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Andy C Interview by Will Spin
Andy C needs little introduction. He has been at the forefront of Drum and Bass for over 10 years and is widely regarded as one of the best DJs in the scene, if not THE best. His energetic DJ style, precise mixing and crowd crunching tunes pack clubs to the brim across the globe from Australia to Estonia . No matter what DJ plays before him, he always seems to turn up the heat a notch with a totally devastating set, a trait that has gained him the nickname “The Executioner”
As well as his charismatic DJ sets Andy has also produced some of the most powerful and popular records in the scene including the seminal “ Valley of Shadows ” and the breakbeat bending “Bodyrock”. On top of all this he also heads Ram records, which has consistently released cutting edge, futuristic Drum and bass tunes. Phew.
2004 was a very good year for Andy C and Ram records, particularly pleasing for the crew as it was Ram records 10 th anniversary. Andy was voted best DJ by Drum and Bass Arena and by Knowledge magazine, a high accolade for a genre driven by mixing skill and devastating tunes. He was voted number 26 in DJ magazines DJ poll, the highest position ever for a D and B DJ. Ram was also voted best label at a number of award ceremonies and has achieved consistently high single and album sales.
I caught up with Andy at Triangle in Osaka , Japan after a jaw dropping display of DJing prowess:
Will: What are your impressions of Japan ?
Andy: This is the eighth time I've been to Japan , and it just keeps getting better and better. It's my third time in Osaka , and as you saw the crowd vibes here are electric. It's such a colorful culture, you know, bright lights everywhere, the way people dress………. I really, really love it out here. You can see the energy and the happy vibes- that's what drum'n'bass is all about.
Will: So, how are you received over here, compared to other countries?
Andy: Well the beauty of drum'n'bass nowadays is that in contrast to 5,6,7 years ago, pretty much everywhere you go they've got a huge scene, and it's all down to the local DJs, promoters and people with a passion for it that grow the scene. The faces might change, the race might change, but essentially everyone has got the same vibe. I think that the vibe of drum'n'bass is the same with all cultures, it draws everyone together.
Will: What's the best country to DJ in?
Andy: Well how could you pin it down? A few years ago, you could say that maybe one country was better than another: the UK was hot, Canada picked it up really early, and Germany , and then it spread to America , then Japan , Australia . I was in Australia for New Year's and that was just incredible. Recently we've even been going to central Europe- Estonia , Lithuania , Serbia , Russia , it's everywhere!
Will: Can you describe your style in three words?
Andy: Energy, bass and vibes. I feed off the crowd – it has a lot to do with the crowd, and they can really fire you up. You turn up to a place where everyone looks like they're up for it, the crowd is already jumping when you get in here – you can't go wrong.
Will: I've heard you keep pressing promoters in the UK for longer sets; are they responding to your demands?
Andy: Slowly but surely. I think drum'n'bass grew out of the early 90's when we had the hardcore scene. I used to play on the same bills as Carl Cox, and Sasha, and people like that. We all used to play (on) the same kind of sets. For some reason it's always been 1 hour sets. Drum'n'bass has grown up like that in the UK – I mean when we go abroad I get to express myself for a lot longer, like if you go to Australia or New Zealand, you can play for 3 or 4 hours maybe, which for a House DJ is nothing, but for a Drum'n'bass DJ, it's a really good chance to express yourself because there are a lot of tunes. You know, they're slowly coming round – when we have the Ram nights at The End, I always play 2 hours. I'm going to Belgium next week and playing a 3 hour set so I think it's coming round – I think there's room for it. You can get a better interaction with the crowd, you can connect with them a lot longer. Sometimes you're out in the club, and the DJ's got hour sets, and for you as a raver, you might spend an hour at the bar, and you've missed the whole DJ set – they've missed a whole part of the night. If you're DJing, then people get a chance to hear the start maybe, then go off and do some social, chat to people, and even come back at the end. For the people that stick it out til the end, you can take them on a journey. I mean I'm all into longer sets, I think that's a good evolution of DJing, you know, and a good way to express yourself.
What do you think of the growing trend of CD and MP3 mixing?
Andy: Well, I think the CD aspect of Drum'n'bass has come out of the amount of producers we have now. They might make a tune on the day and go out and play it on CD. Personally, I prefer vinyl and dub plates – it helps me with my style of mixing, and sometimes I think it's better for the crowd to watch a DJ working with the original tools of the trade. There's room for CDs – but a whole set of CDs and not bringing any records, it's just not the original concept of DJing.
Obviously you have to move with the times. New technology such as Final Scratch is really exciting because it brings an interesting aspect because you still get the visuals of DJing yet you can express yourself with so many different tunes on your catalogue –you don't have to pull it out of your record box.
You have to understand that you used to get the dub-plate and the tune would grow on dub-plate, slowly, and then DJs would hear and want to cut the dub-plate? Then the test presses would come out and the DJs that got sent the test presses would play them and the tune would grow and then the promos would get sent out to the shops and every other DJ. It used to be a slow gradual process. A big tune could take a year to grow into the final thing.With the CD, I think the turnover of tunes is more, but the shelf-life is shorter. Because its so easy to burn a new tune onto CD and play it out, maybe tunes aren't lasting as long as they should do. Everyone is wanting the next new tune. And because of burning on CDs, its more accessible to get the next new tune.
Personally, I'm an Old School kind of DJ…………
Will: In my experience you tend to play brand new dub-plates; do you ever get the urge to play something old?
