Generally speaking, DJing is thought to be an individual, sometimes even lonely act. This is one of the many reasons why I find this chat with M-Soul and S27 extremely special and valuable. Not to mention their kind willingness to talk to me right before the gig, organised by the cool Dub Flyers crew
Well, guys, you’ve actually made me do my homework quite well. It was really difficult to find out about Nick’s identity at all. 🙂 How come that you leak so little information about you?
M-Soul: We just don’t think about it, I guess.
S27: Yeah, that’s it.
M: We love to play music but…
S: … we’re not those social networky guys who constantly post about themselves. We just produce music and let the beats do the talking.
What you constantly focus on is music.
You have a separate Twitter account.
M: Yes, it is mine. But I don’t use it anymore, actually I never really used it a lot.
S: It’s from the time when we started, at about 6-7 years ago. Then we came together and quit using it. It still exists as we’ve never deleted anything but we don’t use it anymore.
You come from the same Flemish city, Sint-Niklaas. When and how did you start your common project?
M: About 4, maybe 5 years ago.
S: But we’ve known each other for a much longer time. We’ve been friends, met through some mutual friends.
What was the point in joining your forces?
S: We both know certain things about making music and we expected to improve by this cooperation. We made one tune together, and from that onwards, we thought this could really work.
Which one was this?
M: It’s fairly old. Now we aren’t satisfied with it anymore but back in the day, we were quite happy with the result.
What other qualities can you share through this project? Why do you think you’re more together than separately?
M: Making music alone is sometimes quite boring I think. But with a partner, you can do it all night, laugh, making jokes and so on. It’s just more fun than on your own. I can’t sit behind a PC for more than 3 hours or so, then I go mental, and I need to do different things.
S: We also have the same vision on music, on drum and bass. It’s really hard to find someone who’s really into exactly the same music.
And what is this vision that you share?
S: It’s the deep minimal drum and bass that we both love and there are not many people out there who share the same passion. It was just natural, actually: we didn’t really think about it, it just evolved naturally.
I’m sure there must be some drawbacks of this cooperation as well. What are some?
S: Sometimes you have a clear idea that you think the best is for a tune. Then the other guy doesn’t fancy it, so you have to compromise a little bit. That’s not always easy but we’ve always found a way out of it. Otherwise, we keep it or change a little bit until the other guy also thinks it’s acceptable. But there are definitely more pros than cons! (laughs)
Were there any serious quarrels between you due to your different views?
S: (laughs) Nooo, nothing like that. Fortunately, as we’ve just said, we have quite the same vision. We’re so alike in music that we can almost guarantee that the other’s work is fine with us, too. There are very rare exceptions but we can always work them out.
Are you thinking about running projects separately? I mean side projects, perhaps with different genres?
S: There have been talks about it but we have so little time, that it’s basically impossible. Sometimes we’re already struggling now to create the amount of music that is needed to show labels and people.
M: We both work full time. If we didn’t have a full-time job, we would be able to have a much larger output.
What do you do for a living?
M: I’m an extrusion operator. I control and monitor machines that shape thermoplastic materials.
S: I’m a terminal planner in the port of Antwerp.
Woow, so much different from what you do as artists.
S: You’ve got to be able to pay the bills, right? (laughs)
Which means you don’t really enjoy your work?
S: It’s not my passion of course, but I like the job, it’s definitely challenging.
M: And it could’ve been worse. (smiles) I worked 4 days in a fast food/hamburger restaurant when I was younger, so trust me, it could be a lot worse.
When do you think you’d get to the point when you can make living from music?
S: I guess it’s really difficult because the scene is so small. If you want to live from this music, you really have to be around the best of the best. It’s also different from techno artists, for example, they ask a lot of money, whereas, in d’n’b, even the really big names earn much less. The main goal for us is just to…
M: … create good music.
S: … and maybe, eventually, to earn a little bit of money, so we could work a bit less, so we could spend more time on music and grow.
So a part-time job would greatly inspire you.
S: That’s it. We don’t do music for the money, it’s just something we really love to do.
It also must be quite hard to switch from work to passion.
M: It’s easy to change from work to music, it’s a bit harder the other way around tho.
S: Especially because sometimes I have to work at the weekends, and then I’m free during the week. But Kenny always has to work during the week, so sometimes our free time overlaps: I’m available when he is not or vice versa. This also minimises the time we can spend on music.
M: That’s why we don’t have a large output of music.
S: That can also be a weak point of working in a duo. We don’t produce on our own anymore, so we both need to have the same time slot for writing music. We may start alone but always finish it together. The basics are sometimes created by one of us but by the time we get to the studio, we must have some decent material to work on.
After all, what has brought you to electronic music, then d’n’b? Do you have any musical background?
M: Not really. The first music I listened to was punk rock. Then I started to visit festivals, I heard Roni Size for the very first time when I was 16 or so on Pukkelpop. I loved the speed of the drums and the aggression in music, actually, and so I became addicted to d’n’b. Later on, it became the deeper side of drum and bass which I’ve started preferring.
S: With me, it was Star Warz, the biggest party in Belgium, I think. I was also around 16, I saw Commix (you can find my interview with him here) there but I knew no-one from the lineup, to tell the truth. But I was hooked quite instantly. In the past, I also listened to punk rock and grunge, sometimes I still do but I’m tied to d’n’b. (smiles)
How would you introduce the Belgian drum and bass scene to someone who has never heard of it?
