Amoss interview: “Instead of ego work, let’s just go!” (UnCut Version)

Categories Interview, Music

On 30th April 2017, James and Andy, the partners in crime of Amoss arrived in Budapest for The Hive Budapest gig. That night was simply perfect, definitely a party to be remembered. Right before that craziness, I sat down with the guys to chat about various issues, such as the strong and obvious connection between heavy metal and drum and bass, about Amos himself, about the long-awaited album and the importance of discussing politics.

This is actually your first time in Hungary, but you visited Budapest Airport last summer (after Gigahertz festival in Oradea), though.

Andy: Yeah, it was me. I was there for a couple of hours longer than I was meant to. I came from Romania, it was great to be there, then I just sat down with a beer, waiting for very long hours. So it’s nice to come into the city finally! It’s very short, though.

James: Yes, this is going to be our shortest time in a city ever, for a gig, unfortunately. We got in at around 10 o’clock, and we’ll leave at 6. Nice and quick! (laughs)

Definitely intensive but also cool! We’ve been expecting you for a long time.

A: Hope so! (It was, actually — Evi) It is actually strange why it has taken us this long to get to Hungary since we’ve had quite a lot of people messaging us about the details of this show. We mentioned it on a podcast a couple of months ago, so hopefully, there will be some older fans.

I am pretty sure. 🙂 This is also your first international mutual gig in 2 years — what are your impressions so far, how often do you play together?

A: Exactly.

J: Yeah, we’ve been trying to work it out.

A: The last time was Switzerland, with a local crew. We’ve been thinking about today, how long ago it was. We’ve done a lot of shows in the UK together in that time, obviously.

What’s the reason for your not doing it more often?

A: We’d love to do that!

J: I think it’s just the way promoters work, in order to save some money, which is quite logical. So we just decide between us.

A: I think we’d both much prefer to do it together all the time but it just comes down to the expenses of the promoters. In drum and bass, you have to be careful with money as it is, so getting there both of us is definitely a risk from the point of view of finances. It’s definitely understandable.

J: Fun for us, not fun for them! (laughs)

Well, I met M-Soul&S27 this January, they’re also a duo but they always go together. What are the advantages of playing together?

J: (laughs) Mine is probably bladder control: I can get to the toilet during the set!

A: Once we played a 3-hour set in Vollkontakt, Vienna. It was the first time for us, we really wanted to make it. Well, during this set, James went out at least six times. (laughs) When I switched, he wasn’t there! I was standing there with the headphones! So as for tonight, it is going to be safer: we play 3 tunes each, then switch.

Anyway, it’s just better vibe, I guess. As we’ve played in bands together since we were 16, so I’ve always seen Amoss as a band as well. I think it’s very easy for people to view you just as a producer or DJ in drum and bass. But it feels different. We were actually saying on the way over that you wouldn’t be wearing an Amoss T-shirt like you’re wearing this Pantera Tee. I think there is a different dynamics in this scene and it’s also different when we play separately. Now it gives me the feeling of belonging together, a team, actually! To me, it is a completely different level, not just a simple DJ thing. Amoss consists of two people, it wasn’t meant to be just one person. So, tonight it is really what it was meant to be. (smiles) It’s the proper Amoss experience, it’s two people that made that sound!

J: There are pros and cons for both. Playing on your own means you can play whatever you wish. But with two people, it’s a bit more fun because we’re having a laugh, jokes, even chat when we’re playing. If I was on the other side, as a punter, I would probably view that these guys are having fun, that’s cool! Rather than watching some guy, looking moody playing relentless tunes. (laughs)

A: It’s been so many times when I’ve gone to watch someone play and I got really bored! This is what I’ve always found weird, probably because of coming from metal background, where you watch a band who really perform. Then you go to a gig, where everyone faces the DJ but there is no real reason for that from what I can tell because most of the time they’re just staring down at the CDJ, so I feel no energy of that. Whereas if you go and watch a metal band, you’re there to watch those people play.

