To say that this electronic duo from London is big would be an understatement. Global success, chart-topping records, and working with huge international stars; this duo's musical career has only started. We talk with Will 'Status' Kennard about the dub-step craze that has hit the musical world and their new album, No More Idols, set for release next Monday.
CM: How you doing Will?
W: Yes I'm not bad, thank you. Just been doing interviews all day [laughs]
CM: Congratulations to your recent global success. Why do you think the appeal to electronic dance music has vastly developed in the past few years?
W: I guess electronic dance production has become more advanced so now more than ever people are combining it with more traditional elements of music such as vocals and live instrumentations; like on this new album, there is a much more live element to it with guitars and strings. I think it's fresh and dance music, particularly electronic music, has boundless limits to what you can do to manipulate sound. It's always exciting, and now it's becoming a very big thing.
CM: If anyone has been living under a rock and never heard of you; how would you describe your sound?
W: I hate doing that [laughs]. We come from an original Drum n Bass background which is music very bass-driven, an energy into percussion and with low end frequencies. But now, we combine that with all our influences such as dub-step and hip-hop or even rock sounding stuff. We generally always look for high-energy music that has a lot of attitude, which gets a lot of people going; this works really well in our live shows and hence our shows get very rampant at moments [laughs].
CM: Is it a conscious decision when you transgress music genres, from dub-step to hip-hop, or does it come naturally?
W: It's only conscious to the sense that we are always trying to discover new sounds or create something original because everything seems to have been done. So for us, it's the case of combining genres and that's why all the vocalists we wanted to work with came from different scenes so we can create something fresh. Adding guitars to a Drum n Bass track is hopefully an example of making something exciting.
CM: Last year you decided to take a direction into pop music with producing for mainstream artists such as Rihanna and Alexandra Burke and you also collaborated with the likes of Plan B. Why was this and did you find it more difficult to what you usually do?
W: It is and it isn't; it depends where your heart is. The Rihanna project was obviously a no-brainer for us; it was an amazing opportunity to not only work with one of the biggest artists in the world but also quite an exciting pop artist as well. From meeting her, it couldn't have been any truer. She has a lot of attitude and was great fun. We loved that she was willing to give it a shot to work with artists like us who aren't traditionally pop, and she was like 'give me the grimiest music you've got' [laughs]. Plan B is like family to us. We've always worked with him and hopefully will continue to. It is different skill sets to writing good pop music rather than writing good underground music. We've been producing underground music for about 10 years now, so from a producer point-of-view, it's really interesting to learn a different side of production. Even if you don't like a big pop song, you can still appreciate the production and song writing, even if it's not your taste. It's important to us to learn all aspects of music production.
CM: Talking about mainstream music, huge global stars, such as the recent Britney Spears track, have jumped on the Dubstep bandwagon. What do you guys feel about this?
W: When I listened to the Britney track, I couldn't hear the dub-step; it sounded like a trance record to me. But I can see why the press are jumping on that bandwagon - dub-step is the flavour of the month. It's an exciting and new stroke from the UK. Drum n Bass had a similar thing in the early 90s with the likes of Goldie and Roni Size. People who are talking about dub-step becoming the new mainstream music; I really don't think it will take over into the pop world because I think for it to do that it has to change so much, that it won't be classed as dub-step in its purest form. It's like that for a reason; pretty stripped back and raw and generally for it to becoming poppy, it would have to lose those elements. It's nice to hear influences creeping over but I don't think or will want to take over.
CM: So you have a new single coming out on Monday, Blind Faith. How was it working with rising star Liam Bailey?
W: Liam was an absolute pleasure to work with. He is one of the most charismatic people we've met. It was a real honour and we were very lucky that we heard about him from the Head of Universal who had just signed him. We watched an interview with him and we thought he was cool. At the time, we were struggling with the track and we had tried hundreds of artists; none of which was giving us a certain angle or edge. Liam sent us a demo, which had a dubby vibe to it, and we loved it. He's just a creative guy and a genius. He has a bright future ahead.
