What happens when you take the front of a piano off and stick drawing pins to the hammerheads?
Is there more to DJing now than just mixing tunes?
What is Adam F’s spirit animal?
Nuggets or dippers?
All these questions and many more are explored right here as we’ve invited two genuine drum & bass titans to interview each other: Adam F and Laurie Carroll AKA one half of Mind Vortex. The pair, both cutting their teeth in two very different eras of drum & bass have been collaborating quite a bit lately. Behind the scenes they’ve been forming a supergroup with Jaguar Skills (which he revealed in this interview last year) called Dirty Horses and also within their drum & bass capacities for Music Is My Life.
Galvanised by the soaring vocals and universal sentiment of Yolanda, glistening with clean shimmering guitars and dropping into some classic breakbeat chaos (not sorry), it’s one of those collaborative moments where you can hear both artists’ signatures and how they complement each other.
So we thought we’d see how they complement each other in an interview scenario. Just like the single, they didn’t disappoint…
Mind Vortex: If you could be an animal which one would it be and why?
Adam F: Oh wow. In with the big ones straight away! An eagle, I guess. They’re magnificent creatures, they’re steeped native American mythology which I’m really into, they’re badass, they live in hot countries and I wouldn’t need to wear contact lenses.
Mind Vortex: Can’t argue with that. Wise choice.
Adam F: So… If you were a sea-based animal. What would you be?
Mind Vortex: A dolphin because we’ve yet to discover the extend of a dolphin’s intelligence. Quite like myself! Plus I’d quite like echo location.
Adam F: You could probably find a VST to do that for you now.
Mind Vortex: Ha! So how long have you been making music?
Adam F: If I go right back I remember my family moving house when I was around three or four and the house we moved into had a piano which I started playing around on. I remember putting drawing pins on all the hammerheads. Have you ever done that?
Mind Vortex: No!
Adam F: Do it. It makes a fucking amazing sound. It will totally ruin a piano but the sound is incredible. So yeah I was trying to teach myself tunes I was hearing on the radio like Elton John and Bruce Hornsby from as far back as then, just teaching myself. But even now, I’ve never read a note of music. I’ve done scores with 100 piece orchestras and choirs for Hollywood movies, but never written a note of music.
Mind Vortex: I love the fact you were already experimenting with sound at that age!
Adam F: I think one of the hammerheads were broken so I put something on there to replace it and realised it sounded sick. This was a few years after I’d been playing the piano but maybe I was five or six. But trust me, it’s such an amazing thing to do. Especially on a stand up piano and you can take the front off it so you get this immense sound. And you can get those scratching sounds on the strings and really popular tricks used by Lalo Schifrin and Jerry Goldsmith who wrote The Omen score. Highly recommended.
Mind Vortex: Let’s do that on our next collaboration.
Adam F: Deal. So… Chicken dippers or chicken nuggets?
Mind Vortex: Dippers, because they’re bigger. Nuggets are too small and fiddly, not enough meat. So dippers, made strictly with 100% organic free range chicken of course.
Adam F: What sauce would you like with that?
Mind Vortex: I’m well into my hot sauces so a death sauce or an after death sauce would be perfect thanks.
Adam F: No, this is a McDonalds scenario. I’ve never had hot sauce in McDonalds.
Mind Vortex: Why didn’t you say? BBQ every time! My question now: What is your favourite sample?
Adam F: Bloody hell this is a ridiculous question.
Mind Vortex: Any sample. Just say what’s on the top your head. Go…
Adam F: Okay so the first thing that springs to mind is Bob James Winchester Lady for obvious reasons. I did that on an Akai MPC1000. Logic wasn’t even a thing, back then! I’ve actually tried to resample it on Ableton recently and it doesn’t sound anywhere near as good as it did on the Akai. Back then you look at all the Emus and the genius of those machines, they had such a different and very special sound. I’d forgotten how special they were until I revisited the sample in Ableton. I’ve got a fully loaded Emu I was going to bring to yours for a session actually.
