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Modestep – London Road: The sound of a band finding their identity

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“THIS is Modestep Chapter 1…”

Next week sees the long-awaited release of Modestep’s second album London Road. But if they had a time machine it would actually be their first.

Uncompromising, entrenched in attitude and intricately detailed in energy and facemelting production techniques, they took over a year out from performing to make it… And you can tell. Grafting hard at the coalface of bass, metal and everything in between, this is the sound of a band who have matured, really looked deep into their own passions and abilities before pressing the record button and focused on what they want to make.

No big radio hits. No big crossover anthems. Certainly no filler. Modestep – London Road is an honest document by a band who’ve had a crazy ride since emerging in 2011 and have only really finally found time to work out who they are.

Read on to find out where brothers Josh and Tony are at, the band’s new members, the album’s many collaborators and their frank opinions on dubstep and the people who’ve tarnished the genre. This one goes deep…

With this record we wanted to work with the people who really inspired us and made us want to make more – and better – dubstep ourselves. Funtcase, Trolly Snatcha, Culprate… Those guys are the people who switched us onto it and we wanted to bring back that original vibe. Not the throwaway screechy dogshit that people are putting out for the sake of it. It’s bollocks. It’s a destructive force. And we want to fight that.

Modestep – London Road is about to drop imminently. It’s been a long road from inception to release… How do you feel?

Josh: We’ve been working on it for so long, I just want it out now. I want everyone to hear it. It’s got the point now we can’t go any further without releasing it. I want people to fucking hear it!

Well some of it is out… That must be a slight feeling of relief, letting out the early signs of what’s to come?

J: Yes and no. The album is written as an actual album and not a bunch of singles. We never had singles in mind or wanted it to be released it in dribs and drabs. Obviously we’ve had to let a few tracks out as we build up to the album, but it’s meant as a whole body of work and the tracks should be heard in that context. But the reaction so far has been great. It’s so great to have people trusting us and our instinct.

Obviously I have heard the album in its entirety. For me, it’s the sound of a band not giving a fuck about perception and doing what they want to do, not what others expect of them. Modestep Chapter 2. Maybe even Chapter 3.

Tony: It feels like chapter one! Everything has been rushed since we started with you guys and Feel Good. We got picked up on so quickly that we’ve been working backwards since having that immense exposure. It’s been a crazy way of finding out about ourselves musically and proving ourselves musically too. We were touring so much and rushing so much to put everything out. That’s why we’ve taken a year out to really work on music we love and that we’ll love playing every night. So this feels like chapter one – the band feels like a family. In a way I wish this was our first record.

Did you ever consider another alias if you wanted to wipe the slate clean so much?

T: It was discussed…

J: But we decided not to. It’s not like the music is so different, the new album is a very natural progression from our older stuff. It was more the whole ‘step’ thing. But the only people who associate any stigma that dubstep sometimes has, or think we are just dubstep, are idiots, radio pluggers and people within the industry. Not the fans. So fuck them! It’s our name, it was chosen by people online, this is us. We are Modestep!

Eh? People named you?

J: I wanted us to be called Mode. The logo was Mode and everything. But when I went to set up a MySpace account Mode was taken and it suggested Modestep. The rest is history.

Interesting. Anyway… dubstep  – when made by the right people – is still powerful and it’s still very much in your DNA. The first track on the album makes that very clear!

J: Of course. We’re not disassociating with dubstep at all.

T: Just disassociating with the shit that’s being churned out. Dubstep was my first real passionate love of any genre. It gave me feelings I’d never had from music before. With this record we wanted to work with the people who really inspired us and made us want to make more – and better – dubstep ourselves. Funtcase, Trolly Snatcha, Culprate… Those guys are the people who switched us onto it and we wanted to bring back that original vibe. Not the throwaway screechy dogshit that people are putting out for the sake of it. It’s bollocks. It’s a destructive force. And we want to fight that.

YES! Can’t agree more. So let’s get back to the band… Introduce us to the new members.

J: Pat jumped on during the really early stages of the album. He’s helped add a lot of thoughts and ideas that only a drummer could and they really lend themselves to the live sound. He’s got a lot of knowledge and experience on the rock side too, which has been a great input. He loves the music too. Like, REALLY loves it. Having that in the band is refreshing. He’s a proper motivator and really supportive. We haven’t had vibes like that before. We’ve had nightmares in the past.

Nightmares?

