Wednesday, 8 August 2012
With a third release on N-Type's Wheel & Deal now on the shelves and a 12" forthcoming on longstanding staple label Tempa, Soap Dodgers seem to have barely put a foot wrong in their stratospheric rise. Noted for their ultra-clean production, which belies the duo's origins in grime, an energetic presence behind the decks and a tirelessly innovative approach which underpins both of these endeavours, the pair's own high standards have gained them the attention of the biggest DJs in not only dubstep but also, more recently, UK funky's 130 spectrum. Yet Soap Dodgers' career is, they assure us, still in its fledgling stages; and with such promising beginnings, we can only predict more and greater progression to come. To coincide with the release of the 'Unleashed EP', and their Tempa announcement, we had them on the phone for perhaps our most in-depth interview yet and to ask them to contribute the latest mix to our exclusive series.
Hedmuk: As an introduction, what are your names, where are you both from originally, and now, and how would you describe the music you make as Soap Dodgers?
Jamie: It’s Jamie and Max, and we’ve always lived in Hanwell in West London, so we’re still here now. And how would I describe the music that we make? Erm, I don’t know really. [to Max] How would you describe the music that we make? [to Hedmuk] Max just reckons it’s whatever we fancy making (laughs).
H: So you don’t feel that you’re constrained particularly by genre/style at all?
J: No, not really: there’s no strict theme, or plan, or guidelines.
H: And when you sit down to make a tune do you tend to be in the studio together, or do you work on ideas independently and then come together and finish them?
J: Well sometimes we’ll sit down together and start something together from scratch; but it’s Max who’s got the studio stuff over at his house, so a lot of the time what will tend to happen is he’ll throw a load of ideas into a project and then maybe in that one project there’ll be, like, three things that we can go from and make full tunes from. And then when I come round, me and him will sit together and take those ideas in the project apart bit by bit and then ‘rebuild’ them into something.
H: Yeah, so it’s a case of both of you coming with ideas that aren’t yet fully formed into what you would call ‘a tune’, so the final result is only achieved by your working together on it?
J: Yeah, the ideas never really are, like, ready; so he’ll put his ideas down and, instead of just telling them to me, he’ll obviously just put them into the program and then say, you know, ‘this is what I think of this this and this’. Then I can come to it and put my ideas in, and we’ll sit there together and just bounce off each other. It always, at the end of the day, comes down to sitting together and finishing the tune off.
H: So when you sit down to make a tune it’s more a case of working with the idea that you have at hand, rather than sitting down and thinking ‘here, let’s make something for the headphones, or something for the dancefloor or whatever’
J: It’s more to do with how we’re feeling, so I might be like ‘I like this part that you’ve got here, so let’s work on that and make it more like this’; and it just depends on how we feel really. We bounce a lot off each other, so I think the tunes would be completely different if we worked alone.
H: And other than working together as Soap Dodgers, do either of you do anything individually? As you say, it would sound very different if you worked individually, so do you do other things that you feel don’t fit for how you work as a duo?
J: Well, the way I met Max was through music, because me and him used to make grime. [to Max] When did we make grime? What year was that? Year 9? [to H] So yeah, in 2005, we were making grime individually and then started making grime together and then that’s how the whole Soap Dodgers thing’s come together now. Although we both stopped making music for ages actually, and we’ve only being doing Soap Dodgers for about, well, coming up to two years now. So individually I think we’re both capable, and if we wanted to we could easily do our own projects; but right now there’s not really anything I’m looking to do, [to Max] are you? [to H] No, neither of us are looking to do stuff individually, but I think we’re both capable of doing it so, maybe in the future…
H: You say you took a break from making music and it is only in the last couple of years that you’ve been building a name for yourselves and gaining success as Soap Dodgers; so were you surprised by how quickly everything took off, or was it more a case of, because you’d been making music before and it wasn’t something so new to you, you weren’t so surprised at being able to establish yourselves quite quickly, as it were?
