Fish & Sherry S are set to bring their brand of Bristolian bass to Room One for the first time on 27th September. The pair have had a busy summer, and in between their appearances at some of the UK’s key electronic music festivals, they’ve also been working hard in the studio: most recently Sherry S dropped the fearlessly banging The Bouncer via her own label, while Fish has just put out the breaks-indebted Sugar & Spice VIP alongside Deekline. Before they join us, we caught up with the duo to talk partying in Bristol, fusing styles, and how they keep the rave popping.
You’ve recently become residents with us. Can you remember the first time you went to fabric and who you went to see?
Fish: I remember hankering to visit for a good few years before I actually could. Even from a young age, I was a devotee of the CDs right from James Lavelle’s FABRICLIVE 01. James was a resident at the time, and he’d been a huge hero of mine since I discovered the Psyence Fiction album he produced with DJ Shadow as UNKLE. So I cottoned onto the FABRICLIVE mix series pretty swiftly from there. Although the first time I would’ve actually visited was perhaps for Breakspoll in 2005 (I think this was the first time it was held at fabric?). The entire line-up was a Vs night and I remember seeing Plump DJs Vs Stanton Warriors, Freestylers Vs Deekline, and if I can remember correctly Krafty Kuts Vs Meat Katie. One my favourite early memories of fabric was in 2008 for a night called Dublime. Caspa & Rusko were on the line-up and this was a few months after FABRICLIVE 37 was released. I actually found that I still had the full line-up written down somewhere as I was so excited at the time, so I can tell you exactly who else was there: Lee Scratch Perry, Dillinja, Congo Natty, Scuba, Loefah, Kode9, Don Letts, Pinch, Appleblim vs Peverelist, Iration Steppas, Blackdown & Dusk, Pokes and Warrior Queen… which is, let’s be honest, absolutely ridiculous looking back.
Sherry S: The first time I went to fabric was for a Butterz night. With Butterz being one of my favourite labels at the time, I was in my element. Flowdan was there, killing it, and of course Elijah & Skilliam. They’ve put together some my favourite mixes over the years. I can remember I didn’t even check out the other rooms that night, I was literally stapled to the front of the stage in Room One the entire time with a massive smile on my face! I didn't even leave to get a beer.
What made you want to become DJs?
Fish: I’m the one hogging the aux at house parties and in cars, so it’s essentially an extension of that. Even before I’d ever considered being a DJ, I’d make mixtapes and hand them out to my friends. I’ve always been passionate about introducing people to music they’ve not heard. Simply put, it’s an intense love of music and a joy in sharing that love with other people. Beyond that, it’s the opportunity to travel to places you may not have visited otherwise, doing what you’re passionate about and sharing that with as many people as you can.
Sherry S: I was always around music growing up, and I developed a close relationship with it early on. I was brought up listening to bands like The Clash, The Stone Roses and Oasis, but it wasn't until I was 11 or 12 I discovered electronic music. I think once you discover electronic music, that’s it. If you like it, you’re most likely hooked, because it’s so different. By the time I was 14 I knew that I wanted to be a DJ, and that was because, in a nutshell, I thought it would be cool as fuck. I loved listening to bangers, and the epitome of this music – being able to play it to people!
How did the pair of you first meet? Were you already involved in music at the time?
Fish: I’d been DJing for a good few years, as well as having been running my own radio station called Rood FM. We’d spoken briefly online – Sherry had applied to be a writer for a blog I started called UK Bass Music. But it was our friend Josh (Bru-C) who introduced us in person. He used to run a night in Nottingham called Phlex and had booked me to play. I invited Sherry down, we ended up having a great night and became good friends from that. Everything just gradually evolved from there.
Sherry S: I wasn't really involved with the music industry at the time – I was learning to produce at music college (shout out Access To Music). I wanted to become a writer for a website that Fish ran, so I reached out to him about it and from there we spoke occasionally and about a year later he had a gig at an event in Nottingham that Bru-C used to run. As it was near me, I thought I’d pop along to say hi. We got on ridiculously well, and I knew that I made a friend that I would have for a very long time. We started speaking every day, until we got together. Now here we are six years later!
Can you talk about how your early gigs went?
Fish: I learned to mix vinyl playing drum & bass – if it came out on Virus, RAM, or Moving Shadow I was into it. But it was a good few years before I got my first gig. I started playing dark garage and dubstep, I was galvanised by the sounds of producers like El-B and Zed Bias. I remember a Pure Garage compilation called Bass, Breaks & Beats 2003, mixed by Hype and EZ. EZ’s side was raw and dark, essentially proto-dubstep focussed on the bassline rather than the vocals of most 2-step I’d heard. It was very inspiring. I started playing out fairly frequently. Usually it would end up costing me to travel to gigs, but I loved it so I was happy.
Sherry S: My early gigs went pretty well, just with quite a bit of slow, cautious mixing! I was lucky enough to have my first gig at Rainbow Venues in Birmingham. I was so nervous. I'd had a few drinks beforehand to try and calm my nerves, but because it was something that I'd wanted for so long, there wasn't any shaking them.
How would you describe the difference in the nightlife scenes between Bristol and London?
