Just when you thought Take That singing on a Sigma record was the strangest moment in chart crossover drum & bass this year, along comes a vocal version of DJ Hazard’s Bricks Don’t Roll.
One of the most popular and heavily played bassline cuts in recent years, thanks to its instant sing-along riff and innate mixability, Bricks Don’t Roll has been supported and sported by every single drum & bass DJ on the planet* since its release in 2014. As Hazard himself says, it’s bigger now than it ever has been.
But does it require vocal? Purists are going to say no. Of course. Even Hazard said no for at least a year. Then a canny A&R man made a mix and showed him how it might work. This is how it went down…
So how did this come about then?
Well Bricks Don’t Roll did pretty well, everyone was playing it, so a few major labels started calling me and making offers to put vocals on it. I was like ‘no it will never work’ But one guy said ‘just let me show you how I see it working’ and sent me a very rough mix. I was like ‘okay that actually might work. It’s not for me to play but for a tune you’d hear on the radio this would work’ This actually happened a year ago, we had a few dramas along the way but now we’re here and Summer smashed it. It’s had a decent response so far.
So what do you make of poppy/songwritten D&B anyway?
I like some of it. I’ve always loved vocal tunes – not necessarily the poppy vocal ones but classic vocal D&B tracks. Anyone who’s caught my sets will know I love them because I always mix them in. I’ve actually wanted to make vocal tracks since day one but haven’t known how to. I didn’t know anything about key or scales or anything until this track. I wish I knew about them before. I wish I’d learnt them at 16 when I first started. So now I’ve got all this new knowledge I can make full vocal tunes and you’ll hear from more from me on this tip. I’ve got a vocal original ready to drop fairly soon. But don’t worry there’s still going to be the regular bangers.
Bangers or vocal -there’s always a sense of musicality in the riff. That’s why your tracks have been so successful…
Happy accidents. As simple as that. Just me messing around and around and around until I feel I got something that would work and really catch people. I had no fucking clue about scales. My mate’s a music teacher and he’s been banging on at me to learn scales for years. I told him my innocence was what made me a different producer to other people. Not knowing gave me more freedom to try things out. But then I saw the light – now I’ve got years of innocence but now I know about keys I can make things even better!
You’re not the most prolific artist… Can we expect more Hazard material soon?
I DJ so much I don’t get time for the studio. Plus I lost a year moving house and setting up the new space for my family. But now we’re settled and my studio is set up I’m getting back into it. I need the energy to do this and the energy is there right now. I’ve got a whole of tunes I’ve been playing for three/four years that haven’t been release so I might put some of that out too.
Why haven’t you released that anyway?
Because I always think I can do a little bit better but that little bit better doesn’t always come! Even some of my biggest tunes I’ve put out I’ve always thought ‘oh man, this could be better’ and it surprises me how well they do. Bricks Don’t Roll was one of them. The reaction to that was mad… Sometime it takes a few months for tunes to take on and grab people but that one popped off very very quickly and has become bigger now than it ever was. It’s two years old!
Mr Happy was an instant smasher too…
Yeah that took me by surprise. I wasn’t happy with the mixdown at all, I didn’t know how to work the computer properly, I didn’t have a clue back then! I asked Al from Distorted Minds to come and give me a hand and he gave it the perfect mixdown. If I was in the same situation now I would persist with my own mixdown and could probably match that. But I’m hard on myself and always will be.
You’ve got to be. So what’s popping on your label Radius? There seems to be some ramped up activity there right now….
I get sent so much great music, it’s as simple as that! I want to support as much of it as possible. That’s why Radius exists. And also because I had so much help and support from Kevin (DJ Hype) and Pascal at the start of my career. They looked after me so well. I had nothing – if I needed something, they took care of it. Now I don’t need looking after it’s amazing to give these guys the boost and help. I hope the guys I release music from get signed to bigger labels, it’s about circulating the music, it’s about exposure and helping everyone.