“Let’s collab bro…”
The golden trinity, whispered in hushed tones at least 400 times an hour between artists. You see them in the DMs. You hear them in the backrooms (when they were a thing) You feel them in stomach when the collab alchemy is just right.
Alas, too many of these suggestions amount to sweet nothings or half-saved projects at best. But sometimes they result in great things. Even if they take a few years to transpire…
Such is the case with Luca Smooth and DC Breaks. Slovenian Luca first Tweeted the famous words to the Bristol duo way back in 2015 yet nothing happened until 2018. But when it eventually did, they hit a momentous groove from the off. Largely working with Chris DC Breaks, the collaboration has been prolific to say the least. Already we’ve been treated to the likes of Tardigrade on the recent DCXV album, Shogun Of The Dark on the Ram Rave series and We Are Your Friends on Eatbrain (to name but a few) but this is just dancefloor foreplay compared to their slew-in-waiting.
Out today on Korsakov Music, the Out There EP features four of the partnership’s heaviest tunes. Ranging from the bulldozer funk of Chainsaw to the triplet jackhammer swagger of Original Soundboy, they’re primed, fine-tuned, ready for the long-awaited rave re-opening in the (hopefully) near future… And will be followed by at least eight more collabs.
We see them in the DMs. We hear them in the backrooms. We feel this alchemy… So we linked them up on Zoom and asked them to interview each other. Read on for tales of sacrifice, heavy metal and the positives they took from the last year of lockdowns. Let’s interview, bro…
UKF: You guys must see each other on Zoom like this all the time?
Smooth: We’ve never seen each other’s face during all this!
DC Breaks: We’ve not even had a voice call. It’s all been on Whatsapp. It’s weird.
Smooth: It’s funny. I remember writing to you on Twitter in 2015 saying ‘Let’s do a collab.’ Then in 2017 I met Dan and said about a collab and we started working together about a year later.
DC Breaks: Now we’re banging the tunes out super-fast and have around 10 or 12 tunes. It’s crazy.
UKF: It’s nice to find complementary partnerships like that.
DC Breaks: It’s an amazing luxury. Finishing a track is the shittest bit, you can get bogged down in it all and it takes up so much of your time. I like making an idea, catching a vibe and then moving on. Luca takes my ideas, sees what’s good about them and smashes it!
Smooth: I would say I hate finishing tunes a bit less than you. I still hate it, but when I get into it I get obsessive about the mixdown. I love but hate it. It’s a challenge every time I do a new tune. The mixdown is the biggest challenge. But if you don’t have that great idea it doesn’t matter how good that mixdown is.
DC Breaks: You can’t polish a turd!
Smooth: Exactly. But it’s worked out so good with this collaboration. You send something to me and I get excited. Or I send something to you and you work on it and then I get excited to finish it. It’s nice. So who’s asking a question first?
DC Breaks: I’ll start. I don’t actually know much about you, so how did you get into drum & bass, when was it and how did it happen?
Smooth: It just came naturally. I just remember the first time I heard about DC Breaks in general. It was the Halo EP on Viper and Mankind. I think we both started getting into the groove in Viper or did you have some other releases?
DC Breaks: The first DC Breaks tune came out in 2005 on a little label in Scotland called Restless Natives. We did some bits for them, then did some bits for Frequency, with a view to going on Ram. Then we did some bits on Viper before signing to Ram. But what about your history?
Smooth: Oh yeah. It was Bad Company’s Planet Dust. That was the first D&B tune I ever heard. I was into hardcore music, rock music. I heard Planet Dust and said it wasn’t for me – it didn’t strike a chord in me at the time. I stuck to hardcore for at least a year, then I heard Aphrodite. He transferred me directly to D&B. I went to my first club night, heard the music on a big system and after that I never looked back.
DC Breaks: Was the Aphrodite tune Badass?
Smooth: No it was the Superman tune. For me that was incredible. Aphrodite is the man, it’s a shame he doesn’t do too much new music any more.
DC Breaks: Funnily enough that first ever DC Breaks release on Restless Natives that I mentioned, we did a label showcase to promote it. It was our first ever set and we were playing between Micky Finn and Aphrodite. That’s a nice bit of serendipity there.
Smooth: Nice. So how did you get into drum & bass?
