Filed under: Interview
The first artists to bring the breakbeat sound to the mainstream in clubs like Cream, Hybrid have been forming broken beats since the early days of the sound. Their massive knowledge of musical hardware and techniques has seen them produce countless remixes, 3 artist albums and more recently they have been working on film soundtracks for acclaimed independent film producers.
Hoping to spend more time in Asia in the future, the duo recently arrived back in Japan for an event at Tokyo’s very own answer to the superclub, the cavernous Ageha. Higher Frequency caught up with them while they were in town.
Interview by Jim Champion
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : Is this your first trip to Japan?
Mike Truman : For us it’s our third I think but we haven’t been here for about three years. The first time we did Fuji Rock in 1999, and then came back in 2001, third time here second time in Tokyo.
HRFQ : What’s your impression of the Japanese scene?
Mike : We love it here, it’s completely different to London for example. When you compare the two cities together London’s quite impolite really isn’t it.
Chris Healings : It’s a lot cleaner here, from what we’ve seen from our hotel window, we haven’t had a chance to venture out. We’ve got to tomorrow to have a good wander round.
HRFQ : You seem to have been leading the breaks scene for sometime now, how do you feel about the explosion of the scene recently?
Mike : We’ve been making breaks for about the last 10 years so you see it goes in peaks and troughs. When we did our first album in 1999 there was a huge resurgence in the U.K and we were right in the middle of that when it happened. We were some of the first people to play breaks in Cream and places like that. We used to have to play more house sets and occasionally drop a couple of breaks sets in, clear the dance floor and then get them back again, it’s swings and round abouts. But, there’s a lot more interest at the moment, and it’s on a high point but it will probably fade off and then come back again.
Chris : One of the things though about breaks, it’s always been there, like jungle, it’s always been a very underground sound. As Mike says, it comes up through the more commercial music and then goes back down.
Mike : The music’s really come from early rave from the 90’s, that’s really the music that influenced us before it splintered and got classed into Drum n Bass or Techno. We’ve been immersed in it for so long, it’s nice to see it have a resurgence. Especially when you hear Sasha’s new compilation “Involver” which is about 2/3rds breaks, I’ve heard Tiesto playing breaks. In the past the main DJj’s would be at the front and the people like us would be playing the back rooms. Now people like us and Freq Nasty and Plump DJ’s and Stanton Warriors, people like that actually get to play the main room.
HRFQ : It’s said that one of the biggest changes in the U.K has been the end of the super clubs, many people are going back to smaller venues. Do you think that’s a positive thing?
Chris : Yeah I think that’s a positive thing. The dance music recession is good in some ways but bad in others. One thing that’s happened is that Cream is booking Paul Oakenfold, Judge Jules, Tiesto, all these massive names every week and they were charging 30 pounds to get in. You were getting searched on the way in and people were having a really rough time in there. It was turning into .. not a hooliganistic night out but were not really there for the music, they were there for the big names. Now it’s gone to people putting on small nights in the back rooms. The biggest night that we play in the U.K is Fabric which is like a 2000 capacity split across three rooms. It’s a really really good club, it’s the best club. But then we play a lot of other clubs like Urban Gorilla, we play Tangled, we play all the smaller Break beat nights and there the best nights too. You’ve got four to five hundred people in front of you. Your not stuck miles away in a DJ booth, your right there in front of them, it’s almost like a pub environment.
Mike : I think everybody just realized, who wants to get ripped off and pay 30 to 40 pounds for a night out and get treated like cattle. When you can have a better night in a smaller club, you can be closer to the action, closer to the DJs. You can’t get a good atmosphere, or at least it’s difficult to get a good atmosphere in a big club. I think a lot of the big clubs got very greedy and just went for the money. Throw them in, put some big names on, put some lights on them, charge them a fortune, cheers thanks. I think everyone got wise to that in the end. They kind of orchestrated their own demise really.
HRFQ : Well moving on to talk about your sound production, you made a sound track for a U.S film “Man on fire”. Did you compose the whole soundtrack?
