In Conversation
Huxley & Sam Russo Discuss Their Own Motivations

Deep in a studio session last Saturday afternoon, it took the promise of a cappuccino and a chocolate twist to drag both Huxley and Sam Russo out of their flow for an hour or so. The reason? Both are due to play here in Farringdon this month, with Huxley appearing in Room One a week Friday (23rd October) and Sam joining the Leftroom crew for their 10 year celebration on the 31st.

Good, long-standing friends and at university, it was five years ago when the pair first started releasing music together. Dropping seductive, garage flecked house for labels like Leftroom, their creative fusion was in full swing but for want of a different career, Huxley went on to release an array of club fuelled anthems and a studio album for labels like Aus Music and Tsuba while Sam explored his own distinct sound, becoming a renowned audio engineer and working with the likes of Craig Richards, Matt Tolfrey and Voigtmann.

Five years later, they've still managed to maintain the synergy they first shared when inside the studio. Working on a new collaborative project, it's clear the separation has in no way had any impact on their sonic partnership and instead they have ‘come full circle’. With a new found outlook and a deeper understanding of who they want to be as artists, their persuasions might be at either end of some twisted spectrum but they're essentially the same artist. They've progressed both sonically and emotionally and that can only come from having both experienced the true trials and tribulations of the world of electronic music.

I think a good starting point would be to go back to why you each decided to do your own thing after you spent a lot of time collaborating and writing music together…

Sam Russo: Well it was about five years ago when we first started collaborating but then it got to a point where I felt like I needed to take the next step. I started working with Craig [Richards] and my music became something else.

Huxley: We had both come from a garage background so we very much had that one sound but when Sam started working with Craig his became a lot darker…

Sam Russo: There was more emotion behind it I think, it came from the heart. I think that worked for me as that’s where I saw myself going musically.

Huxley: After that, it just didn’t make sense to continue working together. The next logical step for Sam wasn’t necessarily the next logical step for me and in all honesty, I kind of just fell into that straight up garage, house sound which luckily for me ended up becoming really popular. You get a bit of love for what you doing and next thing you know you’re fully committed.

But now you’re writing music together again?

Huxley: Yeah it actually feels like it’s come full circle.

It’s almost like you went in the opposite direction to each other – did that ever feel wrong in a way?

Huxley: Neither of us judged each other for the decisions we made. My sound might’ve been popular but it has a shelf life. The music Sam makes is music you’ll be able to listen to five or ten years down the line.

"I’ve got my mum on the phone telling me I need to make a pop record" - Sam Russo

The grass is always greener on the other side…?

Huxley: I think that’s definitely true. At the time, I definitely felt like I could only write one thing but there’s an element to Sam’s music that sounds exactly how he wants it to sound.

And you’d assume that every artist has the same amount of creative freedom…

Huxley: It’s not true. I mean look what happened when Julio Bashmore put up his track ‘Ducky’. It sounded slightly different from ‘Battle For Middle You’ and he got absolutely slated for it. He should have been given the respect for trying to do something different. I’m feeling that a lot these days because I’m not playing the garage and bass music I normally play yet people always expect that of me…

You’re a victim of your own success?

Huxley: Precisely. If you don’t conform, you’re fucked! But in Sam’s case, because he never really conformed to anything, he’s had the freedom to do produce and play what he wants.

Sam Russo: Although there have been times when I’ve sat there and thought what the hell am I doing?! I’ve got my mum on the phone telling me I need to make a pop record but obviously it’s not as easy as that. What is viewed as being current now might not be current tomorrow.

Huxley: I also think if you force something it never happens…

It’s almost like impossible to get the balance exactly right, you either have to be one or the other…

Huxley: For a while I was going to sign to a bigger label but if I had I would have had to write more popular music and I just wasn’t into that at all but I guess Sam has never really had that.

Sam Russo: No I haven’t… apart from when I’ve worked as an audio engineer and have had to change my style for whoever I’m engineering for.

So why do you work so well together in the studio?

Sam Russo: I guess it’s our mutual love for the music and just understanding the way each other works. From day one it was easy. I think we even made a really good record that first day. At the time, collaborating was easy because we both had the same records in our back catalogue.

