Published on | by CCPAR0
The Sect | Interview |DnB
Spanish & English Version
Versión en Español | Pica Aquí
CCPAR meets The Sect to talk Drum & Bass!
Blade & Virtua aka Dave & Ben followed the development of Jungle to Drum & Bass, eventually finding themselves drawn to the futuristic sound. Their pioneering and uncompromising pursuit of new mutations of DnB has put them at the forefront of today’s producers in the scene, as well as their label operating as an important mouthpiece for their fresh Techno – DnB crossover genre.
Here is what they have to say, enjoy reading!
How did you discover drum & bass? What is your first memory of hearing drum & bass? (Please tell us like a track, a party, etc.)
Living in and around London 20+ years ago, we tuned into pirate radio stations which enabled us to hear music we’d never experienced before. There was no internet then, so there weren’t mixes to download, commercial radio stations didn’t play underground music and we were too young to go to raves. We had no idea of track names or playlists, but we were hooked to pirates like Kool, Unity & Don FM. We also listened to recordings from big raves on cassette tapes – everyone at school collected and traded tape packs from World Dance, AWOL and One Nation.
How did you get into your DJing/music career?
Ben: Sometimes when you become aware of something you want to know how it works. When music started really to generate feelings within me I wanted to be able to make it myself – why should someone else have all the fun?! Luckily the style I was into was possible to create purely electronically, so with the help of some free programs off the covers of old computer magazines I was able to begin to satisfy my craving. In terms of DJing, listening to DJ Hype in the early days of Dreamscape 7 really amazed me – I’d never heard any mixing like it, not to mention his scratching ability. If anyone gets a chance to listen to that set I wholly recommend it – wicked, dark tunes, perfect mixing and awesome scratching. I was totally hooked on scratching and mixing after that.
Dave: It started as a hobby – I’d loved everything about the music since i’d first heard it and started buying records and mixing instead of spending all my time playing football or computer games with my friends. I started DJing on pirate stations and at small club events and just enjoyed it too much for anything else to seem important. I saved money from my Saturday job to hire studio time with a friend and we started to learn what went into making and releasing tunes. Later, at university, I worked in a record shop to earn extra money (but mainly so I could get white labels and promos) and by this time I knew there was no way I wanted to do anything else. Ben and I also met around then and started to make tracks together, the most important thing was that it was amazing fun and luckily we both had the enthusiasm and determination to stick with it and continue to improve. Our first tune on vinyl as The Sect came out in 2003 and since ‘Nerve Attack’ in 2005, it’s felt like we’ve been getting closer to what we want to achieve.
The origin of drum and bass is rooted and combined sounds like Hardcore, Techno, Acid House, Dub, Reggae, Dancehall, Rap, Breakbeat hardcore, etc. In your opinion which one is the root of drum and bass?, What defines your drum and bass style?, Which elements do you use in the present?
Ben: I’d say dub probably has the most to be thanked for in terms of the sound we all know as drum and bass today. Jungle was created out of that and drum and bass out of a combination of jungle and techno and acid house, mainly. Our drum and bass style has been coined as ‘Tek’ or ‘Techno Drum and Bass’ but we’ve never called it that ourselves, we just make what we always wanted to hear when we were growing up. We use lots of techno elements for synth parts, house elements for percussion parts, breakbeat elements for drum parts and the odd dub vibe.
Dave: I think everything that went before D&B helped shape it. I got into electronic music through breakbeat hardcore/rave which encompassed elements of house, techno and hip hop. Jungle evolved from that and had basslines that were obviously heavily influenced by dub, so Drum & Bass really was something that came out of a melting pot of styles and cultures. As for us, we’re probably best known for using techno elements in D&B, but we are equally influenced by other styles too. The most important bits for us are still the drums and the bass though!
Which artists gave you the biggest inspiration on your own creative style when you first started out? Would you say the same artists are inspiring you creatively today?
Dave: Konflict and Stakka & Skynet and were probably my biggest influences when we started making Drum & Bass – the futuristic, techy sounds were just exactly what I wanted to hear and sounded so different from most tracks around at the time. And of course Bad Company just changed the whole sound almost overnight and I followed everything they did avidly too. I think the energy in their tracks was as important to me as the melodies and crazy sounds. Current Value and Dean Rodell/MachineCode are the obvious equivalent for me these days and are really pushing this sound forward at the moment.
There is a perceived división between the various styles in drum and bass. Can you tell us the reason why drum and bass is divided in styles? Why it is not just called drum and bass?
