The DMC Interview
Synchronicity is a wondrous thing, and the creative pairing of Luke Brancaccio (Brancaccio & Aisher, Suicide Sports Club) with Simon Berry (Platipus Records, Art Of Trance, Union Jack) after a chance meeting, is perhaps a sign that the universe is conspiring to guide electronic music on to a new and exciting path. Blurring any out-dated notions of separation between styles, they expertly blend the past and future via their long-standing experience of and involvement in the rich history of electronic music, resulting in a uniquely original style that is entirely their own. The past six months has seen them unveil two crucial releases – ‘Oblivion’ (Bedrock) and ‘Wake Up’ (Circus) – both receiving much critical acclaim, and firmly positioning this experienced duo as one of the most exhilarating new collaborative projects around. They have now returned to Bedrock with their third, highly accomplished creation – ‘Close Your Eyes’ – featuring the compelling vocals of JJD, so we thought it high time that DMC caught up with the boys to find out more…
Luke and Simon, a huge welcome to DMCWORLD and congratulations on the release of your Beatport No.1 new single ‘Close Your Eyes’ on John Digweed’s Bedrock Records. This is your 2nd appearance on Bedrock in quick succession, so the first thing we’ve got to ask is what makes this label so special?
LB: Bedrock’s been around for years and it’s had almost every major House/Techno act on it at some point. It’s one of the most respected dance labels in the world, run by John Digweed, who’s one of the most respected DJs in the world. It’s had some of the best House/Techno tunes ever made on it and defined the sound of an era and seems to be doing this all again now. It was also the first big label I was signed to back in the day, so it’s a huge pleasure after a long break to be back on it.
SB: For me, Bedrock has, for several decades, represented a benchmark of quality and consistency within the scene. Always finding the right line between depth and musicality, whilst still remaining credible. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since John and Nick delivered their fantastic Bedrock Remixes of Humate’s classic ‘3.2’ on Platipus!
How did your collaborative project come about? Are there plans to take it further – live performances, for example?
SB: We met by chance at a house party about half a mile away from my home in December last year. A few beers later down the local boozer, we made a plan to have a studio session for the fun of it, if nothing else. Eight sessions later, ‘Oblivion’ was conceived.
LB: We are talking about the logistics of a live show at the moment and it’s definitely on the cards.
SB: Yes, or a combined DJ / Live performance, basically mixing tracks we like with tracks we’ve produced and integrating live synths too.
Talk us through the creative process in the making of ‘Close Your Eyes’ and the involvement of JJD… What’s the story here?
LB: I always wanted to do something with the vocal so we asked JJD (aka Kaiser Saucy) from The Loose Cannons if he’d be interested in having a go at it.
SB: …then it was a case of building up harmonic layers for the vocals to bathe in, and take the whole thing to another place entirely, with warmth and depth.
For anyone not already familiar with the music you create together, how would you describe your style? Can you put your finger on the elements of your music that makes it so engaging and distinctive?
SB: It’s pretty much a case of combining all the different elements we both love; some glacial grooves, a few reverse rainbows, a semi-translucent wall of fog, and some severed vocal chords, all served up with a dash of big beefy bassline gravy.
Do you find it easy to express your emotions in your music, or is this something that finds an outlet only in certain, special tracks?
SB: That’s an interesting question… Whereas a songwriter may have an emotional outpour over a piano or vocal rendition i.e. after they’ve broken up with their partner, I’ve always thought of it the other way round. I let the music affect my mood, and consequently, my relatively subdued emotions are let off the leash.
LB: Definitely in the music that Simon and I make together, our emotions are hugely integrated in the music – we bounce off each other amazingly well, which I think absolutely shows in our tracks.
Tell us something about the psychological effects of music that totally blows your mind?
SB: That’s a difficult one to put into words without sounding like a cosmic child of the universe.
LB: Music can take you to a place like nothing else really can. It can change your mood from being happy to extra sad and can evoke memories and thoughtfulness in a really powerful way.
Let’s rewind for a moment, what are your earliest musical memories?
LB: Mine are using all of my mum’s records while she was sleeping early mornings, taking parts and recording them on tape, almost doing mash-ups of lots of different tunes all edited together. I used to get into tonnes of trouble when she woke up because I’d destroyed all her needles and records but I was absolutely obsessed with music from the beginning.
SB: My mum (who incidentally was a music teacher) used to play me music before I was born. I’d like to say they were my earliest memories… if subconscious memories stretch that far?
How did your musical tastes develop? When did dance music come into your lives?