J: Loads. There were the time restraints, obviously. But also our skillsets hadn’t got to the point we wanted them to be. I knew how I wanted something to sound but didn’t know how to do it. Taking time out, critically listening to music and broadening our horizons has been essential.

T: We never really had an identity before and having that identity is essential when you’re writing a record. This is the first time we’ve had that and Pat and Kyle have really helped us with that.

Yes, big up Kyle…

J: He’s an immense guitarist! He’s totally open to working with people and sharing ideas. I wasn’t able to work with our last guitarist so well. We had a clash of personalities and it’s not good for the creative process. Kyle and I work really well together, we share ideas and he grafts! He puts in so much work!

T: He was working in Pizza Hut when we found him. He’s hungry!

Well, he is now he’s left Pizza Hut. Give me an album highlight…

J: On Our Own which we did with Culprate. I was working on it for over a year and was thinking about releasing it under another name because it’s very garagey. Then I thought fuck it, aliases are bollocks. If you’re an artist you’re an artist – have strength in your convictions! But working with Culprate taught me so much. He’s one of the greatest producers of our time. To learn from him, and apply what I learnt to the rest of the album, was fucking incredible. Priceless. He’s infectious. Everyone I know who’s worked with him has experienced the same.

What a don! Now you’ve opened a can of worms here. You can’t big up Culprate and not big up everyone else you’ve collaborated with. Let’s go: Funtcase…

T: We’ve been friends with him a long time. He’s a fucking beast of a human being!

J: If you get a chance to watch him work, do it. While Culprate is very pragmatic, Funtcase is the opposite. He’s unique. He’s got a very strange brain.

Trolley Snatcha…

J: He’s a musician’s musician. We share a lot of perspectives and thoughts. We vibed in a major way. The dynamic in the studio with him was immense.

Partysquad…

J: We didn’t actually get in the studio with these guys, they just sent us that killer chorus.

It’s an interesting take on EDM. Probably the biggest curveball of the album.

J: It’s our take on EDM. We wanted it to sound like old dubstep in terms of attitude.

T: It’s an anti-EDM song.

Teddy Killerz…

J: They worked with us on Make You Mine, which is a rock song, really. It’s totally out of their comfort zone isn’t it?

T: We had no idea they would be up for working on this particular tune! We sent them a whole bunch of ideas and tracks and they picked this. We thought ‘what the hell are they going to do with a rock track?’ Obviously they slammed it. They’re scientists, man! We got it back and we were like ‘what is this?’ It’s something you want to smash your head against a wall to! Incredible!

J: They understood what we wanted to achieve and properly delivered. We’re already working on new projects with them.

Skindred…

T: We worked with them on Circles. We’ve been massive fans of them and their live show so it was amazing to work with them. We wrote this with both of our live shows in mind and it was another inspiring highlight.

Rudekid….

T: Well he’s on the track Game Over with Dialect, Big Narstie, Flowdan, Dialect, Discarda, Frisco, Lay-Z… Let’s big them all up. We’ve always loved grime and we’ve dipped our toe in it before on Evolution Theory. We wanted to bring it back on this record and Rudekid was someone we wanted to work with for a long time. He’s a killer producer and the MCs are all the guys we love and respect. Some from the old days, some new but they all bring fire and they’re all very London-based which was important for the album. It’s my favourite tune on the record.

It’s a powerful way to end an album. Talk to me about London…

J: We actually grew up on London Road. There are over 300 London Roads in the UK – so it represents all corners of the UK.

T: Yeah, our musical influences have all been British and London-based. From our early garage days, drum & bass, dubstep and the British rock scene. London Road is a product of our musical make-up and what makes us tick. It’s the soundscape to our upbringing and the amazing wealth of UK music culture in general.

Amen. Anything else to add?

T: Yeah… We’ve got a remix album dropping. It’s got some of our all time favourite producers so expect some fucking huge remixes! They’re outrageous! We’re dropping them in our live shows and DJ sets if you want to hear any of them.

J: We’ve got about 14 so far and they’re all banging. Like really fucking blow-your-head-off banging!

Any names? Obviously Mefjus is one…

T: It was all the people we wanted to work on our record with but didn’t have time or it didn’t work out. It’s everyone we love.

J: Fuck it, let’s tell him some names…

T: Okay, I’ll give you one: Taxman. And he’s killed it. No more now, let’s get the album out there…

Modestep – London Road is out May 25. Pre-order: po.st/moLDNRD