2013 marks a special year for the London drum & bass and dubstep duo Chase & Status. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, the production couple of Saul Milton (Chase) and Will Kennard (Status) have delivered a sound that dips into breaks, hip-hop, dubstep, d&b and jungle since their first release ‘Like This’ on Vehicle Records in 2003.
Blurring the lines between the mainstream and underground, with albums ‘More Than A lot’ and ‘No More Idols’, they come armed with Platinum Record status and a Brit Award nomination to boot. And with album number three just around the corner, there is just no letting up yet. We had a chat with Saul to find out how the pair have been celebrating their decade together and just what presents will be waiting for us in the very near future.
You headlined one of the most prestigious dance stages in festival season on The Other Stage and held a surprise DJ set at Arcadia during Glastonbury this year. How was the festival for you?
“Yeah it was a good moment. It’s something we’ve always thought about since we were young and getting the chance to play such a great spot at Glastonbury, headlining The Other Stage, is pretty incredible. We had a kind of vision and a little dream and when that happens it's more surreal than anything. You’re just up there and you are doing your thing. We had to have in-ears in so it was quite quiet on stage, we were quite removed from it all. We were just getting on with it really and more concerned about it being good. You are aware that it is going live on the BBC on TV so you have loads of things going through your mind - it’s not just as straight forward as simply enjoying it. It was great looking back on it, the visuals were fantastic and we are really pleased with the stage show and how everything sounded. Afterwards, we did a DJ set at Arcadia and Skrillex jumped on back to back with us for the last half an hour. It was a long day but an exciting one.”
2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of Chase & Status which is a massive achievement. Looking back what have been the highlights of your career so far other than Glastonbury?
“The first highlight was remixing ‘20/20’ for Future Cut 2004 and having our first release on Renegade Hardware because of that. Of course in 2003 – 10 years ago – releasing our first ever tunes, which were ‘Like This’ and ‘Blind Side’ on Vehicle, followed up by ‘Tricky’ and ‘Wise Up’ on Bingo. The fact of having tunes released and having EZ play them on Kiss on a Saturday was pretty phenomenal. The first time we played at The End for RAM Records, and signing to RAM, was the real pinnacle of our career, then writing the first album and getting signed to a major. It’s just blown up from there really, there have been so many great moments. Being woken up by a phone call from Rihanna saying, 'do you want to do some tunes with us?' and then being in the studio with her and Jay-Z making records. There are so many moment and recalling them now it does sound quite impressive, and it is pretty incredible I guess but you just get on with it man and you are always thinking about the next day and the next thing to do. I’m in the studio right now working on the next single and on our new album and trying to finish that together. I’ve also got our label MTA next door and we’ve got our new artists, so it’s just nonstop really and it’s always really exciting.”
You’ve never really had time to take it all in, it’s just a continuing progression with Chase & Status.
“Last year I got married and brought a house, just keep it moving man and look to the next stage. Never rest on your laurels. We're always looking to improve and see how things could be better, and hopefully we can achieve that.”
You said that you are in the studio right now so what can we expect from the album that you are working on?
“Well lots really, we don’t like writing albums that have 14 of the same tracks on there so there will be loads of different styles and genres as usual. And we are really harping back to where we are from. When I say where we are from, it’s like the nostalgia that inspired us to make music in the first place. So there are the '90s and the hardcore influences, The Prodigy influences, the '90s East Coast hip-hop influences, all the way to the rude boys when we were going down to Bagleys to One Nation and going down to The End, and you know that whole kind of era. I guess the album is really inspired by the whole decade of the '90s. If ‘Blind Faith’ was out 1991 and ‘Lost & Not Found’ in 1992 - that whole kind of Massive Attack, Bristol, Portishead movement that was going on, it really influenced us and we want to kind of bring that kind of soul back again.”
That sounds wicked man, does it have a name yet?
“It does have a name but I’m not going to release that just yet I’m afraid. It’s the first time we’ve got a name before we have to submit the album, so it’s good on that from.”
Who have you got working on the album with you in terms of collaborations this time round?
“Wow, again I’m afraid I’m not going to divulge in any of those because it takes away the surprise but as you know we’ve got Louis M^tters on the first single which is available to purchase now, and we have done a track with Nile Rodgers featuring a new girl called Abigail Wyles, who is signed to our label and was at Glastonbury with us. Also we’ve got Elli Ingram, who is also signed to our label. She is on the record with a track called ‘Heaven Knows’ and she performed with us at Glastonbury. She is a real talent and a real star and I can also let on about a tune, because people are playing it, and that’s a tune we did with Pusha T which is called ‘Machine Guns’. So that’s a little snippet for people, but there is more on there as well.”
Collaborations have always been part of production. What do you feel they bring to the Chase & Status sound?