LB: I was into all kinds of music but in my early teens I was heavily into Hip Hop – A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Dr Dre – but then I lived in a house with 4 other people who all were obsessed with dance music and after a while I started to latch onto certain tunes that they were playing like ‘Not Forgotten’ by Leftfield, ‘Windows’ by Sil, and I remember hearing Gat Decor’s ‘Passion’, and I started to hear a sound within the music they were playing that was definitely up my street. I think also from listening to early Electro records, I got a flavour for dance music and the rest is history.
SB: I was born in 1970 and I don’t recall really getting into much music until around 1980 onwards, so I guess I was around 10 when my ears started to develop. It was great timing, as synth-pop was all lined-up ahead of me. Everything from Depeche Mode, Art Of Noise, random 80’s quirky electronic stuff, and later that decade, Detroit techno seemed to come from nowhere… Juan Atkins, Derrick May etc. It was so pure…I loved it. I knew then I wanted to have a go myself, so I bought a DX7 and Boss Dr Rhythm and I was away.
At what point did you get into producing and DJing?
SB: When I was around 20. For the first year I was just recording ideas onto audio-cassettes. I wish I still had those tapes, as they had some really raw and innocent ideas…untainted by genres and DJ/Club fashions and all the cynical trappings of what I guess any long-term producer is burdened with, to a degree.
LB: I went to LA when I was 19 with a bag of records, not knowing anybody, and to cut a long story short, ended up becoming friends with Jean-Phillippe Aviance of Alcatraz fame, and he took me under his wing and taught me how to DJ. A few years later, I was introduced to Bruce Aisher by Goetz (the engineer for Faithless), and Bruce and I started producing tunes together.
In what ways do you think your particular journey through life has influenced the electronic music you make now?
LB: All the choices you make, the paths you take, and the people you meet have a fundamental influence on the music you make. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great people and had some amazing experiences, which have all had an impact on how my music has developed over the years.
SB: I’ve no doubt my relative lack of academic achievement and my failure to find any job that I could stick at, had a big part to play in forcing me from despair into instructing myself to just try and do something related to what I actually enjoyed doing, and for me, that was without a shadow of a doubt, music.
Having witnessed the evolution of the underground scene in the UK over the years, how do you view where things are at now? Is it healthy? What could improve things?
LB: I think things are the healthiest they’ve been for a long time. With the demise of EDM as its listeners have graduated to a more mature sound, dance music seems to be coming full circle again and it’s really exciting.
SB: I think it’s development is healthy in the sense that there’s so much choice and the listener can cherry-pick exactly what sound or sub-genre they’d like to check out, but with this comes snobbery amongst DJs, producers and listeners too. If something sounds even slightly cross-genre it’s all too easily dissed or dismissed altogether and this encourages bandwagon-jumping producers and DJ’s to cause things to stagnate. People need to have an open mind in order for things to develop.
Since we’re heading towards the mid-point of yet another great year of music, how about you talk us through your Top 5 tracks of 2018 so far (by other artists)?
- John Monkman – ‘Return To Bamboo Forest’: I think John’s one of the most exciting producers at the moment, and I love the sound he’s developing. This tune encompasses everything I love about dance music.
- Avidus – ‘Revenge Of The Whales’: This is so moody and thought provoking, it gets me going every time.
- Bicep – ‘Glue’: This reminds me of when I first started listening to dance music, but updated in such an amazing way.
- Yotto – ‘Second Life’: Yotto has a sound all of his own that seems to just be evolving into an absolute masterpiece.
- Circle Sky – ‘The Light’ (Patrice Baumel Remix): Patrice Baumel is definitely the one for me at the moment. I have a bit of a man crush on him. Everything he does is exceptional and this is up there with his best.
If you could remix any track by any artist (ever) what would be at the top of your wish list?
LB: Jam and Spoon ‘Stella’, or Dr Atomic ‘Schudelfloss’
SB: John Cage ‘4’33’
Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
LB: Just work hard and be nice to people – not only is it just good to be nice to people, but you also get good karma from it because what goes around comes around.
What plans have you got for the rest of 2018?
SB: I’ve just come back from my first proper holiday in almost 4 years. Believe me, working with Luke can be fun but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! That said, I’m actually looking forward to getting back on the horse with Luke in a couple of weeks.
LB: Simon and I have a new track coming out on Platipus sometime in July, and I’ve just started a new residency at ‘Back to Ours’. As well as DJ’ing around the world, I have an exciting new radio show that I’m not allowed to talk about but will be huge.
Thanks for your time here Luke & Simon – much appreciated! ☺
Luke Brancaccio & Simon Berry Feat. JJD – Close Your Eyes (Bedrock)
Luke Brancaccio & Simon Berry Feat. JJD Versus John Digweed & Nick Muir – Close Your Eyes (Bedrock)