J: Unless you’re Die hard… not really Die hard, but for the music and know what you like. Then you’re there for a certain DJ you love, who is going to play some really good tracks. Whereas if I took some people who were not really into d’n’b, just come and check out the first night, then all they would see is a random guy thrusting behind the decks. (laughs) With the two of us, it’s a bit more visual why we are there, passing on the headphones, laughing, talking.

A: I love to listening what James is playing. We have quite different tastes as well, so that’s why I think it can work better when we’re both present. I’m always really interested in him DJing, so I’d like to think when I’m off the decks, I’m having a good time, too, and hopefully, that makes other people invited to party.

What’s the difference between your tastes?

J: Hard to describe. I know Andy loves playing rollers, so I let him do it. Recently, I’ve tried to play a lot of older tracks which are more break heavy. We start our sets with minimal tracks and build up our set from there, so it constantly changes based on how we feel at that moment.

A: The difference between us – DJ wise is not too dramatic. That’s probably because we’ve played tunes together for so long that we’ve influenced each other to go a certain way.

You’ve known each other for so long!

A: Yeah.

J: Over 10 years now.

A: 11 or 12 years. And then, we started Amoss about 2 years after. I think this is the 9th year of us now.

Having mentioned your massive heavy metal influence, what exactly lead you to drum and bass?

J: I found it through other friends at that time. One of my friends had an oldschool tape cassette collection from live festivals. Then I had my first Chinese MP3 player, 30 tracks could be recorded onto it, so I went to my friend to give me some of the music he liked. So when I was in sixth form college, there was The Tide from Noisia, which was the “What the hell is this? This is great!” kind of experience for me.

A: This tune got totally the same reaction from me.

So Noisia meant the starting point for you?

A: I don’t know if it was the starting point.

J: It was rather the turning point.

A: I had some friends with similar taste. For example, I had a Bryan Gee tape pack and I thought it was garbage, horrible! (all laughing) I had no idea why everyone was listening to this shit. I was at high school at that time, everyone in my year was listening to it, and I just didn’t get it, made no sense to me. Later I heard the Moving Shadow Radio, which I thought was cool. James and I used to write music in his bedroom, then came the turntables, you started to play on vinyl, that time was The Tide/Concussion. I think The Tide had the same energy as metal tracks: raw amens, huge basslines…

J: It was a lot more intricate than anything we listened to at that time.

A: Yeah, it felt like a song to me, as opposed just to a hook; all the jumpup tracks, which sounded gimmicky. Whereas The Tide sounded it had a lot of work and thought behind it. Arrangement-wise, it was also quite complex, so it reminded me of metal tracks.

Coming from the same background, a bit earlier, though, I can utterly relate to it. 🙂 I am still wondering why some of my friends failed to understand this natural evolution of my musical taste, from metal to drum and bass, as they resemble in loads of ways. Yes, in a different shape but the energy is the very same.

A: Yeah, definitely. The drums as well — I was a drummer in bands, so I really loved what I heard, all those mad, chopped-up ends. (smiles) Compared to the previous, boring 2-step beat, it was something magical and challenging.

J: That’s what we’re writing now! (laughs)

A: Yeeah, but not so much.

J: Very occasionally.

A: It’s paired with a lot of other factors, isn’t it? It’s not that bad!

By the way, what does Amoss mean? I could have created a complete urban legend around it.

A: (laughs) You want the official explanation, or the real one? We have different stories in different variations.

J: The official one was definitely from the Bible. Amos is a prophet but we are not religious in any way, we always have to say that. We just came across the name, I can’t really remember because creating a name for yourself as seems such a weird thing. It’s not what the name is, it’s what you create a name to be later on. So we just stuck a name on it, not even really thinking.

A: It wasn’t meant to be that name, I think. We’d probably have changed it if we had gone back. One thing I am glad about this name is that it is singular, not like Chase&Status, each having a separate name. It turns back to this whole band thing, I think: we rather see ourselves as a band, not separate DJ names.

Which you don’t seem to have.

A: No, we don’t.

J: James and Andy. (laughs)

A: That’s the thing, we’ve always done it as a duo.

J: Although I got the nickname “Jamoss”.

