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Genre-surfing with Groove Armada

2007-08-06 12:11
If the cocktail of house, grime, breakbeat, trip-hop, dancehall and pop on Lovebox and Soundboy Rocks is any indication it seems you guys love a good genre surf. Are genres finally becoming redundant?
There’s definitely a bit of that going on. If you listen to the new Dizzee Rascal record, Maths + English he’s doing the same sort of thing. You hear bits of house music, drum ‘n bass, and new and old school hip-hop too. But I think it’s less that genres are dead and more that people are just ya know, more willing to sample things from different genres now. People are less keen to be defined by one particular sound. You can hear that in the bands coming through right now – like The Klaxons. You don’t know whether they’re rock music or house music or rave or whatever. So it is an emerging sound, yeah. But it’s also something we’ve been doing for ages!

Funk is the keystone to the Groove Armada sound though isn’t it?
Yeah, I think that’s perfect! If we do anything it’s a modern take on funk. There’s always funk in it, even if it’s like sort of dancehall. When we do it live that’s where you see Groove Armada at its absolute best, where we’re being forced to tie all our sounds down. When we play live it just all makes sense. So a word like funk I’m happy with, it’s what pulls it all together. Funk is what we do.

You’ve collaborated with everyone from Neneh Cherry and Nappy Roots to Mutya Buena and Richie Havens. Who would you most still like to collaborate with and why?
Um, well it’s good that we got the opportunity to work with people like Neneh and Richie Haven. But now, we see the way forward as working with younger artists. So maybe we’ll be knocking on people like Dizzee’s door next.

You say fresh young artists, yet word has it you’re working on something with Kylie?
Yeah. There’s a lot of people writing with her at the moment. I think Hot Chip’s doing stuff for her, Calvin Harris and Mylo…and all sorts of ‘pop’ people. So we’re in that sort of company which is great. We’re currently working on two tracks, but ya know, it’s such a big record for EMI so they’re not rushing into anything. We’ve had about four hours in her company which has been cool. We’re going to spend some more time with her in Ibiza (later) in August. There’s one track in particular that’s got ‘something’. But getting that ‘something’ isn’t quite enough for Kylie’s team, it’s got to be a sort of out of the box hit single. So sometimes it just happens like that and sometimes you just grasp at it. “Song For Mutya” came together in an afternoon. Whereas others like “Superstylin’” we spent nine months on. So yeah, we’re in the game and we’re having a go. Obviously getting a record with her would be brilliant for our profile.

Speaking of profile-raising, the Armada’s being doing a bit of globetrotting lately hasn’t it. Share some of your best experiences with us?
Yeah, we did LA, then Japan, Serbia and Croatia last week and now South Africa. A festival is where Groove Armada really comes into its own. Closing our own Love Box festival in a really rousing way recently with Blondie having put on such a show the previous day was really amazing. When we played Glastonbury for the first time years and years ago was special because it felt like the first time we became aware that people were actually listening to what we did. We also played to 40 000 people at the Isle of Wight festival. It was the same weekend the Rolling Stones were playing. That was just amazing, the sheer mind-boggling scale of it all. And we also played a festival in Norway which was bafflingly amazing because it basically stays light until 4am in the morning. You go on at 2am and it is still light - what that does to your brain is bizarre!

Cool, what sort of set can fans expect from Armada in South Africa?
People might think they’re going to get just DJs with decks and effects. It’s much more than that. It’s a proper live band. A proper show with five or six musicians, three singers all of whom come from the new record and do a great job of making it come to life. Also a great visual show, with amazing lighting…Fans can expect about six tracks from Soundboy, we bring Stush with us for “Get Down”. Then we’ve got probably 7 other massive tracks like "I See You Baby", “Superstylin” - stuff that you people hopefully know and love.

Ah yes, you licensed “I See You Baby” to a French car ad didn’t you? In fact over the years, you’ve sold quite a few of your songs to advertisers. Moby reckons you can’t make a living from selling CDs so licensing is a necessary evil? What’s your take?
Totally, I know what Moby means. Although I think that when he was doing it that was less the case. I think he made a lot of money out of selling CDs! I’m sure he did fine out of albums like Play, so good luck to Moby. But yeah, I see his point of view. With us that’s definitely the case. I don’t think we’ve ever made much money out of CD royalties. We’ve never sold that sort of volume. But right now, I tell you in the last six months the industry has changed beyond recognition, it’s frightening. And no one’s ever going to make money from selling CDs anymore. It’s going to all be about playing live and the way you can sell music to phones and advertising companies and stuff like that – that’s definitely the future. Making money out of selling records is over. If you go into a record company today there’s a look of panic in their eyes.

If record companies are about to become redundant, what’s the future?
It’s about creating partnerships. There’s a lot of new money that’s come into music now – particularly from mobile phone companies – they’ve got almost bottomless pockets – they make the budgets of record companies look tiny. So there are definitely opportunities out there - if you can cut it live and you’re relatively intelligent. What’s also true, which I think is sad, is that the culture of the album is coming to an end. With our new album (Soundboy Rock) in particular people are just going onto iTunes and taking their pick. So the desire to make that kind of defining record for us is over. We now make records that work, different areas.

You’ve celebrated your 10 year anniversary, done the “best of” CD, what’s next ?
The band is playing better than they’ve ever played before. It’s the best show that we’ve ever put on. In the next year we’d love to do a live show that brings together a lot of the downtempo music we’ve done in the past - maybe with a string set-up, something beautiful. We’d love to do a live album - we haven’t really got that down on record yet to sell to people who come to our gigs. We want to do more Love Box, gigging next summer and start producing and writing for other people – get into this whole pop stuff. I find it quite liberating really. We’re having a good time doing what we’re doing at the moment, so more of the same really.

- Miles Keylock

Few DJs are able to drag their Balearic beats off the chill zone and onto the fist-pumping festival stage with as much funky intent as Grove Armada. Of course, Tom Findlay and Andy Cato aren’t your average DJs. Experimentation is the name of the game for these London-based dance lunatics who eat innovative grooves for breakfast. On albums such as Love Box and Soundboy Rocks they’ve patented an irresistibly eclectic clubbing cocktail of retro 80s dance pop, slow broiled reggae, sult publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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