To look back over the projects Russel has worked on, collaboration stands out as a predominant characteristic of his career, which was demonstrated just last week when we jumped on Skpe to conduct this interview we did so just as the news broke of his next work alongside brother Tessela in their Overmono project. The pair also co-operate in the running of Polykicks, a label that has based itself on DJ tool locked groove records which sit side by side to conventional releases from the artists in the family. When we spoke it quickly became apparent just how much the label has impacted on Russel’s DJing, that and the demands of his new(ish) Rinse FM show to keep his bag full of current releases. It gives us a good indication of what we can expect when he returns to Room Two tomorrow night as Truss chats us through his latest...
It’s quite opportunistic that we're speaking today because I saw the news break about your Overmono project with your brother Ed (Tessela) today…how did you link up with XL for the release?
We had this idea of going to a completely different environment, taking a load of gear with us and just sort of seeing what we come up with without any expectations or distractions. So we hired a cottage in rural Wales, it was completely isolated and the owner was really happy for us to set up a studio and make as much noise as we wanted to. We spent a week down there and just wrote loads of music and with no more consideration other than to just have fun, definitely not focussing on music for club that we often make individually. We ended up with a lot of music and then the XL thing just kind of happened, we sent it off to them and they really liked it.
Can you tell us more about what you have locked in and planned, is the EP a precursor for an album release?
We have this EP which is coming out in a couple of weeks and we're fairly far down the line with the second EP. We'd really love to move onto an album at some point after that, maybe next year, we’ll have to see.
How did it work between you both in the studio? Did you find each of you brought a specific role or strength?
I think the fact that we're brothers makes working together generally easy in that we can be very honest with each other in terms of being able to say 'I like this' or 'I don't like that' or even 'that is just really shit!' so it’s a nice way of being able to work… most of the time [laughs].
You generally collaborate quite a lot in your work, there's a lot more joint releases than solo releases out there especially with Perc. Do you feel that you prefer to work with someone over working on your own?
It's a very important part of my creative process, I enjoy it just as much as when I do stuff on my own, but I need them both. Collaboration is just a very different way of working, I really enjoy seeing how other people approach the creative process and feeding off that.
"It's a bit of a challenge sometimes when you've got a third or fourth deck and you're trying to keep it all in some sort of sync, but that extra tension, the audience really responds to it."
You play a lot as well side by side with people the last time I saw you was doing a b2b with Perc and you've just linked with Sunil Sharpe - as a touring DJ do you enjoy that partnership rather than going out there on your own all the time?
The energy which you can vibe off each other when you're performing and also being introduced a lot of the time to music from their collection which maybe you haven't heard before, or when music is played in a context you which maybe you wouldn't have naturally chosen to do. And with the travel aspect it's nice to have a bit of company sometimes.
And also release wise the other big thing to talk about right now is Polykicks another project you've been involved with your brother, why have you felt driven to do that project put out something that's more of a tool than a track?
Ed started the label three or four years ago but only had one release. Then about a year ago he had plans to re-start Polykicks and I had plans to start my own label and when we chatted about it we thought it would actually make much more sense for us to pool resources and do Polykicks combined.
As for the locked grooves series - a couple of years ago ed did some work with Haroon Mirza who's an audio visual artist. Haroon makes these custom locked groove records and Ed got to go record and process some of them. So then we came up with the idea of putting these custom locked groove records onto vinyl - recording them all and basically documenting in one locked groove vinyl release.
We made a little video for it and I think it's just a nice concept and then that seemed to go down well. Even before we released it we had the idea of making it into a series. I’ve just released one a few weeks back. Each one will be from a different artist and have a unique concept about it that the artist chooses. I think Ed is going to be doing the next one - though I can't confirm that!
Have you enjoyed playing with them, like has is added to your own DJ style to have these in your bag now?
Haroon's ones have really added another dimension to my sets. I have to say it was Ed that convinced me to give them a go. When we first got the finished copies I was just like yeah, these are really cool sounding but I'm not sure how I'm going to fit them into my sets. But Ed was like no, seriously give it a go and the first time I used them it was just like wow, these just sound amazing. You can layer them over records, use them to stitch whole mix sequences together, for all sorts of instances and the crowd really reacts to them, even though they might not realise you're using a locked groove or whatever, they seem to really pick up on the fact that there's this extra layer. It’s added a lot of enjoyment and unpredictability to my sets. It's a bit of a challenge sometimes when you've got a third or fourth deck and you're trying to keep it all in some sort of sync, but that extra tension, the audience really responds to it.
And how much does what you're playing on your Rinse shows tie into your sets?
The Rinse shows are very much a reflection of my personal tastes, I'm trying to include pretty much all new music, so every month I'm always hunting through my promos, music that people are personally sending me and what I find in record shops and trying to give a platform for my favourite new music out there and of course that definitely feeds into my DJ sets.
Do you think it pushes you that little bit further to have to always really be on it and have all the new material to hand?
Definitely. It's actually really time consuming… much more than I anticipated but, that said, it's really making me pay attention to a huge amount of stuff that's coming out and I'm finding that it's having a really beneficial effect on my DJ’ing.
What labels are you thinking are really doing some good stuff right now?
I’m always keen to hear what the Hessle guys put out. Ontal are consistently putting out great music. Helena Hauff’s Return To Disorder label is fantastic and also Dark Entries. They are releasing / re-issuing a lot of amazing music. There really are a huge amount of good records coming out at the moment.
What else have you got coming up?
Coming up over the next year there will be more Overmono stuff with XL, there's going to be a lot more Polykicks. I'm going to have an EP finally on Polykicks, Ed's got some more stuff coming out as well and probably some more stuff with Perc too.