As they prepare to unleash their highly anticipated 34-track FABRICLIVE 76 mix on the masses, Kmag snags a sneak-peek behind the decks of the stalwart dons of d&b best known as Calyx & TeeBee.
For those of us who don’t have the luxury of living in London or have the opportunity to hit up Fabric on the regular, what does Fabric represent to the drum & bass community?
Calyx: Drum & bass has always had a dominant London venue that acts almost as a place of worship for d&b heads, whilst also being revered as a crucible of creativity, evolution and experimentation for DJs and producers alike. For me it started with the Blue Note era in Hoxton Square, Shoreditch – a venue where so many seminal nights took place in d&b’s first golden era.
Then it moved on to The End club, which became a mecca for the d&b community until it too closed down. From that day onwards, Fabric has become the undisputed number one venue for the scene – taking it to even greater heights as the club’s three distinctive rooms have helped incubate and foster the vast spectrum of styles and sounds that d&b encompasses. I’ve had unforgettable nights playing in all three rooms – each room and crowd with a discernibly different vibe, but all three having a passion and fanaticism that I don’t feel or experience anywhere else in the world.
TeeBee: Fabric has been one of, if not my favourite club in the world from the very first time I played there in 2001. Ever since it first opened it has supported our scene week in week out be it label nights or the famous FABRICLIVE Fridays. In my opinion it continues to play a pivotal part in maintaining the culture and music we love so much. It is a cornerstone that has been a solid constant for a very very long time. The vibe is incredible. The sound is unreal. It is a bit like going to church if you’re into that kind of thing. I consider it my home away from home.
This vibe seems to have been channeled into their legendary FABRICLIVE mixes which have gone global in their popularity and reach. Talk a bit about how the Calyx + TeeBee FabricLive mix came about and any sort of direction or guidance you received before committing to the project.
TeeBee: We’d been hoping to get asked to do a FABRICLIVE mix for a few years before the request came. We were chuffed to bits when we went in for a meeting at Fabric HQ and they asked us to do it. FabricLive is all about giving the artist / DJ creative freedom to play and represent whatever they’re about, so there were no restrictions on what we wanted to do with the mix – other than not getting too carried away with a gazillion tunes on the tracklist!
Before you began to consider tunes were there any discussions about the direction you guys wanted to go in?
Calyx: We started talking (more like ranting) about the selection the moment we left the meeting with the Fabric team. We instinctively knew an overall direction we’d take with the mix – a journey to reflect our love of past, present and future d&b and a selection to show what we love to listen to inside and outside the club environment.
You ended up with 34 tunes on the final mix – give us a sense of the process of audition and elimination that took place along the way. I imagine you had to wade through hundreds of tracks and communicate back and forth about which tunes each of you wanted to represent before beginning to see if they fit together thematically/sonically…
TeeBee: We drew up an enormous list and then started discussing how we wanted the journey to ebb and flow, which classics we wanted to play, and which of our own tracks we wanted to include. We certainly wanted the mix to be much more than just a showcase for our own tracks, so we gave a lot of thought to the amazing music being made by our peers rather than just cramming in a load of Calyx & TeeBee material.
There’s definitely a tremendous cross-section of producers for this project – talk a bit about some of the newer faces you were able to include on this project and give us a sneak peek at any exclusives that are set to appear on the mix!
Calyx: As is often the case, many of the seemingly ‘newer’ artists have been producing for years and earning their stripes for a long time before becoming more established names – Xtrah is a classic example – a relatively new name to many but a huge talent we’ve been representing for years now. His track ‘Compulsive’ is an exclusive track specifically for the FabricLive mix, as is Gridlok & Prolix’s VIP of ‘Riot’. Other newer faces that feature on the mix include Hidden Turn and Brain Crisis – both well worth keeping an eye on for future greatness!
There’s a nice selection of cuts across the board, from the classics to the up-front bangers to the minimal and deeper vibes. Talk a bit about your own philosophies of putting together a mix in the artistic sense.
