Going on hiatus in 2000, Leftfield only ever gave us two albums. Luckily for us, it just so happens that those two albums pioneered electronic music as we knew it, introducing dub and rock concepts that have stood the test of time and are every bit as relevant now as they where when first released…
Leftfield have always been considered as one of the first true pioneers of electronic music. When you began creating music did you have any idea that it would receive the attention and the accolades that it has?
No, not in a million years. I’d have a right big head if I said “Yes”, wouldn’t I (laughs). When me and Paul started making music, in truth we were just really excited about having the opportunity to do it. It sort of became like a ball, just rolling on and rolling on. I started Leftfield and Paul joined in and we had no idea, it was just a small label called “River King” putting out underground records. And then when we started doing remixes and it got bigger and bigger and bigger, and we just found a style – it all seemed to just fall into place for a few years. And it got bigger than either of us had ever thought, and if we’d have kept going it probably would have got even bigger. It’s just one of those things.
Why do you feel your albums received such amazing feedback?
It’s really difficult for an artist to answer that question. There’s several things I think you can pin point. Firstly, I’m not saying that we’re not talented, because that would be stupid. But we were in the right place at the same time, as far as early house music in the UK. We were there quite early, and we were the first people probably to realise that you could make an album, make a record. And that’s what we wanted to do: we wanted to make something that people could listen to from beginning to end. Like a complete work of art. And that’s how we viewed it: every track we made was a completely different entity, and we put a different hat on to do each of them. For instance if we were doing reggae, I’d be listening to heavy dub, and chucking some of that into it. If we were doing techno, we’d be chucking in early American stuff, like Chicago Records… And all of that, we turned in to something that people could listen to, rather than skip tracks – we didn’t want people to skip any tracks. And honestly we sat there and analysed it until we were happy with it. But after that, the fact that it became what it did, that’s just sort of remarkable. Because nobody expected us to sell many…
It’s like it took on a life of its own…
Yeah! And it still has, and that’s the reason I’ve come back on my own to do this tour really. I’ve been badgered – I mean, by a lot of people asking very nicely about it. And Paul was approached too, and he decided he didn’t want to do it. So I thought for a long time about it, and wondered ‘can I do it on my own? Will people accept it?’ That was my worry, and I just decided to kick on and do it. And as soon as I’d decided, and that was this year in January, it’s just gone from strength to strength. We’ve had a very, very good Summer
If you don’t mind me asking, why given your unquestionable success did you stop after the first two albums, and how do you think dance music has changed since the release of Rhythm and Stealth in 99?
Well, the reason we stopped making music together was that we just stopped communicating completely. We probably spent too much time together – we spent 13, 14 years together – it’s like a marriage! So by the end of the second tour we were sort of disgruntled and negative – we didn’t realise what we had. I mean, I never actually wanted to end Leftfield. But Paul did, and I’ve always sat there and thought ‘what a shame’, but that’s life. So that’s the first answer to your question.
As for dance music, well, when we started it was just a new thing. I mean not disco, people had been dancing for thirty years! But this sort of alternative style, that isn’t RnB based, that doesn’t trace back to American culture (though you could argue it all comes back from the same source…) My point is, rather than the exception to the norm, it’s now one of the biggest forms of music – internationally, globally. And that just wasn’t the case when we were DJing and going around Europe. Now, just in England, you’ve got about 300 festivals, and every one of those festivals has a huge dance tent. And at least half of those festivals are dance only events. There’s electronic festivals in Europe, in South America…It’s just become this great big thing, and Djs go all over the world – it’s world domination, innit?
You have appeared on a number of the UK’s hottest festivals this summer, kicking off with RockNess and including LED festival, Creamfields and Electric Picnic. Was there any standouts show for you?
Well RockNess was one of the standouts, because that was the first one we did, except for some very bizarre warm-up shows in Ireland. The suddenly we’re in front of 30k mad Scots! And they was just awesome. It was brilliant. And the weather wasn’t that great, but it was still simply brilliant.
