ONCE regarded as the black sheep of electronic music, drum and bass has come a long way since the early nineties progressing into the chart positioning dance floor fillers common amongst us today.
Nothing shows the rise of the genre more than the continuous success of labels such as Ram Records, this year celebrating their 20th year in the business. They have been the spring board for artists such as Brit nominated Chase & Status and Sub Focus and are home to one of the biggest names in drum and bass. A truly inspirational DJ and a founder of Ram records The Executioner himself Andy C.
The rise of Andy C and his beginnings have become a story we know so well as interview after interview we read how he became a figurehead for drum and bass, (rightly so) and of his massive contributions towards the genre helping it to evolve. This has been recognised through the endless list of awards the prolific DJ has accumulated over the years, such as National D&B Awards Best DJ – 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and Mixmag Greatest DJ Of All Time – No.4 to name but a few. After 20 years of relentless hard work and success the question was put forward, so what now for The Executioner?
Following his 1am - 3am two hour set for Subrockerz at The Roadmender Northampton, Andy C emerged outside the club after what he had described on twitter as "an absolute smasher!".
So your live show Andy C Alive completely sold out the 1st time around. You’ve just started your second tour of the show, how are you trying to build on the first run?
Yes we did (sell out). Well we did Bournemouth a couple of weeks ago which was the last event in the original state of the show. We’ve added to the structure and got brand new visuals. We’ve got some brand new technology off of Native Instruments which I’m using, kind of beta testing it and all that so Brixton academy next week is going to be the sort of debut of version 1.5 or what ever you call it.
That’s the UKF show at Brixton?
Yes it is yeah, Bass Culture and then we’ve got Cambridge on Saturday and then we’re going to America.
Yeah we’re going to go South By South West (SXSW), Beyond Wonderland in California and Ultra Festival to do some stuff out there, it’s expanding all the time. The thing with the show is it’s kind of modular, so we started off and did some smaller venues last year and then we expanded and did bigger venues like West Fest. We ended up at Brixton Electric and Manchester and its just gone wicked man. This week we’re going to be rehearsing, we’ve got three days rehearsals.
Why the sudden live movement personally and across the genre?
Do you feel it is important for DJs to play live now days?
Well it’s not live, my show is not live per say. I’m not performing my own tunes with a band. What my show is, is a celebration of the DJ. You know there’s a lot of electronic acts and a lot of acts doing their music and doing their thing, and what I wanted to do was go and take the DJing thing onto a bigger stage and do a show based around that. We were kind of formulating it for about a year and when the technology come around meaning that I could do the visuals and the music at the same time, that’s when we thought we’d go for it you know what I mean? But my show is a celebration of the DJ.
As a prolific DJ you’ve been given the opportunity to play longer set times such as your highly regarded 3 hour sets at certain Ram nights.
Is this something you’d like to do more often as opposed to 1 hour 2 hours?
Oh definitely. I mean tonight I did two hours you know and you always get to the end of the set and you’ve missed out shit loads of tunes. This week literally, I got a good 15/ 20 tunes that I would play in my set, so if you think about that that’s nearly an hours worth. That’s what it’s like every week so the longer the better! Tonight I had two hours so I could play some oldskool stuff, play some new stuff and go here there and everywhere. I really enjoy the long sets for that man.
So what would be your ideal set time because you’re often quoted as saying you mix for around 6 hours in the studio?
All night (laughs). I’d do all night. I mean when I’m at home that’s what I do. If I go in the studio and have a practice I’m in there for 5 or 6 hours, so yeah I’d love that you know.
Asked a lot but… It’s widely known you use vinyl, you’ve been quoted as saying:
“For me decks are always at the core of what I’m doing, I like the physical interaction, I like to get a sweat on.”
Does the decrease in vinyl sales and decrease in its prevalence in clubs within DJ sets concern you?
Well I use Traktor now (Traktor Scratch). The vinyl sales on Ram you know, we do vinyl forever but we’ve got a vinyl market because we’ve been around 20 years this year. There is a decrease in vinyl sales but at the end of the day you cater for every format and we sell a lot of stuff digitally, but we’ll always do the vinyl. We continue to see healthy sales because people are genuinely collectors or you know, people in their bedrooms have a party with their mates. There’s nothing like mixing on decks. I’ll never stop mixing on decks so that’s where we’re going to be at.