Andy: Well, drum'n'bass has got so much history that I always try and incorporate all tunes into my set , it's mainly dub-plates because I always like refreshing beats, but there are a lot of good tunes throughout the history of drum'n'bass that I always try to blend a bit in here or there, catch people off guard, surprise people – it works.
Will: …like those teasers tonight like “All That Jazz” and Bad Company “The Nine”.
Andy: It might be a bit frustrating for some people but it's because I'm mixing and I've just got two decks, and I just want to keep it interesting all the way – I'm just thinking in my head, “What could I do?” and “How can I get another tune in?”.
I'm doing a few three set decks at home now, so that's kind of cool, because you can introduce so many more elements – you know if you've got two tunes in the mix, you can get another one in there. I don't really scratch – I'm not that kind of DJ for tricks and stuff, so I try and incorporate it through the mixing.
Will: Like a Carl Cox for the new Millenium?
Andy: Well, you know, I'd be lucky.
Will: What tunes have the longest life span in your box?
Andy: I played “Renegade Snares” tonight – that's from '93 so we're talking 12 years ago , so I guess that one has got the record right now. I play it a lot because it evokes so many good memories. I started out on the scene through going out and raving – I wasn't always a DJ, so it reminds me of times when I was on the other side of the decks , so it's good to play it and see the crowd still respond to it. But I still go out there and have a party – just try and find a little dark corner and have my own little rave.
Will: I understand your sister had a huge part in getting you interested in the music. What did the rest of your family think about it?
Andy: Well they were encouraging. When I was fourteen and wanting record decks, they were like “What are you going to do with record decks?” My sister Sarah played a massive part – she took me out to my first party when I was thirteen. She's five years older than me and she went to all the big parties in the late eighties. She was a big inspiration. She drew the original Ram logo, based on my star sign.
Will: Its quite a close knit unit at Ram, isn't it?
Andy: Well, we've all grown up together in Hornchurch, Essex. I met Red One 15 years ago. Shimon I've known since I was 13, which is a long time ago, and Moving Fusion I've known since I was 15, Ant Miles since I was 13, so we've all grown up together, and we've been through ups and downs, but the core element is there and the good thing is we're still all best friends today. We've been lucky, Ram has afforded us the privilege of travelling the world and seeing so much.
Will: Sub Focus, is the new blood of Ram, how did that come about?
Sub Focus's friend gave me a demo in a nightclub, I listened to that demo during the week, and out of all the CDs I had been given, it just stuck out like a sore thumb. He's got a great talent in the mixing down of the tunes, and so we signed him up immediately to Frequency, and gradually you've see him come through. Now we have X-Ray on Ram – we sold 12,000 in a week! He was like, happy , man. The guy's got talent, and I think he's going to go a really long way .
Will: So Sub Focus is the first person on RAM that's not from Hornchurch.
Andy: Yeah, we're trying to assimilate him though – we'll get him to buy a place there eventually, in sunny Hornchurch.
Do you ever feel pressured by the MC to rewind a tune you don't think should be rewound?
Andy: Er… possibly, possibly yeah. I mean it happens. Like I was saying earlier, when you're DJing, you're caught up in the vibe, and you're concentrating on the next mix or the next three mixes and the MC is interacting with the crowd so sometimes he can see things that you cant, and if the crowd are calling for a rewind, the MC lets you know, and you rewind the tune.
Will: Despite the popularity of Drum and Bass in Japan there are very few tunes around at the moment. Andy: There will be. There are producers from all over the world now that are making tunes that you wouldn't have thought a few years ago. Literally I think it's all down to local scenes and if one producer has a big tune or kicks it off that inspires all their friends and they will maybe try and imitate and then they will grow together. If you look at every territory that has had a producer come forward, there has always been one producer suddenly come Bam! with a big tune and suddenly its like that area – oh getting the tunes from everywhere.
Will: But, saying that, Japan , 125 million population – twice the number of England , nothing. I don't have a single Japanese tune. Do you?
Andy: Er, I don't at the moment but I know there are producers and I get demos regularly. There's not a tune that I'm playing at the moment but I can pretty much guarantee you that Japan will be big very soon.
Will: Although you're still young, some of the godfathers of Drum'n'bass are getting on a bit. So at what stage will you hang up the headphones and call it a day?
Andy: That's a long way off yet, man. Don't even ask me questions like that, that's not in my mind right now. Come back in 20, 30 years time and I'll see still see you here.
Guys like Norman J and other original DJs forged pathways for music in the UK. Those kinds of DJs are why we are here today. They are the kind of people that went out on a limb and introduced new sounds, that's why we're doing what we're doing and that's the evolution of DJing so why should they hang up their boots? I'm sure they still love the music. You don't have to be young to love music. And as long as I'm coming out feeding off them, it's like a drug.
People like Grooverider, he's just an inspiration. I was raving to Grooverider when I was at school and the guy is still out there playing the same music. I know from talking to him that he's still got the same passion for Drum'n'bass that he had then. People have had that passion, so how can you knock that? You can't knock anybody for doing something that they want to do.
Will: Fame can be quite shortlived but Drum'n'bass guys just carry on and on.
Andy: You're right we carry on and on. People come from all round the world. Some people have come up to me tonight, and been like, “This is my first Drum'n'bass party and I loved it”. It keeps striking new people. There are new producers coming, new styles. Drum'n'bass is not the same now as it was 5 or 10 years ago. I think it's evolving. As for the DJs that were around 5 years ago, that doesn't mean they don't like the music that's around today.
Nightlife and Nightlife 2 are great examples of Andy's sound and are a good introduction to “The Executioner”. In shops now.
Words: Will Spin
Photos: MC Grinder
Thanks: Terumi and Tiny Rich.
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