When Circus confirmed there would be no more Brown & Gammon productions after West Coast dropped late 2013 many of us went into mourning. Some of us got RIP tattoos, some of us shaved all of our body hair, other fans painted their entire house a stern shade of battleship grey while others were rumoured to have hit the street and shouted at cats.
Then we heard they’d returned to their original 80s synth funk project Outrun. Tattoos were covered up, hair was grown back, houses were repainted, cats were written letters of apology. The world seemed like a nicer place.
Early signs that Will Moore and Robin Harwood were onto something sweet came in the form of two remixes in 2014 – one of their label boss Flux Pavilion and one of Seinabo Sey. Hitting us hard with big warm synths and the same level of weight and tongue-in-cheek funk we loved from their previous guise, we felt they might have a strong 2015 as a result.
They didn’t. Besides tracks on Grand Central Miami 2 and the massive Circus 3 album, 2016 was pretty quiet, too. By the end of last year the suspense for more music became so intense that we even asked Flux and Doctor P directly ‘when the fuck are Outrun going to release more music?’ Their long and convoluted answer involved a new sludgewave sound they were exploring and, to quote Flux, how “they’ve remembered not to give a fuck and are working on something you’re going to want to hear.”
Considering the earliest incarnation of Outrun (pre Brown & Gammon) involved songs about being cocaine dealers in the 80s and the fact that their new song Dynamite (sung by Flux himself) is actually an intimate love song about a synth, you have to wonder if they’ve ever given many fucks.
Then you see this beautiful video to another new song Do It and know full well that Will and Robin are fuelled by a sense of humour that’s as strong as their sense of groove and funk.
Flux was right, though. We did want to hear their new material. Entitled Please Insert Coin, the whole four-track EP is riddled with ideas, 80s references and, yes, sludgewave… A bublous slo-mo heavy funk that sits around the halftime mark and hits with equal measures of weight and cinematic tension, it’s one of the many reasons we’ve had to wait so long for new Outrun music.
Here are many more reasons…
We’ve got beef with you
Will: Oh yeah?
We said you were going to have an amazing year in 2015. What happened?
Robin: Absolutely fuck all.
Something must have happened…
Robin: When we went back to our original Outrun name we realised we straddled so many genres. We tried a lot of different ideas and just floundered for a while. To give you an idea of how we work, Will wants to create music. He’s incredibly talented and just wants to write anything. Whereas I have more particular visions and ideas but I…
Will: …. Fanny about massively.
Robin: Yeah, what he said. Plus I have a video game addiction to deal with. So yeah we floundered but now we’ve found sound we’ve really enjoyed developing and exploring – notably sludgewave – we’ve been a lot more creative and efficient with actually finishing things off.
We’ll get to sludgewave in a while. Was it scary to officially drop Brown & Gammon? There was momentum and bangers behind that project.
Will: I remember waking up one day and seeing a Tweet from Skream saying ‘dubstep is dead’ and it felt like a total market crash.
Robin: Like the 1983 video game crash. Brutal.
Will: Like a lot of guys in dubstep around that time we started noticing less bookings and less of this momentum you speak so highly of. So we started fucking around with other ideas and other sounds and those sounds became so far removed from Brown & Gammon that it made sense to go back to our old Outrun name.
Robin: What I’d say about dubstep is that it became an arms race. Who could make the nastiest noise? A benchmark would be hit and everyone would try to emulate or better it. So there were certain aspects of it being very derivative. Will’s chiptune, slightly lighter half tongue in cheek take on dubstep was what kept Brown & Gammon going – an antidote to the much more bro like side of dubstep. So yeah, it was time to explore what got us together in the first place. Weirder shit, basically.
80s shit basically. But I don’t think you’re old enough to really remember the 80s?
Robin: I’m older than you think! If I had a choice I’d be even older so I could have experienced even cooler shit in real time.
Will: I’m a bit younger but we were both born in the 80s so technically we’re 80s kids.
You’ve actively gone back in time, though. This isn’t a nostalgia flex for you.
Robin: I was brought up in rural Suffolk and my mum’s record collection was my only introduction into the musical world. Then as the 90s came along I was exclusively heavy metal. I didn’t give a shit about any pop or dance music from the 90s besides The Prodigy. So I skipped a whole generation’s rave music and my main reference points for this type of music is rooted in that 80s.
If you could spend the rest of your days in an 80s video game – and you can’t say Outrun because that would be boring – then what would it be?
Robin: Well that’s shit because we picked Outrun for that very reason. What could be better than racing through beautiful scenery with the top down and your girl by your side? When we’ve written previous songs we’ve done vocals about us being cocaine dealers in the 80s driving around in similar circumstances. So yeah, Outrun or nothing, okay?
