The undisputed king of Drum and Bass, Andy C has been executing his full-throttle technical wizardry since the genre broke.
In music there are very few things people agree on. The fuel that fires magazines, forums, debates and dissections of the musical climate we live in is discussion, disagreement and conflicting opinion. That is, unless you are a drum and bass fan.
The drum and bass majority has unequivocally lauded Andrew Clarke, or Andy C, as king of the genre for as long as Crack can remember sweating profusely to the sound way back in Bristol’s halcyon drum and bass days. It’s unreal the adulation steeped on a man who has reaped the richest rewards from his genre, not just in terms of international renown but in terms of actual awards. Once again voted Drum and bass DJ of the Year at the 2013 National Drum and Bass awards – for the seventh year running – there’s the reassurance that comes with the familiarity of a guy who is at the top, especially when it’s voted for by the public.
Not that Andy C is particularly concerned with accolades. Despite his lofty position in the world he occupies, his time with Crack is jovial and overwhelmingly positive. We catch him at the Channel Tunnel driving to Belgium to fulfill his gig obligations in a typically upbeat frame of mind. For someone who has pillaged raves since the early 90s, it’s obvious there’s still that fire for the rave and its energy that he’s had since day one. Which, when you’re dealing with rapid, jump-up drum and bass, is a complete necessity.
Having grown-up in Hornchurch in Essex, his exposure to the burgeoning hardcore and drum and bass scene was a catalyst for a DJ career that rose at a substantial pace. Having been sucked in by the escapism and the energy of what was in 1991, a very early rave scene, he secured bookings at many of the uber events he attended as a teenager. However, it was the formation of RAM records in 1992 that saw him lay the foundation for a label that would go on to define the jump-up drum and bass generation and provide a home for many of its stars to go on to huge things.
With his unparalleled technical ability, Andy’s reputation as a DJ has remained the backdrop to his success and perhaps why original productions have been in short supply over the years. However with the likes of Chase and Status, Subfocus, Calyx & Teebee, Loadstar, DC Breaks, Noisia and more recently Radio 1 endorsed Wilkinson on RAM’s rollcall of released artists, the label has had more than enough ammunition to propel the high-energy and unrelenting DJ schedule of drum and bass’s biggest name through gig after gig.
It’s also been home to Andy’s landmark Nightlife mix CD series, of which a long overdue installment is soon expected. These pin-drops of his current sets have been a huge hit with fans as they’ve replicated the ferocity of a typical DJ set and not presented him in any other way than you’d expect to see him if he was playing out. It’s this frenetic and almost surgical deployment of tracks, mixed at a quite frankly mental pace, that have earned him the nickname The Executioner. And having played every single Warehouse Project since its inception, it’s a nickname and a figure we’ve come to rely on to the job year on year. 2013 is no exception, as he takes to the stage for a four-hour set.
So come on, how did you get the name The Executioner?
MC GQ started calling me it at parties. I guess whenever we got into the party it was all about setting it off, having a good time and smashing it out. He just came up with it. As nicknames go I’ll stick with it.
It’s obviously been a year since you’ve played Warehouse Project. What have been the highlights DJ wise in this time?
In the past year I’ve done tours, been to Australia, I’ve been to Asia, I’ve played on the Great Wall Of China, I’ve been in and out of America and played at Glastonbury to a silly amount of people, which is something I will never forget. It just keeps coming at you though. Last weekend I was in Exeter on Friday, I did a four-hour set in Toronto on Saturday and then I was in California on Sunday, it was all just phenomenal and here I am with you on the phone driving to Belgium. It’s non-stop, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, y’know. It’s coming thick and fast and it seems D’n’B is having a really good year. I’m just lucky enough to be caught up in all I guess.
How does a four hour set, like the one at Warehouse, differ from your usual one/two hour affair?
I don’t really understand people that just want to play for one or two hours when there is so much music out there. I did four hours in Toronto the other night and I could have gone on for eight or nine. When I finished the set I thought ‘ah shit! I didn’t play that, I didn’t play that’ and wondered if people were pissed off I didn’t play certain tunes. Having said that, the energy was just on all night. When you are working with a genre that’s been around that long, with that much music, it’s not hard to play for four hours at all. I did six hours at fabric the other week. Well, I was scheduled to do six hours, but I was still on for a few more and in the end security were like ‘come on mate, it’s time to give it up now’.
It’s so good to see your enthusiasm is still totally there.
