Making their name on the South Coast through Southampton’s long running d&b night Release, Gerra and Stone helped soundtrack our uni nights out as we journeyed down the shore to the town and they themselves often made appearances in the town where BC was spawned from a dusty student bedroom: Bournemouth. Always providing sets to look forward too, they soon made our mental ‘ones to watch’ list when their own early productions began to pop up on Soundcloud and true to form the last few years have seen them steadily rise through the ranks of the d&b scene, releasing on the likes of Proximity and Alignment before their Backhand/Ten Fold single made it onto the infamous Dispatch Recordings back in 2013. Now the home of their just released Too Deep EP, Ant TC1’s imprint is a perfect outlet for the dark, angrily brooding bass weight the two conjure up in the studio.
From the twisted hip hop punchline of the title track, fizzing synths and churning bass lending it a sinister atmosphere as Common’s soulful vocal takes on a completely different tone, to the heavy tech of Lockdown, monstrously contorted bass of Long Game and machine age clangs of digital exclusive Bus 54, it’s an EP tailor made for the more aggressive dance floor moments when heads go low, feet stomp and expressions deform. Four large bore DJ weapons that slot right into the darkest and heaviest of arsenals, it shows the duo have plenty in them yet and, holding their own on a label as highly acclaimed as Dispatch, can step with the best of them. By way of a belated introduction, we spoke to them about all things from beginning their musical career in Southampton to what they’d play at their own funeral and, of course, found out a bit more about the Too Deep EP (available now from the Dispatch Store).
Hi chaps, how do we find you today? What’s taking up your time and what’s got you excited?
We’re good! Just got back from an extremely fun weekend in Germany. Big shout out to Gero and the Tiefklang crew for a great party
You both became known primarily as DJs first, at least to those on the South Coast, through your Southampton based night Release. How long’s that been going and how do you think it’s influenced your musical journey?
Release has been going for about 4 years. It definitely helped our journey along the way as a networking point, but it was always just about putting on the music we love to a like-minded crowd more than anything else!
In terms of Release we can’t mention it without crediting Matt Freeman (half owner of Release) for doing the bulk of the work for the events and making them what they were. So big up Matt for that!
What’s been the highlight of that journey so far?
The highlight has probably been playing the Moat Stage at Outlook this year, it was certainly the most fun we have had at a gig yet and an honour to represent Dispatch on one of our favourite festival stages
Nights such as Release, Raygun Youth, Enter and Drumfunk have been steady rocks of d&b down those parts for a long time now, do you think coming from a place where d&b is fairly accessible has helped your path?
In our early years it definitely helped, as you mentioned when we started out as resident DJs there was a good number of Drum & Bass events to get involved with in Southampton and Bournemouth. Big shout out to the Enter and Drumfunk guys who continue to set the standard for events on the South Coast.
Unfortunately the scene in Southampton has taken a turn towards the generic house style events in recent years, so we don’t seem to play much at the moment – if there are any budding promoters reading this we hope you can turn that back around!
Did you learn production together as a duo, or come together somewhere along the way?
We had both tried production and studied music Tech at University etc separately, but have learnt the bulk of what we know now as a joint process.
What was one breakthrough, moment, technique or piece of kit that you think has pushed your sound forward the most?
It’s hard to name a breakthrough technique or moment – as the whole thing is just one continual learning curve – of which we are still fully riding. But the piece of kit that pushed us forward the most has to be when the Virus TI synth entered the studio! It’s still at the centre of everything we do and that probably won’t change.
So how does your creative partnership work in the studio, do you both work on all areas of the track or have different strengths in specific areas?
Generally speaking we both work on all aspects of the music – albeit from separate studios bouncing parts out to each other etc. But within that process Harry leans more towards sampling / atmospheres and Dave more focuses on bass.
It really is a joint process though and we will have both worked on all aspects of a track from the initial vibe to the mix down by the time a project is finished.
You’re obviously both very embedded in the d&b scene, but where do your musical backgrounds lie? Are their other genres that make you tick?
