Photography: Chelone Wolf
Survival and Script will drop their second Scar album High Fives & Devil Eyes this Friday, November 15.
Not just one of the best album titles we’ve heard in years, but an equally powerful body of work, too. Flipping the explorative theme and focus of their 2016 debut album Orkyd Project, this LP is an unapologetic love letter to drum & bass.
15 tracks deep, it comprises everything that’s inspired them to this point, everything they want to hear from a drum & bass record and everything that’s integral to the core of Goldie’s mothership imprint. From toxic gritty funk to soul-sweeping strings via strange off-piste technoid experiments, it’s one of those rare albums that fulfils both roles; it can eat you alive as an immersive body of work listened to as a full album experience, but each track is also just as primed for the dancefloor.
That’s no easy achievement, but if any label has a pedigree for it, it’s Metalheadz. The label has always been synonymous with innovation and the most forward-thinking examples of the genre but albums such as Blocks & Escher’s Something Blue, Dom & Roland’s Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel and Agzilla’s Cats Can Hear Ultrasound are just some examples of how the 25-year-old label has remained consistent in its future-focused thrust in recent years. You can add Scar’s 2016 debut The Orkyd Project and this week’s High Fives & Devil Eyes to that list. In time you may well be able to add at least another two Scar albums, too…. For the first time in the label’s history, Goldie and Ant TC1 havve signed an act for an exclusive album deal. Speaking to the guys earlier this month, you get the impression they’ve made the right decision…
Congratulations! I don’t think Metalheadz have ever done this before…
Script: Yeah we’re the first artists they’ve signed for an exclusive period of time, we’re really honoured.
There’s such a strong album legacy on the label. Especially in recent years…
Survival: Totally. It’s very fulfilling. When Mike and I sat down and started the Scar project we didn’t want it to just to be collaborations like we’d done before, we wanted something different and special. I think, if I’m honest, we set out to write for Headz. Things progressed and it’s where we’re at now. I wouldn’t say we dreamt of this type of particular deal but we like writing albums, we come from a time when albums were king and we still love them and Headz respect that.
Metalheadz has such a broad framework or canvas hasn’t it? If you set out to write for Headz, you’re basically setting out to write proper honest drum & bass.
Survival: Yeah definitely. It’s more of a mindset isn’t it? We never thought ‘okay we need a mentasm here or a hoover there’. Then we’d be going down the cliched route. It was more the spirit of the label
Script: We wanted to make new music we’d like Headz to be interested in. That’s effectively the way it’s turned out. The label covers everything we love. Beats, strings, the light, the dark. It was inevitable we’d be most comfortable on the label.
Yeah totally. Before we start talking about the new album, let’s quickly mention your debut a few years back. For me that set the standard. I still listen to The Orkyd Project pretty much every week…
Survival: It almost started as an accident. We had some vocal ideas and, through a friend, met Naomi Pryor. She sent over something. We weren’t sure about it but we took it out of the D&B context and it took its own life. It was going to be side project but we sent the tunes to Ant and G and they loved them so it turned into an album. I’m still proud of that body of work and, for me, you can hear very strong influences of Portishead’s Dummy, which is one of my top three albums of all time. We wanted to work with her again but it didn’t happen but that’s actually quite nice. It means the album is a standalone piece of work we’ve done.
Did that first album galvanise you as ‘album artists’, so to speak?
Survival: We have a very high output without too much screaming and shouting so we kinda knew it. If you can sit in a room with someone for days on end without killing each other it helps. We have very separate roles in this too. We’re not doing the same thing or fighting, it’s very natural. I looked in our folder of new ideas and we’ve got around 17 tracks in there already. We work well together so I think it was inevitable we’d write album together. Plus Mike makes a mean cup of tea.
Script: And I can open a fantastic pack of Pringles. I guess Orkyd Project made us appreciate each other’s backgrounds in music and how far we can push this. That’s when we started to explore the potential of what we can do.
Survival: It’s what we did post-Orkyd that gave us the confidence to agree to the deal and know we can make each album as different and exciting for us and fans. Albums can be a risky business
Script: For us and for Headz. It’s a massive risk for them. The next album might be shit!
Script: Seriously though it’s great Ant and G have that faith in us. It’s exciting.
High Fives & Devil Eyes is exciting. Such a cool title. There’s got to be a story there…
Script: Ant used to take these awful photos in clubs. Grainy, blurry, red eyes. Really shit. He had this photo and he’d titled the image ‘high fives and devil eyes’ and we named the track after it. Then when it came to naming the album this was the best title.
Survival: I wanted us to use the photo for the cover but it was a lot shitter than I remember. It’s the best album name Ant’s ever accidentally come up with though.