I just love DJing man, y’know. I’ll just keep going all night. I’m just doing what I dreamt about doing. When you DJ, two or three hours can go by in flash cause you just get caught up in what you’re doing. I love it. With the longer sets, I appreciate the fact you are taking the crowd with you, but you get to spend a long time with the crowd and build up a relationship with them and get a really good back and forth. I love that aspect of it.
You’re one of the only DJs to have played Warehouse Project every year, what is it about these gigs that make them stand out from others?
There’s something in the water in Manchester, I swear. I don’t know what it is, but Warehouse Project has got the most amazing vibe. It’s got to be up there with the highlights of the year. Everyone up there just wants to have such a good time, y’know. They put the tickets on sale for the night and I think they’re gone by the evening. It’s crazy. The Warehouse Project is legendary now. People talk about it from far and wide and the ravers that go there get their money’s worth. They give so much back in terms of energy and positivity, for me it has to be one of the highlights.
This summer you DJ’d on the Arcadia spider at Glastonbury. Is that weirdest place you’ve ever DJ’d.
As far as stage set-ups go, that was pretty phenomenal. We got taken round the back and watched these guys do an electrical light-show. Then they said you’ve got five minutes, you’ve got to walk across the bridge to get to the equipment to set-up. So I stroll over the bridge and people are cheering. It was amazing. To be strolling over that bridge to be confronted with all those people raving hard at Glastonbury by a giant spider. Wow.
We have to ask you about Nightlife. It’s such a successful mix series, is there anything planned in the near future?
There could be. I wouldn’t like to say, cause it’s a lot of pressure, but watch this space. That’s all I’ll say.
You’ve been a lot more prolific in the studio since the last Nightlife came out at the end of 2010. What inspired you to get back into it?
I was always a producer before I was a DJ and slowly over the years I got way more into being a DJ than a producer. Then you realise you haven’t produced anything for years. So I’d thought I’d start the process again by doing some remixes and ease myself back into it. I’ve got ideas on my computer and I’ve got dozens of demos that never came to fruition, but it’s come to the point that I really want to do it again and I’m hungry. It’s such a special buzz when you walk into a festival and someone else is playing your tune.
So we can expect the Andy C double album soon then?
[laughs] A double album opus with Nightlife six, seven and eight as a triple pack.
To touch back on your remixes, we were watching Major Lazer at Glastonbury and they finished with your version of Get Free rather than their own. There can’t be any higher compliment really, can there?
Yeah, I heard they are finishing their sets with it. I remember when I sent it to Diplo, he e-mailed me back saying “I love this”. Then someone tweeted me with a video of them finishing with it at the Shepherds Bush Empire. I was like ‘this is surreal.’ There is no higher compliment that the artist who made the original tune playing your remix. When you are given inspirational parts like that to work with it really helps you. It seems to have touched a nerve with people and I get a lot of feedback from it. If people are vibing off it a year later you know it can’t be bad. As a producer you are always so hyper-critical, you sometimes listen back to tunes or mixes you have done and you’re like ‘what on earth is that?’
Especially in the modern day there seems to be a rise in people that are just DJs and don’t produce. It seems in drum and bass, a lot of people are booked on their production capabilities as much as their DJ ability.
That’s funny you should say that, cause someone said the same thing to me the other day about ‘the rise of the DJ’. It’s always great to hear a DJ that can hold a crowd and rock a crowd and someone that’ll play for another couple of hours if they’re asked.
What is your opinion on laptop DJing, where there’s less reliance on technical ability?
Well I use Traktor. Has that affected the amount of effort I put into my DJing? No. Has it made it easier for me to carry around every record I own? Without a doubt. It’s certainly reduced my excess baggage bills that’s for sure [laughs]. My thing with DJing is I like working hard, I like working up a sweat and jumping around. That’s why I’ve always got two tunes in the mix, because I love the interplay between two tunes. When you get a b-line to one tune with a synth line to another – that’s where the magic is. To be honest though, if you’re in the middle of the dancefloor and you’re having a great time, I’m not sure how many people are studying what medium the guy is using.
What’s coming up in the next year?
The label has some amazing stuff lined up. We’re doing Brixton Academy in November. If it turns out like this year that’ll be amazing, but with the amount of stuff in the pipeline it could be even better!
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Andy C plays an extended four-hour set at Rudimental Presents... on October 12th at Warehouse Project, Manchester alongside Bondax, Jazzy Jeff, DJ EZ and many more.
Words: Dominic Hullah + Thomas Frost