By Lady Lex
The hard and fast pace of the ADHD age has penetrated every corner of the clubbing nation. Key musical formats from basslines, drum patterns, verses, basic chordal structures to rudimentary form and composition have been discarded in favour of hard hitting hooklines, combined bass drum lines, with little melodic or key structure. Electronic music has become trite, opting for messages reflective on the individual in the here and now. There’s a definite self centred and self seeking tone to this day and age when the highest ambition is achieving one’s 15 minutes of fame, and reality TV lauds the ridiculous and the unexceptional. But beneath the trite and the obvious is a burgeoning blossom of hope where the lines between musical genres are becoming indistinctly blurred. Not since the 1970s has this distortion in music been so prevalent: classically trained jazz musicians mingle with EDM producers; DJs are collaborating with orchestras; jazz keyboardists are turning DJ, singer/songwriters are changing tracks from traditional to electronic music and pop is firmly entrenched with EDM. We are on the dawn of a musical age that will undoubtedly supersede anything we have ever known.
It’s indeed a sign that a genisis is upon us when trained musicians are piercingly penetrating the EDM arena. And nowhere is this more prevalent than with East London’s Hackney musicians Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden, Amir Amor and DJ Locksmith of Rudimental. First entering the EDM sphere with singles ‘Deep In The Valley’ featuring MC Shantie and ‘Speeding’ with singer/songwriter Adiyam on Black Butter Records, the quality production and superb musicality really perked up the ears of the industry. The distinctive track ‘Spoons’ featuring Amir on spoons, singer/songwriters MNEK and Syron, set against a modern metrical EDM format and done all in one take really established Rudimentary as the act to keep an eye on. But it was ‘Feel The Love’ featuring John Newman on vocals and one of London’s distinguished jazz trumpeters Mark Crown that would eat the world. Debuting at #1 on the UK Singles Chart, ‘Feel The Love’ strongly featured plenty of drum n bass elements in the bass and drum patterns, while giving a nod to the traditional song formats of the 12 bar blues structure, with a clear-cut song form, emotive lyrics and melodies topped with a thrilling trumpet solo. This is the new electronic music: electronica fused with the vintage analogue format, overlaid with organic sounds, blended with raw talent.
With their star most definitely on the rise, Lady Lex sits down with Piers Agget to discuss the past, present and future of Rudimental.
Rudimental has seemingly exploded onto radios and dancefloors, but as a group, you have quite a history. Where did it all start?
We grew up together in Hackney, East London and we all went to school together. Kesi and I went to college at Leeds University studying Music Technology. We’ve played a bit together and started making music together when we were about 18 or 19. Over the years, we’ve developed a relationship that really works
Listening to your tracks, there’s a distinctive sense that quite a presence of musicianship, from composition to sound samples and even the choice of artists you work with. It’s also interesting to note that you refer to yourselves as musicians – not as producers or electronic artists. What are your musical backgrounds?
I play piano and I’ve been making music for about 6 years now professionally, and producing. I do a bit of DJing as well; DJing is an art in itself - and so is musicianship. It works because we’re so eclectic on the musical side and we’re also quite eclectic in our skills - we all have our own personal skills. Amir is a guitarist, songwriter and producer; Leon is from a DJ background brings that to the table. And Kesi is the songwriter, keyboard player – we all have our own skills. We’ve all had quite a lot of music in our lives since an early age. It’s quite important to be varied in skills and not be good at just one thing, especially when it comes to making music. It’s quite helpful to have a range of skills.
As you say, you all bring different skills to the table. You’ve come together and produced something quite incredible and unique and refreshing: how does this all work?
It varies. It’s quite a dynamic team where sometimes Kesi will put an idea to me and I’ll work on it, and then we’ll pass it onto Amir; or sometimes Amir will bring an idea in and Kesi and I will work on it. It really does vary. We pass our ideas onto each other and kinda do little sessions on our own or do sessions together. Sometimes we’ll write with a vocalist. But I think we’ve got different skills with the production side of things. It’s good to have that dynamic for a team that works really well.
You all come from many different areas with your music: garage, hiphop, blues, drum n bass- many areas in electronica. What would you say is Rudimental’s signature sound?
It’s music with a heavy bass line, and music with soul. We’re really into our soulful sounds. The electronic music we grew up around - like garage, drum n bass, hiphop, jungle - has played a big part in our music.
Coming from Hackney, August 2011 remains one of the most turbulent months in recent London history. How much of ‘Feel The Love’ relates to that time in history?
Funnily enough, it was written quite a while before that, but that time was obviously a scary and emotional time for London - it was quite a shocking period. Coming from East London and growing up in Hackney, the riots weren’t much of a shock to a lot of us because it was an underlying problem that’s been there for years. In relation to that, what we’re about is enjoying our time and being happy and creating a good vibe in the studio and when we perform.
What does Rudimental want to achieve with their songs?
Without sounding really cheesy, we want to bring back a bit of soul and melody to electronic music and just have a feel-good record; making an album that we’re happy with and share with people. Having a successful album that we can perform live is a big goal of ours, and to perform live on big stages. We’re really excited about our future.
You say ‘Rudimental are bringing soul back to electronic’. This could infer that dance music lacks soul - what dance music are you referring to?
All I mean is, including more melodic and soulful ideas. We’re all big fans of electronic music – there’s no one out there we don’t like. We’re all into Subtrakt and Chase and Status. I’m not saying there’s not enough soul in electronic music, but the idea is to bring our idea of soul to it.
One thing I’ve really picked up from your tunes is a love in utilising that analogue feel. Do you miss the days of analogue?
I think a lot of producers and engineers do miss it, but there have been some great things to come with the digital age. It’s good to have a balance. With ‘Feel The Love’ we recorded the trumpet and the vocals on an SSL analogue desk to give it that authentic sound, and processed it with digital technology to create the record. It’s good to have it there to use when you can and it’s definitely a big part of our sound.
‘Feel The Love’ has really eaten the world. Debuting at #1 is no mean feat! How did it all come about?
Kesi first bought the idea to the studio: it was a sunny day when he wrote the original idea and we all went a bit crazy and wrote the rest of it with him. We were really excited about it. We didn’t really think it was going to do what it did, it was just a really good vibe in the studio. We didn’t think how we’re going to do it. If you really like a song, you’re gonna just finish it as soon as possible. And we had a blast with the song. We called up our trumpet player and put some bass on the song. It all formed over a week. We went about our day-to-day lives after that, and next thing we know, it’s getting airplay. It all happened really quickly, where all of a sudden it’s gone to #1 in the UK in Diamond Jubilee Week. It was absolutely amazing to have that. It really has been quite a journey.