A: And I don’t have any.

Well, guys, I still don’t know the exact reason. It all sounded good but let’s see what it’s all about! 🙂

A: There is no reason. We were making some shit tune in my house…

Browsing through the Bible?

A: We were trying to use samples from Saving Private Ryan.

J: Thinking we’d get sued for it.

A: I’d like to remember it sounding like an old Phace tune but blamely it didn’t, it sounded like a piece of shit.

J: Yeah, it was probably awful.

A: And then came this prophet, with a single S, so we added another one and were quite happy with it.

J: Yeah, that’s how far the story goes and I don’t think we can remember anything else apart from it.

A: It just worked and it was different as well. At that time, everyone was getting scientific names. Ours sounded generic, well, to drum and bass, it wasn’t about that strange cliché that everyone had to be named after something science fictiony, which I found weird.

J: And we chose from the Bible! (laughs)

A: Yeah but it wasn’t for that reason, it’s different.

J: It definitely sounds different. But Ant C1’s dog is called the same name.

A: Yeah, he always says that he named us after his dog or we named us after his dog. (laughs) We’ve never met the dog, by the way.

Talking about names: where does the name of your podcast series, Cranium Sessions come from?

A: It came from the track we released on Horizons in 2011. Originally, we had 5 different names shortlisted, all based around different track titles as we were quite unimaginative and couldn’t really come up with anything new. (smiles) And I also wanted to make it relatable to Amoss.

J: It also depicts what’s going around in our heads: we wanted to share with people what we like as well as our style. The choice had to be definitely that could be linked to “sessions” somehow, as each one was a new session.

A: We didn’t want to call it podcast, that was important.

Music wise, it’s been a busy period for you: your Dispatch Dubplate was published on the 21st April. In addition, you are working on your album finally — what details can we know about it?

J: The album is pretty much done! I think the final touches might be happening tomorrow.

A: Depending on how tired you are after tonight. (Look at the heroes! They actually made it! Also, some premasters — Evi)

J: Because I need to piece together 3 more tracks. This has been at this stage for a while, at least for this year.

A: We’ve finished but it’s been a tricky time because so much has happened in our lives and we picked the worst possible time to write it, just as we started to move away again. It has taken a lot longer than we wanted it to but we simply haven’t had the time to work on it as much as we meant to. It would’ve been a lot quicker if we still lived in the same house.

J: But I don’t think it would have the same sound because this is a progressive sound over 2 years rather than a strict production in 2 months. It contains certain areas that we were feeling at that time but 2 years is a very long period. We were constantly DJing, hearing new music and being influenced, of course, so having written tracks at that time is probably more beneficial to us and to the output that we’ve created.

A: One of the tunes is 3 years old. We’ve had the time to go back on it and re-think because as James said, we’ve had different influences. So the longer production time enabled us to get at the level we wanted all the tracks to reach. It also represents more of “our sound”.

J: We don’t hate it yet… (laughs)

A: … which is a really big thing because I usually reach the point where I get sick of hearing a track. But every time I go back to the album, I’m really enjoying it.

J: We’re excited by different tracks on different days. We own its exclusivity as no-one has it, yet. But it’s also great that some fans expect these tracks to be played as they know we’ve been working on them for a while.

A: The other weekend in Bristol, we had 3 guys separately who put their hands up, showing us they knew what was going on.

J: Probably we announced it a bit early, so most people know. It’s so cool to get hype, they want to hear it but we don’t want to rush.

A: If we could have done again, we wouldn’t probably have done the announcement that we did. We should have given another 6 months.

J: Maybe a year.

A: But it was good because it really pushed us to work harder.

So when is it due to, after all?

J: We’ll see. Tomorrow might be the final day of work, or might not be. (smiles) We’re going to get some help from Survival, he is going to be mastering it.

The Master-Chef… sorry!

J: (laughs) Yeah. We hope to hand it over to him very soon. So now we’re nervous and excited at the same time, all this work is getting put in. I’m really excited about his contribution, the real Scar sound is a bit similar to ours. Turning back to the release date, I think it’s going to be at the end of this year/beginning of next year. It’s a horribly long time with all the scheduling.