J: I don’t know, when we were making grime it was always for fun and we’ve only ever wanted to make music just for a laugh, to keep ourselves entertained; and then when we stopped making music we just stopped altogether - I don’t know why, I think it was because we left school and, I don’t know, the whole music thing just sort of didn’t really appeal to us anymore.
H: Yeah, grime went a bit downhill…
J: (Laughs) Yeah, there was a lot of stuff coming through and we just weren’t really feeling it. I think we both got jobs as well, so we just stopped making music. It was a couple of years after that when I heard dubstep music for the first time - I think it was Benga, ‘Crunked Up’ - and I was like, ‘fuck, this stuff’s proper sick’. So I showed it to Max, and then I just started buying vinyls for no reason, I still don’t know why I started doing it, but for some reason I started buying records; Max had turntables at his house so we just started playing them and then thought, we should try and get a DJ set somewhere. And when we started getting a couple sets, the next thing was that we thought we should start making our own music. We made ‘Machines’, and where it all started really, we just made our first tune and then went from there.
H: So Soap Dodgers was originally a DJing project before you started making tunes?
J: We never really intended on, you know, making a load of music; we sort of just wanted to DJ out because it was cool, and you got free alcohol and shit (laughs). We just thought, ‘this is sick, we’ll get a couple drinks and it’s something to do on the weekend’. And then we thought, you know what, we might as well make some tunes. We both knew how to use Fruity Loops, but actually when we started making dubstep we never used Fruity Loops, we would just take the knowledge that we had of how to make tunes and then we sat down and just learnt Logic, and then, yeah man…
H: And then, very quickly, you were linking up with people like N-Type at Wheel & Deal and getting support from the big name DJs, and it all started to come a lot quicker; how did it all come about, you know, moving from ‘I want to DJ so I can get into a club for free and get free drinks’ to actually making tunes for some of the biggest DJs within dubstep?
J: It sort of just feels like…it happened, I don’t know, it was a bit weird to be honest; we started making tunes and then, I can’t remember, I think it was our first agent introduced us to certain people, like N-Type for instance.
H: Do you feel that being in London, although dubstep now isn’t as London-centric as it was previously, helped in that it was easier to actually meet these bigger players, as it were?
J: Yeah I guess so, but I wouldn’t really put it down to just that. Obviously it helped with me and Max driving around trying to get our tunes to people, but we still got off our arses and, you know, made CDs and went around and I think that sort of stuff pays off - and living in London obviously helps, because you’ve got that more direct link with people even when you’re, you know, ‘no one’. I think, it’s hard to say because obviously people have got their own situations; there was times like it was, ‘I’m either going to eat my dinner, or I’ve got to go and buy CDs to make sure I can get this tune to someone’. So everyone’s got their shit, everyone’s got their own problems and stuff, but I think that anyone can go and meet these people and show them their music first-hand rather than just sending links over the internet. I think that definitely helped us, anyway.
H: Yeah, I think you’re probably right there; in terms of being personable, networking, to call it that, is still the same thing as it was before you could do it online. But actually handing someone a CD: they’re much more likely to listen to it than if you’ve just sent them a link to Soundcloud.
J: Yeah, definitely.
H: You’ve developed a close working relationship with Wheel & Deal as a result, with your third release, the ‘Unleashed EP’, which came out on the 30th of July. What was the thought process behind that EP? Did you feel that you could push the boundaries a bit more with this release, since you’re now more established and having had two successful releases on the imprint already?
J: Yeah I think it helps, and because we’ve had our first two releases already people know from the difference in those releases that we do like to make different stuff, and I think the ‘Unleashed EP’ shows that as well. I just think that obviously the more we do with Wheel & Deal, the more weird and different it’s going to get because right now it’s sort of just a showreel of what we can make and what we like to make; and I think that as we work with the label, we’re going to start making a lot more different stuff because I think N-Type trusts us to make what we enjoy making too. I think he knows that when we’re just left to our own business, the music’s going to come out a lot better.
