What can you tell us about your new record, Mutt It's been a fairly long time in the making. I've been working on it for the last three years or so. I wanted it to be more of a listening journey than my last record – my last album was quite a club album. This one I wanted to have more up and down moments, and a real variety of different dance and electronic music.
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I feel really good about the record in terms of the DJ support that we've had from different people – we've had the likes of Skrillex playing the dubstep songs through to people like Chase and Status playing the drum and bass tunes, and then even Avicii playing the house tunes.
You have loads of guest appearances on the record. Who were you most excited about working with?
I've wanted to work with Kele from Bloc Party for quite a long time, he's got this amazing, emotive voice – so that was definitely a big one for me.
There's a house track on the album with a guy called MNEK – he co-wrote the Duke Dumont track 100%, which was No. 1 this year – he's a massive talent. There's a new girl called Foxes, it was really cool working with her, too.
Yeah, sometimes it's done remotely these days. I started off working with Kele when he was living in New York. So to start with he basically sent me a load of vocals and I turned them into a tune. And then we later hooked up in my studio in London. I always try, if possible, to have sessions with the singers, because I like to have a hand in writing the vocals as well. I think there are only one or two tracks on the record that were totally remotely written.
I used to be up literally all weekend partying. I don't do that as much now -I'd ruin myself if I did it every weekend Yeah, there's tons of people. Off the top of my head – I've not really worked with anyone in hip-hop, but I'm really feeling the likes of A$AP Rocky at the moment, so that'd be quite a weird combination. I'm a big fan of Grimes as well, she's got an amazing voice, I'd love to work with her. I try to pick slightly unusual people to work with generally.
I got into dance music via people like Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy – I was also quite into rock music in my early teens, I was part of a rock band. I got into dance music via a lot of those groups who were fusing rock music with dance music. Later, I became a big fan of people like Daft Punk. It's hard to say now, I always like those groups with a strong visual aesthetic to the music – so people like Daft Punk and Justice. I don't think I sound like any of these people, but I definitely feel inspired by groups like that.
Can see yourself moving info?
It's definitely something that in the future I want to get into more, but I've decided that it's a bit of a distraction for now, and I haven't done much more of it. It was a real pleasure working with Elliot [Example] on that track, and the tune did really well, so it was cool to be involved. I've had some offers since that I've really wanted to do, but I haven't had time and wanted to prioritise the Sub Focus album. I've had interest from lots of different people, though – I had some interest from Ellie Goulding to do some extra production on her last record, I think Tinie Tempah wanted a tune at one point, I even had Kylie Minogue requesting a beat, which was quite random. I've sort of decided not to get into it too much yet, because I barely have enough time as it is working on my own stuff.
It's basically a big light show based around my disc logo. I really enjoy the bigger dance live shows, people like Daft Punk and more recently Deadmau5. I play remixes of my own songs live, and take parts from the songs, change beats, create new sections and add different effects. There are a few things that we've had custom-made for the show: we've had these motion sensors built, which are really fun. They're boxes that are like a modern-day version of a Theremin, they basically allow me to move my hands around in the air to control some of the sounds. It's quite a futuristic way of forming the tracks, and it always gets a cool reaction from the audience.
That sounds destined fo go wrong.
Sometimes it can go wrong. We realised halfway through doing it that strobe lights basically make them go completely mad. They work on infrared lights so they have these invisible beams that you break to make the sound, so sometimes they go really haywire depending on what lights are behind me. But we can control that.
We've been trying to work on a lot of things to make it more visually interesting, because a lot of dance live shows are visually quite boring, with people just hunched over laptops. So we're trying to come up with as many visual ways of performing as possible. We've also done this thing where a lot of the lights are audio reactive, so if I play a drum, it will flash up on the lighting station – hopefully that shows people that I'm actually doing something, I think there's a thing with dance live shows where people aren't sure if they're just pressing play on the whole show, just letting it run and not doing anything.
I used to be a lot madder than I am now, I think I've calmed down quite a lot. I started DJing regularly quite a long time ago, since about 2005. So back at that time, I used to be up literally all weekend and really partying.
I don't do that as much anymore, just because I'd ruin myself if I did it every weekend.
It never got out of control. This was a long time ago now, even in 2007 I was thinking I need to be a bit more sensible. It's just hard to do all the stuff that I do if I was fucked all the time. I don't think I'd be able to do it to the same level. I know some people who are massive party animals and get away with it, but I think if it's making you make less good music then you need to prioritise.
