If drum and bass were a food chain, Andy C wouldn’t just be an apex predator, he’d be the apex predator, like a great white shark or a lion. In terms of what one person has done for drum and bass and the level of achievement one can reach, he’s done it all. With his flagship record label RAM Records reaching its silver jubilee last year, this bass music royal just hit another shocking and fittingly regal milestone: this November, Mr. C will not only be the first drum & bass artist to play Wembley Arena in London, he will also be the first artist of any genre to have the venue all night for a proper rave. It’s got to the point where venues are actually breaking rules and traditions for this D&B legend, and it seems the only person who’s surprised anymore is Andy himself.
From the days of RAM Trilogy when he and contemporaries like Hype, Goldie, Shimon and other legends were laying the groundwork not only for jungle and drum and bass but a whole wider genre of bass music to now where that wider genre exists, Andy C has never lost his passion or love for what he does. Almost every step he’s made in the scene has been with the music in mind and after easily thousands of performances, he still puts a huge effort into each of his DJ sets, not planning to give up his title of The Executioner any time soon.
In terms of his relationship with Bassrush and Insomniac, Andy C has been there since the beginning and has played countless shows and festivals with us from the early Nocturnal Wonderland days to EDC Las Vegas this past year. At this point it’s safe to say he’s considered Bassrush family, and apparently he feels the same way, which is nothing short of humbling.
First and foremost, congratulations on Wembley! That’s a really big deal, isn’t it?
Yeah, thank you! You know, they announced that and then I think they whole thing sold out within three days. I was really pleased. The run up to that was good fun as well, because we did a competition for people who had bought tickets that was also centered around the World Cup.
How did that go down?
I threw a party at the local pub during one of the matches. It was about 120 people crammed into this little pub you know, friends, family and competition winners, and then I did a set at half time, so that was just raucous great fun and a great way to celebrate football and the Wembley thing.
It’s also significant as you’ll be the first drum and bass artist to play there.
It’s an incredible honor I’ve been given. We did shows at Brixton Academy and Alexander Palace but then it was like, “Well, what else can we do?” We thought about Wembley as it’s such an iconic name and a venue, and we approached them just thinking it may not work, but not only were they massively up for it, but we secured the first ever all night party there. It’ll be the first time Wembley Arena has opened the venue all night so I’m going to do about a six-hour set till 5am. It’s just incredible. It’s mental. I mean the list of acts they’ve had play there, when we went to tour the place and we were in the dressing rooms looking at the posters they had, you know, The Beatles in ’66, Jackson 5 in ’72, The Rolling Stones in ’73, Bowie in ’76…you know? And now they’re gonna let a drum & bass DJ in there and rave all night! It’s crazy.
Closer to home, you’ve been with Insomniac and Bassrush from the start, haven’t you? I can remember your set in 2001 at Nocturnal Wonderland and it was so windy the needles kept knocking around.
Oh yeah! My God, I remember that! That was a nightmare because it was still in the days of turntables and that wind was just not cooperating. Wow, that was a long time ago, wasn’t it? Insomniac and Bassrush have been on a long journey and it’s definitely been great to watch. I mean now I’m always happy to play the events, especially Bassrush because those guys are really like family at this point.
RAM’s been on quite a journey itself since those days. How do you feel about how the label has progressed and RAM’s role in DnB now?
For me it’s always the same: finding the next big acts, doing justice to the acts we already look after, and continuing to spread drum and bass. I do feel that us, along with all the other major labels, have done a pretty good job with getting it to where it is. But we always want to find that new artist that’s going to take it to the next level. I really just see RAM as a platform for the artists to come in an express themselves. I think we’ve got a pretty good track record over the years, so I’m excited to try and find the next one that’s going to break through.
It might be the way somebody’s expressed a chord progression combined with a drop, or the way someone’s really gone intricate on their breakdown, or it might just be an absolutely raw dancefloor stinker. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I look for, I just know it when I hear it.
With regard to finding those new artists, what do you look for when signing tracks or producers?