CM: Your new album, No more Idols, is out January 31st. You have a whole collection of names who have worked on the record from Cee-Lo Green to Tinie Tempah. Who was your favourite out of them all to work with?
W: I can't pick one because there were so many different experiences. White Lies is one of our favourite British bands, and to have them in the studio and write a song with us in the space of a day was very rewarding. We had a lot of fun with Tempah T who was a character and Tinie Tempah who we are very good friends off the back of touring the summer festivals; he is such a gentleman and a lovely guy to be around. We were fortunate to have good experiences with everyone. We built a personal report of who we wanted to work with and it was the case of us actually knowing these people; it wasn't a case of management sorting it out. It was all fun and creative.
CM: Are there any other big names you'd like to work with on a future record?
W: Absolutely. There was talk on this record of working with Jay Z and Kanye West, but timing didn't connect. In a way, we're glad, because it's kept the record more British and that's what we wanted to achieve on this album. But in the future, we're affiliated with Jay Z through his Roc Nation label and it would be an absolute honour to work with him. Similarly, Farrell is a creative hero to us so we talked to him a lot last year. A whole load of people, but too many to mention.
CM: How would you say this new record is different from your previous offering?
W: It's only different in the sense that there are more vocals included. We liked the fact that the first album was our first foray into vocals, with the likes of Plan B, so we wanted to expand that. There's defiantly a feeling of more 'songs'. We've also established this live show since our first album and so when writing tracks for the second album, instead of thinking 'will this song smash up a club?' we were visualising if it worked with a band in a live show. So there's much more of a live-feeling than club-orientated. At the moment, I can't even hear the record itself because I'm in a head-spin with mixing down songs. But I'm proud of the single because it was a tough single to get right and a lot of people said that maybe we should do something different. It seems to be doing quite well on radio so we're glad.
CM: Was there any pressure on this, after your global success of your previous record?
W: Oh god yes; second album syndrome. We were pulling our hairs out. Everytime someone would say to us 'I can't wait to hear the album, I know it will be amazing', your heart would just sink; it affected us. We wrote our first album not really caring or not knowing what we were doing, but with this album on a major label, there were expectations and talks of things like charts. It definitely made it more intense and stressful, but that's what working hard is all about. We pulled through and got it all together.
CM: You're about to start a national tour in March. What's usually the best city you guys play in?
W: Again, I couldn't say one; from Hull to Manchester to Edinburgh to London - all just so fantastic. I could easily forget where we were each time; just a sold out venue of people going nuts. It's a great atmosphere. We are very lucky to have a good fan base in the UK. It's important in this day and age to have a strong sense of British identity and it's easy to get swallowed up by the American image. We've always grown up being influenced by British music from Drum n Bass to UK Garage to grime. I'm excited about the Roundhouse show coming up in London because it's such an iconic venue and I've seen some amazing shows there. That will be very special for us.
CM: Do you have any advice for any unknown DJs trying to make it big in the music circuit?
W: Unfortunately, what we realised early on, when we were bedroom DJs mixing day after day, it doesn't matter how good you are unless you know someone, particularly influential. Everyone thinks they're a good DJ now. People will only come and see you if you're a name that they will recognise. Try and make some tracks of your own to play and that will make you stand out as a DJ rather than playing everyone else's tracks. Try and do something different to make yourself stand out; that's very difficult to do these days but that's important.
CM: What else have you got on this year?
W: We have our own record label, MTA Records, which is something very close to our hearts. We spent two years building it up. We've signed an act called Nero who now have a top 15 track, Me and You, for the past two weeks, and we're now on the verge of potentially signing another band. It's something that allows us to release new and edgy stuff. It can be any music; classical or a choir singing - just an eclectic mix or a cult following of anything that we think sounds exciting.
CM: So it sounds like you're vastly expanding in the future
It's always about expanding in the music industry. It can be a fickle world and it can be very short-lived. The minute you sit on your laurels and you think that you've made it, it's probably the start of a downward spiral. So we're always thinking about the next step.
Thanks for your time Will.
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