Ben: People get territorial and want to be responsible for creating their own style. Or someone makes a track that someone else doesn’t think fits within the remit of drum and bass so they say “it’s not drum n bass”. After a while someone coins a new term for it. But the point of drum and bass is that it’s fast, contains experimental parts and drums and bass – other than that there are no fixed parameters and no one has the right to dictate its rules.
Dave: People like to categorise and pigeon-hole things, it’s human nature. It’s comforting and to some extent useful to describe the music in this way – I wouldn’t go to a night that advertised itself as ‘liquid DnB’ as I know I probably wouldn’t like most of the music. But it’s a bit lazy and also annoying if like us you just try to make ‘Drum & Bass’ without setting yourself boundaries. Apart from being inaccurate, if others decide ‘The Sect only make techno-dnb’ then it’s harmful to us – most casual listeners probably won’t know what that really is and if they’re not into techno might be put off entirely – so it immediately limits the potential audience. Also such categorisation is entirely subjective – ‘Is this artist tech-step or darkstep? Do they play technoid, neuro, or liquid?’. I don’t know what half the terms used to describe different genres mean. If it’s Drum & Bass and you like it, that’s surely enough? It doesn’t need another label.
MC Navigator back in 90´s said that in a year´s time drum and bass will be covering the world “It´s like you have to know how to ride the waves. Look at the scene. It started on acid house tip and then it progressed to hardcore and now is gone to jungle and drum ‘ n ‘ bass. Is the focus of the world right now? It’s all here”. How do you see the evolution of drum and bass from a UK and Europe scene to a world phenomenon?
Dave: Even as relatively unknown and underground artists, we’ve played in Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America – Drum & Bass is definitely a worldwide phenomenon and remains so even if it’s not the most fashionable thing to listen to right now. The internet has accelerated the process, because it has allowed people thousands of miles apart to hear music and share ideas. Plus the advent of cheap PC-based software meant people everywhere, who like us wouldn’t have had the money to buy expensive studio equipment, could make music anyway. But even before the internet, DJs across the world would be playing D&B tunes made on an Atari in a bedroom in London or wherever and that’s always crazy to think about. The enthusiasm and energy with which the D&B sound spread was a really exciting thing to experience. It was something completely new and un-manufactured, that seemed to resonate with people all over the world and although it has evolved over time and there are many different forms, the fundamental principles remain universal.
In response to the softer sounding drum and bass some producers started focusing on a darker sound, for instance in the 90´s Grooverider released an LP where he used the word “hardstep” for the first time. From this moment it is a fact that artists have been progressing towards more aggressive sounds; creating new styles for example the darkside hardcore, or darkcore. How do you think this has affected the genre?
Ben: The main thing for me is the quality of the mixes in general. The difference in the warmth of dark drum and bass now compared to what it was in the early 90s is huge. It meant that big bad bass sounds, rather than being clunky and harsh sounding, became rich and spectacular. As the quality of mixes and song writing improved generally, the more dark drum and bass became a force due to its ethos of evoking strong emotional responses. What producers have to be careful of now is losing that warmth when making angry sounds. It shouldn’t just be a game of who can make the most noise!
Do you get caught up in one particular style or do you value more the ability to blend different styles?
Ben: We like to use elements of different music. I remember back in the ‘90s thinking how cool it would be to have trance elements mixed with hard drums and bass as well as very organic, classical parts. It’s the contrast which captivates the imagination the most – as long as it all works together musically! It’s best not to discriminate by genre.
Dave: I think we’ve definitely suffered from being pigeon-holed as only making/playing ‘Techno D&B’, but it hasn’t meant we’ve felt we had to pursue this. We’ve always made what we wanted, be it a harder tune, a techno-influenced track, or something a bit deeper with more emotion. When I DJ, I’ll play what I want – if I love a tune that doesn’t ‘fit’ with a specific sub-genre people expect me to play, it doesn’t matter. You can push a certain style or sound without excluding other types of tune. Plus if we only made/played one style of D&B it’d get very boring, very quickly (both for us and the audience)!
What is your opinion on the new wave of combining genres like hardcore techno and drum and bass or dubstep when they are supposed to come from different musical backgrounds?
Ben: Drum and bass has to evolve to survive and continue to excite the people who have never heard it before. You can’t make pure techno or dubstep or classical music and label it drum and bass but you can do it with an eye to a different genre if it works within the track you’re producing. If it’s fast, has drums and bass and sounds good then it’s fine! Don’t be too precious about it, but remember you’re still making drum and bass, not techno, for example!