A: I’d like to be it’s going to be early winter. I’d like to be it in winter for us anyway because we play most of our shows out of summer. We’ve not played at many festivals, I don’t know why but we’re not really booked for them. So for us, album launch parties in winter would be perfect. But we may put out some other stuff before.

What else is in the pipeline for this year?

A: There are always tracks to be released, writing a lot at the same time. We’ve been cooperating with Fre4knc, which means 6 tracks altogether, pretty much done, so we just need to figure out how the best is to put those out. We’re concentrating on the album now, so there is not much original stuff from us. It has priority now, after having it released, we need a couple of weeks off, then start writing brand new tracks. I think it’s now that we’ve found a new sound, which is what is really Amoss, so we’re up for creating a lot more.

J: It is rougher, harder, we’ve arrived, I think. Aggressive drums, aggressive basslines.

Talking about producing: you’re known for including a nature or animal sample into a track — what has been the most bizarre so far?

J: Yeah, we’ve used quite a few random ones in the past, mainly animals and city recordings like trains and traffic for ambience. There was a time a while ago where we would always put an eagle, or a buzzard’s call into our tracks with a load of processing. On the album, there is definitely an accidental animal sound created which sounds like a turkey’s call when played on its own but in the mix, it sounds cool. It was never the end result of what we were trying to do with that sound but that’s how it ended up.

Fre4knc seems like your mentor in many ways. What do you think you can thank him?

J: Precision. I remember chatting to him about projects a while ago and he advised me not to stop them and leave them aside. They always have to be finished as their always something good in them. Even if you think it is horrible, that must be at least one element that grabs you. Get rid all the other parts, keep that and then start again. He would never get rid of anything and yes, sometimes he restarts. In the studio, he also taught us to move on if we liked something. Instead of analysing or ego work, let’s just go.

A: He made us make decisions way faster and now it is much easier for us to say “yes” or “no”. No hesitation, just keep going! When we first started Amoss, we effectively lived in two different ends of the country. There were 1-2 intensively creative years for us, when we were writing music, then I moved away and we did it on the internet, which naturally was more time-consuming in declaring whether who likes what, what needs to be changed and so on. We weren’t used to sitting in the same room and talking about it, so probably that’s why Bertran wants us to be a lot more blunt, decide fast and commit to the decision. Deep down inside you already know if it’s good or not.

He is skilled at pushing you. Encouraging but also pushing.

A: Yes, he is hard on us. (laughs) But this is very helpful. I really love working with him as he is a funny dude.

J: We joke a lot when we’re together, especially in the studio, which we mostly do. We were quite nervous before our first meeting, wondering what he was going to be like, being worried about not being able to write anything good…

A: Actually, we write something really-really good every time he is with us…

J: Yes, there is definitely his energy. You automatically get very excited when he enters the room. Positive things come from that kind of mindset when you all want to create.

A: Apart from him, we’ve never found anyone before we wanted to collaborate over and over again. I think it shows the actual dynamics between us, we all have a fairly similar taste. Although his music is different from ours but he comes from the same history of d’n’b we listen to.

J: I think you can hear both of our styles on the record, which is the best possible sample of a collab. There isn’t a distinction line — this is him, this is us — and I think that’s why it worked.

What was your first b2b set with him like? (He also visited Budapest in September.)

J: It went really well, the night we played at unfortunately had to change its end time from 6 to 2 am. All of the sets were shortened and the night started way earlier on the Friday night so we thought that not many people would attend. Turns out everyone still came along and had a good time with us. It was fun to bounce styles off each other and keep the energy rolling till the end, more to come I hope.

Talking about collabs, who would be your dream collab in d’n’b and why?

J: Old artists only. (smiles) Synthetics. Really rolling, really techy drums, just relentless. And Source Direct, to get some vibe, too.

A: Calyx and Teebee — either separately or both, back when Calyx was making Through your Eyes and Teebee when he was making Black Science Labs. It’s not that I disrespect what they are doing now but I am a fan of the above, they meant huge turning points for me. That Calyx album is my favourite record, everything about is sick.