I’m a tiny bit let down. I was hoping it came from some strange cowboy trip you had or maybe a poker game on DMT gone wrong!
Script: There are some references to that kinda scenery in there so don’t feel too let down.
Phew. For me this album is pure homage to drum & bass
Script: Totally. It’s got everything we both love about D&B. It’s got those intros, it’s got the bangers, it’s got things you can listen to and really get into at home. This is a drum & bass album so it had to embrace everything we love about it.
Survival: And not repeat what we did with Orkyd. So we just let the music take the lead, rather than force it to be something it doesn’t want to be. Let it take its own path.
Script: We never sit down to say what type of tune we want to write. They just come about through an idea and it develops.
Survival: You get much more variation that way. It’s influenced by so many other things like the weather or mood of the day.
Must have been a strange day when you made the track called Pauline. What a wonderfully weird one. It’s more techno than it is D&B. Who is Pauline?
Survival: The actress Pauline Quirke because it’s quirky.
Survival: That’s a great example of the music leading you. It’s like ‘oh okay, we’re going in this direction are we?’.It’s never going to be a dancefloor smasher.
Palette cleanser. I can imagine Laurent Garnier dropping it. Give me a track where you can really hear both of you and your backgrounds and inspirations. Something that’s equally both of you…
Script: For me it’s First Sound. That brings the dancefloor fun edge of my personality in the tune and it brings Steve’s vibe and arrangement.
Survival: See I’d go with Funk Control
Script: They’re one after the other in the playlist so let’s say both of them.
Survival: Yeah I’d say those two tunes showcase us both. I love the strings and pads while Mike pushes more of the chunky beats. Funk Control epitomises that; back to 93 crunched up and limited heavy breaks but the arrangement has the strings at the end.
Script: I was going to say Circle Of Trust, too. That harks back to Goodlooking, Moving Shadow era. That constant build that goes on and on and on rather than giving it all away instantly.
That track works so well as an intro
Script: It sounds like a cliché, but we did want it to roll out as an album but you can also DJ the tracks as well.
I bet there was some really nice cooking during the album sessions…
Survival: Oh of course. Food has always been there to unwind from the music. Right from the start the rest from the studio would be prepping dinner. It’s nice to take a break.
I’ve often compared cooking to production in a creative, soulful sense. But they’re actually very different processes physically aren’t they?
Survival: 100% It refreshes your brain doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be the kitchen, it would be sport or a walk or even cleaning out your garage. It takes your head out of the studio and gives you space.
Since the last album your life has changed hugely Steve in terms of your cheffing. This must affect how you work together and organise yourselves?
Survival: It actually helped. If you’re in the studio together too much you get on each other’s nerves a bit. Next year will be 25 years since my first release, so the cheffing has been a whole new inspiring chapter for me. Mike does a lot of the DJing because I do a lot of private dinner events at the weekends. There was no way I could do it all so Survival has taken a back seat. I couldn’t do Survival stuff, Scar stuff, DJ and do all the cheffing and consultancy I do. It was very extreme for a bit. I’m up at 7am doing an 18-hour day then having to DJ? That killed me mate.
Survival: I did an event for Headz a couple of weeks ago which was the ultimate combination of the things I love. We had all the important people to the label down there and I cooked an eight-course dinner all based on Headz tracks. That was the ultimate food event for me since Masterchef and one of the scariest things I’d ever done. I don’t get nervous, not on TV, not even when I’ve pulled the cables out of a CDJ in front of a full crowd. But this? I was having anxiety dreams about ordering carrots for two weeks.
Script: And while he was doing that, we were still doing Scar sessions. Funnily enough we did a tune a session that time. That goes back to the cooking helping his creativity.
Sounds like all Scar tunes are done in real life then?
Script: Always always always. That’s where the vibe is.
Survival: Otherwise it’s like someone giving you a sample CD isn’t it? In the studio you’re having a laugh and vibing off each other.
Script: I think that taps back to the era we came through on. You didn’t have home studios, you rented a studio and you caught the vibe. It’s all about that moment and what you could do in it. I read your interview with Philth and he said he likes working with people because that moment is when the vibe happens, that moment is when the tune is really born.
That’s the soul of the tune
Script: Totally. Philth hit the nail on the head. That’s what I’ve always found with collaborations and why we enjoy working together so much.
I love that. So normally I finish an interview with a ‘what’s next?’ question. But I already know… More Scar albums! You said you had 17 tracks on the go already, right?
Survival: Yeah we’ll have a listen, go through them, get them to where we’re happy with them and see what happens.
Script: We’ll probably have a bit of a break, too. I find that’s just as important and focuses us. It means we’re excited to get into it. I’ll have collected a bunch of samples, Steve’s eager to get in the studio. It just works…