It's late Friday morning and loaded is being yelled at by a Belgian man. We don't notice. We're stood inside a huge trapeze tent looking out across an empty field, with anLEDscreen flashing sporadically on to the wooden stage behind us. To our right, a drum kit is being smashed repeatedly at a dull pace, while stop-start electronic loops blare out to the left of us. We're in the throes of Animal Music's soundcheck. And, as a Belgian sound tech soon explains, we're in the fucking way. ?
In a few minutes' time, the band are due to open the second biggest stage at Pukkelpop -Belgium's second biggest outdoor music festival. Two thirds of the band – DJ Tom and drummer Andy – have been here for almost an hour, while frontman Pete wanders on to the stage with five minutes to spare. It doesn't show. Those who have bothered to get up early enough to watch are subjected to an energetic set of vom-inducing proportions, and almost treated to Pete smashing his skull wide open as he careers across the stage. All three are absolutely spent by the end, and when we try speaking to them immediately after they step off stage, we're understandably more-or-less told to piss off. We'll come back later.
Headlining the festival's main stage today is The Prodigy, a group that Animal Music are often likened to not just for their sound, but for the punk energy that they bring to a dance set. The punk bit is sometimes misleading, because people think that means something stylistically, ” frontman Pete tells loaded. It doesn't, it's an ethos thing. I mean, we're massive fans of drum & bass, of old-school rave and house, so predominantly those are the sounds that we go for. ”
The live show is fucking chaos, ” says Tom, and it's a massive nut ache to make that thing happen. We don't really know what's going to happen, it doesn't make any sense how it comes together. I don't know how we get from the practice room to actually getting on stage. We're not just another electronic band doing another rehearsed load of bullshit to another backing track. I don't just press play and it happens. We fuck up that set on a regular basis. 1
Unlike The Prodigy, Animal Music's journey into Belgium was far from straightforward. Having wedged I don't just press play and it happens. We fuck up that set on a regular basis themselves, their gear and any tag-along journalists into the back of a VW Sharan back in London, they arrived at Pukkelpop to be told that they couldn't use their designated tour bus parking spot because, well, they weren't in a proper tour bus. Was there guest camping? No. Why not? Because it was assumed all bands would be turning up in a tour bus. Ah. After a bribe of beer exchanged hands, it was eventually agreed by security that the band could camp out in a car park, just a few billion miles away from the main arena. The band are the first to admit they're not quite living that rockstar lifestyle just yet. Their uninspired beginnings.
I was living in a warehouse, ” says Pete. Not one of those trendy warehouses in north London where loads of artists get together.
Me and a mate literally hired an empty warehouse in Essex, with a traveller camp on one side and dodgy illegal businesses on the other, and were pretending not to live there. We didn't have anything – no kitchen, no bathroom, we had one toilet and one sink, and that was it. Then more and more people kept moving in, and not making rooms – they'd just mark out their territory with a bit of tape or some wood, it was like some kind of sinister version of Big Brother. Tom was coming round and making music – just with a laptop and a pair of speakers. Through that, him and me started DJing on internet radio, then just over a year ago we recruited Andy and formed Animal Music as a band. ”
But despite the traveling hardships, this is by no means Animal Music's first trip abroad. In fact, the band have built something of a dedicated following outside the UK, particularly in Europe. This year alone has seen them play to thousands at events such as Les TransArdentes winter festival in Liege, shutting down a whole town square in Serbia and headlining an island party out in the Azores.
The kids out there go mental, ” says drummer Andy. They'll support anything; they're open to anything. They'll go to a night just because acts are playing and they'll go absolutely nuts for it. We've actually played Belgium before this year, and we've had the same kids come back to other shows and sing the words back at us. ”
It's an impressive feat considering the band have only been together and functioning for just over a year, and even more so given.
The band's individual backgrounds make for interesting reading. Andy started out drumming in punk bands, while Tom has been promoting and DJing house and drum & bass events since he was 16.
Meanwhile, Pete was touring the world as a sound engineer, working with acts such as Modestep, Wiley, Babyshambles and, um, Megadeth. It's eclectic, but they're not interested in shoving it down anyone's throat.
What makes us cringe”, says Pete, is when you get dance producers and dance bands and they're like, ‹“We need to stand out and do something different'. So they go and get a guitarist with a fucking leather jacket and a Mohican or whatever, put him at the front of the stage giving it all that at a gig – and everyone goes, ‹“Aren't they amazing, it's a crossover'. We're not a crossover band. 1
As the trio plot their future, their attention is turned towards making an impact in the UK. And if the ambition, and the tunes, are anything to go by, they might end up doing it. In the next five years we want to have had a number one record, ” says Pete, and we want to have toured as a headline band. We need to get to the front of dance music – and then we want to remain at the front of dance music. If you don't have ambition, then you shouldn't be fucking doing it. ”