Fish: I think as Bristol is a lot smaller you inevitably tend to see more people you know out and about. You get a sense of how strong the community and scene is when you go out, which is a great feeling. It also makes it easier to cram in a few different parties in a night. Since moving to Bristol, I’m in London a lot less than I used to be. I used to be in London most weekends (quite likely at fabric), and a lot of the time I went alone. There’s something in the anonymity of the London nightlife that I really enjoy. It’s nice to be able to fully immerse yourself in the music without worrying about anyone you're with, though you’ll inevitably end up sharing several little moments with strangers throughout the night’s peaks.
Sherry S: Both cities have endless amazing events, with so much to offer musically. But the main thing I notice is Bristol’s strong sense of community. Whatever night you go to, you'll always see someone you know. I'm sure London has got that as well, it always blows my mind how much awesome stuff is going on.
Was there anywhere in Bristol that shaped your tastes as ravers?
Fish: I feel like it would be pretty hard to be around a city and scene for so long and not have it shape your taste somewhat. Lakota has played a considerable role. It’s the venue we’ve both spent the most time at since moving here, both performing and going to soak it in. It remains my favourite club in Bristol.
Sherry S: I'd have to say Lakota, I used to live around the corner from there and also used to be a resident for their Cubana event so I was there all the time. I've had so many good nights there, and it's where I've played some of my most memorable sets.
What’s your ideal environment for producing?
Fish: Ideally it’s a familiar space, with monitors I know inside out. I’ve been lucky enough to work in some excessive studios, but it’s essentially pointless unless you know the monitors, and how they interact with the space you’re in. It can take a while to learn the subtle nuances of the set-up you’re working on. At home I’ve got a reasonably basic set-up in my studio, but I know the space and the monitors well because I’ve spent countless hours with them.
Sherry S: First and foremost, I’d say plenty of snacks and brews. If you're settling in to the studio for hours you need both! It gets you feeling proper cozy, set up and ready for action. It's also helpful to have the studio nice and tidy, and I like to switch my phone off to forget the outside world too.
How would you describe each other’s style in a few words? Do you think you both differ in any way?
Fish: I like to watch the crowd and test the waters a bit, get a feel for where their boundaries are which doesn’t always go well. Sometimes I think I’ve got a little leftfield gem that’ll go down a dream, and it doesn’t quite get a reaction as well as it did. There’s definitely a difference in our approach, but we play off each other as we’ve been playing together for such a long time.
Sherry S: I think it's hard to describe Fish's sound exactly as he flits through different genres. But it’s always energetic and interesting. I think we're pretty similar – we both move between different genres, and keep the energy levels high!
Some of your work shows influences from a number of different genres. How do you mix different genres and styles together and keep it fluid?
Fish: Trial and error. I used to think that being a multi-genre DJ meant you had to start with slower BPMs and gradually accelerate, but I’ve been progressively dismissing this perception. Although I like to keep structure, I don’t restrict myself. Some journeys are more complex than others, and if it feels right to dip between genres, I’ll do it. I tend to think of a set as a few different segments, rather than a chunk.
Sherry S: I guess it would start from the fact that I love lots of different styles of music, so I reference them without thinking about it too much. When I'm producing, I'll have a general idea for the genre I want to make, and then I might bring a notable element from another genre in, and try to integrate it into the track and aim for a cohesive idea that works.
What are your creative habits when preparing for a set?
Fish: I like to tamper with the tracks I play. I’m constantly making edits and bootlegs with the majority of the other artists’ music that I’m playing, especially if it’s a track that I know that I’ll be playing for a little while. Meddling with them makes them unique to you. I always try to make an effort to refresh my setlist after each gig, I don’t like to play similar sets too often.
Sherry S: For me, preparation is key to a set going the best it can. One of my creative habits would be making sure that I’m fully familiar with what I’ll be playing, so the BPMs and structures. I always like to set cue points too, so I know specifically where I’m going to be bringing them in. It brings fluidity to my sets.
How much of your set is new versus old music?
Fish: That’s a good question, I’ve definitely noticed recently that I’m increasingly tweaking the ratio in favour of older music. I don’t just mean classics, but old tracks I perhaps didn’t give enough time too. There’s such a vast wealth of music out there, you have to look backwards as well as forwards. Sometimes I listen back to old sets of mine, and I might find something I used to love, which I’m ready to start playing again. I’m always striving to evoke the same feelings that I can remember having at certain nights over the years.
Sherry S: As far as old versus new goes, I play a few tunes that are old school classics to me, some tunes I’ve not played before, and the rest would be 60% newer tunes, and 40% favourites from the last few years.
Is there anyone else you’re excited to see play next weekend?
Fish: It has to be Drumsound & Bassline Smith. Nature Of The Beast played a huge role in shaping my tastes over the years. It’s mad to think that Technique is 20 years old. Honestly though, I’m really excited by the entire line-up.
Sherry S: The whole line-up is amazing, but I'm most excited to see Taxman and Original Sin. Taxman made one of my all-time favourite D&B tunes (Too Bad VIP) – I’ve got lots of memories of that track. Original Sin has been a favourite of mine for a long time, he’s made countless bangers over the years.
Can you name one track each you’ll definitely be bringing to fabric next weekend?
Fish: bd hbt x yojas – Sarcasm [[Sus] Collective]
Sherry S: Annix – Only Forever feat. EJ Kitto [Playaz]