we’ve been doing over there have had a steady kind of vibe. We’ve been playing out in America for around five years and I remember the first time we went out there I did a tour with Hatcha over in San Francisco and it was packed. It was probably a club filled with about five hundred people. Now five years on it’s all over the internet and everyone is talking about it. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Americans are late to the party but they’re at the point that we were at around maybe two or three years ago when everyone went out to find out what Dubstep was all about, and we were kind of like preachers. Whereas now we recently did a show in L.A to a crowd of ten thousand people and we played the biggest Dance stage at Coachella. So it’s been a steady growth.
There are a lot of British electronic artists who have been very successful in the states recently. Why do you think that is?
I believe it’s because electronic music is really pushing things forward. No matter where you’re from, you want something new in your life don’t you? From the people who have listened to Rap music all their life to the older generation who grew up when Rap and Hip-Hop began. The youth now want something to attach their generation to and it kind of seems to be Dubstep or some element of Electronic Dance music. They just don’t want the same old stuff anymore.
You had your first live solo show recently at Koko in London. How did that go?
It was amazing. Everyone who played and supported were just ridiculous, everybody was on top form. It’s really nice to have my team around me because it seems like everyone really knows what they’re doing and helping to push my project forward. To play at Koko was the pinnacle show that we’ve all been working towards and for it to go so well and the feeling that we all pulled it off, there was just feelings of relief and it was quite emotional. I wouldn’t normally bring my mum to my shows either but I brought her along and she had a nice time, and I had a good time too. I remember walking out on stage and just feeling so emotional I could have cried. Imagine if I cried on stage?
Looking at your Facebook page recently we noticed that you lost your laptop after your show at Koko. Have you managed to get it back?
You heard about that? Well actually I’m going to be getting it back later today. I was reading through my Facebook and my Twitter and I was reading some messages from some absolute idiots who were saying stuff like “I can’t wait to find your laptop so I can leak all of your tunes” and stuff like that. There were other messages from people being really genuine and saying that “We hope that you get it back; if you think positively you’ll get it back” so I’ve been thinking like that the whole time. So my manager rang me up and said “Guess what we’ve got” and I wasn’t sure what to expect him to say but he said “We’ve got your laptop”. I think I must have left it somewhere in Koko and luckily someone handed it in.
You tend to collaborate with other people such as your work with Skream as well as being a member of Magnetic Man. Was it a strange feeling to head out on tour by yourself?
I would say that if there’s one thing I’ve done over the past six months I’ve been really concentrating and put a lot of time and effort into everything I’ve done. Up until we did the sound check for the gig I was a little bit nervous and I was feeling paranoid about certain little things. Every time we rehearsed for this first show I would constantly be changing things, adding new music and elements to the show. It just meant that when we came to the actual show I didn’t feel as nervous but instead I just felt really focussed and really sure about what I was doing.
As we’re on the subject of your work with Skream and Magnetic Man, are there any plans in the pipeline to be working with them again in the near future?
One hundred percent; I do my radio show on Radio One with Skream every week on a Friday night, so even if I wanted to I couldn’t get away from him. I’m not trying to get away from him though if you know what I mean (laughs). We have got plans to do another Magnetic Man record and have planned to get a single out pretty soon, which means that by early next year hopefully we’ll have a new album. I don’t see why there’s no room for me, Skream or Artwork to do solo projects as well as the Magnetic Man project.
How is your radio show with Skream going? Does it take you back to your Pirate radio days?
There are some times when we wish it was a bit more like our Pirate Radio show but we’re always learning how to be professional and be proper presenters so it’s a new chapter in our lives. I remember the first time when we started doing legal radio at Radio One and we were just stuttering like mad, all we did was stutter we just couldn’t even get a word out. We used to sound like we were speaking in tongues but now we’re getting better at it.
So back to your solo stuff, you have just released your latest single Icon which features Bebe Black on vocals. How did that collaboration come about?
