Insider Interview #011: Danny Byrd & Brookes Brothers


Serial collaborators Danny Byrd & Brookes Brothers go way back.

2008: Dan and Phil Brookes are two years deep into releasing beats and appear on Danny’s debut album Supersized with Gold Rush.

2011: Three years later and the Brookes Brothers are fully established as a serious force to be reckoned with in D&B. They release their debut self-titled album. Naturally Danny appears on it in the form of Paperchase.

2013: The favour is reciprocated once again as the Brookes Brothers feature on Danny’s Golden Ticket album with Get On It.

Back to the future: Danny Byrd & Brookes Brothers deliver their next heavyweight collaboration Climb High. As you’d expect from the previous collaborations, it’s a blistering funky tour de force…

We thought we’d lock both acts down to discuss collabos, Dr Dre, burgers, James Bond and the contentious issue of commercial drum & bass…

Danny Byrd: I was shocked when we first worked together; I thought I had my own unique workflow going on then along come these guys with a really similar vibe!

Phil BB: That’s because we’re Byrd fans and we’ve been inspired by your shit since the early 2000s when we were teenagers! But yeah we all have very similar philosophies and agree on a lot of stuff which always helps.

Byrd: That’s it; we never argue about parts or disagree on what’s working and not working.

Dan BB: I think the thing is about the way we work together we always push ourselves. Sometimes when you’re working on your own you don’t see all the options or ideas in front of you. But when you’ve got more people working on the same thing and all buzzing it helps you all really push things.

Byrd: The way we work helps. We start off on the main studio computer, get the initial vibe down, some beats and stuff. Then we go off onto our own computers/our own rooms and work on things on our own. Then after a few hours we’d throw our ideas onto the main computer and see what fits. It’s such a cool way to work; there’s no pressure sitting there with everyone looking over your shoulder. We’d all just come up with ideas and see how it all fits in. That’s why our tunes are so dense with ear candy and full of vibes. They’ve got so many little things that would take a long time if you were doing it on your own.

Phil BB: Three for the price of one! So, next question: Danny, you’re a big Bond fan. Who’s your favourite Bond?

Byrd: Timothy Dalton, hands down. They always say your favourite Bond is the one you saw first. Timothy was the first one I saw in the cinema and he made the biggest impression. He’s very underrated. I gotta say; everything I’ve seen about the new Bond just doesn’t inspire me.

Phil BB: It’s too serious. It’s not the tongue in cheek vibe that Bond is all about for me!

Byrd: It all just seems a parody of itself. I’m hating though man, I’m not a hater…

Dan BB: It’s okay to hate on Hollywood dude!

Phil BB: Moving back to music. What’s your favourite non-D&B track right now Danny?

Byrd: It’s got to be the new Dr Dre album. The whole album is next level. It’s the best production I’ve heard in a long time. Maybe I’m a fanboy…

Dan BB: You definitely are.

Byrd: Maybe. But I’ve been talking to mates who thought it was shit and had no soul but I love it. It’s weird how everyone hears different things in music that makes them love it or hate it. What I love is that it’s not what you’d expect. It’s more modern. I respect producers who move with the times and not go back to what they were originally known for.

Dan BB: This sounds familiar!

Byrd: A lot of people don’t like their favourite artist doing that because they have very special associations with that music. And yeah, it is the same with our tunes. So I always empathise with producers when people are saying they’ve moved on or away from their sound.

Phil BB: It’s a tricky one isn’t it; trying to keep your fanbase happy while developing your own sound and pushing yourself.

Byrd: It’s the constant struggle! Okay, how about this… Do you think the D&B number ones and general chart D&B has helped or hurt the scene in general?

Dan BB: Ah man! We were going to ask this one too!

Phil BB: I see it as two separate entities now. Underground D&B is very far removed from what’s going on in the charts. The two worlds can co-exist in that sense.

Dan BB: There are also two very distinctive types of commercial D&B tracks. You’ve got the ones that retain the right vibe and club elements then there other tracks that play towards markets. That is never a good thing; when tracks are made for a particular market. But at the end of the day it has to be great that D&B has so many different styles under one umbrella. There is literally something for everyone.

