26 Feb An Interview With The Freestylers
I’ve followed you guys since the Freskanova days – what was the first big career highlight for you? The Zoolander placement jumps out for me obviously, but what meant the most to you guys?
I guess the release of “We Rock Hard” and all the fun and frolics that went with it. We started off making underground tunes influenced by music that we grew up listening to and it turned into a career changing situation.
What have you been up to studio wise as of late?
We had a new artist album released in 2013 called “The Coming Storm.” It’s an eclectic mash again of everything we love about music. Breaks, Acid House, Drum and Bass, Dub, Hip Hop and Reggae. We have loads of different collaborations with artists including Fast Eddie, Takura, SirReal and Valerie M.
We started off making underground tunes influenced by music that we grew up listening to and it turned into a career changing situation.
Monster studio or a laptop? Where are you guys sketching out your ideas at the moment? Do you work on the road or do you try and keep songwriting at home?
Our studio is very modest, no frills or spills. Do have a few pieces of retro gear like a Juno 106, a Roland SVC 350 Vocoder, an MPC60 and a couple of Akai Samplers. We only work in our studio and have never worked off a laptop on the road. I like to have a break from the working process if I’m tour, I feel more creative that way for when I’m back in the studio.
How has your workflow changed over the years?
I guess you can do many more things with samples than back when we first started, the Flex Time feature in Logic is awesome for this. Years ago you used to have so many dedicated pieces of equipment for Compression, Effects, EQ and Samplers and now it’s all at your finger tips on one computer screen in front of you.
Do you find that working “in the box” is freeing or constraining? Any nostalgia for the hardware days? Do you feel like you work differently because you started off in the days of physical instruments?
I feel it’s made the process of making music much easier. Making music was definitely a more hands on approach even 10 years ago. We used to use Akai samplers where you had to chop things up using dials and buttons and lots more button pressing when time stretching. I used to have time stretch crib sheet to tell you the percentages of how much a sample would need stretching depending on pitch or speed. Also we used to have to edit sounds on the keyboards to fine tune the sounds you wanted.
We used to have a big mixing desk so we could run all the various keyboards and samplers through all the separate channels sending outboard effects where needed. Logic does make everything a lot easier though as it’s all in front of and is basically an all-in-one built studio. I mean you can travel anywhere and at any time write a tune on the go.
I remember seeing you guys at Fabric for a Breakspoll set ages back – it was right in the midst of the “hard-as-hell tear out” scene anyway and you played some rough business. I’ve also seen you drop some of the most fun, funky party sets. It begs the question – how do you stay on top of trends? Or do you care?
Matt and myself have a eclectic taste in our music, so we don’t shy away from experimenting with all types of sounds. I think that’s what gives us our unique identity and that works in our productions and our DJ sets. Not too bothered about fitting in with trends as they come and go so the trick is just to stick to what you do best and don’t follow anyone.
Whats your most indispensable piece of kit?
Apart from the Air Con unit in the studio I guess it’s become our Mac Pro.
The trick is just to stick to what you do best and don’t follow anyone.
What collab / gig / release has meant the most to you in personal terms and why?
Glastonbury 1999 and the Big Day Out Tour 2005 with the Freestylers Live band have been extremely memorable standout moments as far as gigs. Working with the Soul Sonic Force on our first album meant the most as we grew up listening to them and then to actually write a track with them was a dream come true.
I believe it about Soul Sonic Force. Any time you get to work with an influence it’s always a giddy moment. When you guys collaborate, do you tend to send out finished bed tracks to get vocals added or is it a more organic process, involving the collaborator from the ground up?
We just normally have a rough sketch of the track and then send that off to the singer or rapper depending on what kind of vocalist the track needs. Once we get a song or rap back we like, we sit it into the track and then add all the extra production after. Working with Soul Sonic was a complete nostalgic moment for us and it was great we got to work with them as well as meeting and working with the man behind all their tracks, Arthur Baker.
Although we’ve never met him, Fast Eddie who was the king of Hip House has performed on our new album, thanks to the joys of e-mail and Twitter.
How do you guys start your tunes? Loops and build from there, or do you work in a more linear fashion?
Tracks can start in many ways. If we base a track around a sampled musical loop then we sit everything around it to make it work. Lots of times we start with the rhythm track and that’s what gives the track its feel and direction. Sometimes it can be a bass sound or a stab that triggers off the creative process, so as you can see there’s many ways to how we approach writing a track.
We normally just send out the rough backing ideas to various singers and rappers and chose what we think are the best ideas and I guess that’s how a collaboration comes about unless we’re working with someone that we’ve worked with before like Tenor Fly or SirReal when we know their style and can hear them over the top of the idea we’ve created.
Don’t be afraid to experiment either, it seems the more out there you are, the better.
On tour where are your favourite spots to play, and fave spots to chill?
Always have fond memories of Canadian shows over the years. Australia is also a firm favourite as well as Russia and Hungary. There’s 3 places where I like to have downtime – Perth in Australia, Nelson, BC and my bed in London!
If you were to pass on one hard learned tip to budding producers, what would it be?
Do your own thing and don’t follow anyone, that’s what will give you your signature sound so you stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to experiment either — it seems the more out there you are, the better.