With the drum and bass scene still buzzing about A.M.C’s epic triumph at this year’s Drum & Bass Arena Awards as the Best DJ category, the Titan Records label boss and all-around bad mon ‘pon the decks promises the best is still to come. Not only did the UK-based A.M.C bless EDC Las Vegas with a proper lesson in dancefloor mastery, but 2019 was also the year that his seminal ENERGY LP proved that the untouchable DJ is a force to be reckoned with in the studio as well.
An homage to his ENERGY series at London’s legendary club Fabric, the album rocketed up the charts and electrified dancefloors across the globe. With his own Titan Records imprint continuing to serve as the proving ground for heads like Emperor, S9, L 33, Cruk and of course the prodigious output of the label boss himself, A.M.C has emerged as the face of the very best that drum and bass has to offer.
Ask anyone who’s been fortunate enough to hang out with the man and it’s obvious that his love of the music and the scene runs deep and infects all those he comes in contact with. From his releases on Ram, Blackout, Eatbrain, Low Down Deep and UKF, it seems there’s no stopping the energy that A.M.C is capable of conjuring whether he’s behind the decks or in the studio.
As he looks ahead to 2020 and promises to unleash even more fury on the masses, we thought it was the perfect time to invite him in for a proper sit-down and get a glimpse of what the future holds.
Before we really get into the nitty-gritty, let’s flashback to EDC Vegas this past year. It was so dope to see you rinsing out the BassPod and looking back, it seems like a harbinger of things to come. Take us back to that moment in time since it was still relatively early in the year and you had no way of knowing just how epic your year would end.
EDC was mental. I’d never really played in the USA before, so it was the perfect show to start my state-side experience with. The album was almost in its infancy at that point but I tested quite a few of the tracks at EDC.
The album itself seems to capture your essence as an artist perfectly. ENERGY not only represents your work ethic but your approach to DJing and the dancefloor. As a well-known DJ whose skills continually blow the competition away, how hard was it to sit down in the studio and start crafting an album. Why release an album at all? Why not just keep banging out singles?
[Laughs] It certainly is the right name. The thing with ENERGY is that it isn’t just the name of the album, it’s also the name of the event I started in the UK. The ENERGY events started before the album was released. The first show was a test we did in room 3 at Fabric in 2018. Then we went into Fabric’s room 2 at the beginning of 2019 and finally into room 1 of Fabric at the end of 2019. I can’t believe it’s become so popular that we were given the iconic room 1 of Fabric London. I grew up raving in that club so it was mind blowing to see a packed house for myself. The next ENERGY event is the biggest we’ve ever done in a new club in London called E1 on the 20th of March.
As for the album, it came together when I realized I had a collection of music that all have the same energetic vibe. I could have released singles (like I will be this year) but last year ENERGY the LP just made sense.
Since you are well-known for double-and triple-dropping bits like a beast, when you are crafting tunes do you think of them in terms of how they will mix with other songs? On the one hand creating perfect “tools” for DJing is rewarding but I imagine there’s also lots of pressure to create tunes that will stand on their own for listeners as well. How hard is it to find that balance when creating tunes?
Honestly… I don’t find any balance at all. Everything I make I’m always thinking how I’m going to use it in my sets. I’ve even gone so far as to build tunes around other tunes. Don’t get me wrong I haven’t always written in this way but for some of the ENERGY LP tracks this is the technique I used.
I imagine it’s also tough to balance the emotional rush and instant feedback of performing live versus the relative solitude and endless detail-driven slog of producing. Is that a struggle you’ve had? If so, how do you overcome that resistance and “force” yourself into the studio?
It’s no secret that if I had to make a choice and choose either DJing or producing for the rest of my career DJing would be my selection. And yes you’re right, sometimes I do have to force myself to get into the studio. Thankfully it tends to pay off! I think that’s where I mentioned before that by making tunes that fit into my set, I’m encouraged to get into the studio. I have to produce to be able to have the track that I want to play that particular weekend.
I know this might sound strange but years ago this was very common. You had producers and DJs and they kind of stuck to what they were best at. Obviously everything has changed these days and I’m happy it has because there’s some tunes I’ve made that I’m really proud of but on the opposite end it’s a shame it’s changed because there are some incredible DJs out there that don’t get a look in because they don’t make tunes.
Even with your success as a producer, there is no denying that your name is synonymous with the art of the mix. How do you describe what you do to people outside of drum and bass? Not just DJing – but actually mixing – do they “get it”?
