2016 is beginning to look like the year when the old guard reminded us where we came from.
Bad Company are back for the first time in 10 years, Pendulum are set to reunite live for the first time in four years and Full Cycle, a key instigator of the Bristol drum & bass sound, is back after a seven year break.
Captained by Roni Size (who himself has enjoyed a successful comeback and admitted in a previous interview that it was the hardest thing he’d done in his career) and DJ Krust, Full Cycle launched in 1994 and delivered hundreds of innovative fusions – largely all made by its own crew – during its 15 year tenure before its camp gradually disbanded and closed the label down in 2009.
We knew we would always make music together again but it was a case of finding that time and space to do it.
News of its revival, tour and new remixes of classics by Swindle, DLR and Hodgson was all warmly received. But the release they’ve returned with – at first glance – seems confusing. Roni Size and DJ Krust – Formulate is actually 20 years old. And while it sounds exciting, funky and authentic, it left a lot of fans asking questions.
As with anything either individual has achieved since breaking through 25 years ago, there’s a lot more than meets the eye and a cool logic behind it. We called up their Bristol HQ for the full story and to find out what Full Cycle has in store for the future…
Let’s go straight in: the first time you two got together and decided to relaunch Full Cycle… What happened?
Krust: We’ve known each other for a very long time. It was like we were back in that original time just laughing and joking. We spent a long time going through loads of old video tapes and watching loads of old tour footage. We spent the afternoon laughing and reminiscing, super cool and laid back. A lot of geeking out, a lot of nostalgia.
Roni: I was really excited. It was something I’d been doing for a while anyway; going through all the old footage. The videos and material we’ve got is amazing. It’s a goldmine of history! We were capturing video without realising what we were doing. We had no idea how relevant all the visual media content would be! None of us had a clue that video would be so important to media as it is now.
Seems like you archived it pretty successfully. A lot of things can get lost or damaged over 25 years!
Roni: A few of us were collecting it all and I put it all together. I’m OCD and I like keeping things organised and managed. So it wasn’t that hard, it’s all there and ready for us to do some really cool things with it. Same with all the old music that never got released. Everything is there and ready for us to use once we’re back from our tour.
Krust: We’ve been building up to this for a while now. Our show at Colston Hall really captured the excitement and what’s ahead of us. It all feels right, everything is in place. We’ve got some great new music, some great old music, some exciting new artists. It feels like a new cycle. There’s an excitement in Bristol. It’s probably going on in a lot of cities but I can verify it’s kicking off here again.
MistaJam’s playing it on the radio, giving it the big one and I’m like ‘how?’ You can’t write this shit!
Bristol’s always been kicking off!
Roni: There’s definitely a vibe here at the moment. More than it has been for a while. There’s a lot of artists moving here and contributing to what’s going on, there are a lot of great clubs and labels, it’s a proper feeling. The location and distance from other cities has always been important; the way that we were embraced by Bryan Gee and Jumping Jack Frost and all the guys from London, Ray Keith, Goldie, everyone we met at Music House. London was where drum & bass and jungle began so this geography is very important to Full Cycle’s history and Bristol’s history. Cities have their own character but are also close enough to be part of each other. Because of England’s unique size, you don’t get that anywhere else in the world I don’t think.
Krust: It also creates a strong community. What I’ve always loved about Bristol is the way we help each other. It’s like a tradition; we’re super competitive in a healthy, energetic way, pushing each other and wanting each other to be successful. When you’re around that vibe and energy you can’t help but want to be part of that.
That could have described things in Bristol 25 years ago too…
Krust: Of course! And we were hungry back then. I always think about how we made the music. The kit was a whole other world. Like the analogy that we have better technology in our pockets than the technology we sent man to the moon on… It’s similar with the equipment we made music on! The choice and variety we have now is mindblowing; we’re like kids in candy stores. We’re excited by the possibilities of what we can do and all the creative potential.
People of my generation are so fortunate; we were there during the explosion of hip-hop, rave, trip-hop and jungle. What a time to be growing up! Huge tectonic shifts in culture and creativity. What a time to play a role in music and contribute. I really feel this is happening again right now; the excitement, the creativity, the technology, we’re in the midst of another wave right at the moment. It’s happening now!
Okay… So why release a really old track as your comeback track?
Krust: Good question. The Full Cycle comeback itself is huge so my question would have been why put out a record? We could have put out a film! The legacy of Full Cycle is a culture and an ideology so we need to go back to those roots. Formulate represents the history that a lot of people didn’t get to hear. It didn’t have a full release. So what better way to start the cycle again is to go back to a root note?
