With the recent release of Recall to Mind, I thought it would be a timely opportunity to get a transcription done of an interview I did with Guy and George AKA Commix back in January 2009. Interesting to note that aside from Burial, none of the names kicked around for remixes have actually appeared on the final album. Personally I would love to hear Claude Von Stroke remixing Commix!
So, Fabric Live 44 mixed by your good selves due out 4th Feb. I’ve seen the tracklisting and it looks fantastic, some big tunes on there and a couple of surprises too at the end of the album which I want to ask you about later.
What were you trying to do with the mix, is it representative of your club sets?
George: Yeah I think it is. That was one of our big angles, we wanted to reflect the way we DJ. We’re very up and downy DJs, we don’t try to just smash the dancefloor over an hour; we try to have some ups and down, some really experimental sections…
Guy: We’re of the opinion that if you’ve got a high point you’ve got to have something leading up to that and away from it. To me just being smacked by lots of records that sound similar to each other isn’t a good experience if you’re out listening to a DJ. The DJs that we’ve felt more affinity towards within Drum & Bass are like people like Marcus Intalex and Doc Scott that can just roll it out for hours. Its all about peaks and troughs rather than just smacking people every 3 minutes…
George: Also a big influence generally are the Detroit DJs, the way they put things together. Like Carl Craig, he’ll keep the bass out of his mixing for half an hour before dropping it back in, and the whole tease mentality is something that we find really cool; it’s a good way of manipulating the crowd into hanging on for the next big thing. That’s a big part of it for us.
At the end of the album there’s a couple of quite obscure old tracks like Yendi by Photek…
Guy: Yeah definitely. We wanted to include some older stuff in the mix simply because that’s where we really came from, We wanted to include things that weren’t necessarily the obvious tracks from those artists; like Yendi was just a b-side off a 12 inch – I don’t think it was on the main album [Photek’s Modus Operandi] – but it was a track that we’ve always loved since it came out. When given the opportunity to do this mix I think it was important for us to try to showcase some of the things that got us into this music in the first place.
And there’s Jonny L’s Common Origin as well, which was the b-side to Piper…
George: For us with the Fabric series, I’ve followed it for a long time and we know roughly that a lot of people listening to it are being educated, a lot of young kids going to Fabric who follow the series and for us it important to out the new music into context by showcasing a bit of the older stuff and where the vibes originally come from. People like Jonny L and Boymerang and PFM and Wax Doctor set the standard really as far as we’re concerned so it was important for us to get some of that on there to show that good music has longevity and is timeless.
Going back to your Djing, I saw your schedule on Myspace; it looks insane for the next couple of months, you seem to be zipping over to Europe every other night. How do you fin the crowds in Europe compared to the UK?
George: Everywhere is really different. Its something over the years of DJing that I’ve gotten really interested in; how kids upbringing can influence the way they listen and go out and dance to music. You might go to Germany where they’re so much about the dancing, but they’re much quieter – they don’t scream and shout like they do in England. You go over to Australia and it’s the opposite; they’re really into shouting and screaming and getting into it. Everywhere has a different vibe and it’s a really interesting job in that respect because as a DJ you have to react to those changes.
Does it affect you as producers?
Guy: Certainly; travelling around the world and experiencing different cultures and meeting different people will always have an effect on whatever artwork your trying to produce or anything you do creatively. But its very specific to different countries; you go to somewhere like Japan, there’s a real fan thing over there. They’ve always got themselves so deeply involved in anything they’ve taken on; if you look at the hip hop scene or they way they react to certain English bands. You see that on a smaller level within the Drum & Bass scene. I always remember being really surprised the first time we were asked to sign a record. To me it’s such an alien thing coming from sitting around getting stoned in a bedroom writing music, and then to have it transfer to signing a record for someone in Japan is quite a big thing for us.
You’re playing New Zealand and China as well at the end of Feb; will it be the first time in those places for you?
George: Yes it’s the first time for both New Zealand and China. We’ve been over to Australia, and we’ve done Japan obviously, and America; so these are a couple of the spots we haven’t hit and we’re looking forward to getting over there, especially off the hype from our album, and hopefully the hype that will be generated from this Fabric mix. It should mean we’ll be playing some wicked parties.
How do you DJ as a duo? Is it one-on-one-off, or half hour each kind of arrangement etc?
