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Insider Interview #008: Ed Rush & Optical

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For an act that were on Fabric’s first ever drum & bass line-up, Fabriclive’s Ed Rush & Optical mix has been a LONG time coming.

But it’s landed. And boy is it heavy. Featuring cuts from themselves, Phace, Audio, June Miller, Current Value, Noisia, Mefjus and stacks more, it’s momentous in every direction: even the point it’s their first ever commercial mix CD!

“We used to do mixes of the albums back in the day,” explains Ed Rush, real name Ben Settle. “But they were album projects where we’re mixing our own tracks. To have the freedom to pick and choose tracks that are beyond our own catalogue and really represent how we play was amazing. It’s the first time we’ve done this. We wanted to keep this mix real and true and raw and what we play in the clubs.”

Okay here’s a random one… Why do they call it weed when it’s so difficult to grow?

Real, true, raw… And a great way to kick start the second half of 2015 in which we’re likely to see one of drum & bass’s most longstanding, renowned and highly influential partnerships deliver their sixth album… Six years after their last opus Travel The Galaxy.

Lots to talk about, then. So much so we thought we’d put our feet up and get them to do all the questions as well as the answers. From weeding to pizzas, new albums to public speaking, the guys went deep. Get to know:

Optical: Let’s start with the important stuff: What’s your perfect pizza?

Ed Rush: You know me, I like to keep it simple, so I’d say a margarita with mushrooms. I don’t like too many toppings; don’t smother it or it just becomes an oozy messy. I love it when the cheese goes a little bit bubbly on the sides.

Optical: Yeah that’s what I’m talking about! Slightly crispy on the edges with pepperoni and sweet corn. Sounds random, tastes lovely.

Ed Rush: Thin and crispy or deep pan?

Optical: Fuck deep pan! Thin and crispy every time.

Ed Rush: Slightly more sensible one now… Since I’ve moved out of London our music making process has changed. What are the pluses and minuses of this new geographical challenge?

Optical: A massive minus is that we’re not making music together in the same room anymore and all the best stuff happens that way. But a massive plus is that you’ve got your studio in your house so you’ve become way more amazing at making music which puts me to shame.

Ed Rush: Ah man, you don’t have to fluff my ego… I was setting you up with a diss opportunity there! Thank you!

Optical: It’s true man, sorry for the non-funny answer. But yeah, things have changed hugely. We used to hide away in the studio for three days straight and come out of there dying. I’m not sure if that’s particularly healthy though.

Ed Rush: We’ve had to get better at managing our time haven’t we? We’re both dads now and we can’t do those mad marathons any more, we got to get the time in when we can. I think it’s great that we don’t have to look at each other for extended periods of time, which has to be a good thing! Finishing bits off and arranging isn’t vital that we’re in the same room.

Optical: Definitely. All the best stuff we’ve ever done has started with us in the same room.

Ed Rush: Sounds cheesy, but something magical happens when those ideas spark in the same room.

Optical: Speaking of being in the same room, if you could have anyone locked in a room so you could torment them for a day, who would you choose and how would you torment them?

Ed Rush: Wow! You could go down the dark path and say Adolf Hitler and pull his nails out with plyers or something. Or you get a bit more random and get the inventor of Slush Puppies and make him drink them until his brain would be frozen solid… Just so he knows the pain I’d suffer during my childhood when I was addicted to them.

Optical: Ha! Personally I’d get David Cameron, tie him to his chair and spam him on the forehead for seven hours straight. Over and over and over.

Ed Rush: He’s got a massive forehead. All your spams would hit the target. I’m sure he’d love it!

Optical: It would go down as a great day for me anyway!

That first night was mental. Roni, Andy, Grooverider, Doc Scott, Randall… I remember being so nervous. There was so much hype about this new club in the press and to be there on the first night against the best in the game. I’ve never been that nervous type of guy but I was sweating cogs. I’m glad I didn’t know how successful the club was going to be or I’d have actually shat myself in fear!

Ed Rush: Okay here’s a random one… Why do they call it weed when it’s so difficult to grow?

Optical: Ha! Is that a rhetorical question? I’ve cultivated more types of weed in my garden than I thought would be humanly possible. None of them the smoking type…

Ed Rush: Exactly! I was pulling up weeds the other day in my garden and thought about it. Weeds grow without any help or nurturing. And, as far I know, actual smoking weed is nowhere as easy!

Optical: Tell me about it. Some of my weeds are so overgrown they’re flowing and they look pretty! One of them hurts my kids every time they’re in the garden so I chop it down daily and every day it grows back. If anyone reading has tips on weed eradication I’d welcome them!

Ed Rush: Shall we bring this back to the music? What’s your favourite Fabric memory?