I could say I just look for something that’s good, but it’s hard to say what that is. I look for inventiveness, musicality, and the track’s got to stand out to me. There’s no blueprint, it’s more musical tastes and opinions. If we [label heads] didn’t have our own tastes, we’d all sign the same people. For me it’s just a feeling I get from hearing a new production. It might be the way somebody’s expressed a chord progression combined with a drop, or the way someone’s really gone intricate on their breakdown, and that transforms a track and tells a story when it comes into the second arc. Or it might just be an absolutely raw dancefloor stinker. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I look for, I just know it when I hear it, and it doesn’t even have to be a whole track. It can just be a small part that I like.
What do you do in a situation like that, when you see potential in a small part of a track but the rest of it may need reworking?
Sometimes there will be tracks where I just like a four-bar section, so I’ll cut that section out and repeat it onto the whole track and send it back to the producer, saying, “What if the whole track did this?” It’s just about finding those little parts of the track and working with them. That can happen a lot more than you’d think. That can happen with a really polished article from an experienced producer or with something where the producer really doesn’t know what they’re doing, but they’ve still managed to write something fantastic, unwittingly. Then it’s about harnessing that and progressing it into a full piece of music.
A lot of people would be surprised to find that you work that way, that it doesn’t have to be a finished track and that you still look at it and say, “there’s potential here.”
Oh, absolutely. I’ll take people whose track is just a 16 or 32-bar demo and turn it into five-minute rollouts and then send it back. But that’s all part of the A&R process. That’s what my role is at RAM now. Everyone does their jobs here at the label so well now that my role being the old DJ dude is to listen to tracks and just say, “Right, let’s have it like that!”
It’s what I do when I write music as well. You write ideas down and then you loop them around and around, and you’ll say, “You know what? I only like that two bars in the middle,” or “I only like the end bit,” and then that leads you down another musical rabbit hole. That’s the musical journey, really. Ideas come out of everywhere. Ideas come out of crap ideas, even out of a crap full song. You might load up something you’ve been working on and just say, “Shit, I only really like the last two bars” or “I love the way that chord progression goes in the middle,” and that’s all the creative process, isn’t it? That whole theory that you just have a big idea in your head and then you write the song and it’s exactly right, that doesn’t happen in my world. It’s just about finding the bits that work.
Some festivals I’ve been to in the US, you sort of have to feel the crowd out. With Bassrush, they know their shit. When I’m flying over to play there, I know that’s where I can really unleash.
Are you debuting anything new at Bassrush Massive?
Definitely. That’s part of the process for me as well. I test new tracks on the road and then I go and tweak them in the studio and test them at different venues, so there will be a whole heap of new material. The great thing about Bassrush is that it’s a very knowledgeable crowd. They’re there for it and they know their drum and bass so that’s always nice to play that kind of crowd. Some festivals I’ve been to in the US, you sort of have to feel the crowd out, working out how they’re going to dance to it. [Laughs] But with Bassrush, they know their shit. When I’m flying over to play there, I know that’s where I can really unleash.
RAM celebrated its 25th anniversary last year and you’ve really seen it all at this point. How do you feel about how things have developed over the years and how it’s all working now?
I obviously couldn’t be happier with that evolution, and I also couldn’t be prouder with where the scene is now in general. To be part of it and to have been there since the beginning and just seeing how it’s grown, it’s just insane, isn’t it? I mean I started out playing to 20 people in a dingy nightclub and now I get to play to 20,000 people at a festival in the Czech Republic on a Wednesday night. I get to come to California and play huge festivals. I just can’t speak more highly about how drum and bass has evolved. And now it’s also just a huge ecosystem of subgenres and labels and different producers all around the world. It’s global now. I really think if you’ve been there since the beginning, you can’t have anything but pride and happiness about where drum and bass has gone. I get to have the time of my life every weekend. How can I complain?
Catch Andy C’s set at Bassrush Massive this weekend on Saturday, July 21. If you don’t have tickets make sure to grab them here.