Still reeling from their rapid ascent through the ranks in the past year, the deadly duo known as Volatile Cycle stop in for a wide-ranging chat before smacking it down with a heavy-duty guest mix rammed with exclusive cuts and dubs. Warn the neighbours before unleashing this one!
First off, introduce yourselves, where you’re hailing from in the world and what kind of vibe/style you guys represent.
We are Volatile Cycle, (Dan Lawrence and Jimmy Chick) hailing from a small town called Aylsham near Norwich in the UK. We mainly represent the darker side of the drum & bass spectrum from moody steppas to techy party vibes.
Give us a sense of how VC was born. What was your experience/history with dnb before linking up? Jim: My beginnings in the world of drum & bass probably echo that of many other artists in the scene. I was introduced via my older brothers mixtapes from Dreamscape and Sidewinder back in the days when Randle, JJ Frost and Nicky Blackmarket were kings! I suppose I could also thank my brothers and his mates for me getting into mixing as one of them had a couple of shabby belt drive decks that he’d bring round. When they weren’t there I’d spend hours mixing (albeit with UK garage records) and it wasn’t long before I was hooked.
Soon after when I was around 15 I found out the club that held the drum & bass nights had a less than relaxed door policy and me and a few friends would scrabble around, trying the find the money to buy tickets just so we could go. I remember going to Renegade Hardware’s ‘Aftermath LP’ launch party and leaving there with the new dream of being the DJ on stage performing to the crowds so it seems fitting that for me that its gone full circle and we’ll be playing at Maztek’s LP launch party… the dream has come true!
At what point do you guys decide to formalize the partnership and how did the Volatile Cycle name come about? Dan: Volatile Cycle (as we are now known) was born in late 2011 and an old mutual friend is responsible for getting Jimmy and me together. We both used Reason, lived in a tiny town and were through and through dnb heads so it made sense to have a blast at a few collabs. After a few sessions together things started to click and we realised if we were going to get anywhere in the industry then we had to do it together.
What do you see as your particular strengths in the studio as a duo that you perhaps wouldn’t have if you had tried to strike out on your own as solo artists? Any advice for other collaborative partnerships out there just starting out? Dan: Right from the beginning we generally assumed roles that reflect very much how things work to this day: I am much more of the ideas man if you like, and put some beats n bits together for Jim to give a nice sheen and his own edits to when we are in the studio. With his experience and background as a sound engineer it’s a great combo that has continues to bear fruit.
I think when you’re in the game with more than just yourself to answer to you need to learn the art of delegation and who is best at what. But when you hit upon having a partnership where you are both bringing something different but equally as important to the table then keep hold of it, you both learn off each other all the time. It’s so important to actually get a vibe and just get on generally with your collab partner as well; you can imagine how hugely important this is when you’re sharing your personal space and the same air for hours on end, especially with Jimmy!
I’ve noticed two variations of the same production name (Volatile Cycle vs Volatile Psycle) in your output. What’s the story/meaning behind each name? Do they represent different sounds/vibes? Dan: Before the duo was formed I was originally under the name Volatile, and made jump-up drum & bass after my hero’s at the time Taxman, G Dub, Hazard, basically anyone rocking that style. Jim’s previous name was Psycle and he was producing on a more techy edge and the names joined together to form (what we thought was a cool name anyway) Volatile Psycle.
We changed our name from Psycle to Cycle after a friend of ours (big up Robbo!) who knew Giles (Ink) had given him a CD with some dubs on it. He got in contact and came down to meet us with Clayton from Hardware and we spoke about ideas, what they thought our future held, releases, etc. One thing we agreed on after meeting was that our name would alter the spelling slightly, something that in the long run we realised was not a big deal at all!
The resulting EP on Architecture was definitely a huge one and features a nice snapshot of the diversity of your sound. Was that intentional on your part or were these just the tunes that Ink had gravitated towards? Jim: We didn’t intentionally set out to make a really diverse EP. At the time we hooked up with Ink we were playing around with a load of styles in the studio and because of his taste and the label’s output being so varied it allowed us to showcase the variety of styles we produce.
Were you surprised that your deeper, rolling bits were getting the love as opposed to the more aggressive sound you guys had been experimenting with in earlier productions? Jim: I think that maybe our deeper sound have taken a bit more of the limelight as it’s these productions that sound a lot more polished than our earlier heavy dnb. Like Dan has said in the past, when you have the likes of Noisia, Phace, Maztek, TeeBee and Calyx around its takes something really special to stand shoulder to shoulder with such heavyweights. But that’s the beauty of making this music, everyday is a school day. You learn new tricks and techniques and our sound constantly evolves.