TeeBee: As individuals and collectively, we have both always been about pushing diversity in our sets. We’ve never seen the point in just repeating different shades of the same colour, so there will always be moments of depth, variation in emotion and dynamics, periods of calm before the storm, old classics alongside current dubs. All of our sets reflect this philosophy, but especially so when we get to play longer sets. I’m rarely one to grumble about how things aren’t what they used to be, but one of my few gripes is that DJs and club nights seem to want shorter and shorter sets and the 60 minute slots that seem to be today’s standard are just never enough to tell a story and take people on an evolving journey.
Here’s a bit of a tricky question but if either of you had been given this opportunity as solo artists, how would the final product differ? Or would it?
TeeBee: Five to ten years ago we would definitely have played a different style of set as individual DJs, but as our collaborative bond and mindset has evolved, we have uncannily similar tastes and thought processes. Often when we’re playing out, we’ll both cue up the same track at the same time, unaware that the other person was making the exact same selection. Only when one of us pushes up the fader to bring it into the mix, the other will laugh and shout over ‘Oiiii I was about to play that!’ whilst pointing frantically at the decks in front of us.
In terms of this mix, how did you work out who would mix which tracks, transitions, etc.? Is there any way for the listener to know which DJ is on deck in the final product or have you two fused into a single machine at this point?
Calyx: With a mix as well prepared and planned as this, it didn’t matter which of us was at the mixer, we’d thought it all through extensively beforehand so the recording was a formality. When we play in a club or festival and the mix is a lot more spontaneous on our 6 deck / 2 mixer setup, we have pretty much become a single machine, using a load of hand signals (plus occasional shouting) and an almost sixth sense of what the other is thinking at any given time.
While three CDJs were your weapons of choice on this mix, talk a bit more about your six deck setup! How much preparation and communication do you guys have before you go into a gig? Are there certain tunes that you might both have but you agree to let the other drop or is it a straight-up bloodsport to surprise each other like two gladiators in the championship ring?
Calyx: As we play together so often, we need almost no preparation whatsoever (other than the constant hunt for new music to play out). Each gig we do is almost a progression from the last, or at least a culmination of what we’ve learned and enjoyed from our previous batch of gigs. However, we do communicate a lot during our sets.
TeeBee: Our setup is as follows: we each have a mixer and three decks. Each of our mixers is then routed to a third mixer in the middle of the whole setup. Every 16 bars we’re shouting over at each other or using a series of hand signals we’ve developed to stay connected about what’s happening next or any ideas we have at any given time. We have some moments that are choreographed and others that are spontaneous as we often like to surprise or impress each other – for us, it’s by far the most exciting and engaging way of playing d&b!
You’ve got a special launch party coming up on Friday August 8 that will feature you guys dropping a two-hour session at Fabric. Any other big gigs or projects we should be looking out for?
TeeBee: We’ve got a summer that’s crammed full of exciting festivals, but our FabricLive launch night is the only gig worth talking about!! We’re frothing at the mouth in anticipation – a two hour set at Fabric is a magical proposition in itself, plus a supporting lineup that we got to put together with the staff at Fabric – it’s gonna be a MASSIVE night!
Any word on another Calyx & TeeBee album?
Calyx: Our next album will be dropping early next year, with some singles coming out in the lead up to the LP. We don’t want to overhype it, but we think we’ve written our best ever music for this next album and we can’t wait to have it wrapped up and out there for everyone to hear!
Last but not least, respect to each of you for continuing to inspire with your work ethic and commitment to the scene. For any bedroom producer/DJs out there hoping to step up their game what sort of advice can you give them if they want a touch of the success you guys have achieved?
Calyx: My biggest piece of advice is to put in all the hours you can in the studio – even when you’d rather be doing something else you’ve got to keep at it day after day, month after month. Very often the reality of being a successful producer is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. TeeBee and I love what we do and we’re very lucky to earn a living doing it, but we are absolute workaholics and that’s been a big contributing factor to our success and longevity.