J: Yeah! It was the same piece of songwriting as opposed to other drum and bass what we were hearing at those times.

A: At the same time, I’d love not to write a tune with but just see Noisia creating a track and just understand what’s going on. What they are doing is unbelievable! We don’t play that kind of music out but I can listen to it and just completely lose it over how sculpted and engineered it is. Not to the point where it has no life, it really does have every life energy to that kind of quality neuro. In my opinion, they are the only ones capable doing this, all the others are forgettable and don’t make any sense to me. What Noisia has done to the scene is amazing, I am wondering who is going to have a similar effect on it?

You said you were both heavily influenced by the ‘90s and even though you’re young, you’ve done our research — which artist or what release would you name as the most influential?

A: Source Direct is a big one.

J: Dom&Roland.

A: Basically all the Moving Shadow stuff. Moving Shadow and Audio Couture were important. There was a mix, not from the ‘90s, I used to listen to all the time, with El Hornet, the guy from Pendulum. It contained music from 1994 until 2004. It is special for us because we had missed all this music, about 10 years of the history, we didn’t get into it. We are still finding and discovering stuff from those years — you’ve got quite a big vinyl collection from that era, haven’t you?

J: Yes!

A: So it’s not really a specific artist, but I love a lot of old Teebee, Basic Unit, Decoder, Universal Project, all the ‘Headz stuff as well, obviously.

J: Sure, early Teebee is definitely influential for me, his drumwork was insane. Everyone sounded like a proper drummer back then. Even when it sounds scatty sometimes, you can feel the work in it and I was really into it.

A: Let’s not forget about Photek before Teebee! Tracks like Minotaur, Seven Samurai & the bleep tune… He is the Don.

As far as I’m concerned, James got Andy into the scene, is that right?

J: True. I was listening to it first, then trying to get Andy involved.

A: James got into it way more deep than I did at first. I was on the outskirts for a while.

J: I was DJing records before and I thought it would be cool to get him involved.

A: At that time, we spent much time together, writing loads of music in an indie band, which actually meant proper songwriting. Essentially pop songs, by the way. When we’d done that, I used to go to James’s house on Fridays after college, we didn’t want to listen to that music, we had friends around, so it was quite natural for us to start listening to drum and bass. James was mixing all the time, I used to watch but never really understood it. Then I got a pair of decks as well, James would give me a lot of music — the hardest tunes ever! (laughs) He used to give me old Current Value and Limewax.

J: Definitely not easy to start learning mixing with them! (laughs)

A: For me, it was a nice challenge; he made it really difficult for me. It was purely dark drum and bass at that time, nothing else, whereas now it’s halftime, neuro, and so on… it gets a bit annoying now.

Listing genres, there was a short time in which you were into techno, Andy.

A: Yes, but it was really short. I had a phase when I was making techno but I didn’t really understand what techno was about it and I still don’t know. (laughs) I was just doing it in order to get away from drum and bass for a while because we had a tough period after our first EP in 2012. I felt fucked, it was too much, I felt I’d never be able to write d’n’b again. To that point, we’d written so much that we expected us to do better each time, we were forcing it too much.

J: There was a lot of unneeded pressure that we put on ourselves just by saying that “we should do much better!”. But everything keeps happens naturally when you keep progressing as an artist.

It’s the not so good, old writer’s block.

A: Definitely.

J: Hmmm… rather self-inflicted writer’s block. We always blamed ourselves for not being good enough whereas we should have accepted that this is our new style, it is a natural evolution process. It kicked us back for quite a while.

You seem to have a well-shaped opinion about the political issues as well. I simply adore your sarcastic tweets about this topic. Although I haven’t seen anything in connection with Brexit yet. Why is that so?

J: We started keeping things to ourselves.

Ooops, sorry then.

A: No, no, I don’t mind talking about it at all.

J: We sometimes do in our podcasts, too.

