Happy Tuesday guys! I hope your New Year is starting off as strongly as mine is.
I spent the first moments of 2017 at B.A.D.Ass Raves’ annual New Year’s Eve bash, Laser Disco, in Baltimore, and rang the “New Year, New Me” alarms with Chris Page — one half of RAM Records’ powerhouse duo, DC Breaks.
We got to talking a bit about current projects, his vacation highlights, tips for producers– and when exactly we can expect the much-anticipated DC Breaks album to release.
So your massive two-song collaboration with Prolix has just been dropped. Can you tell me a bit more of how that come about?
Well Chris [Prolix] is a really good producer obviously — he’s been around for a very long time like us — and we’ve just known him over the years through the scene. We got to the point in the album project where we were just thinking, “Oh, we’ve got all this time… what are we going to do?” So we thought it would be fun to write a tune with another artist. For one thing, it’s a good way to get the creative juices going, and otherwise, [Chris and ourselves] have a very similar mindset surrounding the tunes we make. All we did was drop the question and he was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”
Does the way you work with each other differ from how you collaborate with other producers? I’m curious.
Well, okay, so I actually live in a different place than Dan — Dan lives in London, I live in Bristol — so we do a lot of the main ideas separately, and then send it back and forth to each other. So I’ll go into the studio and write something and send it to Dan, and he’ll be like, “Yeah, it’s cool,” and just continue like that. And, you know, we fire stuff back and forth until we get something good. With the single you mentioned — we went to Prolix’s studio and did most of the work there.
How is his studio?
Amazing. It’s really good to be in someone else’s studio sometimes and see different ways of working.
Do you have a particular rhythm or method to building your tracks, or do you craft each individual track organically?
There’s no separate process really. It depends what kind of mood you’re in — I’ve literally dreamt of tunes and woke up like, “Oh man, I need to rush to the studio and get the tune down.” Other times the idea isn’t totally there — like you won’t have an idea for a bassline or a melody — so you can just make time getting really good drum sounds, get some loops going. Then when you do get an idea, you can just grab those drum sounds and it will be wicked — makes the process go a lot quicker.
I know you two met in college and started producing with each other then. What kept you working together besides the love for the genre?
I think we just have a good way of working. Neither of us is very precious about the music we make. Like, if I make a tune in a day and send it to Dan, chances are he’ll completely change it, and vice versa. Quite often when that happens, we end up with two separate tunes, so it’s really good!
But yeah, how we work is really essential I think. It’s quite hard to be in the studio with someone for long periods of time without getting on each other’s nerves. I find that one person usually just sits on the side twiddling their thumbs, but when you produce apart, both people can be really productive.
It takes so long to write drum and bass tracks — they’re so technical — that it’s really good to just hammer ideas out so you can get working on it together. Plus, you know, Dan’s a really difficult person, so the distance helps [laughs.]
So, would you say you’re more technically-minded or melodically-minded off the bat when you start a new tune?
I honestly think I’m a bit of both. If you’re mixing as you go, it’s very helpful. Sometimes you can have a really good idea, but if it’s badly made it won’t end up fitting into the track, and that’s very frustrating. And nine times out of ten, it’s the beat that’s wrong. If you create and mix a solid beat, everything will just kind of fit around that.
When you have a good idea, get it out, step back, leave if for a few days, and then come back and refine it.
On a totally different note, I hear some of your favorite things are surfing and hitting the pubs– what’s been your best vacation moment of the year?
Well I actually took a two-month vacation and went up in a van through France, Spain, and Portugal. It was nice — I took the surfboards. It was good to have a different environment every day to write tunes in. Of course I was on my laptop, which isn’t that great for making polished sounding music, but it was good for writing ideas and getting inspiration down.
It was great because my studio has no natural light — it’s like a cave — which really does make you write filthy music. It’s a pretty oppressive environment, and this was totally the opposite — being out on the road, looking at the sea made me write more vibrantly.
Alright, now’s time for the big question– We’ve been hearing about a DC Breaks album for some time now, is that still in the works?
So the album is coming out in Spring. I can confirm that much…
[Laughs.] You’re telling me! It’s a long and complicated story as to why it’s taken us so long. Just endless delays, but in that time [the album] has kept evolving. We dealt with it by continuing to write more new music, so, as a result of that, I really think the finished album will be the best it can possibly be.