Mind Vortex: Do it!
Adam F: I will. So… You do a lot of different things as well as being an artist. You’ve done a lot of sessions and production for people, what do you prefer the most? Film scores, game stuff, beats, just DJing. If you had to choose one thing, what would it be?
Mind Vortex: I love everything I do to be honest. Producing takes up most of my time and I do a lot of stuff organically so it’s never to brief – it’s just been written and can get used in a particular context. Games and movies and things would be really interesting challenges if they ever came along though.
Adam F: Would you do a pop track for a big Madonna level artist if someone asked you?
Mind Vortex: Yeah definitely. I’d smash a Madonna record! But only if I could make it cool and not cheesy pop. And I guess this is the thing; whether it’s helping out someone in the drum & bass world or a big pop record the same thing applies. I only take on something if I can contribute to it. If I can’t see a way I’d help something creatively and in a way I’m comfortable with then I wouldn’t do it. It has to be a cool piece of work and not something for the money.
Adam F: Yeah the amount of incredible singers I’ve met who’ve ended up being session singers is mad. It’s easy to go down that road and get stuck in a situation where you’re making money and don’t pursue that ambition that inspired you in the first place. I guess it’s like a designer who had grand plans to revolutionise things but ends up designing toilet seats or something. You have to stick to your guns don’t you?
Mind Vortex: You do. So how do you think DJing will evolve in the future?
Adam F: What’s become apparent recently is the emphasis on visuals. Back in the day you had DJs and artists but now most DJs are artists so it’s become a lot more artist led. So the presentation and the partnership of visuals with the music has become more of a priority.
Mind Vortex: Do you think the spectacle has increased but the art of DJing is getting lost?
Adam F: No no, the craft of DJing is still there but there’s more artistic presentation. You’ll always have the core clubs and rugged set-ups where the music is the only focus and the DJ is doing their thing like they have forever but technology has broadened that so there are a lot more options. DJing doesn’t just have to be DJing any more, you know?
Mind Vortex: With the way technology is going, do you think we’ll see DJs streaming from Spotify in clubs?
Adam F: I guess if you’re a DJ who plays generic tunes then yeah we’ll see that eventually. But not for DJs who specialise and play their own music and VIPs and things that will never be released or go on Spotify.
Mind Vortex: Yeah totally. I think as the ownership decreases and streaming rises, DJs will be the only people who want to physically own the music they’re playing. If not, we’ll have to resort to having a licence to stream other people’s content from the internet. If the DJs are the only people buying music then it’s a very small market.
Adam F: That’s looking at it with today’s glasses, though. Who knows how it will develop and what else will influence it. Where do you see it developing?
Mind Vortex: It seems everyone is streaming and the stats speak for themselves. So if that’s the trend with the general music buyers that could well be the way it goes for DJs too. It’s an interesting one.
Adam F: Okay final question; would you ever consider running your own label?
Mind Vortex: I’d love to do a label with a forward-thinking approach. It’s never been off the cards but the amount of time you need to invest in something that is huge and something we’ve not had the liberty of.
Adam F: I ask this because of how I see you work in the studio, how you plot out tracks and have ideas and concepts, I know how you think about things and how specific you are and that fits a label mentality
Mind Vortex: Thanks! Well, never say never.
UKF: That’s interesting you’ve made that observation, having run one of the most influential D&B labels of the 2000s.
Adam F: Yeah with Breakbeat Kaos, less was always more. It was never about creating big dancefloor tracks and chart hits, it was about who the artist was, what their vision was, it was a whole life form… And the select projects that were on Breakbeat Kaos were all about that. That’s about being specific with your ear. What you’d want to do and why you’d want to do it. Being specific is very important for a label or any level of artistry – knowing when to do something and knowing the right time to do it.
Adam F & Mind Vortex – Music Is My Life is out now on Ram Records