Dave: My musical background is guitar, which is something still present to this day, but in terms of other genres it’s definitely Jazz/ Soul/Funk/Blues/Reggae/Rock/Metal Techno/Hip Hop/House – It would probably be quicker to name the genres I don’t listen to to be honest!
Harry: I definitely grew up listening to metal and hip hop music as a kid, I studied music at college and university and played drums in a couple of bands. Nowadays I listen to a lot of other music aside from drum & bass, it all depends on what mood or situation I’m in. Hip hop, House, Techno and Metal are what’s usually on my iPod! I love to draw inspiration from other styles so I spend a great deal of time with my headphones on.
What are some guilty pleasure tunes you just can’t help but love?
Dave: Jonny Cash- Folsom Prison blues, James Brown- The Boss, Linkin Park- Papercut
Harry: Korn – Freak on a Leash, Cypress hill- Killafornia, Bobby ‘blue’ bland- Ain’t No Love
There’s definitely some true bangers (/clangers) in there! So what tune would you play if…
1) You’d just woken up on a Sunday and were nursing a hangover.
Dave: Miles Davis- Blue in Green
Harry: Cinematic Orchestra- All You Are
2) You were soon stepping into the ring of your first boxing match.
Dave: Nas – NY State of Mind
Harry: Konflict – Messiah
3) The artist you most admire was just about to leave the club and you wanted to make them stay.
Dave: Break- All around
Harry: Calyx- Tearing Us Apart
4) You were DJing your own funeral.
Dave: Radiohead- How to Disappear Completely
Harry: Burial- Near Dark
5) You were DJing your own wedding.
Dave: Jimi Hendrix- Little Wing
Harry: Calibre- Notting Hill
6) You were watching the apocalypse roll in on the horizon.
Dave: System of a Down- Toxicity
Harry: Tool- Lateralus
Ok enough of that, let’s get back to your own output. Your Too Deep EP just dropped by way of Dispatch Recordings, how would you personally describe the sounds on that?
Although we’ve been told we have a ‘sound’, we still feel very much that we’re only just starting to develop it. Everything we’ve released up to this point (including the EP) is dark, quite sinister music aimed at a dance floor (for the most part) so I guess we would describe it as that!
Despite a relatively short career, this is your second EP (with the Anywhere But Here EP dropping on Proximity Recordings back in February 2012), is there something you prefer about the format or has that just happened organically?
It happened organically to be honest, we write a lot of tracks and the EP just seems like a nice natural format to showcase this.
So how exactly did it come to fruition and what would you say is the releases main inspiration?
It came together over a period of about 10 months. For the title track the main inspiration was using hip-hop vocals on a dark backdrop. In terms of the others the main inspiration is the overall Dispatch sound really, something we’ve loved for years. Although for Lockdown we definitely had some old Quarantine vibes in mind with it – that’s a style which has always inspired us so hopefully it shines through in the track!
Let’s talk about that title track Too Deep: it’s based around a Common sample from his track 6th Sense, does that reveal a penchant for Hip Hop? What is it that you think links the two genres?
Hip Hop’s definitely been strong in both of our musical tastes since our school years, so yes. There are so many links between D&B and Hip hop- the use of funk breaks for drums, rap vocals, soulful pianos etc. Its all there!
Where do you see your sound going in the future?
We think its too early to say at the moment. We’ve been experimenting with different, more soulful and melodic styles to the dark sound we’re currently known for so it could go anywhere!
Lastly, what else is forthcoming for you?
Release wise we have a 12” forthcoming with ProgRam in December that we are really excited about, we’ve definitely aimed at the dance floor with that one. We also have another EP with Dispatch coming in early 2015, that will showcase the soulful vibes we’ve been working so hard on! There’s also a remix 12” on Dispatch early 2015 with the mighty DLR, that one has his remix of Back Hand and our remix of Pain.
After this we still have plenty more tracks nearing completion for both Dispatch and ProgRam so keep you ears out for more news as and when!
Keep up to date with Gerra & Stone on their Soundcloud and check their mix for Outlook Festival below.