Before their sell-out gig in the Academy, Matt Gregg caught up with Chase & Status to discuss Twitter and Britishness.
For a long time, heavy bass was an underground movement, but it is no longer confined to warehouse raves, and has become a regular chart presence. Leading this charge has been the electronic production duo, Chase & Status. Originally from London, Saul Milton and Will Kennard first started producing music as Chase & Status in 2003 after meeting at Manchester University. “We formed through a mutual love of DJing first and foremost. That’s why we got into it,” explains Kennard. “We used to go to clubs and big raves and stuff and just dream of DJing. We were both keen bedroom DJs and that’s how we became friends as well.”
Freely admitting that they learnt little in university before leaving, Milton nevertheless believes their time in Manchester was important. “It’s a cool city. We were there for six years. We didn’t go to Uni for six years, we barely went to Uni. But it was a really affordable place for us to start learning our trade.”
This British influence is something that has stayed with the band throughout, and it is arguably the defining constant in their crossover genre. Well, that and big bass of course. Despite having previously produced for US stars Rihanna and Snoop Dogg, it was instead the very British voices of London born Plan-B and Nottingham’s Liam Bailey who featured prominently on their latest album. The duo explains that the collaboration choices on their breakthrough album, No More Idols, were motivated by this desire for a British sounding style.
“I think we made a conscious decision going into this album that we wanted to work with a lot of different featured vocalists to keep it a very British featured sounding album because that’s what we grew up on. It gave it a nice sort of theme running throughout and it worked really well,” says Kennard. “I mean we used a vocal from Cee Lo Green, who’s an American artist, but he was talking about British culture and in particular Brixton in London. He’s also an Anglophile so that felt quite good, but it was a conscious decision and it worked quite well.”
With the album shooting straight to number two in the UK charts upon release, it is a decision that has been vindicated. The duo seem rather nonplussed by this success, however, and simultaneously maintain they’re “not famous.” After a brief pause, Kennard continues, “It’s weird. We know our name is well known but as people, we don’t think of ourselves as famous at all. Even when we get recognised, it’s still very bizarre. Like ‘Wow, people know who we are’ – it’s weird. Which is a good thing I think.”
Of course, when a band from the underground scene achieves mainstream success there can be negative repercussions, but the pair believe they have been lucky in this regard. “I think when we were younger we cared a bit more. We came from an underground following and we came through a time when forums and the internet were really influential,” says Kennard. “We’d read comments and take it really badly. Now we’re completely oblivious … we’ve been quite lucky in a weird sense to have a lot of underground sounding music with hard drum and bass, stuff like that, but managed to retain quite a few fans that we had originally.”
At this point, Milton interjects: “We don’t look at the good or the bad. If someone says you’re amazing, don’t read that because then you start thinking you are. Someone says you’re dogshit, don’t read that because then you start thinking you are. You just have to have the same mentality that we had ten years ago which is just, make some music.”
It’s not surprising then that Milton seems less than enthused when talk shifts to the topic of social media. “Twitter – I do Twitter but I am notoriously grumpy… We’re on Twitter because we have to because if we weren’t on Twitter, you guys would be like ‘Uh you aren’t on Twitter? But everybody in the world is on Twitter!’ I mean it does serve a purpose but I’m not really into begging people to please listen to my music,” he explains. “If you like the music, go and buy it – great. If you don’t like it, don’t. If you want to occasionally hear me grumble about something go check out the Twitter page.”
Milton doesn’t seem to feel that online popularity holds any bearing on musical popularity. “If your music is good, it will sell. If your music’s not, it won’t. Having ten million followers on Twitter because you’re incredibly funny won’t necessarily sell you albums or venues – people will just think you’re humorous. It’s good, a lot of people are getting a lot more out of it than I do, I expect. I would not be on Twitter if we weren’t doing Chase & Status. Saul Milton would not have a Twitter page grumbling about everything and everyone.”
After a quick perusal of their Twitter, Otwo is indeed inclined to agree that their music, not their online grumblings, must be the true source of their fans.
No More Idols is out now.