Hot Cakes’ Hannah Ford went toe to toe with The Freestylers’ Aston Harvey ahead of their DJ set at Brixton Jamm this Friday night to find out which new producers are making them bounce and what fans can expect from their first album in seven years …
Here at Hot Cakes we’re getting pretty excited about the Freestylers’ fifth album, ‘The Coming Storm’. When is that due to be released?
I don’t know the exact date yet, but it’s going to be June some time.
How long have you been working on the album?
Well, I mean our last album was out in 2006 and before then we were releasing an album like every other year. But for some reason we’ve had quite a long gap. In 2009 we started working on another album but decided to ditch that. I reckon just over a year we’ve been working on this new album.
Why did you ditch the last one then?
We just didn’t like anything. Only one track survived, actually. In fact two tracks stayed. But yeah we binned the lot and started again.
When you make a track can you tell that it’s going to be a hit. And are there any tracks on this forthcoming album that you suspect will blow up?
It’s very weird, you just can’t tell. Over the years we’ve had tracks that we thought were going to be massive and then they don’t take off. You never know if you are going to make a hit record. The music we are making is underground but a lot of it has a cross-over appeal. When I’m sitting there making a record I am making something I like and I think if I like it most people will like it. The thing is I’ve been making music for a long time so I know if it is good or not but there are still tunes that you are making that you think are great but other people don’t. It’s all personal taste at the end of the day. The good thing about DJing is that you can sense a tune’s success when you play it out. You can get a taster in the club and work on it. Sometimes you make a piece of music that may not be a massive club record but could do really well.
It must be quite hard to tell… Right, you’re about to release the title track off the album, ’The Coming Storm’ a collaboration with Stereo: Type featuring vocals from Takura. The track fuses Jungle and Dub with heavy bass. Is that the way the album is going? Is there a lot of that vibe?
No not really, the album is quite a mad mixture of sounds and styles. I mean Freestylers from day one have been known to blend Reggae with Hip- Hop, with Breaks and Drum and Bass. We didn’t have a track like that on the last album Adventures in Freestyle.
So, Ed Solo and Sound Avtar have done top remixes of ‘The Coming Storm’, who else has remixed tunes on the album and who have you collaborated with?
We are currently organising the next single, which is going to be called ‘You and What Army?’ and we’ve got this guy called Marcus Jakes whose a brilliant House, Garage producer and then these guys called Manufactured Superstars doing mixes on that. As far as collaborations go and actual artists on the album there are loads. We’ve worked with Irwin Sparks from the band The Hoosiers, Laura Steel, Fast Eddie, Illaman & Serocee, Andrea Martin, Them & Us and Sirreal and Valerie M, who have been part of the Freestylers for a long time.
So loads of people on there?
Yeah, we’ve also got this young, up and coming rapper from Birmingham called Cynical, and this famous Reggae dude from Holland, Mikael X. The thing is we are producers so using someone’s vocals is like using an instrument and also we don’t write the lyrics – we send our beats to various people and then pick which we feel is best suited to the piece of music.
Which producers are you guys rating at the moment?
Who is really doing it at the moment? I really like Wilkinson. I like a lot of drum and bass artists like Tantrum Desire.
And what about in the Breaks scene?
Deekline I would say is doing some good stuff at the moment. Also Pyramid. From what I’ve heard about the House scene this Marcus Jakes guy is blowing up. The thing about House music is that it never goes away it has been and always will be the most dominant form of dance music. Unfortunately, what happens in the UK is these genres come along and become a sort of fad and never progress, like Dubstep and Trap. I think in England we are a bit snotty when it comes to music. However, out of all the underground dance genres you have to say that Drum and Bass has been the most amazing phenomenon; it had hype in the mid 90s but it forged the most amazing path for itself.
What I want to know is how does the production work between you and Matt [Cantor, the other Freestyler]. Who is the dominant one? Who’s the giver, who’s the receiver?
Ha ha I am the dominator!
And what does Matt do then?
He sits there and picks his toenails. Well there are three of us now, myself, Matt and Chris Stereotype, so I mean I usually start with something, bring people in and see what they think. Normally I do start something off. I light the fire and they all sit round it after I’ve lit it and ponder it.
Yeah get it going for everybody else. So, you’re playing at our Hot Cakes party on Friday at Jamm in Brixton with High Rankin and Deekline, that is sure to go off! What can we expect from you guys? Got any tricks up your sleeves?
Yeah it always goes off in there. Yeah, I’m going to stand on my head and DJ, or I could do my magical disappearing trick…
We’d like to see that. Finally, what is one killer production tip that you would give to a producer that is starting out?
That is a very good question. Well, I always say try and make music that sounds like you. That is the hardest thing when you are making music – to have your unique sound. You can copy other peoples but you have to put your own slant on it to make it your own signature. Everyone is made up of different DNA but we are all similar.
There is just so much stuff out there, so much competition that it must be quite difficult to be unique?
It is hard, but if you have a talent for it then you will get there. I mean some people just start off straight away and they are really good and it just sounds right. I know they’re only young guys but, for example Disclosure – they just sound right, whether you like it or not. It’s a bit vague but you know it sounds like something you would buy and not a demo. Even if it means you’ve started off making music to copy a particular sound – whether it’s drums or the actual finished product – just try and emulate that and you’re on to a winner.
The Freestylers play Hot Cakes at Brixton Jamm this Friday, April 12, along with High Rankin, Deekline, RackNRuin, Rennie Pilgrem, Tigerlight, Northbase, Jurassik and many more.