H: Would you say as well that the forthcoming release on Tempa, which is a huge achievement for you guys, is almost the flipside to that, in that you’re showcasing a more specific aspect of your sound?
J: Yeah it’s a lot more picky, so obviously says a lot and it’s nice to have been asked to do a Tempa release: that’s a good look for us.
H: How did that one come about, the link-up with Tempa?
J: That was Youngsta. We basically wanted to get a tune to Youngsta – we had 'Water Landing' and we wanted to show it Youngsta – and asked some people online, for his AIM and stuff, and the they were like, ‘don’t bother sending Youngsta anything because he’s not going to play it’. Which was like (laughs), ‘alright, but I’m still going to ask him anyway’. But that’s basically the reaction we got when we were saying to other people that we want to send stuff to Youngsta: ‘don’t bother’ sort of thing ‘he won’t play it’, you know, ‘we’ve been sending him tunes for years and he don’t play no one’s stuff’.
So, we sent him ‘Water Landing’ and straight away he said not to give it to anyone else because he wanted it exclusive . Then we made - [to Max] Max, what did we make after Water Landing? - [to Hedmuk] then we made ‘Unbalanced’ and he started supporting that, and he’s got his whole exclusive thing so we let him have the tunes exclusive for a long time and we built up the relationship like that: by letting him have full control over the tunes and not giving them to any other DJs, and from building that trust with Youngsta and allowing him to have the tunes exclusive, he put us forward to Tempa. We sent a load of tunes to Tempa and they picked, well…they picked none of them (laughs): they didn’t want any of them because they were all too similar. And then there was a long situation with that so we released those tunes on Wheel & Deal instead. And then – when we thought, Tempa don’t want our tunes – they came back and they picked up ‘Ill Minded’. So we were like, ‘fuck, alright then, they want Ill Minded’; then they asked us to write the B side, and we wrote ‘Contact’ in about a week and that was it, that’s just how it happened. It was all through Youngsta really.
H: And all of this was happening only a year or so after starting out as Soap Dodgers…
J: Yeah, I mean, all that happened a little bit too fast for us to sort of even understand what the fuck was going on. Basically, the same thing happened with Wheel & Deal: we wanted to release a single with Wheel & Deal and we ended up getting brought in to sign a contract to write an album for them; after the first tunes we even sent to them.
H: So is that still on the way then, an album on Wheel & Deal?
J: Yeah, we are doing an album but we haven’t started yet (laughs). We haven’t started yet, we’re just trying to get ourselves sorted and just focus on the singles and making sure they really represent what’s going to be coming.
H: And, with that in mind perhaps, have you been working at all at different tempos from your usual 140 bracket?
J: Well, yeah, I’ve noticed that that’s becoming quite popular now; and actually the reason Max ever had vinyl turntables at his house was that he was heavily brought up on house music: I think there’s always been an element of that in our music. But yeah, we’ve done two 130 tunes; one of them no-one’s heard, but the other one is ‘Lady Lips’ that we made for Roska.
H: And that one’s been getting some decent airplay from him on Rinse, has it not?
J: Oh yeah, no, he’s been battering it every show. It was sort of an experiment tune to see what our sound would sound like at 130.
H: You must feel almost pretty lucky that you branch into 130 and you’ve already got Roska, who again is one of the big names in that field, giving regular airplay your tune.
J: Well I think, in mine and Max’s opinion, we’ve always wanted what’s best for the music because, at the end of the day, we make the music because we like making it and if we enjoy it and want to give it to someone then we want it to be someone who’s running shit in the scene, do you know what I mean? That’s why we give stuff to N-Type, Youngsta and Roska.
H: Do you think that it’s important - particularly with the recent boom in electronic music that has saturated the scene in many ways - that if you want to back something, that you back it properly? And if you’re happy with something, to really push it to people who you think are really going to do something with it?