A: It is not easy. It was tough to see how people, who think the same way as I do, how much disagree about what has happened. To be honest, I got off Twitter for that reason, I only go up every now and then when I just can’t stop myself. I had an argument with someone who said we shouldn’t talk about politics in the podcast. Well, firstly, it’s not your fucking podcast, it’s mine, I can say whatever I want.

What was his argument here?

A: Because politics shouldn’t be in music, in their opinion. To me, who grew up listening to bands like Rage Against The Machine, who are massively political, as well as punk rock, undeniably. Then look at d’n’b in the 90’s: there is a political element to it because it was trying to do something new and break from all these rules — that’s the reason that quality music was made! Look at every political revolution — music came out of it! Cuba, America, the blues movement: all comes down to some form of politics or a kind of change in culture, mostly due to a political reason. I think a lot of people are sick of seeing so much of it, 24-hour news, for instance, it can be a bit oversaturated, which I can get. You can feel a bit bombarded. But if you just stick your head in the sand and don’t want to hear, things are going to get worse. We’ve experienced in the past two years, all this shit happened that we never expected. Of course, it’s not wrong in some others’ opinions.

I still do think that you should talk about politics. It’s a part of everyone’s life, whether you like it or not. It has to be something you talk about because if you don’t, then what do you expect from life? This is the world you’re living in: if you don’t engage with it, you can’t expect anything. You should have your voice heard if you don’t want something to go on a certain way and you should get involved. Unfortunately, there are still too many people just standing around, not doing anything about the things that are happening. It’s just laziness in my opinion.

I just find annoying if someone listens to music for a big drop. Saw the comments around Noisia’s video reminding the artists to stick to their music and stay away from politics, which frustrated me indeed. This music shouldn’t be about a single drop or something you go nuts to in a club. It should be about much more than that! I just don’t see how others just can’t want more from their music. They might want it to be easy and simple and I don’t get that.

Well, consumer-friendly, easy to digest. There should be a message, though.

A: If you look at pop music in the charts — that doesn’t have a message.

That’s why it is pop(ular).

A: Right. So, if all they want is music they can be mindless to, they should listen to the chart, shouldn’t they? I just don’t get it and it annoys me.

Let’s drift away a bit: what is the thing that is not commonly known about you?

J: I draw sketches. I haven’t done in ages but I did quite a few pieces for presents for my friends. I would draw something that you don’t see, for example, the shadow of someone’s face, it’s almost like a pencil stencil. It was my pastime, it’s very relaxing, helps to empty your mind.

A: …eeer.. I don’t know… (smiles)

J: There are a million things, Andy! If you’re not going to say anything, I’m going to pick for you.

A: I’ve got several tomato plants that I grow at home, they are really big now but without any tomatoes yet. I want a garden but I live in a flat, where I have no garden, so I’m having to grow my vegetables in lots of parts, so my flat looks like a garden centre.

How and why did you become vegetarian? What’s your favourite dish? What would you recommend to an omnivore to try?

J: I became a veggie just because I was never really eating much meat anyway, and when I did it was fried chicken from over the road or things like McDonald’s which was just shit meat basically. So the transition was fairly easy, I will admit I had a low moment and had a weekend where I did eat meat again and realised it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be so decided to start afresh. I’d say some of the favourite meals I’ve cooked has been vegan chickpea burgers with a homemade caramelised onion marmalade. Spinach and ricotta cannelloni with an aubergine and tomato sauce over the top has been a win, too.

You’re known for being beer gourmets. What are your favourite beers? Why?

J: Beavertown’s Neck Oil or Gamma Ray are really nice beers. Also Brewdog – Dead Pony Club has been one of my favourites recently.

What are the five words you’d use to describe your show in Budapest?

J: Restaurant, hotel, club, gin, hometime. Next time we will try and see some sights.

Are there any new releases to be waiting for in the near future?

J: So we have our debut album to land shortly, we are just waiting to approve a few more things then we should hopefully have a date for you all. Apart from that, there will be a few releases with Flexout and more music with Fre4knc which we will announce nearer the time.

I would have loved to close this interview by showing the link of the album but it’s not possible yet. Based on the latest news, the release date is to be announced “very soon“. Can’t wait! 

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