Chris : No, we worked with Harry Gretton Williams who was the composer on that film. He brought us in basically to bring some fresh ideas to what he was doing. He really liked what we did, he was coming to our gigs and listening to our productions and to our remixes and stuff. We worked with him on the film and I think we did basically 10 tracks for the film and I think about 4 of them got used in there true form and a lot of the other stuff just got scattered. We were just like a helping hand on the film, a lot of our stuff got used a lot more than I thought it would.
HRFQ : What are your plans for this kind of work in the future?
Mike : Well this year we’ve got, we’re doing our first compilation, we’ve never done a compilation CD before now. We’re basically starting from the ground up, taking a number. Basically we’ve rung round all the producers that we really like, got new and exclusive tracks from them and we’re building it into a cohesive 74 mins. We’re putting bits of sound track effects in there, reworking records and then massaging them into a new piece. We are working on the next album at the moment. Third one, can’t believe it, third album already. And hopefully a couple of independent films just because we want to try our writing, having no boundaries, just writing what’s right for that scene. Which I think as Chris said, in the Hollywood circles you’re kind of told what to do. Where as the people doing the film schools, they are told, not literally told what to do but their creative freedom is really really reduced. You’re just a really small cog in a very large machine, where as in an independent film on the soundtrack you’ve got more of a free run to do what you want. I think we’re going to be very selfish and stick with independent films. We also released a remix album three years ago, we’re doing number two now and that’s basically a set of our best remixes we think we’ve done up to date. That’s the Orb, Uncle, Satoshi Tomiie, John Creamer, just a lot of our best remixes over the last three years basically. The second CD of that is a live set we did for BBC radio one, twelve piece string section and the other live acts, we’re going to put them in as the second CD.
HRFQ : Your previous album featured a Russian based hermitage orchestra.
Mike : That was the second half, for the first half we used a Russian federal orchestra. We went to Moscow which is kind of the equivalent to the Hollywood sound stages and we went there and recorded the whole orchestra. We used the Hermitage orchestra, they’re a lot better, only 24 players but they are brilliant players, they really came up with what we needed. There’s a certain sound that you get from an orchestra that you just can’t compare with. So,we really want to go back to Eastern Europe, record a 24 piece string section and do something really nasty and twisted with it, take it back and put it through Reactor, all the electronics we use and do something quite nasty.
HRFQ : Your artwork on your previous album Morning Sci-fi is quite fantastic. How did you get involved in the artwork?
Chris : All shot in Wales, it’s from a fantastic company, Fabric use them as well, they do some really good stuff, exactly what we were looking for.
Mike : I think we worked quite closely with the company, they showed us a load of photographs and this one just leapt out. The cover of the album, there’s no photoshop in that. It had a rainbow in the background so we were like that’s the one. It has this Pink Floyd kind of look.
HRFQ : Have you started work on your next album?
Chris : Yeah we’ve got five tracks. We’re doing a lot of advert and trailer work recently, trailers for films. Even though the music won’t actually appear in the films we’re putting our music around to different heads of departments in Hollywood. We’ve written loads of short tracks and we thought these are too good to waste so we extended them and made them into album tracks. We’ve got about five finished so far. It’s turning into like our live show used to be, three piece electronic show. Now it’s turned into a nine man live set, five on stage and then a few more guys. The guys we’ve got are Adam whose the lead guitarist and vocalist, Tim whose bass guitarist, Alex our long standing drummer and me and Mike. A lot of these new ideas have come through playing live and I think that’s the way we’re going to go a little more with the third album, even more of a band, even more of a boy band than we are already, old man band I should say.
HRFQ : Any messages for your Asian fans?
Chris : Well we plan to come back here a lot, we’re trying to get some stuff sorted for August, we want to come back. We’ve neglected Asia for quite some time because we’ve been busy in America and to be quite honest, I’m fed up of America. The albums going to be released again over here with a bit more clout behind it so it’s almost a re- release of Morning Sci Fi. In the next six months we will get back quite often.
Mike : It will be great to bring the whole band over.
End of the interview
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