- Thu, 2009-11-19 12:17
The last time I Like Music caught up with Chase and Status, they had just released their debut album More Than Alot on the independent label RAM records. Fast-forward a year and the duo comprising of Saul Milton and Will Kennard have gone on to sell countless copies of their album, appear at festivals across the globe, remix the work of The Prodigy and Jay-Z and sign to major label Mercury Records.
I Like Music caught up with Will to chat about their journey, building a new basement studio, plans for their second album and the Chase and Status technical set-up, PC-over-Mac choice and their vinyl and mp3 collection.
"I Like Music because… I think it is the best form of escapism.” Will, Chase & Status
ILM: We spoke nearly a year ago, a lot has happened for Chase n Status since then! How has it all been?
Will: Yeah! Bit of a whirlwind year! It’s been incredible! We couldn’t have asked for more. The album did really well! It sold really well and it won some awards. And it kept selling, which has been fantastic! Off the back of that the DJing just went crazy! We played at most festivals this summer! Then we got offered a major deal and a major publishing deal. We also teamed up with a new manager, Joe Oakley, who is incredible at what he does! So now we have this great team around us.
ILM: How’s life with a major label deal?
Will: We signed to Mercury. They’ve been incredible. One of the reasons we agreed to the deal is that they agreed to take Ram Records on, in the sense that Ram would still get vinyl rights for our releases and would continue to be part of our future projects. It allows us to keep in touch with the underground which is something we really wanted to do. We didn’t want to lose that underground presence. Yeah, it’s been madness! We’ve done a whole bunch of production work for other people, that’s been insane! Plus we did our debut live tour, which couldn’t have gone better!
ILM: How was that transition from DJ sets to a big live show?
Will: A lot of stress. A lot of rehearsals. A lot of money. A lot more stress! Loads of stress basically! Haha! But overall it’s worked out really well. We got to support Pendulum on some of their tours, watching their live show was inspiring. Just seeing the energy they get from a live audience, plus their live set up. They’re a band but they maintain all the energy of dance music. It made us realise it was the step we wanted to take. It then became a case of getting the timing and band right.
ILM: How was that process?
Will: We spent a lot of time developing everything. Eventually we managed to get hold of a drummer called Andy G, who is the drummer from The Bays. He’s considered one of the best drummers in the world. He’s part of the team now. Plus MC Rage, who has become the front man. He’s amazing as well! It’s worked out so well! It’s exciting!
ILM: You’ve had such a hectic tour schedule, how do you cope with all the travelling?
Will: The travelling can be a strain. That’s the one thing people don’t see. My friends think it’s such a glamorous job! Turning up to gigs, getting drunk and having fun! Whereas actually driving for eight hours a night, flying every other weekend, it just becomes a life of airports and hotels! It’s tiring but the gigs are worth it. You get to a gig and you’re tired, then you start playing your music to thousands of people and that’s when you realise why you do it. You can’t complain. It’s a dream really! It has been such a hectic year. There’s been no sign of a holiday or switching off. We’ve kind of been 24/7 thinking about work. It’s quite anti-social, it’s hard to have a girlfriend, or any friends even! Haha! But all in all it’s great. We find ourselves complaining occasionally and it’s like “Hang on a minute! Look where we are!”
ILM: On the upside, you must have been to some incredible places?
Will: Oh yeah! We’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world a few times over now! We played in deepest darkest Russia to 25,000 people, that was incredible! Plus the whole of Australia and New Zealand, it’s amazing out there and is always a blast! Plus loads of the States. We’ve played From Hull to Tokyo! For this live tour we did Plymouth on a Thursday night and the next night we did the Royal Albert Hall live on Channel 4! Quite a mad comparison there!
ILM: When you’re not touring, where does the Chase n Status magic take place?
Will: We’re currently in the process of building a new studio in the basement of our current location! So we’re really excited about that! The proposals have gone in, it’s costing quite a lot of money! That’s going to be based around a Pro Tools rig. We want somewhere that’s going to be able to cope with the amount of recording we’re going to be doing. We want to move into more live sounds and be able to work with more vocalists with ease. Especially high profile artists who might not want to sit in a small box room!
ILM: What’s the studio set up like? What equipment do you use?
