Another year and yet another stack load of high-class material has emerged from studios of Total Science, the hardest working duo in drum & bass. On the eve of their new Mars Needs Total Science album, we find out why the world needs them…
Soho, central London and the nation’s capital is experiencing a meteorological phenomenon. As the sun shines brightly onto the bustling conurbation, snow starts fluttering down from the sky. It’s an incongruous and confusing combination for the people treading the pavements below, but for Knowledge the anomaly is rather apt. For sitting opposite us in a cosy bar nearby Blackmarket Records are drum & bass’ funniest combination, Total Science.
Between the two, Jason Greenhalgh and Paul Smith, or Quiff and Smithy to their mates, have been making breakbeat music for over 15 years now, ever since Quiff’s debut ‘Freestyle Fanatic’ was released in 1991. Since that time, they’ve never really faded away from the limelight, always skipping along the frontier of d&b’s zeitgeist a‚nd releasing many of the genre’s defining moments.
From 1994’s jungle benchmark ‘Champion Sound’ through to last year’s massive liquid funk success ‘Going In Circles’, the duo have consistently hit the spot and amassed a back catalogue that puts most producers in the shade. However, if you thought this long-standing tenure at the top would inevitably result in them becoming lazy, cynical moaners, think again. Their fourth full-length album ‘Mars Needs Total Science’, released on their own CIA imprint this month proves that when it comes to the combination of drums and bass, they’re more passionate, down to earth and entertaining than ever before.
WHERE DOES THE NEW ALBUM’S TITLE COME FROM?
Smithy: Shall we make something up that’s really interesting?
Quiff: We kind of just made it up on the spot, to be honest. I was writing a press release and put it in as a joke. It just stuck really. But I think it’s a great name now.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM THE LAST ALBUM?
S: Well, the last album was crap.
Q: [laughs]Yeah. With our last album ‘Good Game’, we were just finding our feet with new software. This album is much stronger, as we’ve got to a point in our careers where we’ve taken our production to a new level. We’re really pleased with it.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS NOW ABOUT ‘GOOD GAME’?
Q: We were happy with it at that point in time. The album was okay, we didn’t get the press we really wanted, but we didn’t really try for it to be honest. In the past, we’ve just left it up to other people, and not really put ourselves out there.
S: We’ve relied on the old underground way of just word of mouth, that kind of thing. But this time we’ve really got something to shout about so we’re pushing much more. And it’s working. We’ve got Trevor Nelson playing some of our hip-hop tracks.
Q: It’s about getting in people’s faces. We’ve been quite shy of that in the past because we just work in the studio for most of the time. But this time we’re doing it properly.
HOW MANY TUNES HAVE⁄ YOU WRITTEN IN YOUR CAREER?
S: We’re not exactly sure. It took me half an hour to scroll down the list on discogs.com. We’ve definitely written the most in drum & bass. Norris McWhirter came round our house the other day with a certificate.
Q: I’m not exactly sure either. A fucking lot, that’s for sure! I reckon it’s 300 plus.
S: It’s got to be more than that.
Q: Well I don’t know, I can’t even count to be honest, so whatever.
S: If you’re also talking about tunes we’ve done that didn’t come out that have just sat on our hard drive you’re talking thousands probably. But lots of those were crap.
Q: And that goes for a lot of the ones that came out as well!
DO YOU EVER GET WRITERS BLOCK?
S: Sometimes, but the beauty of working with someone else is you can fuck off and let the other person come up with something if you’re struggling. There are always things on the go. We’ve got to the point now where we can sit down with a break and some samples and always come up with so·mething.
Q: It’s all about samples for us. Combinations of samples. I recently bought a new laptop and copied all these folders off our old computer and my god, the amount of stuff we found that we’ve never used! There are hundreds of tunes to come, just from the samples we found! Let alone all the new stuff we buy.
AND THE PASSION IS STILL THERE TO MAKE THOSE TUNES?
S: Oh yeah. We’re as passionate now as we’ve ever been. The thing is, the standard of music is better than it’s been for a long time. And now we know so much about the music if we want to do a particular thing we can just make it happen, rather than sitting there stabbing around in the dark for hours. You’ve got to have a passion for actually making the music as well as just listening to it. And we definitely still have both.
DO YOU THINK VINYL WILL EVER DIE?
S: I think it will in the end. But with drum & bass, it’ll take a lot longer than other types of music because it’s turntable based. And there’s not many of the old guard that play CDs.
Q: I still cut dubplates when we play out, but more because I can’t mix on CD decks! I think it’s a lot easier to mix with vinyl and d&b sounds better on it due to the roughness.
S: We’ve just done a deal with iTunes to sell our tunes though which is great because they don’t usually sign independent labels’ music. The mp3 thing is really fresh and no one really knows which way it’s going to go. It’ll take ten years to really see how it pans out. Who knows, at one point in the future you’ll probably be able to mix from a connection embedded in your head.
ARE YOU A MEMBER OF MYSPACE?
Q: Yes. Only recently, though. Everyone is at it so we thought we should get involved. It’s just another form of promotion. It’s great to talk to people we’ve met on our travels, and most people that visit the site just come and say hello.
S: Also, every DJ that’s on it has got a shag in America and we thought ‘can we joßin in please!’
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR YOUR CIA LABEL?
S: As well as the album we’re trying to get a few new artists together and bring them through, like the State Of Mind guys.
Q: State Of Mind, definitely. They’re guys we met in New Zealand a couple of years ago. Hopefully get an album out of them next year. Other than that, just generally sign good music and bring in as many people as we can.
DO YOU GET SENT MANY DEMOS?
Q: Less proper demos these days, and more just one-off tunes from people fired over AIM. A lot of people that send us stuff obviously think the tracks are good enough, but a lot of the time they’re not. But we also get a lot of good stuff. If we feel the track, or it has something in it that’s interesting we always reply and let people know what we think.
WHAT PHRASES DO YOU MOST OVERUSE?
S: Erm, ‘Never mind’, and ‘cock’. We say them about twenty times in the car on the way down here. ‘Cock’ mainly» aimed at Quiff most of the time.
WHERE IS THE STRANGEST PLACE YOU’VE DJED?
S: Quiff’s bedroom. On pills.
Q: Some house parties we’ve been invited back to have got a bit weird.
DO YOU STILL DO THAT?
Q: Yeah, it happened to me quite recently, actually. I was up in Newcastle and we carried on back at someone’s house after the club. There was one in Cardiff as well recently. I was hammered; completely shaking and everything but they made me go on. Everyone was watching me in the kitchen. High Contrast was there as well but he never played. He did take me home though, which was nice.
S: We do tend to get into these situations quite regularly. We like to get messy.
WHAT MUSIC MAKES YOU CRY?
S: I don’t know about cry, but the one tune that always gets my heart is Roy Ayers’ ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’. Always.
Q: For me, it’s got to be Take That’s ‘Want You Back For Good’. Or anything by Brother Beyond…
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE SONG TO SING ALONG TO?
Q: Take That – ‘Want You Back For Good’.
S: Yeah. We also make up songs to existing tunes, adding new lyrics. You should hear our club singer version of Kevin Little’s ‘Turn Me On’. It’s big.
TELL US A SECRET ABOUT ANOTHER PERSON IN D&B…
S: Baron likes withered indie-type whoopsies. I’ll say no more…