Have you experimented with other set ups?
I use Traktor yeah yeah. I was using tractor tonight. I mean as a DJ you’ve got to do that, you’ve got to stay on top of things and try different stuff. It was born out of the live concept that I started messing around with the digital stuff and found that you can expand your horizons as a DJ and do new stuff and that’s what I want to do. I mean at heart I’m a geek anyway that’s why I started off doing it. I started off programming computers 20 years ago and that lead me on to making music, so you know that’s where I’m at. I love noodling around in the studio.
Certain people reading this may never have considered drum and bass or may be getting into the genre. For anyone who may never have heard of Ram and will be considering listening to the records you put out, what would you say is Ram’s edge over other labels such as Hospital or Playaz?
Well we’ve got our own values and our own philosophy. We’ve got an incredible set of artists, we’re looking for artists all the time and we’re expanding. We’ve just taken on more staff and we’ve got a great bunch of people. The Ram vibe is to push the artists as much as possible as the label is only as strong as its artists, you know what I mean?
We had an incredible run from back in the day with Ant Miles, Shimon, Moving Fusion, Ram Trilogy and all that. It was incredible. In the early 2000's I took the decision that we wanted to do albums for artists as well. We signed Sub Focus and then Chase & Status with a view to do an album for them, they’d already had stuff out on Bingo and Hardware. That’s where we are at as a label.
The producers in drum and bass… they’re incredibly talented. Drum and bass is one of the hardest genres to make good tunes for. My thing is that the producers can always span their horizons, case in point being Chase & Status. Look at them in 2012 they were nominated best group at the Brits, they sold half a million albums last year and are touring the world. We hope that we were sort of a springboard for them and that’s what we will continue to do for all our artists.
Is it important to Ram as a label to have artists such as Chase & Status and Sub Focus to progress onto major labels?
Well it works hand in hand because we have got a great relationship with the guys and they are really dedicated. The good thing about them is, as a record label when you have meetings with people and they state out their sort of mission and their goals, they then work to timetables and deadlines and actually achieve them, it’s so satisfying do you know what I mean? And them guys were always destined to do that. In fact at the meetings we had and when we first signed the guys everything that was said, the goals etc the guys have achieved. So you know that is one of the really, sort of beautiful things that we’ve managed to do for the label.
What is that geezer up to?
(It was at this point in the interview that a rogue raver had decided to try climbing the roof of the club. A few security staff later and we were back on track.)
That’s a big drop down there man, I was thinking oh my god. Right go on…
Yeah! So Ram is predominately a drum and bass label, although with releases such as Sub Focus's Could this be Real and Chase & Status's Eastern Jam you’ve branched out into other genres occasionally. Can you see or perhaps would you like artists on Ram to focus on other genres or even sign new artists that produce these other genres?
Well we always do man. Like I was saying, when you get the artist and they expand their horizons we’ll push all styles. Fundamentally we’re a drum and bass label but if you see all the stuff that comes from the artist it’s all got its roots in drum and bass. Then we let them explore themselves because if they rise to the top and fly high it only pushes the whole scene.
You must get thousands of demos a year?
How do you unearth future signings? What makes a track stand out to you?
Well I’m sure I miss shit loads! Sometimes stuff is just fate. With Sub Focus, his mate gave me a CD in a club and I had to ring the number on it. With Culture Shock, he sent me a tune randomly with the name of the tune and then he came up to me at Fabric pissed and was like “You played my tune man” and I said "Well lets have a chat" and that’s how it goes, you stumble across stuff.
We’ve got Rene LaVice's Headlock. His mate sent me the tune and I always thought it was his mate that made it. So then I’m playing the tune and everyone’s going “What’s this tune? What’s this tune?” blah blah blah. Then I come across a YouTube clip of Headlock that’s attributed to him. So I’ve searched my iTunes folder, found his AIM address and then got in contact. You’ve got to be a bit of a detective and you’ve got to investigate some stuff. There’s a lot that slips through the net. You can’t sign everybody up but it’s a big scene and there’s enough for every label, but at the label you know, I try my best.
