Fresh off the success of their recently unleashed debut LP on Commercial Suicide, the three-man crew known as The Invaderz check in for a wide-ranging chat about everything from the lost art of programming on through to their ongoing influences and inspirations. As if that wasn’t enough they’ve hit us with an exclusive guest mix that is so packed with special cuts that it’s sure to have the digital trainspotters begging for more.
Welcome back!! Even though you guys have been slowly creeping back into the scene since last year, this full-on LP feels kind of like a homecoming in many ways. Talk a bit about what led to you guys taking a hiatus from the scene for a few years, what you were up to in the meantime, and even more importantly, what pulled you back in? Leo: Thanks, it’s good to be back! The hiatus has been down to nothing more than the fact that sometime life gets in the way of dnb! We’re all busy people, but we’ve never stopped writing tunes and coming up with ideas, and about a year ago we kind of realised that we had a collection of strong tracks (in various stages of completion) that could form the basis of a strong album, and we went from there…
Darrell: Yeah, we all had other things happening in our day-to-day lives, things that are sometimes more important than making music. This scene goes around in trends and phases as we all know, but when you aren’t really into what’s going on we don’t have much to bounce off musically, and rather than just force it and release stuff that we aren’t really believing in, we’d rather just do music we believe in. Quality over quantity.
Are all three of the original crew back? For those new-schoolers out there, who are “The Invaderz” and how do you describe what kind of sound you represent? Leo: Yes, we’re all back…we never went anywhere! We are: Matt Lord, Darrell James and Leo Grant. The Invaderz’ sound is essentially focused around hard drums and bass aimed at the dance floor, but within that framework we try to incorporate as wide a spectrum of emotion and musical styles as possible; from militant aggressive tracks to laid back melodic vocal tunes and everything in between.
Darrell: As far as our sound, I would describe it as good old simple drum and bass! But I would say the funk / groove element is what runs through everything we do, we hate sterile soul-less music of any genre!
While you guys have surfaced briefly over the past year on Commercial Suicide and Metalheadz, I imagine a lot of the work behind the scenes has been leading up to this new album. Take us back to the initial stages when it was just an idea – what were your intentions going in? Leo: Initially our intention was just to gather together all the unfinished tracks and release them. But as we began working regularly again and continued writing new tunes, the album took on a life of its own, and we began consciously thinking about it as a project with a specific identity. We wanted every track to represent a different aspect of our sound, for all of them to work individually but also to complement each other and work well as a whole. Essentially we focused on making the album as varied as possible while still always staying true to The Invaderz sound.
Darrell: For me I wanted to make an album with music that I would want to hear if I went to a club night. I think people make albums and start to make music that you listen to at home but it isn’t really club friendly, which is fine, but we have done that style of music before, so we have nothing to prove. We want to have fun and we want the listeners to have fun listening to it. We had a huge list of potential tracks for this album in various states of completion and when we went through them all it kind of dictated the direction and content itself, because we wanted to cover several bases whilst showing what we’re about musically.
I think it’s worth noting that even with your long history in the scene, releasing bits on every major dnb label out there, this is, in fact, your debut LP! Did this play a role in your “return” as well? Darrell: For us, we make a track and move onto the next one immediately. We always had the intention of making an album, it’s just finding the time and opportunity to make it happen and it be released under the right umbrella. Besides that, writing one decent track that you are happy with is difficult, let alone thirteen!
Leo: It was definitely good to have a big project, as a goal to work towards. And yeah, I guess we were thinking about our ‘legacy’ to a certain extent: individual tracks can easily get overlooked or ignored, but an album is more obviously a creative ‘statement of intent’, so to speak. People still listen differently to albums – they pay closer attention and are more likely to listen repeatedly, as long as there is enough variety and depth there to sustain that. Hopefully people will listen to ‘New Found Dialect’ in years to come, who knows… I still listen to Jonny L’s ‘Magnetic’ album regularly, and that came out in 1998!
Looking back, how do you see this album differing from your previous body of work? How do you see the album title and cover artwork fitting in? Leo: We definitely made a conscious choice to update the sound to ‘fit in’ with current dnb (e.g., using more modern drum sounds, trying to get the mixes as ‘loud’ as possible, etc.). We’re also trying to use more recognisable gestures and hooks than we used to and we worked a lot on making the structures more concise… no one does three-minute intros anymore!
In general though, we’ve tried to maintain the overall aesthetic we established years ago and despite updating our sound to fit in with what’s around now, we definitely wanted to avoid the more offensively banal and cheesy aspects of certain modern dnb tracks. It’s important to us that we reference the roots of jungle/dnb in what we do. The choice of artwork hopefully reflects all this on some level…
I imagine one of the largest transitions has been in the studio. You guys started out with EMU E6400’s in the studio – what kind of plug-ins and outboard gear are you using these days? Darrell: We actually started out on Atari’s with Akai samplers! The EMU’s were a later upgrade – haha! We don’t use much outboard gear these days as we tend to do everything in Logic 9. I know I have started to really like the Alchemist [dynamic processor] plug-in. Likewise we have always used distortion, whether it was through an analog desk or with a Logic plug-in, so Amplitube and Camelphat have become standard in our tracks.