Phil BB: The minute people start thinking ‘let’s make something to be heard on the radio’ is the minute you lose the raw, real vibe. It gets contrived.

Byrd: Let’s be honest, we’ve all done that to a certain extent. You might not even realise you’re doing it in a contrived way. But, because it’s such a dominant culture or technique, you’re not consciously analysing why you’re doing it. I think we’re actually coming out of the cycle.

Phil BB: The irony is that the more D&B gets commercial and chart success, the less support there is on the underground, grass-roots level. Those two things go hand in hand; D&B needs to be rooted in order to have authenticity.

Dan BB: It does go in cycles for sure. In the 90s when things got commercial and more mainstream the scene definitely felt less participation from the underground fans. Basically the minute you hear D&B on car adverts and everywhere else, that’s the death bells starting to ring again.

Byrd: Definitely. And then you have the delay of the producers thinking ‘actually, maybe I should go back to doing what I do best and go by vibe and not care about commercial attention’ then actually releasing the record that thought has triggered. So we’re just coming out of the cycle now and I think 2016 will be an exciting time for D&B.

UKF: This is a really interesting topic. Where do labels come into this, though? They have to survive as businesses. Getting a chart hit can really help a label and fund less commercial projects. So have any of you ever experienced pressure to make radio hits in this way?

Byrd: I’m happy to say never. Hospital have always let me do my thing. Any of my tracks that people have considered more commercial sounding have been a result of my own choices.

Dan BB: I’d say we’ve had some level of pressure, yes. Because of the success of Tear You Down. When there’s an album you’re definitely expected to release the more radio friendly tracks as singles. But when you’re not in an album cycle and you’re just making singles then of course you are expected to put out tracks that are going to be as successful as possible. Which makes it hard to showcase the full spectrum of what you do. Until the album comes around it’s very hard to get all those sounds you want people to hear out there.

Byrd: The thing is, not even the labels know when something is going to be a definitive hit. It’s the perpetual gamble that all of us take whenever we write or release anything. It always seems really obvious once the track has become a hit. But before that moment no one knows really. We have to go on gut instinct don’t we?

Dan BB: We do. No one can guarantee a hit; all of us – labels, artists, journalists, everyone in the industry – goes on gut instinct. That’s what makes music such an exciting place.

Byrd: Let’s chat production gear. What’s the best piece of kit you’ve bought lately?

Dan BB: The best plugin that we’ve bought in the last year – and I’m almost hesitant to say this because it’s so good – is Sound Brigade by SK Note. It’s such a useful tool! It’s a dynamic set of filters that clean shit up. It’s these types of plugins that help us move into the next digital level of mixdown cleanliness.

Byrd: Dan, you’re always on it tech-wise. Any time we chat you’ve got a new plugin that everyone will be using about six months later. You’ve always got the latest and greatest kit. For me I love to find something that works and settle with it. So how do you stay on top of it all?

Dan BB: I just love it, I love how these programs can change the sound of what you create so drastically and how much of a difference that makes on the final mixdown. Obviously we have our go-to EQs and our go-to compressors but there are certain things that plugins do that no other plugins can touch… And you keep using them until something better comes along.

Phil BB: Final question now Danny! What’s the best burger you’ve ever had?

Byrd: I think Dan already knows this because I was with him!

Dan BB: Dead Hippie at Meat Mission?

Byrd: Bingo. I’ll never forget my first one. I’d ended up following satnav and driving down a really narrow pathway and scraping the side of my car. I was in such a pissy mood I didn’t even think I could eat anything. Dan order me a Dead Hippie, I took one bite and said ‘I’ll have three more of these please’. It raised my endorphin levels to places I didn’t know existed. Best burger ever.

Phil BB: I thought you were going to say an In & Out Burger in L.A.

Byrd: I do love them. And you know that, too. But they’re just dirty compared to the Dead Hippie. What’s yours guys?

Dan BB: In & Out burgers all the way!

Phil BB: It’s got to be a classic Big Mac for me. Gherkins removed.

Dan BB: I get his gherkins. Everyone wins.

Byrd: I’m glad this interview is over… I’m off to get one. Brookes Brothers – you remain a constant source of inspiration!

Brookes Brothers – Climb High (Ft Danny Byrd) is out November 6: iTunes / Spotify