Optical: The first night! It’s a bit vague in my head now but I know it was a massive deal and we were very excited about it. DJing at the coolest club in London on the very first night was amazing. We’ve had millions of great nights there; the only bad time I’ve had was when I fell down the stairs and nearly broke my back. But that was my fault.

Ed Rush: That first night was mental. Roni, Andy, Grooverider, Doc Scott, Randall… I remember being so nervous. There was so much hype about this new club in the press and to be there on the first night against the best in the game. I’ve never been that nervous type of guy but I was sweating cogs. I’m glad I didn’t know how successful the club was going to be or I’d have actually shat myself in fear!

Optical: Haha, yes! And that first time you step up on that soundsystem. The power of it made you feel incredible.

Ed Rush: We thought The End was the ultimate in soundsystems at the time… Then along comes Fabric on a whole new technological level. We’d never felt a system move you so physically you could feel your organs moving around! The monitoring in that Room 1 booth is second to none.

Optical: Tell me about it. The monitors are actually right on top of your head!

Ed Rush: Okay, another question… If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?

Optical: Oh this is ridiculous. I’ve got lists of people I love… I’d gather a lot of the 70s funk people, have them all in the room and tell them to play the drums from one tune, the bassline from another and the vocals from another.

Ed Rush: Nice. I’d have to go for James Brown. He invented the idea behind modern dance music… It’s all about locking on to a sick groove. That repetition going round and round and round, you never get bored of it. That’s the basis of drum & bass isn’t it?

Optical: Never thought about it that way but yeah, it is. He’s the godfather of drum & bass.

Ed Rush: Hard task master, though

Optical: Mate, if we were in his crew we’d never earn any money! If you played one note out of place then you’d be fined a dollar… And they got paid three dollars a day. Three mistakes and you don’t get paid. We make three mistakes a minute!

Ed Rush: Bootsy Collins would be another don to work with, right?

Optical: Yes! The Chakachas, too. The guys who did Jungle Fever. That’s the rawest, funkiest thing in the world.

Ed Rush: Mad how we’ve both gone for the 70s.

Optical: That’s where it all started… My question now: How are you feeling about our new album? We’ve been on it for so fucking long!

Ed Rush: We have! I’m feeling positive about it. A lot of people are asking why it’s taking so long to arrive.

Optical: Between the two of us we’ve racked up every problem you can imagine. Then you moved away and we had to rediscover how we work.

Ed Rush: It’s been a learning curve on how to make those hardware sounds out of the box. Plug-ins are sounding good now, which was a big breakthrough.

Optical: That’s what I felt about our last album; it all felt too clean and digitally. Technology has caught up and allowed us to make those dirty sounds again.

Ed Rush: The technology almost moves on too quickly though… You work on something and six months later it can sound dated. Getting everything to sound congruent when you’re making an album is so hard when things move as quickly as they have.

Optical: I’m glad we’re not in the loudness and craziness battle. If we were then we’d have found the whole process even harder.

Ed Rush: But it’s the little details that count. Where’s the cut-off point? When do you make that decision that you adopt new techniques after the album or do you constantly go back over the things you’ve done earlier?

Optical: It’s the age old dilemma. You’ve got to let go of the baby at one point. Which we have… And it’s ready for mastering. Drawing that line has been the hardest line we’ve drawn hasn’t it?

Ed Rush: Yeah definitely. It’s been an interesting project… Trying to capture that sound we really cut through with in the late 90s but also balancing it with the newer sounds and ideas that people might not expect. You don’t want an album full of bangers but you also don’t want an album that loses people along the way. It’s such a fine line…

Optical: Albums, for me, have always been about the slow creeper tracks. The tracks you don’t instantly like but they become your favourites over repeated listens.

Ed Rush: Mine too. Slightly more cerebral and chin strokey and not so instantly gratifying.

Optical: Long words there mate! Ever since you’ve worn glasses you’ve become a professor!

Ed Rush: Ha! Perfect set up for my last question… You recently did a production lecture for the Digital Labs guys. How did it go and are you going to do more in the future?

Optical: I will definitely do more in the future. It came through DJ Krust who’s a motivational speaker for young producers. I was watching him online and got in touch with the guys who recorded it – Digital Lab. They suggested doing it live, I’d never spoken in front of a big audience before but found I liked it.

Ed Rush: Were you nervous?

Optical: Massively!

Ed Rush: People say to me ‘ah you DJ to thousands, you must be a nervous wreck!’ But you get used to it. When there are so many people you can’t even see them properly. It’s like watching TV. It’s a lot more daunting to be in small room when you can see the whites of their eyes… Like this seminar you did.

Optical: Definitely. Plus I had no decks or dubplates to hide behind and everyone was silent, waiting for me to talk and say something interesting. Once I got going I found it really good fun and realise I have actually learnt a thing or two over the years!

Fabriclive 82: Ed Rush & Optical is out now: Fabric store / iTunes