Known for his breakneck mixing and use of up to three turntables, Andy C has been one of the most distinguished DJs and producers on the D&B/jungle scene for decades. Not only has he received the Drum and Bass Arena Awards 'Best DJ' title two years in a row, he is also ranked #61 on DJ Magazine’s Top 100 list. We got a chance to chat with the busy DJ at Ultra in Miami. Read on to get a peek into his world!
Amanda Mesa: Why drum and bass?
Andy C: When I started out, there wasn’t drum and bass. I started out back in the days when it was kind of all mixed—pretty much like it is today. Acid house, then house was coming through…it was all one genre. The first tunes I was doing had house tempos. And then jungle and drum and bass kind of just spawned naturally and I veered that way…I’ve always been more break-beat orientated than four-four kick drums. And so it kind of organically grew over a number of years; it became drum and bass. And now we find ourselves in 2012 and it's kind of come full circle. All the genres are mixed up again, and everybody’s just enjoying music because they enjoy music. Everyone just enjoys having a party, and that’s good. It's not as tribal as it used to be, it used to be very tribal—‘I like one sound, I don’t want to hear anything else,’ whereas now everybody’s a bit more open-minded.
AM: How did you get into music and production?
Andy C: My sister took me out to a rave when I was 13. She snuck me into an illegal rave outside of London…I had the night of my life. From then on that’s all I wanted to do, listen to pirate radio, listen to the music, record it on a cassette tape, just get into it.
AM: How did you promote your music?
Andy C: We sent out tapes. Back in the day you could send out tapes and promoters would listen and ring you up and give you a booking.
AM: I’ve interviewed emerging artists that still do that.
Andy C: That’s good to hear that it’s still going. I did some tunes and we had a very successful record, one of the biggest jungle records, called ‘Valley of the Shadows.' That was a big springboard; it gave me a big break. I was only 16 at the time and I looked like a 12-year-old baby. People would look at me and when they heard I’d made that tune, they gave me a few breaks.
AM: How has your touring schedule been?
Andy C: I played Ultra last night, I played Government in Toronto last night, it was sold out…I did Beyond Wonderland last week, I’m doing EDC…I get to travel the world, it's amazing. I do about 20 shows a month…I’m having fun.
AM: Who have been your favorite artists to work with?
Andy C: I’ve worked with my Crew, the Ram Crew, because to be honest the studio set has taken back seat the past few years…I’ve been mainly DJing. I’ve got some collaborations coming up, though. I’ve got a lot of good friends in the scene, so I’ll give ‘em a call and see if we can get together, produce some beats.
AM: Are you of the digital or the turntable breed?
Andy C: I use turntables. Up until last August I was using vinyl still. I played Burning Man last year and they lost my records on the plane. I now play off of Traktor on the computer, but I still use turntables to tutor it. I am really, truly, fundamentally a turntable guy, but at the end of the day, whatever medium you're using,...if the crowd is dancing and they’re jumping, it's all good. And if we all did the same, it would be boring, right? The cool thing is, everybody’s got a different way of performing—some people use laptops, some people use CD’s, some people use turntables, Traktor, Ableton…whatever you want to do, do. You’ve got to make the crowd dance, that’s what separates you and makes you unique.
AM: You’re from London. How is the club scene over their compared to here in the States?
Andy C: The biggest difference, I think, in the U.K. is that it's been there all the time. In the U.S. it seems like the past couple years it's just absolutely exploded. I’ve been coming out to the US since ’96; I’ve been going to key cities and I’ve seen an absolute explosion. In the U.K. you’ve got [electronic music] every week. Some nights I do three shows in one night. It's still special, don’t get me wrong…but over here the ravers really seem to just be on fire…they love it, the energy—it's raw, it's exciting. Feels new.
AM: Are you strictly drum and bass or are there other genres you’d like to explore?
Andy C: I represent drum and bass to the fullest because at the end of the day it’s incredible music. It’s got so much energy, so many vibes, and it’s an honor to be trapped on a stage in between a few DJs, just rocking it out.
AM: Do you prefer DJing or producing?
Andy C: DJing up there [onstage]…there’s no vibe like it. It’s such a high, you get such a buzz. You come off and the adrenaline’s going and it's like, ‘I don’t want to stop.’ Producing is a different thing. Producing is one person, so you make the tune and you feel it, and then you get a bit paranoid, thinking, ‘Is everybody else going to like it?” It becomes very personal, so you kind of give birth to the tunes a lot slower. But then when they go out there and they touch people and they really mean something, it’s so special. It’s a beautiful feeling to turn up to parties and hear your tune playing as you walk along. So [DJing and producing] are at odds with one another. To be honest, I really want to get back into producing. I really miss that side of it.
AM: How would you describe your sound?
Andy C: It's raw D’n’B. It's raw energy, vibes, you know? I’ve been in the scene for 20 years, so I do the whole spectrum, I’m not specific. I like the whole of my scene, and I try to represent that in my sets.
AM: Describe a typical set.
Andy C: I play a bunch of shit. I play about 90 tunes in an hour through the whole spectrum. I’ll play a tune that came out in 1989 and I’ll play tunes that aren’t coming out until next year.
AM: What keeps you making and playing music, 20 years later?
Andy C: I try to take memories from all the sets I do. I’m running on about two hours of sleep in five days, I’ve been on an absolute whirlwind tour. I’ll tell you, Toronto last night was incredible. I had about two hours sleep, alarms going off, flew straight here. But once you get on the decks its all good. Keeps me young.