Dave: I think there’s space for everything in Drum & Bass, it has always taken influences from other styles of music and the only limits or restrictions are those we impose ourselves. Having said that, I’m personally not a fan of ‘Crossbreed/Hardcore D&B’, as a lot of it lacks what is fundamentally important in Drum and Bass to me. It’s just my personal taste and opinion though, that’s the good thing about this music, there aren’t really any rules.
There is a controversy with the technology taking control of the growing digital era, the rise of digital releases and the ease of availability and discovery to the public, where in few words, everybody can be a dj (Even artists that comes from a popular music background like deadmau5 are part of this talk, mentioning “we all hit play”, implicitly those who use Ableton and midi-controllers, admitting the laptop/software does all the work, which indicates that nowadays a Dj does not do anything special) …It is worth asking: What is the essence of the dj?
Where is the creative side of the artist if even creativity is in the hands of the software or the dj set up for example?
Dave: I don’t think all artists who use Ableton or sequencer/controller set-ups to perform ‘live’ are as cynical about it as Deadmau5, plenty do more than just press play and make a few filter sweeps. Such shortcomings are part of the reason we haven’t moved in this direction, though. I DJ using CDs, so I can mix whichever tunes I want together, depending on the mood and reaction of the crowd. This flexibility wouldn’t be possible if the set was all pre-planned or arranged inside a sequencer. For me, the creativity in DJing comes from the selection, from the way the tunes are mixed together, the way the set progresses and so on, rather than the medium used to deliver it. I see CDJs as a logical progression from turntables – I still beat match in the same way as I used to with records, CDJs are just better at holding tempo and CDs are a lot lighter and cheaper than vinyl!
Now, what about capturing spontaneity and emotions, because like our friend GoreTech says: “Controlling and manipulating sound is one thing but then being able to covey feelings and emotions into it” that´s another story. What do you have to say about this?
Ben: This is where the real song writing comes into play. The best tracks contain emotion and ‘do something to you’. This is what sets apart the best producers and without being able to embody emotion in your tunes you won’t get the same reaction out of people. I love the moment when a certain drum pattern or bass part stimulates the nervous response and you break out into a cold sweat of adrenaline-fuelled excitement. You then know when you’re onto something – you know that someone else listening to it later will probably react in the same way. Power is nothing without grace!
Dave: I totally agree. There’s so much sterile music about – even tunes that might have weight on the dancefloor subsequently get boring pretty quickly if there’s nothing else to them. If you know you’ve written a tune that touches someone, that conveys the emotions you intended when you wrote it, then that’s a great reward in itself. If you can do that and make D&B that still smashes up clubs, even better!
What advice would you give to any new dj/producers in drum and bass?
Ben: If you absolutely love what you’ve produced then someone else probably will too. Don’t lie to yourself and justify that a dodgy sequence is good. Reference your mixes with other tracks and try and work out what makes their tunes sound ‘better’ than yours. Go on the net and learn new techniques for making beats fat and cut through. Believe in what you’re doing and play to your strengths. If something isn’t working in a track, take it out and try something else rather than spending hours trying to make it fit. If you’ve made a sound really quiet in the mix because it doesn’t quite work otherwise, should it really be there at alll? Make sure every note means something.
Dave: Be determined, but realistic – it’s unlikely the first time you ever sit down to make a track that it’ll sound as good as Noisia, so don’t be disheartened. I’m always surprised how many people send their very first tune out as a demo, then wonder why it doesn’t immediately get signed and give up. Most well-known producers have spent years listening to the music they make, collecting samples, constantly learning new techniques and refining their skills – so you’d be an idiot not to expect to have to make some effort and sacrifices along the way. If you enjoy it enough, it probably won’t be much of a hardship to put the hours in! Similarly with DJing, it should be fun – that’s probably what made you want to do it in the first place. And of course, like everything, practice makes perfect…
We know that you work very hard to achieve your goals but what is the secret to actually keep enjoying what you are doing? How to keep true to yourself and true to your scene?
Ben: Don’t forget what excited you about drum and bass in the first place. Try and learn new techniques and always try to do something you’ve never done before in a track, no matter how minor it might be. It’s important to try and do something no one else has ever done before. Listen to new tracks that blow your mind!
Dave: I enjoy the fact that I do something for a living that I’ve always loved. If I’m feeling tired and uninspired, I try not to forget that I’m still lucky to have that chance. We work with a lot of gifted producers, so I constantly hear new Drum & Bass that excites and intrigues me in the same ways it did when I was a kid. It also means I can never feel complacent and that’s good motivation to keep moving.
