Q+A: Andy C
Some call him The Executioner. His colleagues at Ram Records call him boss. We call him Andy C, the man who is d’n’b
As a music maker he’s co-produced scene-defining tracks such as ‘Valley Of The Shadows’, ‘Titan’ and ‘Body Rock’, the first instrumental d’n’b tune to hit the Top 30 and enjoy daytime radio play. Last month he dropped ‘New Era’, a straight-up ‘Twist ’Em Out’-style banger that marks the start of a new slew of productions set to drop this year.
As a label boss he’s behind one of the biggest imprints in the genre which has signed, developed and broken bass behemoths like Chase And Status, Wilkinson and Sub Focus. Fresh from signing a unique development deal with BMG, Ram’s volume is set to get even louder.
It’s Andy’s role as a DJ that he’s best known for, though. Over 30 Best DJ awards don’t lie; over the years he’s set the benchmark with white knuckle double-drops, scene-shattering sets and, most recently, his All Night concept. In a genre that was once characterised by 45-minute banger-based blast-offs, Andy has once again ripped up the rule book and shown us that d’n’b DJs can dig deep for seven hours and keep the floor locked.
This month on March 24, Andy’s All Night show will hit a whole new height: Alexandra Palace, London. The 10,000-capacity preserve of huge bands such as Faithless, The Prodigy and Rudimental, Andy is one of the elite league of DJs to host their own solo show there, and the first ever d’n’b DJ to sell out the venue on his own. Even in a career as decorated as his, this is a serious moment. He reckons it’s his finest achievement yet.
So is this your career highlight?
It really feels like it. D’n’b is my life, it’s all I’ve ever done. To get that many people under one roof celebrating the music I’ve dedicated my life to is pretty cool. Backstage there are these pictures of everyone who has played there. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin – all these iconic acts. The sense of history is mind-blowing. Every artist I’ve spoken to who’s played there has said what a landmark show it was in their career.
I’m picturing you kicking back and shooting the shit with Liam Howlett...
Ha! Not Liam, but I did get a really nice message from Sister Bliss and I’ve chatted to Rudimental and Major Lazer who’ve both done it. No calls from Mick Jagger or Keith Richards yet! What I didn’t realise is how well known the venue is around the world. Russian friends, American friends. It’s mad!
Let’s have some other career highs.
The Brixton Academy All Night show, obviously. ‘Body Rock’ being played on the Radio 1 breakfast show – more of a career surprise than a career high! The last night at The End. That was a career sadness. Mainstage at Global, our first album, my first ever pirate radio show, my first massive rave, Voodoo Magic playing between Bukem and Kenny Ken. That was a big deal back then. DJing to 80,000 people at the Arcadia Spider at Glastonbury. I could go on. I’m blessed!
I’m guessing you’re deep in practice mode right now?
Morning, noon and night, learning all the new tunes and thinking about what people will really want to hear. Each crowd is different; I put the same thought into a Metalheadz show as I do a Renegade Hardware show. You’ve got a particular crowd, and you’ve got to entertain them. For Ally Pally, it’s a celebration of d’n’b so I’m going to cover as much ground as I can. Whittling the list down is the hard part. The fun part is working out sick mixes! I’ll be up until 7am in the studio, leaping around because I’ve worked out a killer double-drop that will properly kick off. It’s such a buzz. Always will be.
Is there a special Andy C formula, or a science to double-dropping?
Keys can’t clash, keep your EQ tight and keep counting. It’s all in the bars. I’m constantly counting bars, all the time. It’s an in-built metronome, constantly ticking at 174 BPM. I run off for a toilet break and I’m counting down bars knowing how long I’ve got left until the next mix-point.
Have you ever had one of those really long pisses and almost missed a mix?
Absolutely! Last time at Brixton Academy. I must have over-indulged in the first hour or so and it just went on and on. I was thinking ‘Shit! I’ve got five thousand people out there, I’m going to miss my mix!’ I just made it back in the last eight bars. It was a bit like the nightmares I have in which the tune runs out, I haven’t found the next one and everyone’s booing. People have sent me a joke picture of a DJ booth with a urinal underneath. Might have to request that on my rider.
What’s the most lavish thing on your rider?
I know some guys who take the piss just to see if they can get it. PlayStations backstage, decks in the hotel room, being picked up in a Rolls Royce. But for me, it’s vodka, water, Red Bull, beers. Has been for years.
Old rider, new era... does it feel like a new era?
Definitely: all the new tracks I’ve got lined up, Ally Pally, the big plans we have for Ram, all the new music from our artists, incredible shows lined up for festival season – it does feel like a new era. My latest track ‘New Era’ itself was made for fun; it’s an out-and-out party banger. I tested it during the All Night tour and got a lot of ID requests so thought I’d start the year with a banger. The next one might be different, the one after will be different again...
Yeah, we hear that there are quite a few tracks lined up?
There are! Some are more song-based ones, like ‘Heartbeat Loud’, others are more like the old funky rollers – think the Ram Trilogy stuff. It’s just a case of getting them out one after the other without such long gaps in between. The problem is I bounce down a version to play but then I put off finishing it. It’s the worst part of any tune. Even at mastering there’ll be five versions, on top of the 376 versions I’d already made. It gets insane. I get neurotic about it.
That wasn’t possible in the old days...
No, it wasn’t. And that’s where I’m trying to get my mindset to again. But the kit was different back then: a mixing desk with no recall, one DBX1066 compressor, an Akai sampler and a DX7 synth. That was it. It was so hands-on and raw. The tune was recorded and done; you couldn’t spend hours over half-decibels and frequencies that most listeners won’t notice anyway. So I’m trying to get back to that old vibe: it feels good, finish it, release it. Nice. So I’ve been thinking about Ram Trilogy... and obviously Bad Company are back together now, too.
Have you ever imagined a fantasy football-style d’n’b supergroup?
Ha! Can’t say I have. Who’s in yours?
Paradox making the drums, Mefjus making the bass, Sub Focus on melodies.
Oof. That’s a pretty good group. OK, let’s have a go at this... Dillinja on the drums, Noisia on the bass... Sub Focus was a good shout for the melodies though, man. Gutted you’ve got him.
Ah thanks! Yeah I’ll nick Sub Focus from you. What a group. Imagine the sounds they’d make! But why stop there? Let’s get Ed Rush & Optical on the rhythm section with those intricate details. Let’s have Fresh and Bad Company on the track for the quirky madness. Fuck it; get the Bristol lot over for some pure funk on the middle eight. You’ve got me thinking now, man, what a concept. Might make some calls later.