Original Interview on Ministry of Sound
Before they take to the decks for Saturday Sessions on November 29th, we caught up with the duo to talk six decks – three mixers, the next album and the ‘golden era’ of dnb
It’s refreshing to see a drum & bass line-up of this calibre test the power of the world-renowned sound system we have in The Box. How does it feel to be playing at the club? Do you have any memories of the venue since its inception in 1991?
Calyx &TeeBee: This will be our first time playing at the club together and we can’t wait! I played there once before, around 15 years ago and frankly my memories of that night are a bit of a blur – albeit a very good blur!
Calyx & TeeBee will be playing alongside High Contrast and Rockwell for Saturday Sessions at Ministry of Sound on Saturday 29th November. Visit the event page for more information and tickets.
I’ve witnessed your hefty six deck, three mixer performances at countless nights up and down the country, the most recent one being the dangerously sweaty Noisia Invites night at Studio Spaces in Wapping. Each time I’m blown away by the speed and energy you guys bring. Just how do you go about mixing with 3 mixers? How exactly does the setup work and at what point did you decide to make the transition?
C&T: It all started at a huge event we played at in Moscow eight years ago – we arrived at the venue to play a normal back-to-back set, but when we got to the stage the promoter pointed at a huge table with eight decks and three mixers all laid out in a row and said “use that”. After we initially laughed at the prospect we spent five minutes discussing what we could do with it and gave it a tentative go. It really was one of our most enjoyable gigs, as the excitement and buzz was something we’d never experienced as DJs. Before we had even finished the set we knew that this was something we would be doing again in the future. Compared to the standard back-to-back format of just taking it in turns on the decks, this is a huge step forward in terms of performance and permutations.
“We constantly shout across the decks at each other and have evolved hand signals so that we both know what the other is thinking”
As we’ve gained more experience in playing with six decks and three mixers, our sets keep improving; with both choreographed moments that we have rehearsed and planned, and spontaneous moments when we feed off the feeling of the moment or when one of us tries to surprise the other with teases, key-matches and drops.
As the years have passed, we’ve gained an unspoken understanding and intuition of what the other person is thinking or planning in their minds – but communication is still the key to making it work – we constantly shout across the decks at each other and have evolved hand signals so that we both know what the other is thinking – you always have to be thinking ahead, much more so than with a standard DJ set.
I never thought the Anatomy LP could be topped, but All Or Nothing certainly lived up to the five-year hype. For me it is easily one of the best albums in drum & bass history. I’m sure this get’s asked at every night you guys play at but when can we expect the much-anticipated 3rd album?
C&T: Thanks for the kind words! Our next LP and singles will be coming out early to mid 2015.
With All or Nothing you left your signature Anatomy sound behind, showcasing your extensive range and abilities at a whole new level. How are you doing things differently this time around?
C&T: We think this next LP is going to blow our previous albums away. As each year passes, our ‘sound’ evolves; as do our tastes and our production techniques. That evolution has continued in writing our new album – we’re always pushing ourselves and each other to step outside of our comfort zones and to explore themes and styles we haven’t ventured into before – so there will be a really diverse range of tracks; some that people won’t expect us to have written, alongside some tracks that we hope people will instantly recognize as being ours.
“We think this next LP is going to blow our previous albums away”
You recently remixed the forthcoming Ministry of Sound release “Promesses” which is due out in January. How does it compare to writing your own material?
C&T: The process of remixing is so different to writing original material. With our own tracks, we start with a blank canvas and the track can be inspired by literally anything – from a sound, to a concept, or even just a feeling. With remixes we get creatively inspired by the sounds and parts of the original track we’re remixing – so very often the feel and concept of the remix is to some extent defined before we even start.
We’re lucky to have way more remix requests than we could possibly do – as a result, we can pick tracks that really excite us creatively. “Promesses” is a perfect example – with so many brilliant elements to work with it was a joy to do – the hook, the sounds, the vocal – all sources of inspiration for us and the fuel for some great studio sessions!
What advice would you give to all the aspiring bedroom producers out there? How did you stay motivated at the early stages of your careers?
C&T: It really wasn’t a case of ‘how’ we stayed motivated – that never even occurred to us as we’ve always been extremely motivated – possessed even! As a general rule, producers who sustain a career in music are highly motivated – it’s more an obsession than a motivated pursuit.
Here are four tips for aspiring producers:
1) Strive to have a unique identity or sound to your music.
2) Work all the hours you can.
3) Cross-reference regularly with other tracks whose sound and characteristics you aspire to.
4) Try to use sonically great starting sounds rather than trying to use sounds that need significant engineering work to get them sounding good.
What was it like starting out in the scene back in the ‘golden-era’ of the late 1990’s? Have you always been full-time producer/DJs?
C&T: We’ve both been full-time producer/DJs since we started releasing music in the late 90s. We’re definitely lucky to have started out in the ‘golden era’ of DnB’s formative years – the buzz and excitement of the emerging genre was incredible – a rapidly evolving melting pot of genres and influences.
“Any income from DJing was a bonus in those days – rather than the absolute necessity that it is now”
Possibly the biggest advantage of starting out in the early years of DnB was that record sales could provide a sustainable income – at least enough to start careers in a way that isn’t possible now. Labels could pay meaningful advances to new acts that were getting signed, and any income from DJing was a bonus in those days – rather than the absolute necessity that it is now. Sometimes those early years feel like yesterday, but very often we reminisce and realise how much the scene and the industry as a whole has changed immensely…. the internet certainly has a lot to answer for!
Drawing influences from other genres is a fundamental ingredient to remaining at the top of the tree. Outside of drum & bass, who are your favourite artists that you follow?
C&T: We both have very eclectic tastes outside of DnB and we certainly draw much more inspiration from genres outside of DnB. Rather than rattling off a bunch of names, we’re just going to answer this question by recommending everyone go and check out one person – the phenomenon that is: Stimming.
He’s a truly incredible German producer whose kaleidoscopic soundscapes are both inspired and inspiring. We first discovered his music about five years ago and we’ve listened to some of his tracks hundreds of times, but we still discover new elements and themes with each listen. His combination of sound design and musicality is just sublime.
Finally, aside from your own, what are the biggest dubs currently in the Calyx & TeeBee CD wallet?
C&T: Without wanting to brag, the biggest and best reactions in our current sets really are from the pool of tracks that are in contention for our next album. Beyond that, we have dubs from a whole load of up and coming producers, as well as some secret exclusives that good friends sneak out to us while they’re still works in progress. For that reason we can’t name any of them…. but to pick one dub that’s currently causing some serious damage when we play it, I’d go for a brand new untitled track from Dub Phizix and Xtrah – a totally unique tribal rhythm that makes the whole room go ‘whoaaaa’ before erupting into a frenzy!
Thanks guys! Can’t wait to hear this new material now!
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