“Well I love working with people and all of the people listed have been new talent - well obviously Nile Rodgers isn’t a new artists, but in terms of all the vocalists like Louis M^tters, Abigail Wyles and Elli Ingram, it’s because we love new talent and they are excited and we are excited. It’s always great to do something with someone brand new who has that desire. It’s great using established names, and getting Pusha T on the record is a special moment for us because we are big fans and have been big fans since Clipse back in the day, which was massively produced by The Neptunes with Pusha T and his brother Malice, so on a personal level that’s great and he just put his own flavour on it. The last album was predominantly British and on this one we have already got an American feature on there, which is changing direction I guess. We are not really too fussed man, it’s just all about new talent, exciting talent and something we can work with.”
You always seem to springboard new artists into the limelight as we have seen previously with Delilah and Liam Bailey. Should we be expecting the same with Louis M^tters and the other new artists on the album?
“I hope so man, he is a lovely kid, he is a pleasure to be around and he is a pleasure to have on stage and to tour with because he literally is great. I hope everyone we work with achieves a high level of success because they all deserve it.”
As you said earlier, you are not only bringing new artists through your Chase & Status production but also through your label MTA Records. How are you finding the experience of running your own label?
“I’ve been running it for a little while now and we have got a strong staff that we employ in the office who are there five day a week and we couldn’t be happier. We have got a diverse range of acts, from Nero to Abigail Wyles to Dream Mclean to a new avt we signed called Nitro, who is an incredible rapper and, yeah, it’s nonstop. It’s a lot of mentoring these new acts and new artists and being there for them and giving them advice and things. There are also a lot of business things that never interest us, but you have to know because we run a business. It’s interesting as well, you know, because you get to know all of the aspects of it, you get to see how a campaign runs and try to think of new innovative, clever ways to market your artists and ways of getting their music out there because it is changing all the time. By running a label you get to be at that fold first hand. MTA is not about just trying to sign artists to become the next big pop star and to have the biggest number ones of all time. If that happens to the artist then that’s fantastic. Like, Nero scored two number ones and we were over the moon and they just did what they did and it went to number one. That’s what we want for everyone, to do what they do and make a career and a life out of it. If it gets into the charts then that’s fantastic.”
What made you open up MTA to such a wide variety of genres instead of just creating a d&b and dubstep hub?
“As producers man there is nothing worse than making the same tune, just constantly making drum & bass or constantly making dubstep or constantly making hip-hop. It’s nice to make everything, it’s nice to just do different speeds all the time and that’s what we have been known for producing since about 2004 when we came into the jungle and drum & bass scene. We weren’t just in pigeon holes making techy d&b or liquid d&b or jump up or reggae influences, we did it all and that kind of got our niche for us. With our label, we are not here to just release one kind of music because that’s short-sighted and narrow minded. We love music, especially British music and everything great about it. I love to push it and I love to show the world that the British music is the best music there is and that it has always been the most cutting edge and innovative. You can see what is happening now worldwide with dance music doing so well in America, although they have coined it a different name. It is just a testament to how strong the music is over here. I am very proud to be from London and I am very proud to be making British music.”
Is that why you chose to concentrate and develop your sets from a DJ setting into a fully-fledged live band?
“Our manager said to us a couple of years ago that we should think about becoming a band and we were like ,“Nah man, we are DJs, that’s what we do.” On the first album we made some tunes and we looked back in hindsight and thought we could actually work live like ‘Pieces’ and ‘Smash TV’. We then basically got an offer to play live at the Radio 1 Big Weekend in Swindon and we though “Fuck it, let’s try it” and it worked really nicely, I got to play guitar on the stage. We were following in the footsteps The Prodigy and people at that time like Pendulum who had broken it open doing drum & bass live. It is very different to DJing, when your DJing you don’t play a tune from start to finish because people would be booing you – you try playing as many as you can in an hour, I play like 40 tunes but in a live show you play your songs from start to finish and you realise the people here are fans of you. They are there to see you do you songs live and that is what they are after and it is a very different experience on stage and for the crowd but it is a very rewarding one and I love them both really. I love to put down the guitar at 11pm and get in a car and drive to another gig and then DJ with Rage MCing and me spinning not just my tunes but other people’s tunes. They both require very different skill sets and they are both exciting in different ways.”
Now, with the focus on live performance, do you write an album with a mind set of making the tracks work in a live setting?
“Yes and no. You just automatically start think to yourself, 'This tune would actually work really well live.' Like on the last album, the first release was ‘Let You Go. We just started making the tune, and we thought it would work well in a live show and it did. So some tunes yes. ‘More Than A lot’ was geared to just being a DJ tune. But really man we just sit down and make tunes, and some of the tunes that were never meant to work live work live, like ‘Eastern Jam’. We just made that tune as it was, and as it turns out it kind of works well live. You can make it all work live man, I guess, you’ve just got to be true to yourself and make the music.”
What’s the next single going to be like and how long will it take for us to hear it?
“It’s not coming out just yet. It is very nearly finished and it’s alright. I don’t want to give away too much information about that yet man, but ‘Lost & Not Found’ has just come out and that should still be in rotation for a little while, so in two or three weeks you shall hear a new single.”
Words: David Sullivan
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