Leo: We’re not super-technical producers to be honest… we mostly just focus on getting the vibe right in the track and then everything follows from there. But the initial choice of sounds and samples is at least as important as what plug-ins used to process them, especially in terms of getting the mix right. I actually loaded up a few tracks from the album to see what plug-ins, etc. we were using in order to answer this questions and there were no real secret weapons or anything. Quite the opposite in face as we use a lot of the standard Logic plug-ins (channel e.q, overdrive distortion, phasers, autofilter, etc.) with only a handful of third-party plug-ins as Darrell mentioned above.
The album runs across the entire d&b spectrum with everything from heavy rollers, Bristol steppers, liquid, jungle, and straight-up amen smashers – it almost feels like a classic Invaderz DJ session in that it’s a proper journey. Talk a bit about the aspect of programming, not only a DJ set but how important that was/is to the album process. Darrell: I think there is a definite difference between DJs and producers. Dnb is now a scene where producers are booked because they make tracks that are popular. That producer may have never mixed a record in their life, yet a promoter is willing to pay them money to come and play! I was a DJ long before I made music and I studied other DJs such as Randall and Grooverider and how they would put a set together and do exactly what you mentioned – take you on a journey. This is music, it’s supposed to take you away and tell you a story.
I have noticed that a lot of producers turn up to a gig and play what they and their mates make, which may or may not make for a fully formed set. If you listen to my sets you see that I try to play a bit of everything so you do get the full scope of what dnb is about. Therefore it’s only natural that our album would be a reflection of that mentality. If you never challenge yourself to do more than one style of dnb I don’t know how you can retain any level of interest or inspiration. Doing the same thing over and over would kill my creativity and make me hate what I do. Also when you do one thing, even if it’s really well, you isolate a whole potential audience that may never give what you do a listen.
One of my absolute favorite pieces from the album is “True Grit” which opens with a deceptively smooth intro before bringing on the pain. It seems to encapsulate The Invaderz vibe perfectly in that it’s jazzy/liquid and atmospheric at the same time it’s a full-on tear-out amen bit for the dancefloor. In many ways it seems an homage to an earlier era of d&b – was that part of the inspiration or intention behind the song? Darrell: I wish we could tell you some elaborate story about how these tracks come together but sadly it’s not that exciting haha! We turn up to the studio with loops that we have worked on at home and we go through them until we find the one we are all vibing with or think we can finish and that is the one we work on that day. ‘True Grit’ was an amazing intro that Leo created and it was an unfinished project for a long while but I always knew it had potential to be a decent track. We miss a lot of types of dnb that people just don’t seem to make anymore and this was an homage to the “Cutslo” era, which was a great era and one we wanted to revisit. The title itself came from watching the movie, it was that simple and obvious.
Leo: One really useful thing about having three people is that not only does it (hopefully) ensure a high quality threshold (because we are all super-critical!) but also sometimes one person will start a track and not think much of it, but the others can hear the potential of it because they’re not so close to it. This was the case not only with “True Grit,” but also “Burning Book” and “Addicted” which also nearly got chucked in the recycle bin!
This is a good spot to talk about Klute, Commercial Suicide and how the album came to find a home there. What is it about the imprint that felt right for a project as progressive as this one? Darrell: I have been friends with Klute for many years and I think I just casually mentioned it one day in a conversation and he was down with the idea. This was serendipity in a way because his label is all about music that he believes in and not music that’s following trends. He is one artist who to me, has carved out his own unique niche in the dnb scene and that is no easy feat. He was happy for us to do Invaderz tracks without a million stipulations even though we did consult him along the way. It was great having his input actually because he can be quite brutal which is ideal for tackling a big project like an album as it keeps you focused.
Leo: Tom (Klute) is probably one of the only people who would have been willing to take a risk on us for this album and, just as importantly, have the confidence to leave us alone to get on with it and do it our way. We really appreciated that level of creative control but it was also really useful to have external feedback from him too which helped us to shape what we were doing and not feel like we were just working in a vacuum.
Now that you guys have kicked in the doors and announced your return – where do you go from here?
Right now we are just about to relaunch our website with our entire back catalog becoming available all remastered. We have a follow up single planned for Commercial Suicide in the new year as well as signing something on Ingredients and Dutty Audio, so we are trying to keep it versatile and broad with our audience still. We are working on a couple of remixes too. Main one being for the next ‘Fats We Gotcha’ project which we are proud to have been asked to do. We are working on literally about ten other things right at this moment so we are back for the long haul this time I’d say.
I understand you’ve got a guest mix for us as well. Any special treats we should be looking out for?
This mix is a typical Invaderz style mix… hopefully something for everyone in there. Dancefloor with a lot of bass and just something to keep your head nodding. You will have to listen to the mix to spot the exclusive treats haha – there are a couple in there!