The album-making process is clearly fundamentally different than making singles and EPs– How do you approach that? Is there a major driving idea behind the album?
For us, we’ve always enjoyed writing every kind of drum and bass — techy stuff, jump up, dancefloor, everything in between — so we wanted the album to be representative of that.
Initially, we realized we could do an album when we had a solid base of tunes — mostly the dancefloor ones really — and then we built the album around them. We went away and wrote some different songs, and the album became much more musical at that point — more song-based records. As soon as we started merging the ideas, BMG came onboard, so we kind of pulled a 360 and turned back to more of a dancefloor focus.
But the album is quite diverse now– heavy club bangers, nice songs, some more filthy sounds — we’ve really tried to round it out.
You must be extremely proud.
Absolutely. It’s been such a long time coming.to round it out.
Now that the year is all said and done, what was your favorite set of the year?
I think it would have to be playing Alexandra Palace in London. Andy C did his All Night show there — He played 6 hours, totally sold out the crowd — 10,000 people. We were supposed to be doing the warm-up hour before him, but we ended up doing the first half-hour and the last half-hour. So we opened doors to a flood of people rushing in, and then got to close it to 10,000 people who just got smashed by Andy C for 6 hours. It was amazing.
This wasn’t on my list, but I know this is your first time playing in the states. B.A.D.Ass is a really good example of the types of shows typically thrown on the East Coast– intensely multigenre. You’re hearing hardstyle now, but there was live electro-funk before this. Have you changed your approach to dj sets in any way to cater to an American crowd?
Personally, I don’t really do any adapting — I just hold on to hope that people will want to see [Dan and I] do what we do, no matter where we play. I would say there’s more of a shift between club and festival sets for me — I have a bit more fun, and can do more experimental mixing in a club, but I have to put on more of a polished show for thousands of people at festivals. It’s a bit more rough and ready [at clubs] — people are feet in front of you interacting with you, and you can build a vibe off of theirs. When you’re on a huge stage at a festival, no one sees you intimately, so it’s more about smashing out big tunes and putting on a show.
Well, we’re definitely smashing this interview out, but I definitely want to ask a question for all the up-and-comers in the community– If you could impart one lesson on to young producers, what would that be?
Well, I don’t know if this is necessarily good advice, but the way I started was by trying to write tunes like the people I admired. Obviously, you want to be original in your writing, but there’s nothing wrong with starting out by replicating or emulating the music you love. Replicating the process over years and years will teach you a lot, and eventually lead you to your own sound.
For me, I was very influenced by Bad Company, Ed Rush & Optical, Dillinja, people like that. I suppose that’s really why I ended up with RAM — they were always my favorite label, even when I first started getting into drum and bass. So naturally that fed into what I was making, but over time the DC Breaks sound developed.
I did do my research on your earlier releases, and I noticed that there was a DC Breaks label at one time. What’s the story behind that?
Okay, so when we signed to RAM, they had a sister-label, Frequency, but they were expanding so rapidly that they basically wanted to start up another label to increase their reach in getting music out to people. It was really meant to get newer, promising artists releasing music — getting them “RAM-ready,” so to speak.
So they said to us, “Would you be up for doing a DC Breaks Recordings Label?” and we did — we had two releases. It was so long ago I can’t even remember their names [laughs.] But we were also working with Viper at the time and had a lot of really good music at the time, so we kind of outgrew it a little bit and never went back to it.
It’s something I’d like to go back to in the future. Maybe taking on some new artists, signing some new talent, and maybe having an outlet for some different stuff from us as well.
What did you learn about the industry from running your own label?
I think it made us realize the importance of having a brand– a kind of look and feel, or sonic signature. Being in that side of the industry took us from of sitting in the studio playing around to going into the studio with more of a plan and goals in mind. It makes [production work] a bit more serious when you have a label to run and represent.
Well, I think that’s it for me Chris. Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me, and thanks for helping us kick off the New Year with proper drum and bass.
While we all wait for Spring to come, you can follow DC Breaks on facebook here.
You can also listen to one of the collaborative efforts with Prolix we spoke of below:
and many, many more amazing tunes from DC Breaks through soundcloud here.