When Nero first broke through on the essential More Than Alot imprint, they quickly became one of the UK’s brightest emerging stars in underground music. Their debut LP was considered a landmark record in bass music, and after breaking the number one spot in the UK’s album charts the group were heralded as visionaries for the global dubstep phenomenon.
By now they’re one of the world’s biggest electronic artists, with sell-out tours that would rival many pop stars. But with members Alana and Dan expecting a baby, this year they’ve played fewer shows than usual, so it’s an extra privilege to have them back for a one-off date in the club this weekend.
Ahead of their appearance in Room One, we caught up with Dan for a rare interview to discuss new music, the next Nero family member, and their long Farringdon history.
We're working on new music right now but we wanted to put up a couple of things that would otherwise not see the light of day.
The first is a demo we were asked to do on spec for one of the Blade Runner 2049 trailers. We own the two main synthesisers that Vangelis used for the original score (a Yamaha CS80 and a Roland VP-330) so it was fun to remake the sounds and reference the original theme but then process it in a more modern way and add a bit of a sinister feel to the composition.
The second was a version of Innocence that we've been playing in our live shows for a couple of years. We like to keep back alternate versions of our tracks as it's nice to have something for our shows that nobody else has. We felt like it was probably time to let this one go.
The number 2808 seems to come up frequently – why is it so significant for you? Were you sitting on these new clips for a while just to put them out on 28th August?
Our first album was based on a non-existent Sci-fi movie, which takes place in the year 2808. We weren’t sitting on them specifically for that date though – we were thinking about what would be good to give away, and those tracks seemed to make sense.
How did you end up collaborating with Zhu? Has this been well received so far?
It kind of came from nowhere, his camp contacted our team about meeting up in LA. We wanted the first meeting to be solely about playing each other music to see if we shared any common ground. I ended up playing him an unreleased track we had written during the recording sessions for our second album. He was really into it and wanted the stems. I was still a little unsure about collaborating, especially on that particular track, as it was already fairly complete and the plan was to write something together from scratch. But I gave him the stems, and he ended up putting some parts on it that we weren't that into. We were actually going to pull the whole thing when he released a clip of it to the public without talking to us. We found out about it through Twitter. In the end we took off most of his parts and finished the track ourselves. Collaborations are always a little tricky, but without him getting involved we may never have released it so maybe it was for the best.
How much of your time is spent on your side projects? We’ve seen you all have different work in the pipeline…
We felt like we needed a bit of time away from the group after the second album. We each had some ideas for side projects. Alana and I have been working together on a project called The Night. It's hard to define genre-wise but it's definitely a very different vibe from Nero. There's an R&B kind of vibe to some of it and slight elements of future bass. A lot of it sits at the 90 – 110 BPM mark. We’ve got an album's worth of material in varying stages of completion, and we can’t wait for people to hear it. The first single on our EP is called Different Story and it's dropping this month.
Joe has released his first solo track under his own name: Joseph Ray. It's called Inside. He's also working on a project with the Haitian band Lakou Mizik. I've only heard bits but it’s sounding exciting.
Then we’re also working on Nero stuff. It’s actually really nice to be writing all the time but having different things to focus on. It feels like the new Nero stuff is really strong as a result.
Your appearance this Friday is one of only a handful of dates for you this year – is there a reason you’re coming back to London and the club specifically?
The club was where it all started for us. It was there that the three of us bonded over our love of dance music. We haven't done a gig in London for a little while and so it's great to come back and do a cool, underground club show at a venue that we have a real connection with.
Did you already know you wanted to start making records when you were first coming here?
We all knew it – we just didn’t know that we wanted to make them with each other.
Who were the first DJs you followed when you started going out?
It was more about the music than specific DJs. We mainly wanted to hear our favourite D&B or house tracks – Andy C at fabric was always a special night though.
Do you feel like electronic music has become better understood by a wider audience in the years since then? You would be in a better position to judge than most.
Across the world, it's definitely become more mainstream. Back then there weren't many electronic acts that could fill arenas.
Is there a difference in the way people respond to dance music in the USA and UK?
I don’t think so. Going to a gig or rave is a bit of a release for most people. I think that's the case no matter what country you go to. The fashions and trends change but the general response doesn't.
How have you found balancing family life and music with Alana’s pregnancy happening this year?
It's only really affected touring. Obviously we're doing DJ shows at the moment rather than live shows with Alana. I'm excited at the prospect of us all getting back on the road though, as well as baby Nero.
Is a new Nero family member going to inspire you into a ‘Dylan goes electric’ moment or can we expect more of the same from you in 2018?