Their collaborations as one of the most prominent duos in drum & bass date back 15 years. Their OG stripes go right back to the earliest chapters of the genre. Whether in solo or collabo mode, Matrix and Futurebound have been a dominant force since day one and seem more inspired and motivated than they have in years.
You can hear it on their long-awaited second album Mystery Machine earlier this year. Delivered 12 years after their agenda-setting debut album Universal Truth, it flexed the full spectrum with a vital range of dancefloor, heavier and deeper tracks from Control to Ear Drum. You can also hear their inspired vibe on our album UKF10 – Ten Years Of UKF. In fact you can hear it twice…
Unleashed from the intensity of the album process and inspired from touring it over the world, the pair have taken time to retreat to their own studios for two of the many exceptional tracks on our anniversary album. Matrix teamed up with Raphaella (who appeared on their album with the track Human) for the almighty euphoric body shock Hold On while Futurebound links with fellow Viper artist TREi for a grit-spitting damager Stars Will Fall.
Two tracks, two opposite ends of the D&B spectrum; it’s this sense of contrast that’s driven the London/Liverpool due since they first met at an afterparty in Belgium and realised they would complement each other well as artists.
While every other interview we’ve done with Matrix & Futurebound has been focused on them as a duo, this one approaches them both as solo artists and looks back at how they came to join forces in the first place, why they work so well and their role on the UKF network that goes back almost as far as the 10 years the brand has existed…
What do you make of each other’s tracks?
Matrix: I love Stars Will Fall. It’s awesome. It’s big and ballsy, I love the intro. It’s nice to hear vibes of what we do together but also different flavours that we wouldn’t consider. It’s really interesting.
Futurebound: Same here. The whole vibe of Hold On is very cool and uplifting. There’s a hint of Matrix & Futurebound in there and Raphealla took it to another level as she always does. What was nice about making Stars Will Fall is that it reflects the heavier side of what Jamie and I would play in our DJ sets. We’re best known for vocal tracks but we play across the board and love to bang it out as much as the next man. At the end of the day, it’s about tracks that hit the dancefloor and that can be done in so many different ways.
That’s what the whole vibe of the UKF10 album is about really!
Matrix: I’ve been feeling that Mat Zo track especially.
Futurebound: Oh for sure. That’s a great track. Something that’s been really missing is the disco funk drum & bass era that was started by J Majik back in 1999. Mat Zo’s brought those vibes back with this track and it feels really fresh.
Power liquid! It’s coming back. It’s where you guys were at with your debut album Universal Truth!
Matrix: Yeah when we made that our mindset was to try and bring the natural power and energy and ballsiness of drum & bass but make it a lot more melodic compared to most of what was around then.
Futurebound: I remember we met at an afterparty in Brussels, before we’d started working together. We were talking about what was missing in drum & bass. There was a lot of big jump up records around and a lot of the deeper liquid, which were all amazing, but there wasn’t much in the middle. That’s what Universal Truth came from.
Ah so this was the Matrix & Futurebound first meeting. Plotting plans for world domination!
Futurebound: To be honest it was just us on a session!
Matrix: We both happened to be playing the same show. And, as many partnerships are formed, we went on a bender after the gig, hung out and spoke about music and realised we had similar opinions on things. We got together shortly after, made four or five tracks and decided to make an album.
Futurebound: Sometimes with collaborations it just doesn’t work for whatever reason. There just isn’t the right spark. But whenever Jamie came over the sun would come out a bit. Something would energise us and make us punch the air. After we made a few tracks we thought ‘hang on a minute, we’re onto something here, let’s put a proper project together.’
Had you had any previous interactions before this momentous sesh?
Matrix: We’d had a few messages over AIM and a phone call or two. Not a lot.
When did you first become aware of Futurebound?
Matrix: Around the Sorrow release. It was on Skanna’s label. That was an awesome tune.
Futurebound: Actually I remember you calling me up about it! That would have been the first time we spoke. I was buzzing about that. See the thing is, Matrix was already changing the game.
I was literally about to ask about your first Matrix experience…
Futurebound: Obviously his brother Optical came along and completely changed the game so all eyes were on him. Then you started seeing these Matrix records coming up from the same camp. Ed Rush, too. These guys were just completely re-writing the rules. Especially on Groove’s Prototype. They were flying the flag for new drum & bass. To this day people are trying to replicate and never get it. It was like a wave of records and Jamie had a unique funk to his sound in particular. He has it today. I ask him many times about certain bass lines he’s made but at the same time I don’t want to know… Because I know I won’t be able to help myself. I’ll be trying it in my studio!