Huxley: We have an honest way of working and I think we get the best of both worlds.

What do you mean by that?

Huxley: I think the thing that Sam has, for want of a better word, is the edge that maybe some of the stuff that I make doesn’t. He brings it to a different level, something that’s a little bit more risky. Whereas I probably bring that more big room element that might work better for more peak time club music.

Is that one of the reasons why you’ve come full circle?

Huxley: Well, I think the first reason why we started collaborating again was because there is now no pressure to do anything other than write the music that we actually want to make. I think we’ve been able to find that natural rhythm again.

Sam Russo: Certain ties have been cut and we can do what we feel whereas before it was much more about making something purely to get it signed.

So you don’t feel that pressure anymore?

Sam Russo: Not so much. I don’t feel like I’m chasing it.

Has that come with time?

Sam Russo: Definitely. When I was 18 I wanted it all: I wanted to party every weekend, hand out my demos and shake everyone’s hand but as you grow older you lose the energy and the patience.

Huxley: You become more interested in making music that you actually want to listen to instead of making music by numbers or because it gets you paid. I think that’s when I realised that I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I would come home and make a track in an afternoon before starting another idea – I wasn’t treating it like an art. I was just throwing shit at a wall and seeing if any of it would stick.

So how would you compare yourselves to the artists you were when you first collaborated?

Huxley: I now feel a lot more secure about my convictions and am not so bothered about certain people not loving my music.

Sam Russo: In terms of music, I think most producers would you look back at their work and wish it wasn’t online anymore. It’s a positive thing in a way, you can see how you’ve progressed. It helps discover who you are as an artist.

And how have you progressed?

Sam Russo: Well at times it’s been really hard. I remember thinking that maybe I should have stuck to what we were doing previously but then the question is would I have been happy? I guess I’ll never know but I think there is a reason I did what I did and there’s a reason why Huxley did what he did and that’s fine. There have been times when I’ve panicked but overall I’m happy. Before, I would get frustrated not being able to do what I wanted to do, play the music I wanted to play. I didn’t feel like I was telling a story. It felt as though I was just there purely to play what others wanted and I’d go home feeling pretty sour about it.

Huxley: I know how that feels.

Sam Russo: I was questioning what I was doing. I initially started playing records and making music because I fucking loved it but it got to a point where I wasn’t even remotely enjoying it. Sure, I was playing enough gigs not to work and that’s a lifestyle that most people would be envious of but it’s also its own worst enemy. You’re in between a rock and a hard place.

Huxley: At some point, you have to ask yourself, do I keep doing this? Do I keep playing this sort of music? Or do I take a step back because really, this is only great right now. In the long run, this isn’t going to make me happy.

"I’ve had quite a hard year. I made the conscious decision to take a step back" - Huxley

I guess this is just another indication of this real darkside to being a DJ

Huxley: I’ve had quite a hard year. I made the conscious decision to take a step back but it was also the realisation that some artists are ahead of you, they’re making bigger tracks than yours and getting the gigs that you once got and you kind of blame yourself for that. It’s kind of depressing but it is just the way music works. You can be at the top of the world one minute and the next you’re not the hype anymore.

Sam Russo: It’s dangerous. You detach yourself from reality for so many years and then when the time comes, you can’t even comprehend going to back to a normal day job. You’re so far behind everyone else that you’ve almost got nowhere to go.

Huxley: Plus, your ego is not going to allow it. It takes a lot to get over. You’re used to this glamourous lifestyle that you think is never going to end.

This outlook seems like only something you can truly achieve over time and through experience...?

Sam Russo: It’s not to look at everything through rose tinted glasses but in truth how long does it all last? You can’t predict it.

Huxley: Though, in a way, that’s what is so addictive about it. The music is your whole life, your passion. You’re not just going to pack it up and move onto something else when it isn’t going your own way.

Sam Russo: The amount of times I’ve threatened to sell my studio and never have…

Maybe that’s just the difference between a true artist, someone who will continue to make music regardless of how successful they are and someone who is doing for the fame and the fortune, eh?

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