When James Davidson and Greg Hepworth met through mutual friends 15 years ago, it was the DJ equivalent of finding your first syncopated beat. To that point, as a drum and bass producer you are hopeless without it.
Tucked between the one beat and someplace within the three and four, it's as inherent to d&b as sunglasses to ravers come closing time. The same is true of Ulterior Motive - their self-described “computer orchestrated flavor” comes from being the yin to the other’s yang. “We aren’t two separate artists working on a collaborative project,” articulates Greg from their base in Bournemouth, a town on the south coast of England. “Our working relationship now is really organic.”
Ulterior Motive’s debut LP, The Fourth Wall (out October 6) on Metalheadz, helmed by golden-toothed OG, Goldie, is like a beat-match made in the Shangri-la of d&b. A magnum opus as cinematic as it is mystifying, dark and funk-fueled beats galvanize the full-length front to back, ripping through the zephyr with jagged velocity. Ulterior Motive could shatter (if they existed in stage lingo) the fifth and sixth walls too.
What is it like to attend an Ulterior Motive live show?
James: “We stick to the sound we love but adapt to the crowd we’re playing to. A 200 people underground Metalheadz gig will be different to 5,000 people at Outlook [Festival in Croatia] but we concentrate on funk and energy in the sound.”
What's the craziest live experience you've ever encountered?
Greg: “The lightning storm at Dimensions festival in Croatia during our first album launch was really crazy, flash floods and lightning striking the ground in the arena. A sound engineer was reportedly blown off a speaker and DRS got shocked by holding a metal fence as it hit! It really set the stage to showcase the album!”
What's your process in the studio, specifically in making this LP? Does one person take the lead?
James: “For this LP we spent a couple of months working separately on lots of new ideas - then together listened and shortlisted all of our favorites that we thought represented the album we wanted to make. This gave us around 40 tracks to finish that we could sculpt the final album from.
“So the lead on each track was generally taken by whoever started that particular idea, although this was not always the case - sometimes if one of us gets stuck on an idea, the other can come in with fresh inspiration and take the track to the next level. This is one of the big bonuses of working in a duo.”
How has label-head Goldie influenced you both?
James: “Goldie has obviously influenced us over the years as a pioneer of the sound we love - and even more so because of the Metalheadz label he started. For this LP he was firmly in the background letting us write whatever we wanted, which was great to have so much artistic freedom.”
Goldie has been pivotal to you and it’s so rare for artists to actually have their influencers serve as mentor. So who else? If you could meet one famous artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
Greg: “James Brown, and I’d go straight to studio to write.”
How do you view drum and bass in America at the moment?
James: “We’re really hoping to get out to America soon for some shows to experience it first hand. Producer-wise America is really strong and some of our favorite artists are American such as Gridlok & Hive.”
Is it having a comeback as many like to say? Did it ever go away?
Greg: “It’s defiantly more popular in the more commercial market places than ever before but the relationship to that and what happens in the underground circuits are two different things.
“In the UK drum and bass has never gone away but the landscape has changed in regards to the nights you can go to. Go back five or six years and most cities had four or five drum and bass nights in a month, whereas now there might only be two and one big huge event with chart acts incorporated to the line-ups. In short, no it’s never gone and will never go away.”