Riding out the undulating popularity of drum and bass over the past fifteen years, Friction’s versatility and commitment to the genre have seen him mature into a key part of the ever-changing scene. Amidst his tight DJ schedule, regular Radio 1 show, heading up his Shogun Audio label and working on an artist album, we caught up with Friction to speak about cracking into the scene as a teenager, dealing with scrutiny from fans and striving to be at the cutting-edge of electronic dance music.
Let’s start with the Fabriclive mix CD. What was your process for putting the mix together after Fabric got in touch with you?
Shaun from Fabric phoned me and said it was about time I did a Fabriclive. Things are pretty crazy at the moment with writing my album, the Radio 1 show and doing festivals, but it’s just one of those things you can’t turn down, basically. Upon agreeing it the first thing in my mind was how I was gonna take it. With drum and bass there’s a lot of ways you can go – so many elements, so many sub-genres, so many different types of drum and bass, and I kind of love it all – so it’s like, OK, do I go super happy dancefloor, do I go really dark, do I go liquidy? How do I play it? I just went with what felt natural and had it in my head that I was just gonna keep it really rolling. It was easier than I thought it’d be to put it together, actually. Everything felt quite natural and they gave me the freedom to do the CD how I wanted. There were no guidelines. It’s cool. The CD’s turned out to be how I’d play at a specialist London drum and bass night. So I’m not going for the obvious club bangers, it’s more like how I’d play to a more knowledgeable D&B crowd.
This is pretty much what you’d be playing in a club at the moment?
Exactly. Next week I’m at Exit festival and I’ll be playing to nine, ten thousand people so it’s not necessarily how I’d play at Exit – I’d play a bit more hands-in-the-air – but it’s how I’d play on a Friday night in Fabric or at one of my warehouse gigs. It’s not necessarily ultra-experimental, it’s just less obvious. You can still dance to it.
People are so used to getting free mixes online now that it must be more difficult to promote a mix CD than it used to be. The focus has switched from just putting together a good mix to including loads of exclusives and VIPs to help it sell. How much did you think about that aspect of things?
To be honest that wasn’t really in my mind. I’ll leave that one for the PR people to sort out, do you know what I mean? I don’t do a lot of online mixes any more. I want people to listen to the radio show and support a mix CD if I do that. You can’t escape the fact that there are loads of mixes out there so I just tried to make sure I mixed it as well as I could and that there’s as much up-front music as possible, just trying to make it interesting for people really.
You’ve ended up with quite a few exclusives on there – ‘Playing Games VIP’, ‘Understand VIP’, big tracks…
I had to twist my business partner’s arm a little bit to get some of them on there but that’s one of the perks of having your own label.
Definitely. So how did you approach recording a mix these days. Do you do it all live?
I used to do all my mixes with vinyl, one take, all that kind of thing, whereas now I use CDs. It’s just the easiest way to do it. I do it a few times, make sure I’m really happy with it.
And you’re still doing the three deck thing? There are blends right from the beginning of the album. It really flows all the way through.
I use four CDJs when I play out now.
Always looking to take it to the next level?
Yeah, just trying to do something a bit different and a bit interesting.
Let’s jump back in time a bit to discuss your teenage years running your fanzine, Informer. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I didn’t really excel at school but English was one of those things I probably would have been good at if I actually bothered as much as I should have. The fanzine was just kind of something that I did to get my foot in the door, really. In the scene, so to speak.
I had a real random one the other day – I played at an Innovation event in Spain and this guy got in the shuttle back to the airport with me and he introduced himself, said he was a hardcore DJ and his name was DJ Ramos. I was like, ‘You used to do the hardcore reviews in my magazine!’ He knew who I was but he didn’t know it was me who did that fanzine back in the day, now he listens to my radio show. It’s such a small world.
But yeah, that was my way of getting in. I met a lot of people, like Mampi Swift and Shy FX. It was cool.
You were probably the last generation of kids making fanzines before the internet took off. Nowadays you’d do a website.
Yeah, to be honest my old man and my old dear used to have to help me out a lot. My mum had to do some of the typing, my old man used to have to bail me out with money ’cause I was never any good at running a business of any kind. It didn’t make any money at all. It’s one of those things where you look back and really appreciate your parents. I used to drive to raves and give it out to people. I feel like I’ve grafted to get to this situation. I’ve done my fair share of graft. When I think back to times like that I realise I used to work really hard to get anywhere near this situation I’m in now.
I feel like I’ve grafted to get to this situation.