Okay. How about an 80s film? If you could spend the rest of your days in an 80s film, what would it be?
Robin: Samurai Cop. If you’ve seen it you’ll know why. If you haven’t, then, quite frankly, you’ve wasted your life.
Robin I understand you have a synth fetish?
Robin: I do indeed love synths. When I was listening to metal I played the guitar. But I was very lazy. I never did any finger exercises at all. The result of that was when me and William were introduced to each other deliberately because we made weird music, I started to unleash my mind rather than being limited to what I can do physically. Synths were the key to this – I could program anything into the computer and it would do it for me. For me that’s where the love affair began. I knew I was after certain sounds from the early 80s – both analogue and digital early FM synthesis so yeah, I’ve amassed and acquired a bit of collection.
How deep into the rabbit hole have you gone? I know it can be an expensive and addictive pastime…
Robin: I’ve got 17 synthesisers. Some rack gear and 75 FX pedals. I’d say I’m pretty deep down that hole. I know it’s better to learn just one instrument inside out and limiting your palette is actually great for creativity but hindsight eh?
Will, do you have a particular synth preference?
Will: I’m not very good at playing instruments and I’m much more comfortable making things on the computer. I have a massive appreciation for synths but for me it’s about having the control and learning how to achieve what we want from using software.
Robin: It’s the constant struggle we have in the studio every day. Will finds a plug-in that emulates the sound of a machine I love but I won’t use it. He’s open minded, I’m a purist. This is the struggle we have. All day every day we argue incessantly and quite viciously. That’s our interaction.
Let’s talk music. Do It is great. It’s like a triumphant ‘Outrun are back fuck you baby’ type of theme tune.
Will: Thanks. It was one of the first ideas we came up with when we came back to the Outrun project.
Robin: I like the simplicity of it. We didn’t try and do anything ridiculous with it….
Will: …. But it ended up being quite ridiculous! I wanted to take 80s synth pop and put it into house and fucking make it donk, basically.
You strike me as the type of chaps who’d be responsible for such a silly video…
Robin: That’s all Shaun’s doing. Doctor P gave his magic to that. He found the yo-yo guy, he found the Tape Dancing guy Jack Latimer. He smashed it.
100% So…. Sludgewave.
Will: It’s still very much in its infancy and being developed.
Robin: By the tempo we’ve chose – around 86/87 – you can really heavy spacious stuff. I’ve recorded loads of my own vocals, recorded harmonies and EQs them and have something airy and beautiful over the top of something quite simplistic and brutal. With 80s aesthetics and heavy production.
You’ve used your voice as a texture
Robin: Yeah I can’t sing very well. I started doing it because we needed to replace a sample. I re-recorded it and it sounded nicer than I thought. I got the idea from a metal band called Sic and Def Leppard. You have to EQ it properly and it’s super time consuming but it’s worth it.
Cool! Tell us about Dynamite…
Robin: It’s a ridiculous tune full stop.
How did Flux end up singing on it?
Robin: Josh is just a creative whirlwind. If he hears something and has a particular idea than he has to try it. It’s very rapid with him. We were round his old studio and wrote the lyrics together. It became sillier and sillier. The lyrics are deliberately about a love for a synthesiser. Then Flux recorded the vocal and it was a thing. I couldn’t believe it. I have to say this isn’t a cathartic love song, it’s more of a confession of intimacy.
Ha! Amazing. It feels like a chips-are-down montage movie song. What film could that possibly fit?
Will: Cherry 2000
Robin: The ultimate robot love movie. Again, if you haven’t seen it what the fuck have you done with your life?
Do I have to spend another three of years of my life waiting for an EP?
Will: Hopefully not. But we need to sell a few records and play a few more shows that we currently do.
Robin: We need people to like us godammit!
You strike me as guys who’d make music anyway. You have 100 FX pedals godammit. This is a calling, surely?
Robin: 75 pedals actually. Of course this is a lifetime love. But certainly with the proliferation of music production there is a general consensus by younger people coming through that you make millions and have two babes on each arm and one on your crotch. That’s not the case, as we know. For me I love the idea that someone might find our music by chance and want to look for more. Not be told by a channel or hyped by a PR, just through good old music discovery. I love the idea of people finding us, not loving us if that makes sense?
Completely. That’s the best way to find new music. Totally by surprise. Seriously, what are you up to next?
Robin: I’ve got a field recorder and some hydrophones so I can now record underwater. I’ve also connected pieces of metal for years so a lot of our percussion comes from these constructions. Imagine having stereo hydrophones and putting them at the bottom of a lake and throwing a large rock into the water and recording it spread across stereo. So a lot of interesting experiments like that…