Both Bailey and Danny Williamson (aka LTJ Bukem) are to be considered figureheads of drum and bass. From the sonic platform they've provided, whether it's via Williamson's Good Looking Records camp or Bailey's former BBC Radio 1 & 1xtra slot - or even just through the music they've supported over the years - as alchemists behind the decks there's pretty much no distinction between the value of their contribution to the scene. Now, as they help d&b to stay forever prevalent, both are pushing the sound even further with Bailey delivering his mid-week drum and bass knees up, Soul In Motion and Williamson serving his Bukem In Session fix right here in Farringdon each and every month.
It's not often then that we get to sit down with two such luminaries, so on a sunny September afternoon last week, we got together with the pair and discussed the return of Source Direct and their thoughts and motivations behind the decks...
Bailey: Obviously there is a certain style you have (for years now) and you more or less just stick to it - which is not a bad thing. But don’t you ever get tempted by other styles within the drum & bass genre?
LTJ Bukem: You mean like go super dark or something? I do play things and people'll say to me "Danny that was a bit hard!" And I'm like “ok I just thought it was a great track”. I guess, everyone is entitled to their opinion of what they like to hear and what they would like you to play, that ain’t changing. I play anything I’m into, always have done and always will. Yes I lean towards certain styles but taking my DJ career as a whole how can you really say I have played just one thing. I like all influences.
B: So you don’t feel any pressure to stick to what people call liquid or whatever...?
LTJ: Not really. I play what I like. Terminology, interpretation can get a bit confusing at times
B: How long is you set time on Friday?
LTJ: I always do a couple of hours.
B: Is that preferable for you? I mean most people get an hour somewhere, that's pretty much the standard. Two hours is a rare thing. But I've got a thing coming up when I'm playing for two hours and it's really nice to spread your wings and go deep in the crates instead of having to just throw down all the toughest tunes.
LTJ: Well I dunno, is that something you contract yourself like 'I'll only play an hour?'
LTJ: Well, there you go then! [laughs] But with two hours, and particularly with say the fabric night because I'm there every month it’s nice to go back to those 7 or 8 tunes from 2005 or whenever that I haven't played in ages. It’s surprising how many tunes you can go through and fabric really gives me the chance to do that and go different places.
B: Well, you in particular, you get a lot of stuff that is really exclusive... whether it’s on dubplate or acetate or something that never officially came out so you can go back to stuff that you were well known for playing.
LTJ: True, but in the same way, stuff that did come out and is recognised. Y'know 'am i playing for you? or am i playing for the people on the dancefloor' and looking at the dancefloor, the majority of them aren't wrapped up with knowing when that tune came out, this tunes new this tunes old etc. They just want to hear a good set of music played well I guess.
B: I played an Amen track recently and even some of the DJs in the scene that know about their music were coming up to me and asking what it was. It was Lemon D on Metalheadz from 1995. But that’s the thing about music: it moves to fast that you can easily forget what’s behind you.
LTJ: So how's your night going?
B: Soul In Motion? Yeah, really well. We had one last night actually...
LTJ: Who played?
B: We had Villem, Storm, Source Direct, Dillinja and of course me and Need for Mirrors played as well.
LTJ: Source? Phil or Jim?
B: Jim. Jim's back.
LTJ: Yeah so good to see. He dropped me a little text and was telling me he wanted to meet up and stuff.
B: Yeah, he's really proactive. Like he's on twitter every minute. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's got. He played a nice set last night, I thought it was gonna be all old stuff but he played a lot of up front stuff and a lot of rolling basslines. Yeah, he went deep last night.
LTJ: I think he's been missed. I mean, an unbelievable history in the music that guy's got.
B: Last night overall was banging. It was good man. It's just one of them places you've gotta see. You expect it’s gonna be some little grimy spot but it's underneath a hotel. The soundsystem is crisp. It's imported from America, they won’t even tell me what it is. They've got proper digital amps it's really done really well. The lights are crazy, you got like glass screens in the place. It's small but nice.
B: It’s a free night on a Wednesday but what is happening mid-week? Instead of moaning about it we thought, 'let’s try and do something'. We are lucky to have drum & bass going on in such a plush spot.
LTJ: You're right though. Not a lot goes on. I really miss the Speed, Swerve Metalheadz midweek Sunday things. It was nice. Travelling around as we all do so much it’s also nice to go down to a mid-week thing and catch up with a few man that you haven’t seen for a minute
B: No one can ever really pinpoint or know what you play because it's quite a secretive thing I feel, in a way.
LTJ: Not at all! Nah not at all man it’s all there. It’s what you choose to play. When you played for us before you were dropping some nice musical funky bits, you go there as well.
B: Yeah if it fits I go there. It's always within a certain, I dunno, the words not realm but it’s always within a certain style. I mean I can play something dark, but it'll be dark and rolling it won’t be out and out big stabs real scary stuff y'know? It's gotta fit into the mood of the night. That’s the whole idea of it really.
B: You can’t step too far out of the box.
LTJ: But that’s what I was saying earlier like I've definitely played things that are considered to be dark but in my mind they're rolling. So many tracks have that combination of musical bits but also have the roaring b-lines.
B: True. I’m not gonna lie, I always feel a bit nervy about playing after you because you're the boss of that particular night but it puts you on the right edge to really focus on exactly what I want to do and which direction I wanna go in.
LTJ: If I remember last time, you killed it.
B: It's enjoyable. There's not that many opportunities to play a set of that sort of flavour. I mean it's calming down now, but the commercial thing, people expect big impacts and all that sort of thing.
LTJ: Is that a problem for you when you go out?
B: Um, not really but you have to panda to it a little bit. Give them a bit of that and then give them a bit of what you really think they need to hear rather than what you think they wanna hear. It’s a balance. The thing about music is, there's so many different styles and I try and fit a bit of all of it in.
LTJ: In an hour?
B: Exactly. You know, playing for you and playing for other fabric nights is completely different.
B: It's totally different.
LTJ: That's interesting.
B: The opportunity to go - if i wanted to - super musical, I don’t think i could do it on a normal fabric night, depending on who else is on the lineup. If they've got a few other musical people then it can be done but on your night you know you're gonna get music so it's easy to pull out all those tunes that I've been wanting to play for a while that a maybe just a bit deeper y'know? I save tunes for it.
LTJ: Yeah people do. I mean we've been doing it now for 8 maybe 9 years. I think the whole night works really well cause you've got Hype in the other room so you can get your whole spectrum of sound on.