Will: We’re still sticking to our guns with the PC’s! Everyone seems to be using Mac’s these days, but not us! We still use cubase, cubase 5. Lots of software and all the big plug ins. We’ve got a Neumann U87 Microphone, which is top of the range. I’d advise that to anyone serious about vocal recording! That goes into a Neve preamp channel strip. Neve is high end in terms of the recording chain. We bought an Access Virus Keyboard recently. It’s nice to turn away from the computer sometimes, it can be a bit more inspiring. We recently installed a bit of software called Omnisphere, from a company called Spectrasonic. It’s an incredible VST, a huge synth sound generator. That’s one of the most exciting things we’re using at the moment. Lots of guitars too, we bought a new Les Paul recently!
ILM: Have you started work on the next album yet? What are the ideas so far...?
Will: We have a few big collaborations planned for the new album! I can’t really mention names! I’m not sure who has been contacted yet, so if this is the first place they hear about it, they might not be happy! It’s all a bit under wraps. It’s pretty much UK people though. We’ve been offered some exciting American acts to work with, even though we love a lot of the American artists and we listen to a lot of American music, we’re quite keen to keep this album British. Kind of what we did on the first album. It’s really just to showcase how exciting music is in this country. I just think it would work nicely as a package if we keep the whole thing UK sounding. There’s something about putting American rappers on our tracks, we’ve tried it and it seems to just take something away from the vibe and where we’ve come from.
ILM: So it’s about musical roots, not big names?
Will: Absolutely. We’d never do something with an artist just because they’re famous. That’s not what it’s about. I’d rather do something for their project with them, and keep what we’re doing separate and a bit more particular with us.
ILM: Do you get a chance to put much new material together whilst on the road? Have you been working on anything recently?
Will: It’s tough on the road. You feel drained after the gigs. Plus whilst travelling it’s difficult to focus. There are a lot of distractions. But we do throw ideas around on the bus. We’ve been touring with Plan B, who is an incredible guy to be with. He’s got a lot of ideas. We’ve been messing around with ideas and different sounding stuff. At the end of the tour we’ll hopefully disappear off the face of the earth for a few months and get back into the underground studio work. At the moment it’s just very, very rough ideas and thoughts on directions to go. The serious work will start when we’re in the studio.
ILM: How do you approach your remix work?
Will: When we get sent remixes you have to kind of understand that the label wants to maintain some form of the original. The idea of a remix is to sell the original song, to market it essentially. In the past we’ve been guilty of tearing apart the original so much that you can’t even tell what it was! Then you get the label complaining, so it doesn’t really do anyone any favours to do it that way. We have been lucky in that our remixes have all been quite different sounding. From White Lies, to The Prodigy, whatever. We don’t really have any preconceptions of what people want from us. We can kind of go into remix work with an open palette, an open canvas and just do whatever we want. It’s nice to be in that position. People don’t come to us expecting to hear one certain sound from the remix.
ILM: What have been some of your most memorable remix productions?
Will: We were asked recently if we wanted to do a Jay Z remix, and then a Prodigy remix. Obviously we agreed! Then we were told we had 12 hours to get it done! In that sense, it’s about doing whatever you can! Sometimes a time limit can be a good thing. With work like that it’s about going on your first instinct. With the Nneka tune, the Heartbeat tune, they needed a different version for the UK mix, as it had already been released in Germany. We loved the vocals so much, we pretty much just took the acapella and wrote the track under it. That was pretty much a case of producing a whole new track, so that was exciting.
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Will: One of our favourite albums at the moment is the Miike Snow album. We did a gig with them the other night at Brixton Academy, which was phenomenal. He was on before us, the whole band are really cool guys, they produced Britney Spears’ Toxic. They have a nice organic sound. It’s a favourite of ours.
ILM: What’s your music collection like? Are you vinyl junkies? Do you have a big mp3 library?
Will: We were vinyl junkies! Since we were fourteen, fifteen, we’ve been vinyl collectors. Lots of dnb and hiphop, and just dance music in general. We’ve amassed thousands and thousands of records. Now we’ve sort of stopped. We don’t play vinyl anymore. It’s all digital. The mp3 collection is big, but it isn’t really the same as having physical things. I miss that. It feels like it’s lost a bit of magic. Though the great thing is that it’s so accessible. You can literally hear a song that you like, go online wherever you are and buy it straight away. That’s the up side. And yes, we have a whole load of stuff! From ambient to rowdy bashment and from trashy eighties to full on rock. All sorts!