Sigma last featured on this site in February. Nine months ago in real time, but in terms of what they’ve achieved since it seems like much longer…
They’ve created a live show and executed two successful tours, they’ve dented the charts twice with Higher hitting 12 and Glitterball hitting number four, they performed on Glastonbury’s famous Pyramid Stage with Paloma Faith to an audience of well over 100,000, they’ve maintained a busy DJ tour schedule. Oh… They’ve written an album too.
Available on December 4 and entitled Life (after the name of their record label and, I’d imagine, this thing we all live) it’s a staggering 20 tracks.
Amid the hits and well-known Sigma signatures, the duo cover the spectrum. From rampant tear-ups on a level with Cylon (Beyond The Wall), Unfinished Sympathy-style string-soaked slow jams (Running) and pug-faced electro cuts (Feel It).
Whether you’ve just come across Sigma through their recent chart domination or you’ve been following them since the hazy days of El Presidente, Sigma – Life it’s a document that deserves your attention and has something for all fans from all corners. We called up Joe Lenzi, one half Sigma, to find out more…
Great! Things have changed a lot for us in the last few years. We’ve had some great experiences especially during our live shows.
How are the live shows going?
They’re so different to doing a DJ set. When you’re DJing you’re double dropping and tearing it and doing your best to get a vibe going. But with live shows you don’t need to do that; you’ve got interaction with the crowd and you can really enjoy playing individual songs. You can bring things down a lot slower and deeper than a DJ set because people are there to see you and not just have a good time on the dancefloor to a load of DJs. You’ve got more scope to have highs and lows, which has been a really interesting experience coming from our DJ roots.
How many of the songs on the album have been inspired by the live show?
A few tracks we included are more guitar-oriented which is definitely influenced by the live show. A track called Slow Down has got that rocky edge to it. Beyond The Wall has got that rock edge, too. It’s gone really well live.
Beyond The Wall has that Pendulum/early Sub Focus vibe for me…
Thanks. For us as producers we love lots of different styles of music. An album is an opportunity to show how many different styles we love. Beyond The Wall in particular has gone down incredibly well in our DJ sets and has translated really well into the live shows. We’re really happy with how it’s shaped up and how it fits in with the rest of the album.
There’s more than just one gully banger on the album though isn’t there?
Yeah, another track called Lighter has been a big moment in our sets. It stands out among the other tracks; it’s very hard-hitting and clinical sounding production. It was great going back to that sound for the album and it’s very different to our new material but we weren’t fazed on how we arranged it into the album. Once again, it shows our versatility.
Versatility is crucial for any album experience; anything that’s linear or samey can get dull or boring.
Yeah of course. We wanted to include some skits on the album too but in terms of the amount of music we wanted to include on it we just didn’t have space!
Yeah… 20 tracks!
That’s the deluxe album for the fans who have been with us all the way. There’ll be a standard one with the hits and a few more tracks for people who just want the bigger tracks. The deluxe one is us saying thank you to the loyal fans.
Can I hear real life gospel choirs and proper string sections in the tracks?
Ha! The choir sounds like a full choir doesn’t it? It’s actually two vocalists layered up loads of times, which is a nice way of saving money. They sound great even without layering up to sound like a choir. As for the strings, they’re pretty much all real. They’ve taken what we’ve written with samples and scored it to play.
Must be quite exhilarating hearing them play it!
Definitely. A lot of the time we’re just stuck in front of our computer on our own, taking it out of that environment and working with really talented musicians is incredible. Another track Lost Away with Shakka on the vocals is another big goosebump moment. The strings and his vocals just work so well together. Epic!
Did the musicians know much about drum & bass before they worked with you?
We had various sessions with various players. Some had heard of it, some didn’t. They just love playing and working with musicians so they were happy to be involved and work with us.
How about working with topline writers? Have you picked up skills off them and become fluent songwriters yourselves?
We’ve definitely improved because we’ve been doing this for a few years now and working with some very talented topline writers. Broken Promises with Maverick Sabre was written with us and him. Lost Away and Running were written by us, too. So yeah it’s great to be able to have those tracks on the album alongside the tracks we made with topline writers and hear them stand up against them. We’ve definitely learnt so much during these last few years.
Give me an album high….
Highs are never ending. It’s such a rush seeing how much fun the crowds are having when we perform and the vibe we’ve had back from fans and peers. We’ve got some TV appearances and radio events coming up which are another level and a bit gobsmacking.
Gotta be massively next level then, what with Glastonbury main stage with Paloma Faith this summer…
Ha! Well that was just in a league of its own; it was immense, and such a moment for us. I don’t think you can top performing on the Pyramid Stage really! But there have been other moments when we’re like ‘wow, is this really happening?’ Like opening up the TV Awards with Labrinth and the BRIT Awards afterparty. It’s been great to push drum & bass to an entire audience who had never heard the genre before. It’s a real privilege.
In the interest of balance, I need an album low…
I don’t think we have. It’s been on the up since Rude Boy two years ago. I guess one low, if you can call it that, is that I’ve really had to push myself with mixdowns; working with all the elements – much more than we had with previous tracks before now – has been a technical challenge. There are so many more elements going on in the mix so it’s been challenging but that’s what producing is all about, right?
Mixdowns are the ultimate bastards across any genres aren’t they?
Completely. It’s such a fine line; especially because we want to maintain that line between dancefloor and radio. I feel we’ve got the right balance; we’ve got more grit than other commercial drum & bass acts lack but we still sound good on the radio. We’d love to pack a punch with our mixdown in the same way Sub Zero or Noisia do, but that doesn’t work on the radio! We’re not always going for the radio plays. But with the tracks that have big vocal lines and hooks we definitely are… And it’s been a great challenge for us as producers to tread that line and take our music to a world that had never really heard drum & bass before.