Catching Up
Brookes Brothers Reflect On Their Creative Process

It’s a pretty standard thing in the drum and bass scene to consider your musical allies more like family members coming together for the unrefined passion of the 170bpm spectrum. Yet, for Phil and Dan Brookes (aka Brookes Brothers) the bond is quite literal; as brothers the synergy the pair have both behind the decks and inside the studio is next level having signed their first record to Viper Recordings 10 years ago before going on to drop some of scene's most stand out and seminal tracks. Lately though, the boys are set to remind us of their firm grasp on building beats by releasing their awaited second LP later this year. In truth, for us to sit down with the brothers to catch up with them on the blog has been a long time coming so with an upcoming set planned in for the Viper Live takeover, we asked if they would take some time out of their hectic schedules to answer a few of our probing questions...

Hey guys. Great to hear that you have more new music on the way, want to tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to?

Brookes Brothers: Staying busy and writing new music! We've got lots on the go but recently we've been fully focused on getting our Brookes Brothers album 100% wrapped up both in terms of track selection and completing the tracks themselves.

Wicked that there’s an LP in the pipeline. I have to ask though, there was an article a couple of years ago where you mentioned an album due for release around summer 2014. You’ve had a raft of hugely successful singles, remixes and collaborations in that time, so what’s been the story with the LP?

Yeah we intended for it to come out at least 12 months ago - things don't always work out as planned! We don't believe in rushing music to the finish line. We just work on it until it's there. It's about striking the right balance between the tracks now. The LP is pretty much done - although we keep saying that and then writing more stuff for it! We know it's been too long since the last album so it's become important to us to get this one right, in terms of variety and achieving the specific colour we're going for. Current ETA is September this year (definitely not next!)

Your recent single on Viper Good to Me (feat. Majesty) certainly repped the uplifting Brookes Brothers groove that we know and love, but there was also a deeper soulful edge reminiscent of your earlier material. Is this in any way indicative of the vibe on releases to come (a ‘Viper Factor’, maybe)?

Thanks glad you liked it! Yeah we're exploring some different shades at the moment and really loving bringing something a bit different to the table. That's the blueprint for the album - it's predominantly melody driven tracks like Good To Me and is heavily influenced by 80's and 90's R&B as well as earlier BB stuff.

Any tasty upcoming collaborations that you can let us in on?
We've got some exciting collabs coming but we'll let you wait and see who with!
"We both have our strong suits..."

You’ve discussed before how when you’re outside of the album cycle the pressure is on for each single to be a big hit but you also acknowledged that the LP is one of the hardest achievements to attain as a producer. With this in mind, how has writing another album allowed you to experiment in the spaces between what you expect will be the more commercially popular tracks?

A great album is all about the tracks in between the big singles - everyone knows they can be the difference between a decent album and one you'll listen to again and again. So we work hard to avoid filler material. We treat every tune like it’s a single, even if in essence it could never be. Every tune is a new addition to the family. Aside from the 'singles' our last album was a super-crazy mish mash of stuff, which we still love, but we wanted to make this album have more of a sonic thread between the music overall, and it’s definitely feeling a little more rooted.

You’re famed for some of the most distinctive and emotive vocal tracks in drum and bass. Talk us through your vocal writing process. How much creative control do you like to keep and how much is left for the featured artist to interpret themselves? (A specific example or two would be great).

Why, thanks! Vocals are key to what we do. Sometimes we write an entire vocal ourselves like Good To Me and then get the artist to re-sing what we lay down as a demo. In that case we'll be pretty zoned in on recreating the feel of our original demo with whoever we choose to feature. Other times we'll recreate sampled vocals like 'Climb High' or write something alongside another writer such as we did for 'Anthem'. We have to work with people in person though, catching a real vibe and feeling that genuine enthusiasm and connection in the studio is the best thing about working in music.

You’re also kings of the killer remix – how do you pick which tracks to take on?

With remixes we like to take on tunes we feel we can add something slightly different to or just stuff that would be cool at drum and bass speed. We've been lucky to have been able to remix so many good tracks.

Despite being brothers producing together as one act for all these years, there must be certain elements of drum and bass artistry that either one of you excels at. What do you think is the other’s absolute forte; the thing that you can always rely on them to nail?

We both have our strong suits. Phil has the ability to put together the perfect combination of elements to create that "magic" feeling. Dan has the uncanny ability of being able to listen to something on loop for days and not get bored.

I saw Uncle Dugs play a History of Drum and Bass set in Bristol recently. Naturally it was full of old-school classics and redolent bangers, but when 'Tear You Down' got dropped the place went completely nuts… we’re talking cider-off-the-walls-loco! What do you think makes a tune like this not only stand the test of time with newbies to the scene, but also get such an impassioned reaction from veterans?

Aah that’s nice to hear! In answer to the question, we really don't know any better than anyone else. It felt good writing it but it feels good writing so many tracks. Is it the vocal, the chords, the combination of everything or just a time and a place? Whoever knows the complex web of circumstance that conspires to make a tune a "classic"? You could write a whole piece about that! The sound was definitely fresh at the time. A lot of people loved it when it came out, and those that weren't around to appreciate it then are still getting the chance to which is just really cool.

Your first signing was with Viper and this is where you’ve returned. How has the label evolved as a DnB institution these past 10 years and can you give us any sneaky pointers to future stars ready to rise through the ranks?

Yeah Viper has gone from strength to strength over the years and it’s great to see more and more labels doing big things for d&b. There are some key people at Viper who do a great job behind the scenes, making sure everything runs smoothly. And of course the talent conveyor belt continued to turn with younger artists like Koven doing big things!

Friday 10th June

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