DC Breaks: Very similar. I was into rock and heavy metal, then became aware of electronic acts like Underworld, Leftfield, Prodigy. Similar to you with Planet Dust, I remember seeing the video for The Prodigy’s Charlie on the TV and I thought ‘errrugh that’s horrible music!’ But then a few years on, a friend of my sister lent me a Logical Progression tape, then someone at school lent me a Kool FM tape, then before I knew it, I was buying vinyl and I was hooked. I’d go round to friend’s houses and clang away happily for hours.
Smooth: I had a similar friend who went to visit London at a similar time – he came over and bought records and he played them to me and had his decks. He shoved this music into our lives and persisted with it. He kept going on at us to go out to a drum & bass party. This was when Slovenia had a huge scene – in 2009 the parties were very big. And that was my life changed. All you need is that one friend to get you into it. It’s a very smooth – pun intended – journey from rock and metal in to drum & bass isn’t it?
DC Breaks: Yeah I agree. I had a friend whose mum worked at Kerrang magazing and she sorted us out with tickets for Metallica at Earl’s Court and the last ever Sepultura gig in Brixton Academy. The experience of those shows – really loud, load of bass and that type of energy – is very similar. The heaviness is relatable.
Smooth: Yeah totally. I could never see myself making trance music, for example.
DC Breaks: I do think rock fans are more likely to end up being D&B fans than house and techno. I’ve dabbled with a bit of house music but it’s more out of curiosity.
Smooth: I’d only do it for the money but it’s not same is it? It doesn’t have the energy and I don’t have the passion.
DC Breaks: That leads me nicely to my next question. How much have you sacrificed for drum & bass because you love it so much?
Smooth: Oh man so much! Pretty much everything! Even, I’m sad to say, sometimes my friends. I could be out with my friends, but I’d rather make music. I’ve missed out on sleep too. I didn’t sleep enough in the beginning of my career. I would sleep three hours a night. My co-workers and my boss thought I had cancer because I was so pale! I’d never take it back though because it was always about the music, and it always will be. You have to sacrifice some things in the pursuit of something you love. I’m really proud that I’ve found something I am completely immersed in and dedicated to.
DC Breaks: Yeah that’s really true. Same here!
Smooth: What have you sacrificed?
DC Breaks: Oh everything! Money, my hearing, relationships…
Smooth: Oh relationships of course! It might sound harsh, but I need to be with someone who respects how I want to live and what I want to do or they can fuck off! It just won’t last in the long run. But I have a weird sleeping pattern and often work until 4am and wake up at weird times and so far I’ve never met a girl who appreciates this. But you’ve made it work. You’re a family man! I guess you had to adapt when you had a family, right?
DC Breaks: Massively. I’m in the process of building a studio in the house so I have a better balance of work and family. It does change your life overnight, but having a family is as important to me as making music, if not more, so it made me change the way I approach music. That’s why it’s great to work with people like yourself – you’re so fast at finishing tunes so things get done. It’s good that I don’t have as much time as I did. Previously I could spend hours and hours going through sounds and samples and slog through tunes but I don’t have that time.
Smooth: And because you love your family I’m sure you’re not super sad about not being able to go to the studio as much?
DC Breaks: Exactly. My three year old daughter is getting into music and is aware that this music room is being built in the house. She comes in and plays on my Virus and it’s beautiful to see her getting into it. She can get into producing or DJing or whatever she wants to do and we’ll start the next generation off.
Smooth: I have a good question for you. We started really young, right? You were probably living with your parents during your first tunes. How were they about you choosing music as a career?
DC Breaks: They were very supportive. My mum is a creative designer for the BBC, so she understood me and supported any creative thing I wanted to do. I went to an extremely exclusive school here but there was no expectation to follow the usual career paths like doctor or lawyer. I’m very lucky there. The one thing I wish I knew in school was how much I’d apply the science and maths. I had no idea learning stuff about frequencies and sine waves and physics would be so helpful when it comes to making music. I didn’t really study music in school but I think the maths help me to become a good engineer.
Smooth: But there’s great musicality in DC Breaks tunes!
DC Breaks: Yeah it comes from Dan!
Smooth: Ha! I didn’t know.