Roni: What’s really interesting about releasing Formulate is that we tried to rebuild it and improve and update it but anything we did to it actually took away from the natural feeling and vibe of the track. The programming was very intense… If we touched it, we’d break it. We were making those drums talk! It wasn’t about using a classic break, it was about making something new and doing something different and that spirit was really caught in the recording and the programming. We played it at Colston Hall and it still sounded incredible. MistaJam’s playing it on the radio, giving it the big one and I’m like ‘how?’ You can’t write this shit!
Krust: It sums up the art form and expression and where we’re coming from. Let’s face it; everyone’s saying they don’t like the music; that it’s not as good as it was so we’re taking things back and rebuilding them.
I have to play devil’s advocate and defend current drum & bass. Please elaborate a little for me…
Roni: From my point of view, things have become formulaic. There is a clear need for artists to reinvent and think outside the box again. So Formulate is a statement; the tempo is 160, the groove is on its own, it’s not a formula. That was the original exciting, unknown feeling we all fell in love with and for me some of that has gone…
Krust: The general consensus among a lot of people is that it’s become too technical, it hasn’t got the soul it used to have and it’s following the trend of business rather than pushing the boundaries and going to the next level. People are making music to get the gigs to get paid. People get complacent. This happens in all forms of expression and society; people get to a point of success and stop and try and hold on to that level. They’re scared of exploring new territories because it’s comfortable. People have played it safe for a long time and they’ve been very successful doing it but they’ve exhausted all their immediate creative resources. It’s a mindset that is based on people trying to maintain the status quo so they can earn money to make a living. They’re not thinking about creativity or a pushing boundaries, they’re thinking about money.
Of course. But that’s people earning a living. Making music has been some people’s only job since leaving school… I understand why people play it safe to a certain degree as they have mortgages and families and bills to pay.
Krust: Yes you’re right but that’s the trap! They have to take risks! All creative artists have to have faith in their risks. Look at Apple. When they changed their operating system everyone was up in arms. But it led to a whole leap in technology; iPhones, iWatches, iPads… That wasn’t possible without stepping back, assessing the risks and making that huge evolutionary shift.
Did you find yourselves in that trap for a while, though? After 15 years of heavy touring together did you feel you need to step back for a while?
Krust: Completely! We had a phenomenal run. We were burnt out and our creative drive was gone. Our relationships had been pushed. We came from the streets and the escalation was rapid. We were self taught, we had no business training, we just made decisions on gut instinct. It was all very intuitive, there was no big plan, it was just like ‘yeah, let’s do this, let’s do that, bang bang bang’ All we knew was studio and touring.
Roni: We were so close and had been from when we were kids. We ate together, we lived together, we worked together. So every now and again we needed a break from each other. But as time went by we needed bigger breaks from each other. We knew we would always make music together again but it was a case of finding that time and space to do it. We all had different lives didn’t we?
Krust: And we missed out on a lot of our families growing up, we had to pay attention to our own things for a while. The break was important for us to work out what we wanted to do and how we were going to do it.
And how are you going to do it?
Krust: The big difference is 20 years of experience with major labels and touring and managers. We understand the industry now so now we’re approaching things more strategically and building the right team up around us. We don’t want to lose that creative spirit but we need to be more organised about how we deliver it. We still want to shock and awe, I think club music is competing with a lot more distractions now; gaming and technology. So if we’re putting on a show then we need to make sure it’s worth every penny. If we’re putting out a tune then we need to make sure it’s worth every penny.
People have played it safe for a long time and they’ve been very successful doing it but they’ve exhausted all their immediate creative resources. It’s a mindset that is based on people trying to maintain the status quo so they can earn money to make a living. They’re not thinking about creativity or a pushing boundaries, they’re thinking about money.
Good. But what are these plans?
Krust: Look at the artists we’ve picked for remixes; people who are really exciting us on a level that’s their own. That should give you an idea of what’s to come. We’re celebrating that originality and excitement. We’re working with artists who we can complement and complement what we do. People who share the same vision as us and can expand the next chapter of Full Cycle.
Tell me about this expansion!
Krust: There’s already a next release lined up and there’s also something else…
Krust: In the words of the mighty Dynamite MC… Expect the unexpected!
Can you help me out here, Roni?
Roni: Exactly what Krust said! One thing I will say is that we’re really engaging with people who want to listen to us. Social media didn’t exist when Full Cycle was first running. If you’d have told me 15 or 20 years ago that we could speak to our fans and supporters directly and ask them what they want to hear and what they think we should do in this type of way it would have blown my mind. So we’re seeing what people want to hear from Full Cycle, we’re asking what their favourite tracks have been. We also have a lot of new material lined up… But let’s be honest yeah? If you want a real taste of Full Cycle’s future, check the tour. That’s where the dubs and the new sounds are at. See you there.