M: There are loads of upcoming talents and of course, a lot of well-known stars as Phase, Bredren, M-Zine and Scepticz, but also Corrupted, SVB, Digid, Solace, CULT, Lavance … there are really a lot of cool producers.
S: We’ve only named the deeper guys, as we don’t really follow the other subgenres of drum’n’bass.
M: I can’t listen to neuro or jumpup, which has a big scene in Belgium… It’s just not my kind of music. As for deeper drum and bass, you need quality monitors or headphones to enjoy it, while listening to jumpup doesn’t require anything since it doesn’t have any lows, it’s just the mids floating around. (laughs)
S: The deeper side is maybe for older people… not old but….
M: People who are more mature.
Probably this is the key. The mature ones tend to be open for a more complex type of music.
S: Maybe it’s a bit disrespectful to the rest of the scene but yeah, I agree.
M: Jumpup these days is childish. I can’t understand why a guy around 26-27 would listen to it. Production wise, it’s not too tricky at all to make it, I think, either. But I mean jumpup nowadays, of course. The production level of guys like Hazard or Original Sin, that’s a whole other ballgame, though!
Turning back to your project: do you meet every day?
M: No, only when we are on the same shift, which is the late one. Then we go to the studio till 3 or 4 in the morning. Then we wake up at noon, as we have to go to work from 2 pm until 10 pm, then again, from around 11 pm, we go to the studio and work on our music.
So you’re the owls. 🙂
M: We only produce at night. 8 pm in the studio is early for us. For some people, it may sound strange as most producers work during the day.
S: Sometimes we have to do early shifts, which means waking up at 4.30, starting work at 5.30.
M: This is when I’m dying! Of course, we can’t go to the studio, either.
Talking about the studio, what are you up to currently?
S: Now we plan to finish our EP next Monday if we don’t get too tired after this evening, then send it over to Flexout. We already finished a tune some months ago, so everything will get mastered and released soon. There is also a remix from a tune of our previous EP, called ‘We count these moments’, by Wreckless. So it’s up to us now.
As far as I’m concerned, you’re being freelancers, not really being contracted anywhere. Is it a conscious choice?
M: Yes, definitely, we couldn’t do it otherwise. We don’t like it when we have deadlines, to be honest.
S: We simply make our music, according to our taste and send it to different labels. They either accept, even partially, or refuse. Then we send it to a different label we’d like to be signed for. We just offer our products. (smiles)
Are there any talks about an album? How would you manage it?
M: (laughs) No time!
S: (laughs) It’s always about the time.
M: Also, our attitude is quite strict, we are very critical towards our music. A tune gets released only if we think It’s really, really good! The newer tunes should be better than the previous ones.
S: Maybe we shouldn’t look at it this way.
M: Yes, perhaps.
S: We have a lot of projects on the computer, in Ableton, which are actually finished.
M: Our friends, who had the opportunity to listen to them were wondering why we hadn’t already sent them over to release but we were not satisfied. When I listen to Skeptical, I want that level, man! (laughs)
S: Releasing an album is only possible if we got to the point that we don’t have to work full-time, I think. I’m sure it will take a long time.
I also highly appreciate that you give away a lot of freebies. Is it also a conscious choice from your side?
M: Yes, it’s mostly our music which isn’t drum and bass as we like other vibes, too. We’re not interested in releasing a dubstep tune, so why don’t we just give away for free and people would enjoy as well?
S: When we’re stuck with d’n’b, we do something else. Just start producing and let’s see what comes out of it. Yeah, sometimes it’s dubstep, which we really love — the deeper side of it, too, which is pretty dead right now.
M: Deeper music is what we really feel: Shlohmo, for example.
What would be your dream collab in drum and bass?
M+S: Skeptical! Above all! (laugh)
S: If we could choose more: dBridge, Alix Perez, Jubei, Qbig & Zenith B, too. But Skeppy is our hero. We wouldn’t change a single note of his tunes.
By the way, do you happen to know oldschool Hungarian drum and bass?
M: Yeah, sure. Spinline and Tactile! They played in our town, Sint-Niklass once: M-Zine booked them, actually.
S: It was about seven years ago. It was called “D’n’b Criminals”. I just went there for an hour, then went home because I didn’t like the deep stuff back then. (laughs)
S: And Artificial!
M: These are all very sick, really.
S: They really have their unique style and sound.
What is something that is not commonly known about you?
M: Maybe the fact that we’re not the most social guys around, I guess. (laughs)
S: This can sometimes come across the wrong way towards other people, but it’s never anything personal. (laughs)
But can you imagine being in this business alone?
M: Not really, it wouldn’t be so much fun as it is now.
Last but not least: how did you prepare for tonight?
M: We never actually prepare our sets, to be honest. We only decide who starts the set, and then it evolves naturally. Playing 4 tunes each, in most cases, we know the first round only.
S: The one who starts knows the first 4 tunes and tells the last one to the other so he finds a tune that suits it. We just go with the flow, I guess. The only set we ever prepared completely, was the one for Star Warz, as it was a milestone for us.
Then you never play separately, do you?
M: No, never.
S: We always play as a duo. Once I had to play without Kenny and it was a bit more tricky, to be honest. We’re both used to having some time to browse through our music while the other is playing. But when I had to play an hour without having these breaks, that was tough. (laughs) I had one gig on my own before our common project, so it’s not a routine for me.
M: I had some more back in the day but not too many.
How do you see yourselves in 10 years’ time?
M: (laughs) Just me and my music.
S: Yeah, sounds great!
Well then: fingers crossed! Thank you, guys. 🙂
M+S: Thank you.
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