A monumental 15 going on16 years as DC Breaks Chris Page and Dan Havers have just unleashed the epitome of excellence in their 2nd full length LP: DCXV available now on RAM Records. Transcending the sub genres of drum and bass there’s something to appease every taste as DC Breaks remains steadily one of the most iconic and influential names in DnB stacking crates with timeless tracks that soothe and smash and they’re only getting started. I recently had the honor to ask the legendary DC Breaks a few questions about what they’ve been up to with the release of the album, dealing with a global pandemic and more.
Read on to get the inside scoop on DCXV!
Congratulations on the release of your second album, DCXV! I can imagine a lot of time and passion went into this project; it’s an impressive work full of drum and bass flavor to appease the interest of fans across the spectrum so great job creating an album full of diversity and unique sounds that satisfies the DC Breaks vibe!! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for Best Drum and Bass.
You have been producing together for quite some time now. Explain your process working as a duo on such a massive project. What are some of the main hurdles you have to overcome?
We live in different cities (London and Bristol), but we have fairly similar set ups to simplify the process (Mac, Logic Pro). We’ve always had a really relaxed approach to writing so if we get bored of something we’re working on we just send it to each other to work on. Often things get changed beyond recognition but that’s just part of our process now and so long as the track evolves to a point where we’re both happy with it, it works. We don’t tend to dig our heels in much over creative decisions. The biggest hurdles now are juggling music making and everything else with home-schooling young kids!
How did you approach DCXV after such a monumental first release with Different Breed? Did you incorporate some of the same strategies and techniques? It seems that would be a tough release to follow, most of those tunes are still being heard in sets even years later, plus all the remixes that absolutely slayed. DCXV had to be bigger than big and I definitely think you pulled that off; so what was the secret to making that happen?
In a way the creative process was quite similar for us and key to that I think has been the collabs we’ve done – with Loadstar, Prolix and more recently Smooth. It brings in fresh ideas, you learn a lot and it’s fun. I don’t think we consciously set out to better ‘Different Breed’ but on reflection I think we have managed to do that which is nice. In some ways DCXV is a continuation of Different Breed and a maturing – we always like to write in different styles which is of course hugely challenging, and I think we’re more capable of pulling that off now. As you say a big part of what made the Different Breed project so good were the great remixes and again knowing so many people in the DnB world has meant we’ve had easy access to artists we respect to do that side of things once more. The remixes we’ve had done for DCXV have been fantastic and the next batch coming later this year are no different!
Is there anything memorable that happened with the first album that had you better prepared for the process of working on another LP?
Probably the biggest one was the workflow and processes around putting together the limited-edition USB bundles. It was something we wanted to do to make something a little bit more special than just a standard digital album and create something physical for our core fans. But the amount of work to get a physical product ready to ship in time is far greater. We’ve generally had a smoother experience knowing what we know this time round but there’s still been some hiccups – it’s all a never-ending learning experience!
In more general terms though an album is a complicated thing to pull together. Finishing tracks is often the hardest process, and with an album you volunteer to finish 10-15 all at once! This time round we cut back the number of tracks and were more prepared to decide what made the final cut and how to mix and finish the tracks.
So let’s talk about recording and releasing an album amidst a global pandemic. Did the current events halt or hinder your process in any way? Did you have any reservations about putting the album out? How is your approach to marketing your material different now that we’re not testing tunes for crowds and playing events every weekend? How will you continue to adapt to these changes moving forward?
The big, big problem for us both is that although we have no gigs we are busier than ever having to manage kids at home. We didn’t really want to release an album without shows to promote the record either but in the end, we realized that we had to release it or we could be still in this situation in another year’s time. It really should have been out 4-6 months ago – it was after all a celebration of 15 years – which came out in our 16th year haha! It’s been a real blow not being able to road-test some of the newer material but quite a lot of it was made and tested before the pandemic at least so we had a good idea that we were happy with the ideas if not necessarily the mix downs. But we’re adapting as everyone is by trying new things and we’re currently working on a VST for example. We’ve also put a lot of time into making dcbreaks.com and the shop/merchandise on there really good and we’re really happy with how that’s going. There’s also a VST that we’ve built on the way soon too, so it’s been an intense year so far!
Your releases tend to blanket various styles of drum and bass. For example on DCXV we hear some smooth vocal selections, some absolutely dirty bangers, a tinge of jungle influence and a little bit of funk. Is the balance intentional or does it just kind of happen? How do you know when the album is “done”?
