Interview with Rudimental
Rudimental are, without a doubt, one of the most promising new faces to emerge in electronic music for some time, with hype and acclaim being heaped on the dubstep experimentalists' first two singles by critics, the public and their musical contemporaries. We managed to catch up with one quarter of the group, in the shape of main-man Piers Agget, to discuss this success and trace back to Camden studios where it all started off.
What made you want to come together as a group rather than work individually?
I think it was more of a natural thing, just bumping into each other really. Kesi and me have been making music together for about three or four years now - as Rudimental - and Leon was DJing by himself, then me and Leon ended up DJing together so we were all drawn together with music. We all kind of grew up together as well, but we met Amir probably about a year ago now in a studio in Hoxton. We worked on a few tracks with him and we found that we worked really well together and Amir just kind of slotted in like a charm. He provides things that we're not capable of and we all provide things that we're good at and it just formed into a really good dynamic of four producers striving off one another. It's four producers with a different musical background, but, coming from London and having that local electronic music influence, it just seemed so right. We're all musicians as well, and all into music, not just beats, so it all just kind of clicked.
Do you think that local-factor helped in making you want to play?
Yeah, definitely, we can all relate from each other from that point of view; that and the music that was going on around us growing up. We all grew up in rough areas and kind of click off of that.
How important are youth-centred studios in guiding young talent?
Yeah, very important. Amir (Amor - 1/4 ) used to work in the Camden one (he also runs a studio there) and me and the other boys all started out in community studios in Hackney. I think it's a way for young people to find a creative outlet for themselves. When you're eighteen or younger and maybe you're not doing well at school, these places give you other options to consider - this is particularly relevant to me, at least, anyway. These places aren't the be all and end all, I don't think it's gonna solve the major youth problems but I think that it's something really important to have nonetheless. It gives young people a voice and, essentially, that's what it's all about: expressing yourself.
Are there nearly enough of these places around at the moment?
No, definitely not. There are not enough of these places, there's not enough money put into providing anything similar for a number of communities - many are forgotten about. I don't want to get drawn into politics but all I'm saying is that there's not nearly enough emphasis put into providing creative centres in underprivileged areas. In regards to say, the riots last year, I'm not saying that these places provide a solution but they're definitely a step in the right direction.
Is this something that people outside of the music industry should be endorsing?
I think this is something that could be addressed in school; I'm not saying that hundreds of pounds should be spent on building state of the art studios for every community - that's never going to happen, but this was never really given to me as an option that I could do when I was in school. Getting people aware of it is what's important; I know that some schools might be introducing studios but there's still plenty of places where nobody knows anything about this kind of thing and just how important it could be.
Obviously, each of you brings your own tastes with you; do you think this is the main reason why you have such a wide-range of styles in your music?
Yeah, and I think that, even though we're essentially four producers, we all contribute evenly to the eventual sound of the song rather than all of us just wanting to be the guy who makes the beat. We all like to dabble in bits of everything; from writing the lyrics to coming up with the melody. If one of us writes something that sounds good at 160 bpm, we're not gonna put a house beat over it and because we're all so eclectic in our tastes - we listen to soul and other old school music like blues - we know that we can incorporate a much more fitting style and we're not restrained by a narrow musical knowledge.
When I was growing up, I was listening to Dizzee Rascal whilst playing blues songs and learning to play piano, so I had very random taste - I used to hide my iPod from my mates. But we all have this eclectic taste and, as far as I'm concerned, if you're a producer, you need to have a wide knowledge of music to benefit yourself and the music. When it comes down to the album, I think that people will be quite surprised because it's not very genre specific; we're gonna float between genres throughout it.
So far in your career, Rudimental aren't as well renowned for their live shows as much as some of your electro contemporaries are; is this something you're working on or do you want to remain as a band that strives in the studio?
I think that the dream that we all have in the band is to turn into a really good live act. We all play instruments as well, so it's almost like a natural thing for us to move on up to playing live. At the moment, Leon and myself are touring as a two-man DJ set which is going really well but I think we'd definitely branch out into doing more of an ensemble live show. Around September time, when the album should be getting dropped, I can imagine us being on the road more and it being a lot more fun; we'll hopefully even be playing some instruments too as we don't want to be just another run-of-the-mill dubstep act. The dream still is to perform some big gigs, at festivals and headlining as ourselves; we're still wanting to be on the main stage at Glastonbury or elsewhere in the next few years - maybe even a little sooner.