Oh interesting! Do you save persy techniques or sounds or synths for solo stuff then Jamie?
Matrix: No it’s always the same but it’s about being in the moment of what’s happening in the studio and following the vibe of where the tune wants to go. Not thinking about where the music will fit, or what people will think about it, or who’s going to play it or anything like that. It’s just about letting it take the lead. It’s the battle all producers have; trying to keep a really fresh mind. It’s almost like you have to go back to the time before you were in the music business and you’ve just discovered the amazingness of a sampler or synthesiser.
That gets harder the longer you’re in the game for, I’d imagine…
Matrix: It does. But I always try and go back to this moment when Matt (Optical) had come back from this house where someone from the band Brand New Heavies lived. They had a sampler. He was describing it to me and it sounded like some crazy mythical impossible futuristic machine. He was buzzing about it, explaining how you could record any sound and play it on a keyboard and do all these things with it. After that we were both obsessed. So it’s going back to that fascination as much as possible.
Being in a duo must help you inspire each other?
Matrix: Yeah if one of us has an idea that feels like it’s gone down a dead end we might send it over, or find it 12 months later and have an idea and it’s like ‘ah okay, this idea is working now’.
Futurebound: Some of the best music happens when you leave a track sitting there for a bit and let it build over time. You keep coming back to it and developing it and it doesn’t sound like it’s been done in any particular era. Control is a great example.
Matrix: The initial idea for Control had been on our hard drives, just this little loop, for years and years and we kept coming back to it and had different ideas. This is the biggest difference between making music then and now; back then you’d be on a mixing desk and samplers. You’d make a track in a few days or a week and you wouldn’t come back to it. Now these things take place over a much longer period of time. Hold On was actually a track that was done very quickly, however…
I was going to ask; were these UKF10 tracks written during, before or after Mystery Machine?
Matrix: When we finally finished Mystery Machine I thought I’d have a break from the studio and chill out for a bit, but virtually the next day I went in and did my last single Let’s Go Back. Then I made this. Making an album is like a pressure cooker so getting back to just writing tunes was quite liberating. You’re not thinking about the bigger album context, and how tracks will fit into the arrangement or the mix. It’s a totally different mindset.
Futurebound: It really is. I did Stars Will Fall over a few phases. TREi came over about a year ago and we got stuck into it. I let it sit there for a while then I played it to Sampo at UKF, he liked it so I went back in on it.
You’ve been on the channel since 2011 with Biology. What are your memories of that era?
Futurebound: It was like the wild west for a while!
Matrix: It was all very rapid. The speed was mad. UKF went from being this completely new channel that no one really knew much about but everyone was listening to, to instantly being identifiable through the whole of bass music. It was amazing.
Futurebound: There were a lot of channels popping up doing it at the time but the strongest survive and it’s become a great place to premier records and getting the music out there.
Matrix: The discussions in the comments can be interesting….
There can be 100 positive comments but one negative one and that’s what you remember
Futurebound: The things and threats I’ve read on there. It’s like ‘really? I’m just making music mate. hill out!’
Matrix: Ha. When I look back over any of the biggest records I’ve made, I’ve played it to someone and they’ve pulled a face and said they’re not sure about it. You’ve got to have a thick skin in music. It’s what I was saying before about staying in your own zone and being happy with what you’re doing.
Do you hear each other in your heads when you’re in your own solo zones?
Futurebound: Absolutely. Sometimes you don’t know if something is any good so you need a second opinion and I send stuff to Jamie and see what he thinks. But sometimes I’ll get on a vibe and there’s something there and I think ‘yeah Jamie will be into this’
Do you ever hear Brendan in your head Jamie?
Matrix: Yeah, he’s always telling me to turn up the bass!
Ha! Please sign out with a big-up of each other’s best strengths…
Matrix: His positivity in the studio is a good energy and important in a creative environment. If we’re losing momentum he’ll put the energy back into us and get us to the finish line.
Futurebound: Jamie’s just a very very talented guy. He’s one of the best in terms of original creative ideas and we listen to each other. That’s why it’s worked for so long and continues to do so…