Friction: A Mid-school Master Speaks…
Friction is a drum n bass star who’s been making waves over the last decade or so, rising up when the genre was still quite raw. In the years since it’s become a more professional business operation, though at its heart nothing has changed – drum n bass is still hugely popular and one of the most consistent dance music genres on the planet with a hardcore following from London to Sydney and everywhere in between.
As a touring DJ, a producer, a label owner and a Radio 1 host, Friction is a very busy man, but he managed to find time to produce a brilliant new mix for the legendary Fabriclive series.
When I interview Friction he’s in the studio and somehow managing to intersperse working on new music with several interviews that have been scheduled throughout the day, so naturally my first question centres around that.
Do you find it hard to juggle working on music with a series of interviews, or is it a pain in the backside?
Without causing offence, it is a pain but that’s the way it is. I’m here for a day and I won’t do very well on the road – I make music, and mix CDs… this is the only way of doing it, you want to do interviews and talk about what you’re doing. It can be quite hard, I’ll put the phone down to you and I’ll have 20 minutes in between this and the next one to get some work done in between, then a couple more interviews and then have a good six hour studio session. It’s all part of the game and part of being busy, which is a positive thing.
When you’re touring do you put ideas down on your laptop?
If I’ve really got into something in the studio, but I’ve got to leave and go to a gig somewhere then I will put the arrangement on my laptop and take it with me. But, as a rule, I’ve stopped doing that because I find I do my best work in the studio – when I go on tour now I try to use that as down time, because I don’t really have time these days to sit down and watch TV or spend any time chilling.. I’m crazy about Mad Men at the moment, so I’ve got that all on my iPad and I’ll watch it every time I’m in a car or on a plane. Sometimes I will take a production with me, just because I can’t stay away from it.
I guess once you’ve got an idea rolling and you’re torn away from it, you want to take it with you so you can keep the momentum going?
Exactly, exactly that.
When things first start kicking off for you, did you find it hard to adjust to being on tour all the time?
A little bit, when I first broke through as a drum n bass DJ life was quite easy then… that was eight years. Fast forward to now – I DJ, I’ve got serious about production and making music, I do the A&R for my label Shogun Audio and I’ve got a Radio 1 show – it’s harder but it’s who you have around you to organise things and make that element of it easier.
What was it like for you when you first broke through, winning awards and being pushed into the limelight a bit more, how did it affect you as a person?
When I first came through the scene was different to how it is now. When I came through then, I was literally just playing at raves, whereas now I do a lot more varied shows – I’ve got the radio show, I produce all kinds of music… I’m a lot more open now to loads of stuff, back then I was just cutting dubplates, playing at drum n bass raves. I didn’t find it hard to adjust, I loved it, it was like living a dream and it still is.
You’re doing a lot of festivals this summer aren’t you?
I’m doing around 25 festivals, next week I’ve got five festivals in Europe! So I’m going to be running around just doing festivals, Estonia, Bucharest, Serbia for EXIT… that’s going to be mental. I can’t wait, I love festivals, it’s just great to be on such a big site with thousands of people. It’s such good fun.
You’ve recently had a FABRICLIVE mix released, where would you place that as an achievement?
It’s something I always wanted to do and, when Sean from fabric hit me up about doing it I was like, ‘Yeah? Yeah!’. He was quite casual but I was like, ‘Yeah!’. I had loads of things going on when they asked me, but I thought whatever happens on I’m going to make it work somehow. It takes quite a while to get it done because there’s so much red tape, there are two things to consider. You need to work out what you want and get a tracklisting together, but you also need to think that some tracks might not get licensed, so you have to rework certain mixes. It was a lot more stressful that I expected but I got pretty much what I wanted – the selection on the CD is what I wanted it to be, more cutting edge, but rolling DnB, which is how I like to play in London or somewhere like that.
So when did you go to fabric for the first time?
God! Probably around 10 years ago, watching Bad Company or Ed Rush, someone like that – quite a while ago now. When you break things down, I think to myself how lucky I am to play these kind of places and make a CD for them… I’m very blessed with my job and I’ve still got a lot to give, I’m still on the up. There’s lots I still want to achieve, I want to make an album, I want to take Shogun as far as I can take it – it’s important, as an artist or whatever job you’re doing to look around you…
I read a book recently that was about controlling your mind and organising your mind and it said, ‘It’s very important not to always look for the next thing’. Don’t think, ‘Oh, this year I want to do a festival to 20,000 people’, don’t yearn for the future too much, enjoy the moments that you’re living and not think too much about the next stage up. That’s something I’ve really tried to do, appreciate the things that are happening because I’m lucky to have them.
I don’t really listen to DnB any more, so I wanted to ask how’s the scene now with the younger generation?
Drum n bass is in a great place really. The thing about the music is that is stays consistent – over the years you’ll get other genres that people will be like, ‘It’s all about this now, it’s all about dubstep’ or ‘It’s all about deep house now’… drum n bass stays there all the way through and stays popular, which is so good. We’re entering a really good phase now, there’s loads of great music, loads of varying styles…
Who would you recommend listening to?
Obviously, I’m going to recommend anyone on Shogun, all the artists that are signed to my label – I’m very lucky to have some great guys on the label. Metrik is making some great dancefloor stuff at the moment, Camo & Crooked are coming with a new album – they’ll do some really good stuff, lots of guys on Ram. Other labels as well, Samurai have some great stuff… there’s loads out there, there’s so much choice from the big labels through to lesser known artists.
You said that you have album plans, how’s that coming along?
I’ve written half an album so far, it’s going well but it’s a bit of battle with all the other stuff I have on all the time. I’m cracking on with it though, when I can.
Does it have a theme?
It’s just a group of tracks at the moment and there are themes and ideas coming into my mind, but I’m not rushing into that. I want to collate all the music first and see what happens with it.
How did you get into producing?
I was always a bit of a part-time producer, it’s only the last two or three years that I’ve taken production really seriously. I had some great tunes, Back To Your Roots Remix and Robocop and tracks like that, but a lot of time I’d do a collab or get someone to engineer for me whereas now I do it all myself, I’m in the studio mixing and writing music a lot.
How did you get started with learning how to produce?
I’m very lucky to have friends like Dillinja and Calyx, Teebee… Dillinja helped me a lot in the studio with things like mixing down digitally. I’ve been lucky to have people like that around me to help me out.
You’re someone that’s come into the scene when it’s gone through a real transition, it must be interesting to have seen it all change..
Yeah, I was an up and coming DJ when it was all one way and I’ve seen it change. I’m a modern drum n bass artist but I know about the old ways, it would be the same if you spoke to Chase & Status. People like me, Chase & Status, Sub Focus, Redlight (when he was Clipz), we came in having seen how it worked, and we’ve seen it mutate and change as far as how it runs itself, how things are done and how business is done. It’s been an interesting thing to watch, for sure. I’m glad I know how it once was because you speak to new artists sometimes and they have no idea how drum n bass was, you say how things used to work and you see the fear in their eyes like, ‘Oh my God, is that how things used to go down?!’, I’m like, ‘Yep!’.
Fabriclive 70 mixed by Friction is available here
For more information on Friction visit his Facebook page here.
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