It’s been a superb year for D&B albums. It’s been a vintage year for Austrian D&B talent.
Fourward – Expansion is a fine example of both.
The band’s second album – and first since signing to Friction’s Shogun – Expansion represents the quartet at their richest and most diverse. Plotting a fine line between the iron-chomping neurofunk they’re best known for and much deeper, more melodic moments, it marks a whole new level for the foursome. We caught up with half of the band – Ludwig and Lukas – to find out as much as possible about them, their album and their motherland’s monstrous D&B scene…
Only two of you. Are all four of you in the same place at the same time ever?
Ludwig: Sometimes… But not too often
Do all these questions about there being four of you bore you? I know I’m guilty of asking these questions a few times.
Ludwig: Being a group of four has its ups and downs, pros and cons. We’ve never thought about changing it. The only thing we would change is the amount of times we’re asked this question! How we do it, why we do it, all this shit. The dynamics have changed so many times within the last 10 years – we’ve moved to different cities, we’ve moved to Vienna, we’ve moved to the countryside. With every move the dynamic changes because of our locations. But this is what we do.
But how does it work, though? Like financially? The more of you there are, the more mouths there are to feed etc.
Ludwig: Lukas does it full time. You’ve said it yourself… Four people making a living off one profile in D&B? You’d have to be Noisia or Pendulum to do that.
Lukas: To be honest it’s very concentrated around me and Ludwig – the other two are involved but not as much as us.
Lukas: Yes they have jobs and lives but still come to the studio and contribute and still DJ.
Okay that clarifies things a lot more. Now we know. Hopefully this will be the last conversation you have to have on being four people.
Ludwig: Can we have that in writing please?
We will never to ask those questions again. Lukas – do you do Fourward full time or do you make music full time?
Lukas: Fourward takes up most of my time but I do a lot of mixdown things and other production stuff. Fourward is the main focus and passion though.
So Shogun’s album repertoire has been serious in the last few years… Massive LPs from Icicle, Rockwell, Technimatic. Quite a pedigree to add to.
Ludwig: The benchmark has to be set by yourself though. The second you look left or right and try to achieve what other people have you’ll always be second best.
I meant more that Shogun believe in the album format and you’re adding to a growing list of albums that really do stand the test of time.
Ludwig: We always hope we’re an asset to that output! We knew it was time for another album. We’d had a run of EPs, singles and collaborations and it felt like the right time. What I think makes a big difference between our first album and this one is the strength of A&R. If the A&R isn’t so strong you end up settling for less. Working with Friction definitely helped us get the album to where it is now.
I hear Friction is a hard boss to please!
Lukas: And that’s the best thing.
Ludwig: We don’t want lies – we want the stone cold facts, if it’s shit then tell us! No producer is perfect so we need to hear how things are.
He’s a DJ before a producer so he’s got a different perspective too…
Ludwig: Not sure on that one. These days all drum & bass – especially on labels like Shogun – has to be a DJ tool. So you have to have a DJ’s perspective or opinion on it to make sure it’s going work.
Lukas: It’s dance music after all, you always have to remember that.
I’m not sure about the word tool myself… For the real fans who live this productions shouldn’t be tools. They’re songs that stick with us in all areas of our life – not just stuff that pops on the dancefloor.
Lukas: Yes you’re right – it’s a very fine line. You always want to convey that emotion and hit people with something that’s special and real if you like. But you also have to construct that within a framework that will work for DJs.
Ludwig: It’s not just popping on the dancefloor too… When people listen to our D&B tunes they will listen to them within a mix context. Whether that’s live or on headphones. So making it mixable, making it appealing to DJs is very important. Some DJs will disagree.
Gonna play devil’s advocate and disagree. In vinyl days – yes, making it mixable was handy because we didn’t have manipulating tools. Now DJs can manipulate and loop and twist the shit out of stuff. There’s more potential now to go crazy because if a DJ really likes it then they can put their own stamp on it.
Ludwig: Yeah sure. Or they could move on to the next song they really like that is mixable. But we have done a mixture (no pun intended) of styles and formats. I love having it all… DJ tools, deep tunes, interesting chord progressions, two minute intros, emotional things. There’s space for everything and hopefully we’ve reflected that on the album.
You mentioned emotional things…. Over is a bit of an emotional one. Really nice and quite different to what people might expect.
Lukas: Thanks – it came together so well and kind of wrote itself. The chords came about, the sounds came to mind easily. It was one of those tracks. They don’t all come about in this way!
How about the bastard tracks that were super hard to finish or bring together?
Lukas: Bite The Dust with Jakes… It started off as a hip-hop tune and progressed through many stages. We had to push the deadline for the whole album back three times waiting for Jakes to send over the vocals. But it was worth the wait – Jakes nailed it!
How was Run Your Mouth to make? What’s it like to work with the boss?
Ludwig: Very easy!
Lukas: He couldn’t come over to our studio because of his commitments but the whole flow of passing things back and forth was very straight forward and fun.
Ludwig: It actually started off with a very cheesy chord sequence. We were all in agreement that we should use that bit and suddenly it all fell into place. Sometimes a track takes a wrong direction and you have to pull it back and re-focus it.
I’m always fascinated by the way a track can often build around an element but eventually that element that sparked the whole track is removed.
Lukas: Funny you should mention that – the track What If was exactly that situation. It started off as a completely different track.
Ludwig: Which was also very cheesy actually!
Lukas: It came about through us mixing two different tracks and we ended up losing the whole original melody and hook of the song.
You can’t predict that type creative flow can you? Love that. So let’s talk about Everytime with Mefjus…
Ludwig: Yes! It’s great to finally have it out there. It’s at least two years old. We went back over it, deleted a lot and sent the main structure over to Martin and he took it to the next level. We actually finished it a year ago we didn’t know what to do with it. It worked so well in the sets so we knew it would have to go on the album.
So there was a chance it might not have ended up on the album?
Ludwig: Yeah at one point, because it felt quite old to us. But Lukas pimped it up really nicely and we all decided ‘yes, we need to release this’ It was already in the ‘never to be released’ folder. I’m happy we made this decision.
You came through a few years before Martin did… What are your memories of him breaking through?
Lukas: I remember meeting him when I was still in Vienna when he was just about to start releasing stuff, just before he exploded. He took the fast lane didn’t he?
Ludwig: He made the decision to do this 24/7. He’s so intense about his work and production. He deserves every bit of recognition.
You all do. This attitude is indicative of Austria’s current state of D&B health. One of the Dutch guys once told me that a lot of Holland’s D&B strength is down to them trying to break though into the UK years ago, realising a lot of the guys who ran labels that seemed really big just smoked weed and played Play Station all day, kinda resting on jungle’s laurels a bit… So they wanted to show the UK how it was done. And did. Successfully. Is this the case in Austria?
Ludwig: There are weed smokers and Play Station players everywhere man. UKF don’t hear about these guys though because you only make it if you’re working hard. There are tonnes of people in Austria who are talented but won’t make it globally because they have that classic stoner/lazy mentality or just enjoy the cool factor of ‘being in the scene’. They won’t get any further though. Potential and talent only gets you so far, right? Consistent hard work is just as necessary. For example, within Fourward, I won’t lie – what I lack in production knowledge, I make up for in being focused and determined.
Lukas: And what I lack in focus and determination I make up for in weed smoking and Play Station playing ha! No, seriously, though – it’s all about the right amount of hard work. And I guarantee for every successful Austrian artist you hear about in the UK there are many more who don’t have that drive. Just like every country – it’s what pushes us all…
Fourward – Expansion is out now on Shogun Audio. Get it here.