Bebe got signed by Mike Pickering and I’d already made the beat for Icon a while before she did the vocal for it. Basically Bebe got the beat from Mike Pickering and Mike is someone that I really respect. He sent me over the vocal version that Bebe had done and normally I find a problem with every track that I get sent back to me because I’m quite particular about all the vocals that I use on my tracks. There were only a few little changes that I wanted to make so we went in to the studio to do some recording and that was it, done. Now we have this single and we’re having a lovely time with it.
You’ve also got your second solo album coming out on the 27th of August. Can you tell us a little bit about this album and what we can expect from it?
The big theme about my album is that this album is about me evolving and taking it to the next level so that’s why I’ve called it Chapter 2. My first album was called Diary of an Afro Warrior and now that I’ve done this record there seems to be so many moments where it feels so different and so futuristic, it just makes me so proud to have done it. The key thing is that now I’m doing this record with a major label, twenty five million more people are going to hear it.
So do you feel the pressure then?
No I don’t really feel pressure anymore. It’s just that so many more people are going to be hearing some of my best work; it’s more exciting than anything else.
Are there any other producers or artists that you are currently working with or hoping to work with in the future?
I want to get back in the studio with Katy B so we can see what we can come up with, but then I’d also like to do some work with A$AP Rocky. You know who I’d really like to work with? I’d really like to do something with Kanye because I feel like we’d get some good s**t out. So if anyone from Kanye’s label or team reads this they know that I’m the guy to work with.
If there’s one person you could work with who you haven’t already who would it be?
If there’s someone who I’d like to work with who isn’t around or doesn’t do music anymore it would have to be Michael Jackson. I know you’ve probably had that answer about a million times but Michael Jackson was a legend. Imagine Michael Jackson over my music?
What current artists are you tipping for success in 2012?
I would say for me it would have to be Disclosure. I think Disclosure are going to smash it because their sound is very different. The thing I like about them is that it’s not all production, scientist based music. It’s more musical and creatively based and that’s what I absolutely love.
What does the rest of 2012 have in store for Benga?
Well my album’s going to be coming out so I’m going to have to hide for a week while people try and stone me (laughs) or go mental or love it, whatever they want to do. After that I want to perform my live show as much as possible because I want people to see what it consists of. People have seen me DJ before but this live show just brings a whole new dimension to my musical history.
Conor Maynard is relatively new to the pop game but he is already making waves on both sides of the pond. We managed to catch up with him and have a chat about his rise to stardom, being compared to Justin Bieber and working with legendary producer Pharrell Williams.
How would you describe yourself to someone who might not have heard of you before?
Well obviously my name is Conor Maynard and I’m originally from Brighton and I suppose you could say I’m part of the whole new internet phenomenon thing. I was first noticed posting covers on to Youtube and things kind of blew up from there and they starting getting millions of hits. Luckily one of the first people to reach out to me was Ne-Yo and that’s how it all started really. Now I’ve been signed by EMI and I’m working on my first album, with my first single ‘Got To Know’ is ready to be released, so all is good.
Travis Tatum Mills aka T. Mills has had a great few years. Starting out as a bedroom producer at the tender age of 17 he now has a string of releases under his belt and a forthcoming full length album due for release in 2012 via Columbia, the self confessed creator of Hip-Pop seems to be on a roll.
T. Mills recently took time out from his current European tour to stop by at Shazam HQ and talk about his influences, his plans for 2012 and his love of Tattoo’s.
How did you get into making music?
I got a Macbook when I was 17 which had GarageBand on it so I just started f***ing around and I got some instrumentals from the internet and made a few demos in my bedroom. Then I set up MySpace page, back when MySpace was popular, and I just started attracting fans. After that I made a music video for $100 with my friends that we posted on MySpace and it got 100,000 views on the first day; which garnered attention from a lot of record labels.
In this day and age where the internet rules supreme it is extremely hard for a successful artist to break away from the public eye, keeping an air of mystery around your persona becomes almost impossible but one man who has managed to achieve great success whilst maintaining his anonymity is the mysterious masked producer SBTRKT.