Tunes that’ll prick my ears up are well mixed down stuff, different stuff, stuff with high impact you know, it’s just inbuilt.
Finally concentrating on currently, you released a remix of Example & Laidback Luke’s Natural Disaster last year.
It’s been a while since you released your last tune.
It has yeah!
Are you planning any more releases this year?
Oh most definitely yeah! I’ve got a few remixes lined up and some collaborations. I’m going in the studio in a couple of weeks time. You have to book some time now and make some time but I really enjoyed doing that remix and it kind of ignited my fire. What is a good buzz is when you play it and people enjoy it. It’s been a few years since I’ve had that kind of buzz and it’s an addictive one. I started out in the studio you know and I feel really at home in there.
Were you approached to remix that particular song or did you just pick that tune?
No, they asked us to do it because I’m good friends with Example. So he was like I’ve got to get you to do something and they sent us the tune and said do you fancy doing it.
It’s your 20th anniversary this year! You were quoted saying your plans for Ram’s 20th anniversary included
“Some parties, we’re gonna be doing a tour of nights around the UK and across Europe – releasing special tunes, maybe some remixes of a few classics.”
Are there any new developments? Anything set in stone that you can reveal yet?
Err well I can’t really say. There’s nothing set in stone yet… but we had some meetings for it this week just gone. They’re going to be massive parties and there’s going to be some massive releases. We’re all just trying to get it set in stone over the next month, so hopefully by April. I think mainly most of the stuff will happen in the late summer/ early autumn and you know you’re only 20 once so you’ve got to celebrate it!
The good thing is as a record label when we were having meetings and that, looking at the release schedule, who we’ve got and what we’ve got lined up, we’re 20 but we feel like we’re still just starting all the time. It still feels fresh and exciting. It’s pretty mind blowing to think that we’re 20! We’ll celebrate it and we’ll look to the future. The celebrations are going to be old and new and then we’ll look to the future to the next 20.
Have you ever considered hosting a Ram tent at festivals?
Yeah yeah! Loads of stuff like that. You know, the opportunities come up and sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re not right. I mean watch this space.
In 20 years of Ram what year has stood out for you and why?
Ahh there’s loads of things man!
Okay, one stand out moment from it all?
Erm one stand out moment… (sighs)
I’ve got written down here the Ram closing party at The End maybe?
I was just going to say that. I mean from a DJ perspective that’s one of the most emotional sets I’ve ever played. Yeah it was a highly emotionally charged amazing feeling. The next day was pretty depressing (laughs) but I had some good memories.
From a musical point of view getting the first tunes away and the response to Long Dark Tunnel (Valley of the Shadows) and when that was about. It was magical because when Long Dark Tunnel was out there I was still handing out flyers and doing pirate radio, putting aerials on roofs, handing out more flyers and doing all kinds of shit. They were magical times that you can’t repeat but I look back on them very fondly man.
Finally I’m going to end asking you five Quickfire questions.
Go for it.
1. Your perfect rave line up?
My perfect rave line up? The next Ram night. (laughs)
2. Favourite ever drum and bass release?
Ahh there’s too many! I mean come on… alright I’ll give you two, Renegade Snares remix and R-Type something like that and Babylon. There you go there’s three.
3. Favourite ever release of any other genre?
Ahhh man! I don’t know man! I’m a massive Radiohead fan so I’ll say, yeah Radiohead.
4. Your biggest influence?
Biggest influence? Back in the day when I was getting into music and I was taping shit off of the radio it would be Shut Up and Dance.
5. Your favourite club to play out?
You can do UK and abroad.
Ahh well there’s a trinity in the UK of The End, Fabric and Matter. Then abroad Metro City in Perth is just mind blowing. Ermm you know L.A, there are a lot of good places. I’m very lucky, I couldn’t narrow it down so we’ll leave it at that!
For more details and for Andy C Alive tour dates head over to andyc.cc
Click here for everything Ram Records.
Thanks to Andy C.
Special thanks to Scott Bourne, Matt Learmouth and The Roadmender for all your help.
Written by Jimmy Bowman