“Blame” is a standout tune of the bunch not only because it’s a great tune but because it sort of hints at your ability to explore liquid vibes as well. I know you have more liquid up your sleeves that you guys have been working on – talk a bit about how you see those vibes as being part of your larger philosophy towards dnb in general as very often there is sort of an unspoken divide between the “neuro” and “liquid” side of things that I see you guys bridging in a powerful way. Jim: With us both sharing a love of early Calibre, High Contrast, Commix and Artificial Intelligence (to name just a few) and me playing a lot of liquid in my early DJing days I think liquid is a natural extension of our sound and shows what has inspired us over the years. Tracks like “Horizon,” “Blame,” and even “Fade” which was on a completely different tip as well were ones that Ink had picked out as his favourites on that first CD we gave him and had no hesitation in seeing them work on the same release.
I don’t think we were too surprised that our different stuff was getting picked up on as it was a combination of them getting noticed by a few in the underground world and also appealing to more heads than just out and out neuro. As you mentioned, the divide between neuro and liquid seems big but I think we will see ‘liquid neuro’ as a sub-genre at some point! I think its very narrow minded to just like one particular genre or sub genre, you will find something that you like everywhere, even if you think the vast majority is not for you.
Speaking of which, you guys also produced a variety of styles and tempos before finding what is quickly becoming your signature sound. Talk a bit about your early work in other genres and especially your ongoing love-affair with glitch-hop, neuro-hop, and the like. For those who don’t know what this is, give us your own definition and introduce us to what you would consider one of your signature tunes in this vein. Jim: We actually started out by making a bit of dubstep but after hearing tunes like “One Click Headshot” from Feed Me we started dabbling in glitch hop. For me personally, the stand out tune of ours from this era and shows what we were about is ‘Tick Tock’ that we released with Adapted Records last year. I think the fact Neurofunk Grid uploaded it shows just how strong the dnb influence is in our music, no matter what tempo!
DAN: Hip-hop courses through my veins and I have always been a huge fan of it so when I heard Koan Sound’s “Max Out” I became obsessed with that style for a while. It’s got such a swag to it when done correctly and when you combine a heavy hip-hop beat with some nasty reeces then it usually makes for a fun night in! I have areal affinity with it as well because I think you can incorporate a lot of Prodigy vibes in there who have always been my biggest inspiration.
To sum up our style of ‘neuro-hop’ in a few words? “Music your Nan hates. If she likes it you haven’t done it right!” We have had some great fun with the genre, and are in the early stages of getting a video sorted for our latest offering ‘Gangrene’ which is currently available as a free download on our Soundcloud page:
This is only just the beginning isn’t it? You’ve got a wicked EP just released on Abducted as well as another just signed to Renegade Hardware and I’m sure lots more in the pipeline. Fill us in on the details so we know what to expect.
Dan: We have an EP just released on Abducted LTD, this again is more rollers with peppered with moody basslines, its been great hooking up with Dorian at Abducted on the other side of the pond and getting acquainted with some other heads. We also have to shout out to Seb at Skank’N’Bass who has been a firm supporter of ours for the past 18 months or so and has uploaded two tracks off this EP to his YouTube page.. Through him we have gained a lot of new support and I think we both owe him a pint at least for that.
Dan: What else is yet to come? Well, this is where things get exciting: we are getting a track released on Noisia’s imprint Invisible sometime next year – for us this is the pinnacle as they are, in our opinion, the kings. No denying it. So to have them interested in what we are doing was to say the least a cause for celebration. But that is not for a little while yet, we have plenty more to come before then, not least our EP on Renegade Hardware.
Jimmy and myself have been fans of their output for a very long time and they have a such a great following of real heads if you like who understand the angle that we are coming from….. Our first EP with them should be finished up soon, we have taken our time with this one as we want it to be covering all aspects of what Hardware are about in a single EP. Huge shouts to Ink, Clayton and Scott again for the opportunity they have given us!
We also have our second release due on NeurofunkGrid; Axel who runs the show there has always been a great supporter of our stuff and our first release ‘Break and Enter’ did pretty well, so we are loong forward to getting this second one finished off and shipped over. Again, always trying to keep the barriers down when it comes to what we’re making and this one is definitely out and out neuro. We then have a forthcoming release on Simplify Recordings, this one is a little different, we have tried turning trap into neuro, alongside a neurohop B side, it’s a cool little release on a very well run label, shout’s to Aaron for being so patient on that one! Also, another project we are hugely excited about is a track entitled “24 hours” with Nuklear MC. The tune is a very dark roller, but when set off with Nuklear’s lyrics, it’s safe to say when played out shoes get launched.
Other than that, we’ve made links with so many decent people in the Norwich scene, big up to Charged and Blind Benny Walsh, Bogart and Bassic’s, T>I and Flat-T, , Upgrade and Oblivion, JR Sterling and of course S Dexter (too many more to name!) it’s great how many talented producers and DJs this little backward city produces! I’m a firm believer on if you put the work in musically the results will come, so we are just going to keep doing what we do and the rest will take care of itself…
Now you’ve also hit us with a mix – what kind of tunes do you have lined up and any special forthcoming treats in particular we should be looking out for? Jim: The mix is pretty much a slice of what we’ve been feeling over the last few months with a few of our tracks old and new. The later half of the mix being the sort of sound you can expect to hear if you come to see us play.