Spectrasoul Interview

Spectrasoul, aka Dave Kennet and Jack Stevens, are a duo that need no introduction to any discerning d&b head. With releases on the some of the most respected labels within the scene, combined with residencies at some of the most prestigious clubs, Spectrasoul have now firmly stamped their mark on the drum & bass map.

With an ever impressive and rapidly increasing back catalogue, Spectrasoul continue to produce some of the most melodic and widely received drum & bass around and with some of the most stand-out tunes of the last few years, combined with the backing of virtually all of the scenes heavyweights the future can only bring even better things for the Brighton based duo.

The phrase “Leaders of the New School” has been quoted and requoted many times and that may of been the case two or three years ago, but if they were leading the new school then they have now passed their exams, graduated and made the transition from students to teachers.

We felt it was high time we caught up with the guys and put them under spotlight of the Knowledge interrogation team.

How did you meet, was it love at first sight or did you hate the sight of each other?

Jack: We got introduced to each other at one of Dave’s events in London in 2005. We were both making tunes at the time and both had ties in Brighton so we started sharing beats and eventually got into the studio together to get some ideas laid down. The rest, as they say, is history.

Can you describe your first memories of drum & bass, are there any stand out tunes that made an impression and why did drum & bass become your weapon of choice?

Dave: It all started for me at school, sharing and swapping tapes. A friend of mine gave me an old Dreamscape tape from 1994, and from then on I was hooked. It was all about the underground buzz that was happening at the time, hearing music you’d never heard before, and wanting to be involved in the movement.

Jack: I remember my dad introducing me to Roni Size, Calibre and LTJ Bukem when I was about 14. I didn’t think much of it at the time as I was obviously still fairly immature and was being introduced to a very sophisticated and complex style of music. It’s funny recently I was reminiscing about the time when I was in Cornwall one summer. I was laying in bed listening to Hype’s ‘Jungle Massive’ CD. Although that is a rather embarrassing admission, I have to say that a lot of the tunes on that CD have really stuck with me.

Moving on from that can you describe you’re first in-roads into production, how did you start?

Jack: I started producing music before I started DJing. I got hooked after first fiddling with Music Ejay when I was about 13. From there, I taught myself almost all the basics using a range of software. I also learned a lot while attending a few production and DJing workshops just down the road from where I lived.

Dave: I started DJing way before writing music, so I guess my progression to production was a natural progression over time. I dabbled with various trackers, and bits of studio gear for a few years, but never really got anywhere. I guess it was when I got introduced to an early version of Reason that I really started to get my head around production and then moved relatively quickly onto Logic.

For all of the production heads out there can you give us a breakdown of the current Spectrasoul studio and what software / hardware is particularly working for you right now and why?

Dave: We both work solely on laptops, running Logic 8. We’ll source sounds, samples and get ideas started separately and then bring them together to be finalised in our studio. However, we do usually start tunes together from scratch, and being pretty quick workers in the studio, means we can roll out tracks at a fair old pace. It would be a lie to say that we use any special plug-ins or outboard gear because we simply don’t. We use a few select plug-ins but usually stick to the standard Logic ones.

Possibly the most important element of drum & bass is, of course, the break and every producer goes about break creation in their own personal slightly different way, can you run through how a typical Spectrasoul break comes to life?

We’ll usually have an idea for the style of tune we want to write before we begin, and choose sounds to suit the vibe. Starting with one main break and will then begin layering hits and percussion over the top. It’s important that the snare and kick hit with enough weight, so we tend to focus on getting those elements as punchy as possible and then we begin working any other elements into the pattern.

Moving from production to DJing, do you have some random, humorous or memorable stories you can tell us?

Jack: Ha! There are a few that spring to mind, but the one lasting memory is when we were playing in a gig in Zurich with another UK artist (who shall remain anonymous). Anyway, after we had finished playing, we got a few drinks and got a bit tipsy. It got to about 5am, and there was an hour to fill, so we jumped back on the decks and played a little B2B set with the other mysterious artist. The other artist then grabs the mic and begins singing “I want some Ray Keith” to the tune of Queen’s “I Want To Break Free”. As you can imagine, the crowd looked bemused, we found it hilarious!

Now that things have snowballed somewhat how have things changed for you over the last few years, how do you feel about the ‘New School’ tag?

Dave: It’s great to be associated with a group of other like-minded producers. We don’t really pay attention to any given ‘tags’, or the talk on the forums, etc. We just do our thing, and if people label us to be ‘New School’ then that is an added bonus. We still feel like we’re on the cusp as opposed to being at the forefront.

Vinyl, laptop or CDs – where do you stand on this issue?

Jack: CDs and vinyl but we do play predominantly CDs though. The simple reason being that we want to play new music. In an ideal world we would play 100% vinyl but to be able to do that you need to be sitting on a small fortune. Cutting dubplates is, as everyone knows, expensive!

Who are you feeling now musically both d&b and outside of the genre?

Jack: Cinematic Orchestra, Flying Lotus, Bonobo, D’Angelo, Pinch, 2562, Burial. I could go on forever. These are the main players on iTunes at the moment.

Dave: I’ll second those, and add Clubroot, Martyn, Ramadanman, Jose James, Hudson Mohawke, Bon Iver, Dabrye, Bullion, Fink – the list could go on.

What moment in your d&b career are you proudest of?

Jack: I don’t think I could pinpoint one thing. The whole journey has been amazing. If you had told me four years ago that I would be playing in front of thousands of people in countries spanning the globe, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Dave: I’ll echo that! Also, for me, signing the Metalheadz 12″ is a big personal achievement. Having followed the label since the beginning to now having a release is insane.

What do we have to look forward to from the Spectrasoul camp?

Jack: It’s all been pretty busy lately. We’ve just put the finishing touches to our Metalheadz 12″. We have gone back a few years and done a little jungle special so keep an eye out for that. Our 12″ for Exit has just been mastered and is sounding good; we’re really happy with that. Also, we have just signed on the dotted line for Mr. Friction and his Shogun audio imprint, which means that our album is kinda in the pipeline. It will probably be a year or so, but we’re just beginning to start ideas and concepts that will take some time to develop and refine.