J: That’s just it, yeah; and it’s no disrespect to any other DJs if we don’t give it to them first. To us, Roska was the person that we thought of – because he actually supported 'Rachel Went South' and 'Belly', our second release on Wheel & Deal: he asked for a 130 edit of the tracks, so we made them for him. And then we thought, right, let’s make him a track. So, yeah, when we were really happy with it, Roska was the obvious choice of who to send it to really.
H: And do you feel it’s important to make sure that whatever style or tempo it’s at, that it’s recognisably Soap Dodgers’ music?
J: Yeah, and I think even if you hear it for the first time and you have no idea who made it, when you realise who has made it you can sort of sit back and be like, ‘oh yeah’.
H: So would you say that you’re at a point now that your sound and your style has developed and matured into something that you can quite comfortably recognise as your own, as Soap Dodgers, and happily put your name to it?
J: I mean, yeah I suppose in a way, yeah, but at the same time we’re always trying new stuff and don’t really want to keep ourselves to a strict sound. I think as long as once you know the track is made by us, and then you can recognise it afterwards, that’s fine; but we’re always making new stuff so I don’t know how we’d class what our sound is exactly.
H: I suppose it’s difficult when you’re making such a variety…
J: Yeah, it is: when you’re stretching across so many different styles to keep yourself entertained, it’s hard to pin it down. And when there’s so many plugins in the world, you’re always finding new things and finding new stuff that you enjoy; and I think that’s the most important thing: if you like it yourself. So even if it sounds completely different, and it doesn’t sound anything like you, the important thing is that you like it. And right now, we’re only very early into our career and we just want to show what we can do, really. And we’ve got really short attention spans as well (laughs).
H: (Laughs) Yeah, I think I can relate to that one. Can you tell us a bit about the mix that you’ve put together for us?
J: Well the mix is just pretty much everything we’ve spoken about: we’ve tried to get everything in there that we enjoy playing and maybe give people an idea of what we play when we’re out. Although that’s quite hard because, again, it sort of depends on what we want to play when we’re out.
H: So, to finish up, can you give us a quick rundown of your forthcoming releases, and anything or anyone else you want to put the word out on?
J: I don’t really know, like, I don’t really like doing shout-outs because I always forget people (laughs). But yeah, anyone who helps us, they know who they are, so that’s alright; and, yeah, I don’t think there’s anything else really that we can say or want to say right now as those things aren’t really important at the minute, they’re not really materialising at the minute so yeah, in terms of releases the most current thing really that we can talk about is the Tempa one, which should be out in August.
H: Have you got a confirmed date for that yet, or?
J: Nah, (laughs) it’s hard to get a date out of them guys. But it’ll be on 12” and digital and the pre-orders are up already, I think.
H: Yeah, I’ve seen them up on Red Eye.
J: It can’t be too long then, it’s gotta be soon.
H: Although Red Eye can sometimes be a bit hasty with these things (laughs).
J: (Laughs) Yeah. The other one, though, is the ‘Unleashed EP’ on Wheel & Deal which has just come out, and that’s a double vinyl with full artwork sleeve and the digital is coming out too. Also, if you buy the full release from the Wheel & Deal Surus store then you get the bonus track, which is ‘Unbalanced’, too. But other than that: shouts to Justin Bieber and Jagermeister, safe.
Download: Soap Dodgers - Hedmuk Exclusive Mix
French Fries - Hugz (feat. Bambounou) [ClekClekBoom]
Killawatt - Capa VIP [Dub]
Soap Dodgers - Unleashed [Wheel & Deal]
Icicle - Need A Job [Shogun Audio]
Soap Dodgers - Ill Minded [Forthcoming Tempa]
LX One - On My Own [Forthcoming Wheel & Deal]
Soap Dodgers - No. 6 (Benton Remix) [Dub]
Seven - Invasion [Black Box]
Soap Dodgers - Infinite [Dub]
Dismantle - Witch [Digital Soundboy]
Jammer - Big Man (Lost & Hatcha Remix) [Dub]
The Others - Bad Taste [Forthcoming Dub Police]