Guy: We generally work three-for-three, but on occasion we just do one-tune-for-one-tune. It depends; there are those times where it’s a big pressure set and you’ve got butterflies in your stomach before you go up, and there’s other times like when we’re just DJing at our party in Cambridge, where its more like a piss up with your mates. Basically you have a drink and pass the decks over to the next person, be it George or Nu:tone or Logistics, and just have fun with it.
Your first release was in 2003, and from the start you were releasing on some big labels like Good Looking, Creative Source, 31 Records; how long were you producing before that? When did you first get into Drum & Bass?
George: We both got into it at the same time, though we didn’t really know each other. I think I was about 15/16 when I first started hearing the old tape packs, and when I met Guy he’d already been collecting records for quite a while. He had a couple of crates of the kind of stuff you’d imagine we’d be into: Photek, Johnny L… the early Total Science I remember being really cool. We were actually listening to some really obscure Johnny L b-side when we decided we should give it a go. The music at the time was really minimal, really simple sounding stuff – well it sounded simple, but when we started putting our fingers on the keyboards we realised it was far less simple than it sounded. I think it was a good 2 to 3 years before we had finished a 6 minute track and decided it was good enough to send to some record labels.
You’re associated with Hospital and Metalheadz at the moment; do you have any plans to start your own label?
Guy: That’s definitely something that will come; we’re not in any hurry to rush ourselves into doing it. We’ll probably get the 2nd album out of the way and try and give ourselves a little bit of time around it where we can think about an ethos for the label and a look for the label, and try to do a platform that might be not just for Drum & Bass. Maybe we’ll feel like putting out some other tempos and release some stuff by other people, so its another avenue for us and we’re looking forward to it
George: as far as a record label is concerned – especially in the modern climate – it would have to be polished to the hilt before we were happy enough for it to go out. We’re not in the mindset of just getting a label and whacking out our records; we’d like to have something with a website that ties in the artwork and a big strong concept around it. If you’re going make a product nowadays you’ve got to put in the effort in. It’s something we’ve been thinking about since mid last year and we’re pulling concepts together, talking to graphic designers. It is the pipeline bit we’re not gonna say when it’ll come out because we just want it to be absolutely perfect before we do anything.
Talking about other tempos, I understand Call to Mind is going to remixed in its entirety as a techno record. Who’s involved in that?
George: Not so much as a techno record, we’ve commissioned people we’re really influenced by and have a lot of respect for all across electronic music. We’ve got Mark Pritchard as Harmonic 313, he’s going to be doing a mix; Burial’s done a 2 step mix, we’ve got Matthew Johnson, Conrad Black, Johnny D and Claude Von Stroke.
Guy: From a Drum & Bass perspective we’ve got Instra:mental and dBridge who are some of our favourite artists right now and really still pushing things.
George: It’s looking like its going to be an interesting project. We’ve always been into the remix project idea. The last time it happened to Drum & Bass was Reprazent; the whole remix package thing. Its really cool to get another genres take on your tracks.
On the original Call to Mind you had Underground Resistance who did a remix which must have been a major coup I imagine they’re not people who would just work with anyone. How did you get them on board?
Guy: That’s something that came around through our connection with Goldie. When you’re two young Drum & Bass producers from Cambridge it’s difficult to sort out those kinds of things unless you’ve got a lot of capital behind you. But with Goldie behind us, with his artistic flair and his temperament he’s been good in securing people which without him we would have found impossible really.
Ed Rush and Marcus Intalex have done Tech-House sets this year, DJ Zinc is doing his fidget house thing; why do you think there’s such a resurgence of interest in four to the four styles in Drum & Bass at the moment?
George: It all comes from Disco doesn’t it. Drum & Bass pulls on Techno and House music so much anyway. Its always been so bizarre to me that they haven’t been more affiliated. I think I’ve only played one night where there’s been proper techno in the other room and that was Chibuku in Liverpool. I just think they’re great music together.
Guy: I think with Drum & Bass it’s such an amalgamation of sounds as well; when you listen to it you can hear so many influences be it Soul, Dub, Reggae, Techno whatever, so it’s no surprise that the guys pushing the Drum & Bass sound are going to be interested in things like Techno.
Are you likely to be playing any Techno in your sets or even doing a completely Techno set?
George: We’re spending a lot of time at the moment producing Techno, Deep House and Tech-House stuff.., we recently played a load of Techno at Plastic People and that went down really well. We spend a lot of time, listening to, making and playing techno and we think it has a really good effect on our Drum & Bass as well. So you can expect a lot more of that from us.
You mentioned earlier about the 2nd Commix album artist proper. Any idea when that is likely to be, what plans you’ve got for it?
