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Laurie Charlesworth

Q&A

In Conversation With Fred V

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In Conversation With Fred V

Fred V is a seasoned pro at making people feel warm and fuzzy inside with his DJ sets, radio shows, and undeniably delicious beats. He’s been there, he’s done that, he even bought the T-shirt. And although he will continue to create melodic bangers that many will do teary-eyed 2-steps to; his latest release tells another story entirely.

Focusing on the prominence of the drop, Fred’s new album Luminous takes a turn to the dance floor. The energetic 13-track solo project is an exciting journey from start to finish as we witness Fred dabble with new techniques and flavours.

The album has dropped in a timely manner with festival season in full swing, and with a sprinkling of magic from the likes of Hybrid Minds, Etherwood, Lottie Jones and Laura Brehm on the project too, it’s set to be a summer favourite for 2024.

We jumped into a conversation with Fred to investigate further.

You’re Zooming in from New Zealand! You must have been over there many, many, many times…

I can’t remember exactly how many times I’ve been here because it’s been so many! Josh and I first came here in 2013, which is crazy as that was 11 years ago now. This time round, I’m supporting Netsky on three gigs, and then we’re doing three after-party gigs and a headline show in Christchurch. I was hanging out with Boris last night, it was really lovely to connect with him again. New Zealand is always amazing. Whenever you’re out here, you think ‘Imagine if D&B was this popular all over the world’.

A worldwide D&B takeover would be a beautiful thing. You went to NZ with Josh initially, do certain places remind you of your travels as a duo?

Everything is different being a solo DJ in comparison to being in a DJ duo. It’s not a specific thing to New Zealand. There’s a lot more loneliness, but then there’s a lot more freedom too. When you’re DJing on your own and you have an hour-long set, you have time to play exactly what you want to play, whereas when you’re in a duo, you only really have 30 minutes to play all of the tunes you love. But then again, on the flip side to that, if you have a bad show, it can sometimes be twice as bad because you don’t have your friend to go through it with you. It’s the same when you have a good gig too, you sort of want your friend there to be there like ‘Yeah that was sick!’.

The loneliness thing is a real thing! Was this a bit of a shock when going solo?

For the last year or so of Josh and I being in a duo we were both already doing a few solo gigs so it didn’t come as a huge shock. We also made loads of friends all over the world before we split up. The loneliness more applies to places where you’ve never played before. I did a tour last year with Danny Byrd and Whiney, and I just know I would’ve been super hard on my own. It was brutal! There was a massive lack of sleep, so it was a real tough one. I was lucky to have Danny and Whiney with me. It was pretty hilarious actually.

Let’s jump into Luminous. This is your second studio album. What did you want to say with this project?

I guess I just wanted more tunes that I could play in my sets, whilst still keeping to my sound. There are some jump-up elements in a few of the tracks, and there are more dancefloor tunes than my last album. I feel like being a liquid DJ can be hard sometimes as you want to play what your fans want to hear, but when you come on after another drum & bass DJ who has played a load of energetic, aggressive jump up, you don’t want to bring the energy down either. I really like my first studio album Radiate but there weren’t that many tunes that I could play in my DJ sets. I wanted this project to be current too, I’ve definitely taken inspiration from producers I’ve been supporting a lot on my KISS FM show: Goddard, Vibe Chemistry, James Hiraeth. These new school producers who are very current but very melodic.

I also did a live stream and a few of the comments were like ‘Yeah this is awesome, this is what D&B sounded like in 2012!’, which to be honest, made me want to make an effort to be a bit more current. I think you can hear it most in my track ‘Games’ with Lottie Jones and Richter and ‘Metronome’ with Danny Connors and Petra too.

Yeah, there are some really great collaborations on the album. How was the writing process with the artists that featured? 

I had a few days with Hybrid Minds at Devon Analogue Recording Studio in April 2022 and we were writing songs for their Tides album. I was there with Lottie and Tudor, we wrote four tracks, one of them was ‘Faded Blue’. They were kind enough to let me keep that one, which was cool. It was great because it was a sick studio in the middle of Devon, which is where I’m from. You actually have to drive past my old school to get there. It’s quite funny to think about all of these massive artists like Calvin Harris and Disclosure who would’ve had to drive past my school to go and make such huge tracks. Another stand-out session was with Laura Brehm who has since become my girlfriend, which is pretty awesome!

That is awesome! How would you say your sound has grown and developed since Radiate? Was there anything that you did differently with this album?

The one thing I did do differently with this project was I started from the drop a lot of the time, and then worked backwards from that. Before this album, I would always work chronologically. I’d start with the intro and then build it up, then make the drop. With this album, I was trying to focus on my weaknesses first. The drops were something that didn’t take centre stage on Radiate, and this time, I wanted to create tracks that really worked in the club. I knew I had to work on the drops in order to do so. It’s different, however, when I’m working with a vocalist. It’s more about working on the songwriting first and then building the track around that. It’s a bit different because vocal tunes aren’t as focused on the crowd reaction. It’s all about trying to get people to sing along.

You’ve been in the game a little while now… how do you keep the production process and DJ sets spicy and exciting?

I don’t really feel like I need to do anything to keep me engaged. I just loved making music naturally. There are infinite ways that you can improve as a producer so there is always something new to learn. There are a lot of production techniques over the last 3 years that I’ve tried to get better at, such as bass design or sound design generally. If you listen to ‘Take You There’ there are a lot of sounds in there that I wouldn’t have been able to make three years ago. 

What do you think makes a perfect D&B tune? What’s the secret?

I guess so much of what makes drum & bass hard to produce is how hard the drums are to produce. They need to be really punchy, without the transients being too loud. For me personally, they need to have nice chords that make sense. The bassline is super important too. One thing I’ve focused on over the last few years is getting a bit more movement in the basslines I was using. In Radiate, there were a lot of bass lines which were sort of sustained. They weren’t really doing it for me or for people in the clubs either so I guess more movement is what I’ve been working on.

Your sound is known to be very futuristic. What do you think the future holds for drum & bass, Fred?

I hope that drum & bass becomes more melodic. I feel like the 2008-2009 era, before Netsky blew up, D&B was quite heavy and dark and mean. Which is sort of what it’s like now in the clubs. Then all of sudden when Netsky did blow up, there was this huge liquid and dancefloor wave, which is what Josh and I were a part of. There are a lot of new producers that are currently making that kind of sound. Pirapus, for example, are great. That melodic but heavy stuff that works well in the club.

Any big takeaways or lessons learnt over the past few years?

For me, the older I get the less I care about what people think, which is nice. The only other tip I have for anyone who has a massive phone addiction like me: I have a box that I lock my phone in! You can set a timer on it for as long as you want. Usually, I lock my phone in the box before I go to bed and then put it on for 12 hours so I won’t have my phone for the first few hours of the day. It’s been massively helpful for being more productive! So yes, that’s my big tip.

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