We would get bored making one style of DnB frankly and we’ve always embraced the whole range of sub-genres in our sets and when we get in the studio so it’s very much intentional. It’s not so easy to pull that together into a cohesive album though and even when you do you’re not sure then what people will think of the variety or which tracks will stand out. I think more people are more open to different styles now, so it’s actually been really well received, and people find the variety quite refreshing. We never truly feel like the album is done but at some point, you have to let it go and say ‘OK, it’s good enough’…and then you start on the VIPs!
Has there ever been a song you were really feeling but didn’t work out? Do you ever revisit material or old ideas or do you start fresh on every tune?
A big part of the creative process for us is making little ideas, often they got lost or forgotten about only to resurface randomly years later and you think ‘ah yeah, that had a vibe’ and using knowledge you’ve since gained you can go and nail the idea when before you might have got stuck. Some ideas on XV are 3 or 4 years old originally. Our track ‘Shaman’ which came out a few years ago on RAM is a good example of this. We didn’t have the technical skills to finish it at the time and about 4 years later we came back to it and it came together really quickly.
What’s a personal favorite of yours from this release?
Chris – I had a real love / hate relationship with Arkanoid. I redid the drums and the second switch up drop so many times – partly as I learnt a lot in the time about drum design so wanted to implement that into the track. I’m really happy with it and the feedback we’ve had on that track, which a lot of DJs have said is their favourite, has been great but man it was a long hard journey to get it done!
Dan – Back For More. It was the most excited I’ve been about making a record for a long time and was an interesting combination of software and hardware, and things were kind of bubbling in the studio when I was writing it and things just happened and fell into place. It rarely happens that way!
There’s already talk of remixes on the way from DCXV, any hints on what names we might be seeing?
We’re pulling together a few more at the moment but we will have 6 or so to release later this year – in the bag already and which you might have heard in some of our recent mixes:
Step Up – Levela Remix
Burning – Junk Mail Remix
Swag – Smooth Remix
Take That – Magnetude Remix
We’re also going to be running a remix comp of one of the other dancefloor tracks off the album which will be released too alongside some VIPs and remixes from ourselves.
How do you select artists to remix your tracks? Have you ever wanted someone to remix a track and they declined?
We tend to know the guys we ask to remix – people we’ve made tunes with or remixed ourselves or just met at shows and hit it off with. But first and foremost, they’re artists we highly rate. We’ve not had anyone turn us down that we can think of!
What direction do you want to see drum and bass moving toward in the future? How will you continue to transform your style?
Well, the music will continue to move forward regardless of what we want to see haha. For us it’s nice just to sit back and watch it take its course. With our style, I think we just continue doing what we do. We evolve as people, as musicians, as producers, but the general process tends to stay the same in terms of making records. And often the best results are when you’re not thinking about style but are just in the moment.
A few fun questions to wrap things up:
What has been the silver lining of lockdown so far?
Chris: The first lockdown was honestly quite fun for me, it was hot, I have a garden and I just spent most of the time in the paddling pool with my 2-year-old daughter, BBQing and chilling in the hammock and writing music in the evenings. I’ve also got to know my neighbors much better and explored my local area much more discovering some amazing places.
Dan: Very similar to Chris only that I have two kids and a lot less free time! Aside from that it was learning to do something I’d never even thought of doing before, and actually being reasonably good at it!
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure snack?
Chris – Dark Chocolate – up to about 90%, after that it tastes like leather!
Dan – Tyrrells Furrows Salt and Vinegar.
If you weren’t producing fire tracks what day job would you most likely have?
Chris: Probably a teacher, I get a real kick out of teaching!
Dan: Music Lawyer, someone’s gotta look after us poor bastards.
How do you release after a long day in the studio?
Chris: I am partial to a glass of red wine or 2!
Dan: Pale Ales
What’s next for DC Breaks?
We’re making a VST plug in that’s really growing into something very cool and exciting, we can’t say too much at this point, but we’ve been beta testing it with a number of DnB producers and it’s been getting great feedback.
Thanks again for taking the time to share your ideas and experiences with Best Drum and Bass, we wish you great success on DCXV and all of your future endeavors.
Trust me when I say these are the tracks you’re going to want to stockpile for your first gig back. Rave ready and set to smash you can grab your copy of DCXV out now!
Be sure to visit DC Breaks’ website for news, store, production videos and more! DC Breaks Official Website
Hit up the RAM Records store to grab your copy of the LIMITED EDITION Deluxe Album with 7 bonus tracks and a whole lot of fun extras plus a sic USB loaded with the album and some remastered classics. They really went all out for this one!