George: We wouldn’t really want to put any specific timeframe on it at the moment. The same as we worked on the last album; its just a matter of writing stuff very slowly, not really with an album in mind and waiting until we’ve got a large collection of music which we can pick and choose tracks from. Which is how Call To Mind came together.
Also on the Fabric Live mix is Bear Music which is a massive tune at the moment. It was on the last installment of Future Sound of Cambridge with Nu:Tone and Logistics. Any more from that to come?
George: I’m sure we’ll dive into that once a year at least; we’re very closely affiliated with Matt and Dan – Nu:Tone and Logistics – we grew up together making music we’ve always had a friendly competition vibe going on, we’re from the same city. I think from now on it’ll be nice once a year or more to touch base and put something together which showcases how we’ve gone in our different directions, which I think is what is cool about Future Sound of Cambridge part 3. Because we started out doing exactly the same thing, and through our own little journeys of DJing around the world and all the influences that you collect over the years it’s sent us all in our different directions; which for me, and I hope the listener too, is really interesting
Do you have any other collaborations coming up? Do you have any dream collaborations?
Guy: We’ve done a thing with Goldie, which I believe is going to come out the first half of this year. I think that’s planned as a twelve inch with another one of our things on the other side. Aside from that there’s plenty of people we’d like to work with within Drum & Bass and outside of that. I certainly gig to look into getting Burial in the studio; I know he’s been doing some things with Goldie recently, so that would be a real achievement
George: we also put a track together in the middle of last year with MC:SP, and we’re going to try to pull that together as a larger project and do a few more tracks with him. We’re probably going to doing some work with dBridge and Instra:mental over the next year. With Marcus Intalex…I was up in Manchester recently having a dabble in his studio. Basically we’re in part of a small corner of Drum & Bass scene and there’s lots of collaborations that are out there to be had.
I put it to those lovely folks on the forum at DOA if there was anything they wanted me to ask you. So first of all, Carpet wants to know about the spelling of your name – are you deliberately trying to encourage poor spelling in the youth of today?
George: oh my gawd.
Guy: He wants to look up Commix in the dictionary before asking questions like that. Commix means an amalgamation of elements, which I think is what we’ve always tried to do with our music. Try to look in different sources and find things that you wouldn’t usually throw together.
George: It is actually in the dictionary spelt like that, so correct Carpet.
2turtables asks what’s your favourite curry from Kismet? I’m guessing that’s a Cambridge thing?
George: That is and it would probably able a chicken tikka masala madras hot.
Guy: I’d go for the tikka shaslik for me definitely.
Hubris asks what gear you’re using these days? I remember hearing you use Reason?
George: We’ve used reason for many years and we still use it for the things we think its good for. We also use Cubase for plug-ins, FX and instruments, Logic for FX; we’re not particularly fussy about the platform that we’re using. Depending on the track we’re writing, we use each bit of software or each bit of kit for the thing that its best for.
Coming off that, how do you work in the studio? I know with Total Science one guy is the tech-y guy, one guy is the ideas guy. Is it that kind of set up?
George: no not really; we both come to the table with ideas. I’m very much a keyboard player, I was a musician before I got into Drum & Bass so I’ve got quite a lot of musical knowledge as far as composition is concerned
Guy: For me I think I’m just more of record collector out of the two of us, so I guess in terms of coming up with ideas George is definitely more au fait with chords and chord structures, and I might have more of an insight with electronic music as a whole maybe. But over the years its crossed over and we’ve learnt a lot off each other, so it keeps on developing really
Paul M from Beatplexity asks what your best gig of 2008 was?
George: For me it would have Womb in Tokyo; that was at the beginning of the year, amazing gig; we had people chanting our names by the end. It was 7th anniversary of Womb, which is renown around the world by Djs as one of the best clubs to play at, so that was an obvious highlight.
Guy: I think for me maybe Star Wars over in Belgium. It’s a really surprising venue; it’s huge for a start – maybe 3000 people there – but what’s refreshing about it is you don’t feel you have to play a particular way to please the crowd. You can drop something completely abstract and people seem to enjoy it as much as if you drop something hard.
To wrap things up, what else have you got lined up for 2009?
George: Just working really hard on making new music towards our next album. The Recall to Mind album which were working hard on; we’re getting the artwork rehashed in the opposite style, so you’ll probably see another CD cover with a big bear on it. We’ve revamped our studio; expanded it and tried to make it more fitting for making techno. So hopefully you’ll hear a new sound from us this year.
Recall to Mind is out now on Metalheadz.