With his stunning self titled debut SBTRKT has managed to break through the shackles of the underground Dance world whilst managing to be embraced by the commercial market without losing his credibility. “My ideals in writing music are that people will appreciate whatever emotion they can find in the song, it doesn’t matter what genre or idea that it stems from.”
SBTRKT’s expertise in merging pop sensibilities with rattling percussion and bass heavy production has taken the world by storm. The best example of his genre hopping wizardry is most apparent on the single ‘Pharoahs’ featuring the sublime Roses Gabor.
‘Pharoahs’ opens with one of this year’s most infectious hooks with a melody so simple and effective it makes you wonder why no one has done it before. Powered by SBTRKT’s crisp percussion and Roses sizzling vocal ‘Pharoahs’ is a straight up dance anthem designed to destroy any dance floor.
‘Pharoahs’ was no lucky stab in the dark either with his track Wildfire (featuring Yukimi of Little Dragon fame) lighting up dance floors across the world. Plus when you’ve got critically acclaimed rapper Drake offering to spit a verse on the remix you know you’re on the right track.
Hailing from Montreal, Canada Jacques Greene is one of 2011’s rising underground dance music producers. Although Montreal is traditionally scene as a Techno heavy city Jacques Greene’s sound tends to lend itself towards the House and Bass music coming from the UK at the moment. In recent years there has become a trend for electronic producers to merge R&B samples and influences within House and Bass music but in our eyes no one has come close to perfecting the art as Jacques Greene did with his anthem ‘Another Girl’. It is apparent that Jacques Greene is not just jumping on board of a current trend or scene and that he does actually have a genuine love of the music that he samples – “R&B sets the best mood in the club. It sets the best mood when you’re listening to it around the house. There’s something about it. There’s the duality – R&B is always about being madly in love or madly heartbroken. There’s no in between.”
Sampling Ciara’s ‘Deuces’ flawlessly Jacques Greene loops Ciara’s vocal over a laid back house beat which is combined with the constant purr of intensifying synths. As the beat cuts out Ciara’s sultry voice echoes around your head as you are left waiting; anticipating the pulsing 4/4 rhythm to kick back in. As quickly as the chorus kicks in, again it begins to fade. Obviously a master of his craft, the tracks structure is a series of highs and lows, peaks and troughs, teasing the listener throughout.
Although a seemingly fresh face on the music scene his talents have not gone unnoticed and he was chosen as one of the first remixers to contribute to Radiohead’s recent ‘King of Limbs’ Remix series alongside electronic whizz kid Caribou. For someone who has only been releasing music since 2010 this is no mean feat and we expect to hear a lot more from the Montreal resident in 2012.
After the release of several innovative and intriguing EP’s during 2010 and his break through track ‘Limit To Your Love’ finally seeing the light of day, 2011 was set up nicely for the release of James Blake’s much anticipated self titled debut album.
The second single to be released from his debut and in our eyes one of its stand out moments ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ showcases Blake’s knack for blurring the lines between Dubstep, Electronica and Pop with the greatest of ease, whilst journalists across the world sat scratching their heads trying to conjure up another meaningless genre to describe his incredible music.
Starting with a stripped back electronic rhythm, melancholic, mournful organ sounds and Blake’s haunting, soul fuelled vocal the song revolves and swirls around the constant repeated refrain of Blake’s voice. Borrowing the lyrics from James Litherland’s ‘Where To Turn’ – which Blake’s own father had a hand in producing – shows his ear for a great melody; but not only that it also shows how he can take one moment of brilliance and turn it into a whole song of something original and completely his own. As the track progresses the organs begin to slowly build and Blake’s vocal hook is drenched underneath a sea of white noise, manipulated and twisted to within breaking point whilst the instruments fade and all that there is left are his last remaining words.
After touring the album around the world and a recent collaboration with Bon Iver James Blake shows no sign of slowing down and personally we are glad to hear it. 2011 seems to be just the tip of the iceberg for James Blake and we can’t wait to hear what the future has in store for the young producer.
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