DC Breaks: Well as a rule I start the tunes like Gambino and Swag, but he does tracks more like Halo and the more radio-friendly things we’ve done. I do think my ideas come from a scientific perspective much more than his, though.
Smooth: So I should be making the tunes and you should be finishing them! Why is this?
DC Breaks: Well it’s more like sound design.
Smooth: Oh, your sound designs are wicked man.
DC Breaks: Cheers bro. Maybe I don’t just like the nitty gritty of things.
Smooth: Yeah me too, the techniques change and the music also changes. Like I listen to tracks made by people 10 years younger than me and I think ‘damn! Why didn’t I think of that?’
DC Breaks: I do sometimes wonder that so much time has passed that if you went back to your earliest tracks from 10 or 15 years ago they’d actually sound fresh now. Like the time we came through – Brookes Brothers were killing it and no one does tunes like them any more.
Smooth: It’s time for a comeback!
DC Breaks: There are ever-increasing subgenres of D&B and that’s why I love it. You can take the music in any direction and it fits within the BPM range. But I do think those big fun tunes that aren’t quite liquid but have a big melody are missing.
Smooth: Those are the tunes I started off with. My very very first tunes were very heavy but then I heard you guys, Brookes Brothers, Sub Focus, Matrix & Futurebound – I built my sound and career being inspired by all you guys. So I’d love to explore a return to that sound.
DC Breaks: When my studio is finished, we’ll do it. We’ve still got another EP that needs finishing.
Smooth: It’s more than an EP. It’s like seven or eight tunes.
DC Breaks: It is. We’d have finished them if it wasn’t for the pandemic. When the lockdown started all music pretty much stopped. Everything became chaotic and I decided to knock my studio down and build a new one. So yeah it feels really nice to back on the path for normality and to have the tunes ready.
Smooth: It’s not on the path of normality here! We’re about to go into another lockdown and it’s hard to find inspiration.
DC Breaks: It’s topsy turvy. When we had our longest lockdown things were pretty manageable your end.
Smooth: Yeah we were really lucky, we had the summer and you could visit places and even the bars were open. But this second wave was six months. I live in a small village and it was starting to drain me out.
DC Breaks: Sorry to hear. It’s different for us all. Look at New Zealand! But despite having a terrible year, what’s been a positive for you?
Smooth: I think the best thing is that I’ve got back into shape. I didn’t have anything to do so I concentrated on getting in shape. I wanted to be healthy and I feel really good in my body, I’m probably more fit than I was in 15.
DC Breaks: Nice! I’ve let myself go to shit haha. I’ve enjoyed exploring my area a bit more – there’s loads of parks I didn’t know about and I spent loads of great time with my family. But sadly with the gyms closed I’ve kinda let myself go a bit.
Smooth: I know that one. I got in shape in the first lockdown, started cooking too much good food at the start of the second lockdown so got back in shape again. I’m back on track. That’s been great, too. I’ve learnt how to eat properly and really sorted my diet.
DC Breaks: I did that when I got into shape for my wedding day and it takes an enormous amount of discipline to get enough sleep and eat the right foods, it’s a big commitment isn’t it?
Smooth: Totally. So last questions; which of our tracks that we’ve done so far is your favourite?
DC Breaks: Oh wow, I don’t know man. Well, the Tokyo Affair tune is very cool and on that musical tip we talked about, so I’m looking forward to us finishing that. My favourite one we’ve done so far, though, is Tardigrade which we put on our DCXV album.
Smooth: You went to town on that one! I sent you this little loop and what you sent me back was so different but when I heard it I was like ‘we’ve got a really sick tune on our hands now!’
DC Breaks: Yeah I really enjoyed that. What’s your favourite?
Smooth: We Are Your Friends is my favourite so far, it’s that monotoney banger, just go and smash it tune.
DC Breaks: None of them are on the new EP, though. So let’s finish with that. What’s your favourite tune on the new EP?
Smooth: Original Soundboy for me.
DC Breaks: It’s hard to choose. I like Fu Man Chu because it was the first one we finished and I actually had a chance to play it out before things stopped. It had a great reaction and I’m always nervous about dropping new music for the first time, so when I see a crowd reaction like that I have a deeper relationship with the tune.
Smooth: Yeah same here! That’s the only one I got to play, too, and it did have a great reaction. I look forward to playing all of these to dancefloors as soon as we can…