Plus, just last week we shared an exclusive stream of one of the tracks from the album Hold On A While which you can check here if you haven’t already. This week we follow up on the audio itself with a full on sit down chat with the pair where we asked them some probing questions about the creative process and motivations that have shaped Better Perspective.
Hey guys, a huge congratulations! What was the first thing you did when the album was wrapped up and sent off to Shogun for the final time?
Pete: Andy and I tend to pass tunes back and forth more than working in the studio together. During the final stages though, I went up and stayed at Andy’s parents’ house for a week. You can get out onto the roof where our studio is, so once we’d finished we went out, smoked a cigar, drank some rum and ruminated on everything that had happened. It was a lovely moment.
If Desire Paths was about your journey up until signing for Shogun and releasing your first LP, then what does Better Perspective signify?
Pete: We didn’t have the title until quite late on, when we went back and found a sample from the same spoken word piece that’s on the first track of the first album. It talks about how sometimes you’ve just got to get away and for us that equals getting in the studio, shutting the door and losing yourself in the creative process.
Andy: That’s what you hear at the start of the album – us walking through the car park into the studio, going upstairs and then the sound of our actual studio door shutting. The second it closes we’re inviting you into our space and getting away and that’s the ‘better perspective’: being able to use music to take a step back and look at situations in your life from a different point of view.
Many drum and bass artists go years without releasing an album. What do you think leads you towards writing/releasing in this format?
Pete: The label wanting us to put another one out!
Andy: Ha! It’s a combination really. Mostly it gives us the opportunity to tell our side of things as a complete package, an overall story. Also, we’re old fogeys now, so we’re often tipping our hats to lots of different styles of d&b that have emerged over the years. The album format lets us experiment across that board.
"...you have to make the most of the time you’ve got" - Andy Powell
On that note, many tunes from the record have a distinct ‘old school’ vibe to them, albeit for different reasons. For me, 'Clockwise' has an early Hospital feel, the 'Problems' chorus reminisces of a late 90s dance anthem and 'Trigger Warning' wouldn’t be out of place in an old Bristolian’s jungle collection. Analysing your work retrospectively, can you detect any specific personal musical influences?
Pete: The jungle days were really important for me. That was when I was buying all the records, completely obsessed. For me an Amen and a Reese still destroy a dancefloor better than anything! In terms of other influences, we certainly experimented more with the half speed, ambient sound like in 'We Look for Patterns' and 'It Must Be', but also soul and funk elements too.
Better Perspective has a hench track list, just like Desire Paths. What proportion of the sketches were conceived in the past two years as opposed to pre-2014?
Andy: Believe it or not I think about 90-95% of material on this album was written in that two year period!
Pete: Yeah, we often find that we make some of the strongest material/our favourites a month before the deadline. At that point you’re totally immersed in it.
Andy: We’re also the kind of people where once we’ve finished a project, we have a real need to sweep the decks. So we clear out the hard drives and start from scratch on a completely blank canvass.
Talk us through the LP’s structure. Like with Desire Paths you utilise interludes, what’s their significance
Pete: We love interludes! We put a lot of work into them and where they are on the album. It’s the same process as putting together the d&b and multi-genre mixes on our SoundCloud. You get all your ‘stuff’ together, then you say “now, how are we going to tell a story with it?” A really great way of breaking it up is interludes; a little cleansing of the palate. So despite knowing the way music is consumed nowadays we do still really want people to listen to the album all the way through to get the full experience.
Andy: We went to one of our favourite pubs one evening and sketched out different running orders for ages to try and make sure that from the moment you push play to the moment it finishes, the album completely makes sense. Same with the vinyl release – we couldn’t include every track, but we ensured that the thread runs through that too. It’s an almost ridiculous level of detail, but we’re big music fans and what we put out has got to be the best it can possibly be.
What was it like getting back in the studio with Lucy Kitchen, considering the huge acclaim of your last collaboration?
Andy: We were really unsure how 'Looking For Diversion' would be received at the time. I remember thinking “oh my god, we’ve basically put a folk singer on a d&b track, are we going to get absolutely slated?” It resonated with a lot of people though, so it felt a shame both for ourselves and our fans not to revisit a track with Lucy. In fact, the song on the album isn’t even what she sang on originally. That had much more of a house tempo, but we felt that our music wasn’t doing her vocal justice. Then out of nowhere came the sketch for 'Out of Reach' and (because she’s amazing) Lucy came back and re-recorded.
Pete: I’m sure we’ll do tracks with Lucy again in the future because… well why wouldn’t you?!
What is your process of working with a vocalist – does it change depending on who you’re working with? Who holds lyrical responsibility?
Andy: We always tell every singer: feel free to have as much creative freedom as you want, we’re not going to tell you what to do. Some singers can be nervous about that, whilst others will happily go away and write everything. On this album all the singers did the stories and lyrical content themselves.
Pete: Recording wise it can really vary. We were in the studio with Maiday for 'Problems' and in terms of coming in and nailing it she was…
Pete: Absolutely. Every take was technically incredible. On a different vibe, Jinadu (who did 'Better Perspective') sent over the demo and it was perfect. We didn’t even meet Jinadu!
And finally, you’ve never hidden the fact that you balance ‘professional’ careers alongside your musical ones. Do you have any words, tips or mind-tricks for other artists in this position?
Pete: There is nothing more corrupting to the creative process than having to make decisions based on money. The fact that we have jobs means that the only pressure on us is the pressure that we put on ourselves.
Andy: It also really helps you stay grounded and eternally grateful for everyone who supports you and your music. Don’t underestimate how much of a really, really positive thing it is to have that job as well.
Pete: It comes down to the fact that me and Andy still absolutely fucking love drum and bass and when you love it, that’s all you want to do. That passion has never left me since I was 13 years old and heard LTJ Bukem’s 'Music' for the first time. So you just make it work and – I don’t want to start spouting platitudes here, but – you’re only on this Earth once, so you have to make the most of the time you’ve got.