How do you do to keep your own sound alive with that many emerging styles in drum and bass and breaks?
We’re pretty focused and know what we want to achieve, so it’s easy to just keep our heads down and get on with making music. Having our own label means we don’t feel under pressure to follow trends or make music we don’t like. It’s important to be true to yourself as a producer – don’t try and be someone else, it won’t work and you won’t enjoy the production process anyway. Whilst it’s good to be aware of what other producers are doing, it’s better to make sure you’re trying to do something new and most importantly, to make music that you‘d want to listen to.
Is drum and bass a lifestyle or just another genre of EDM?
Ben: Definitely a lifestyle, you have to live it to get the most out of it.
Dave: It can be whatever you want. For casual listeners, it’ll only ever be a type of music. For some of us, it becomes much more, but I’m sure that’s the same for people who live for breakcore, Nepalese Disco, or whatever. Going away DJing has meant I’ve met producers, DJs and clubbers from all over the world and there really are all types of people involved in D&B – from heavy weed smokers, old hip hop heads, skaters, metal lovers, football hooligan types and teetotal vegans. I wouldn’t want to tell any of them they aren’t living ‘the’ Drum & Bass lifestyle, it’s all encompassing – I have no idea if other scenes are like that or not!
Sometimes artists and people in general seem to be surprised regarding a drum and bass scene in South America. But in this continent (especially in Colombia) we love electronic music and we do know how to party hehehe. We have to say there is a genuine interest for this style of music. Did you expect this? What are your thoughts of the electronic music scene in South America?
What have you heard or seen regarding the Colombian drum and bass scene?
Dave: South America definitely has a reputation for partying hard in general. I know some artists who have been to Colombia and I think all of them have been genuinely and pleasantly surprised that there’s a healthy scene there and that the people are so knowledgable about the music. Personally, I know very little about Colombia’s D&B scene, although I would love to come and play and find out for myself! 😉
-What in your opinion is the state of drum and bass in 2013 and what is the future challenge?
Dave: I think the scene is quite fractured at the moment – like always, there are a few artists doing a certain, fashionable sound and everything else is confined to the fringes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as this allows people to experiment away from the spotlight and concentrate on making new music. The challenge for us is always to make music that’s relevant, gets heard and makes people dance!
Ben: Trying to make our music more commercially viable without selling out, so we can spend more time doing it and giving it the time it deserves so we can fulfill our potential.
-If you would have to choose a piece of the history of the drum and bass movement that represents the more sacred memory for you, which one would you pick?
D: Hearing ‘Side Effects’ by Stakka & Skynet for the first time, on a terrible recording made covertly inside a friend’s jacket during an Andy C set at The End club. I remember thinking it was exactly what I had been waiting to hear my whole life…
Can you think of any good upcoming drum and bass dj´s or producers to recommend our readers?
C.A.2K from St. Petersburg in Russia is a producer more people should be aware of. He’s been in the game a long time, but has really found his sound in the last couple of years and consistently surprises us with his tunes. Absurd, from the same location is another young producer who is surely going to get a lot more recognition soon. Out of the UK, people should check for Block Dodger, he makes really running neuro tracks and each one is getting better and better.
The other good thing is these guys we’ve mentioned are all really nice, genuine people, who love what they do and want to improve all the time.
Could you tell us about your future plans in music?
Ben: More albums, more label releases, more merchandise, more gigs. Perhaps a live show!
Dave: Mainly to keep making music we like, for as long as we can. If we can continue to develop and grow our label that would be good as well! We should definitely be getting on with another Drum & Bass album and perhaps the downtempo LP we’ve always talked about too…
To finish, can you please share with us your current top 10?
- Current Value – Sonic Barrier EP [The Sect Music]
- The Sect & Dean Rodell – Set It Free [Dub]
- MachineCode – Velocity LP [Subsistenz]
- Current Value – Term [Dub]
- 2methyl – Orb (The Sect Remix) [Ad Noiseam]
- The Sect – Retger [Dub]
- Lethal – Icebreaker ft. Hostile MC [Dub]
- The Sect – De-Pressurise [The Sect Music]
- Tech Itch – Progression Threat LP pt 3 [Tech Itch]
- The Sect – Glass Jaw [Dub]
CCPAR Podcasts Series
10 YEARS OF THE SECT MIX pt.1 (2003-2008)
Mixed by The Sect