Being handed a baton from not just one but two scene legends can be pretty bloody intimidating. But when long-standing d&b producer Friction took over the BBC Radio 1 drum & bass show from kingpins Fabio & Grooverider, he didn’t just run with this hefty, heritaged baton, he pelted off at an alarming rate and hasn’t looked back since.
“Taking over from Fabio & Grooverider was a big honour for me, but at the same time, a very daunting prospect,” says Friction, aka Ed Keeley. That was in April 2012, and since taking over, Friction’s show has kept up a dizzying pace, attracting top-class guests and mixes, unleashing countless hot exclusives and generally acting as a solid-gold indicator of what’s going on in the scene.
The concept for the show, says Keeley, is a simple one, with the host shining a light on all that’s good in the d&b world and pushing different sub-genres. “Yes, you could say I’m biased, but drum & bass is the most wide-ranging and versatile genre there is, in my opinion,” says Keeley. “This makes my life really easy, radio-wise, as I can keep the listeners on their toes by dropping a crazy banger by Noisia, then going into some hands-in-the-air Sub Focus, then dropping down into a kinda stripped-back piano ballad by Etherwood.
This is why I love this music so much!” As you’d expect, the emphasis is on the many strands of the contemporary d&b scene, and a typical Friction show might find Keeley moving through euphoric numbers, free-flowing rollers, bouncy stompers and fearsome, techy cuts. And as well as new tracks from current and classic scene heroes — Icicle, Drumsound & Bassline Smith, Total Science, Hybrid Minds, etc — you’ll also hear some leftfield excursions, like a brooding Om Unit VIP of Machinedrum’s ‘Gunshotta’ or a fast-paced bootleg of ‘Au Seve’ from d&b stalwart TC.
Soon after Keeley took over in 2012, the show was ‘promoted’ from a Monday morning run (2am-4am) to the more desirable Sunday morning slot, 3am-5am, when a helluva lot of people are still partying and gasping for banging d&b, which Friction has been duly providing for the past 18 months. But BBC Radio scheduling bosses aren’t the only ones who’ve been impressed with Keeley, as the public have demonstrated by voting the show top dog in the Radio Show/Podcast category of DJ Mag’s Best of British.
Keeley says he is “chuffed to bits” to win. “This is my second award for the show in the 18 months I’ve been doing it. When it comes from the public, you really can’t ask for more than that.” As for show highlights in 2013, for Keeley these have been when his mates stopped by for an on-air chat. Oh, and those mates just happen to be certified d&b heavyweights, such as Goldie, Chase & Status and Sub Focus. “I try and make all the interviews I do as organic as possible,” says Keeley, whose natural broadcasting manner and encyclopaedic knowledge of d&b have helped the show to flow smoother than an instalment of LTJ Bukem’s ‘Logical Progression’.
Hosting a weekly radio show is always going to be a scheduling challenge for any working DJ or producer, and it’s no different for Keeley — as in-demand as anyone in d&b right now. Luckily, he seems to thrive off the workload, even when it involves writing a debut LP, heavy touring, A&Ring for Shogun Audio and starting his own Elevate label, all alongside recording the radio show. “I’m not gonna lie. Day-to-day for me right now is pretty ridiculous,” admits Keeley. Let’s just say time for going to the pub with my mates is non-existent. I’m literally working constantly!” But who needs mates and pubs when you’ve got the d&b world in the palm of your hand, as Friction often seems to these days.
In terms of the next step for the show, Keeley simply says he wants to keep on developing it and learning from the array of talented broadcasters around him. But looking further ahead, there are bigger plans. “I’d like to bring some more live elements into the show and do some stuff that’s a little bit out of the box,” he says. “We tend to keep things a bit safe in the d&b world sometimes! At the end of the day, though, I have such a big love for this music. I just want to keep pushing and pushing with my show and give [the music] the exposure it deserves.”