Another stand out one was Benicassim. Amazing, amazing. We went on after Gorillaz, at three oclock in the morning, and to be quite frank it wasn’t really going. Then we went on after that, and the whole place just went off, until 5am in the morning! I don’t know how many thousands, but the whole festival was there. It was wicked. That was a standout.
How does it feel knowing that a lot of the younger festival goers are experiencing your music for the first time?
Well that means a lot. Because I’m so into new music – I spend most of my time buying and listening to new electronic music. So I like to think I know what’s going on. And often I’m very surprised, that people appreciate it, because that’s the difference – the difference with the younger generation is that they’re very open minded. I like that. Not that they’re not championing their own style – I mean I know quite a lot of the young dubstep people, like Breakage, and people like that who are up and coming. But they’re knowledgeable about styles of music. I mean we were unusual when we came along, because both Paul and I had worked in Afro-Carribean styles of music. Paul had done a lot of jazz, and I’d done a lot of playing in Latin music style bands. And it was unusual that we had that interest in other cultures, whereas the youth of today are very positive. And I love it. I love them, and I love it when they come up to me, they’re not embarrassed because my music is new to them. Benicassim, when I looked down, they were all so young! Kids!
This is your first time coming to Australia isn’t it?
Yeah, I’ve come a lot of times on holiday, because I’ve got family in Australia but we never played! That was one my really big regrets with Leftfield, that we didn’t play Australia.
You’ve been on the wish list of pretty much every electronic music fan in Australia for a long time…
Well I hope they all come then because this tour is mammoth. Chemical Brothers are going to be there as well along with a host of others. So all I can say is they’d better bloody come! I’m coming all the way from England, they’d better come (laughs).
I’m sure they will. What’s the format of your new show?
There’s a full band. There’s me obviously and I’ve got this wicked drummer, keyboard and I’ve five vocalists. I’m not quite sure if all five can come this time, but hopefully. So the whole show’s got a sort of seamless quality to it.
I’ve seen some videos of it online. It looks amazing.
Yeah, it’s gone down really well. The light show’s pretty special, and hopefully we’ll be able to get a decent system so we can pump it up and show you lot how it’s done basically. We like to play really loud (laughs).
Its funny you should mention that, I read that your sound system was once so loud it shook the plaster off the ceiling at Brixton Academy and your were allegedly banned from the venue.
This story has always followed us around and its true (laughs) but we can never, never play that loud again. We were 137 deep db, and the limit now is 90, and when you get over 100 it magnifies by a greater degree.
Louder than a jumbo jet. It was quality. It did no damage to anyone because it was just quality, amazing. When it played, I was on stage and it used to go through my body, and massage the inside. It was the biggest system anyone’s ever done. And I cannot do it again because I’ve been told I’d just get chucked into jail if I did. But I’m doing the best to get as close to it as possible. Legally. Legally close. Because I literally have the council following me around, that’s how bad the reputation is.
Are there any artists on the Future Music lineup that you’re keen to see?
Plastikman for sure. Everyone else I’ve seen many times, and they’re all great but Richie Hawtin is one of my heroes, so I’ll be definitely going to see Richie Hawtin. The first time I saw a proper techno DJ at Global Gathering was Richie in 1994. Never in my life and never since, have I ever seen a crowd go so wild. He’s a genius that guy. Pendulum are wicked, Chemical Brothers are wicked, I mean I like them all. All good. It really is an amazing festival line-up.
Do you have any preconceptions of the Australian crowd?
I’ve heard they’re very, very well behaved. Sit very quietly, and they don’t really say anything. And they sit down don’t they? That’s what I’ve heard.
Yeah they normally sit down and have cups of tea while you’re up there.
Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard (laughs again loudly).
I think you’ll be suitably impressed with the Australian crowd.
Yeah well I’ve heard that they’re very appreciate, and that’s wonderful. That’s what we’re there for, and I just hope it goes down well. I hope it’s a success.