You are quite an independent group, do you think that you work better without outside interference or would you sometimes appreciate the help?
I think we've definitely found a good dynamic in how well we work together, just the four of us. I think that, for most producers and most singer/songwriters, it's always good to collaborate. We've been working with John Newman (On 'Feel the Love') and he's a great writer, plus, we've been working with a guy called James Valentine (Maroon 5) who we've been writing with. We do work well as a team and like to stick to that, but we're always up for collaborating with other people; it's another fun part of working in the studio. It's always great when you link up with a singer or someone in the studio and you can really vibe off them and it sounds great when it comes out. I think with our album we won't be alone for much of it; we'll be looking to collaborate as much as possible.
Going back to John Newman, he is quite the elusive character so how did you manage to hook up with him for the song?
I actually met him in a pub. We met through a friend and he was looking for a keyboard player so I joined his band as the keyboard player for the bulk of last year. I got the guys to come down and watch one of his performances and we all agreed he has a great voice so decided to get him in the studio and he just nailed it. We've been working with him on and off for a while ever since; on the album and on other stuff and we've been really lucky to end up working with him.
Were any of you fans of his stuff before the collaboration?
We only really met when he was starting out so none of us had really heard any of his stuff; he was still trying to make up his band so I don't really think there was much for us to hear really. We all like to stay good friends with musicians, even from college or further back, like Mark Mahan the trumpeter on 'Feel The Love' is a mate of mine from a while back. I think when you get to a certain point in music you become more and more likely to bump into someone you'll want to work with and I think that working with Johnny was just a case of bumping into him and seeing if he wanted to join us in the studio.
We like to do our own A&R at times and we go to a lot of shows to see what kind of talent is around. Of course it's interesting to see whose out there and hopefully find someone out there that nobody's heard of.
Someone that's kind of in the same boat as you are?
Yeah, exactly. When you're up and coming, you're always gonna be reaching for the starts so, if we can find and promote some new talent, there's always that sense of gratification and it's something that's exciting to do as well.
The video for 'Feel the Love' is great, what sticks out the most is some of the hip-hop references in it (Rick Ross) - are you a fan of the Young Money-type of hip hop in the mainstream today?
I do like a bit of Lil Wayne and I don't think I'm the only one in the band but none of us are exactly hardcore fans, but I think that, as a group, we're all big fans of hip hop, particularly old school stuff. As for the video, I think it was a case of the community we were in; obviously, the big thing out there is hip hop and rappers like Meek Mills and we got to go out there and meet them all which was great, very interesting, and we showed the 'Feel The Love' song and liked it so it was reassuring when we got the big hip hop fans on our side.
Will the band, or individuals of the band, be looking to work on beats for rappers any time soon?
Yeah, definitely. We're big fans of Wretch 32; I actually used to work with him in a studio in Tottenham a few years ago but I don't think he would recognise me so still hoping to bump into him, so working with rappers isn't anything new. At the time being, I think we're more concerned in finding tracks that would work better being sung over but we'll definitely be up for dabbling in rap soon enough.
Zane Lowe labelled 'Feel The Love' as a "potential number one," do you reckon you'll be able to live up to this hype?
[Laughs] Zane Lowe has been supporting the song since day one so obviously we appreciate and respect him massively, but the thing is when someone says that it almost makes things even more difficult to achieve. Coming from backgrounds that aren't in the pop world, it's always gonna be hard to achieve major success so you have to take praise like this with a pinch of salt and try and ignore it because if you over think these things, you're more likely to burn out. We're looking to have a longer career and, don't get me wrong, a number one would be incredible, but we're just not trying to think about stuff like that just yet; we just want to get our next single and the album out and maybe then we'll start worrying about the charts.
Who were your biggest influences?
Wow. Erm, definitely Hackney would be the biggest of my influences. Growing up in Hackney and the electronic music scene that was happening in London when I was growing up was probably the biggest influences in what kind of person I am today. I think that's probably going to be the same for the rest of the boys, I'd imagine.
Is there one particular album you wish you'd made?
I think that a unanimous decision for all of us would be The Score by The Fugees. The other day, when we had another interview, we all kind of agreed that this album was one that's just incredible from song to song. The rhymes, the music; it's an incredible album and one that I remember having on repeat for like a year when I was younger and I first got hold of it. Quite different to drum and bass but still. [laughs].
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