This is super weird but I’m embarrassed when someone who doesn’t know me, the industry or scene asks me what I do for a living. I think when I tell people “I’m a Dj” they kind of don’t take it seriously and instantly look down on you. I should be proud of what I do and I guess I am but it’s those awkward situations that I’m not very good at.
Even for those of us into drum and bass, I don’t think we can comprehend how spiritual that experience must be at certain points in time. When everything is going right I imagine the world is narrowed down to that moment and those tunes with very little room for error.
If everything is set up correctly (sometimes this doesn’t matter however) it’s like you go into this zone where you ignore everything except the music and the crowd. Out of everything however the crowd are the biggest key to all those amazing feelings you can experience when DJing. It doesn’t matter how many people there are, it’s their reactions. The reactions give you the buzz as well as the adrenaline and it becomes a mix of emotions and music and it’s the best feeling in the world, ever.
Most people are probably still interested (and intimidated) by the technical aspects of what you do on stage. Is there a strategy or process that you’ve developed over time that you can share with us related to how you organize and visualize a set? In other words, if we gave you and another top tier DJ the same folder of say 100 tunes, what would the process be for you to break that down into something that would end up as an A.M.C set?
That’s a really good question. Firstly I’d look at what I had in the 100 and I’d like to think I knew the majority of them. Then I would know what they do and their changes etc. so it would help when thinking of mixes prior or during a set. Not everything should be about double or triple drops however and the tunes dictate that to you. I could go on about loads of techniques I use when mixing but it would get a bit boring as I’m a bit of an anorak.
The main thing I would do though and something I do in almost every set is have collections of mixes tailored for different parts of the crowd. The main aim is to get everyone involved so everyone has a great time. You start playing different tracks until you see a reaction from a collection of the crowd and then you know to evolve from that tune with one of your mix collections. You go round and round until everyone’s heard something they wanted to hear. Or… you just go in as hard and as energetic as possible. Sometimes there will be events where before you start you’ll know exactly what they want.
Speaking of top tier DJs – you’ve gone and finally beat Andy C for the Best DJ award at the Drum&Bass Awards. Tell us what was going through your head when you found out and what it means to you now that some time has passed.
I can’t put into words what I felt when they told me during that interview. I think shocked is the best word I can use to describe it. Fully shocked. It’s not just an award for me though, it’s for all the people who voted for me, it’s for all the people who come out every weekend to rave, it’s for all the promoters who put their heart and souls into this scene. Without them none of this would be possible for me and the award wouldn’t exist.
I imagine it adds a bit of pressure on you in the coming year as well.
I did think it would put added pressure on me for this year, but then as much as it would be great to win it again next year I hope somebody brand new wins it. The more different winners we have the wider the scene can spread and that’s the best thing. It would be amazing if the next winner was a woman. We have some brilliant female talent coming through in our scene and one said to me the other day she was going to take the award one day. It was great to hear.
Going back to when you were a teenager and just starting out, did you have any inkling that it would all lead to this? We imagine it’s a bit of a wild experience looking back on who you were then and who you are now. Give us a sense of the thirteen year old you and that life-changing moment when you put two tracks together in a blend.
Funnily enough 13 was the age I was when I first started DJing. We found some decks someone was throwing out one day when we were skipping school and took them back to my mates house. They were semi automatic direct drives. I still to this day have no idea what that meant but they would stop with a huge noise as it was a bunch of magnets stopping it. Then my parents bought me a pair of belt drive decks and I never really looked back. I wish I could remember the first mix!
Speaking of which, if the entire DJ/producer thing hadn’t worked out for you what do you think you’d be doing for a living right now?
I was becoming an electrician before music took over so probably a sparky!
Well, lucky for us that didn’t come to pass. Instead, we’re charging ahead into 2020 and we know you’ve got a lot of projects in the works. In addition to your own productions, non-stop touring and running the label, we understand it’s about time to launch ENERGY 2020. Fill us in on the details and any other projects we should be looking out for in the coming year!
2020 is going to be non stop. As I said before there’s the biggest ENERGY event we’ve ever done on March 20th at E1 In London. Then there’s the first massive ENERGY show in Europe in Roxy, Prague.
Musically yes we’ve got the remixes of some of the tracks from the ENERGY LP. The remixers we have working on them are Turno, K Motionz, Drumsound Bassline Smith, Teddy Killers, Prolix and more!
Then myself and Phantom have been in the studio together cooking up some music as a collaborative project – with Phantom not being a featuring artist as we want to break the norm. Then there’s loads of other singles I’m working on and I’ve got tours around the globe all of which I wish I could tell you about – but I’ve been told to keep quiet until they officially launch.
I can’t wait!