Bristol-producers Behling & Simpson are next up for The Playground mix! To celebrate we had a chat with slow-mo house masters asking how their sound has developed over the years, what new material they have in the pipeline and much more.
Hi there, how are you guys?
Good thanks! Tired, as we had a gig last night, but that’s one of those good problems. Planning what we’ll be doing in the studio for the rest of the week. Drinking tea. It’s a hard life.
Where are you now and what have you been up to?
At home. We didn’t get back to Bristol until 5.30 this morning so we didn’t really get into the studio today. You’re never at your most creatively inspired when you’re so tired, so it doesn’t make much sense to try and force a tune when you’re not vibing. There are always plenty of emails and promos to catch up on instead.
“It’s slow but it jacks” (and we love that!). Tell us more about your background, what came before the Behling & Simpson project?
We started releasing music in the early 2000’s, under a few different aliases, and through various twists and turns what we did gradually expanded in the field that became later known as ‘bass music’ – we really enjoyed mixing up things like Baltimore Club, garage, techno, grime, UK Funky, just interesting, percussive dancefloor music. Eventually though, we found ourselves moving away from that world, and focussing instead on quality house and disco. So yeah, we’ve released under lots of names over the years, and in many different styles, but house seems to be a good fit now. Other scenes come and go, but house endures.
What kind of musical events or artists inspired you to start making “slow house”?
We weren’t too deeply involved with the house scene when we started the Behling & Simpson project in 2009 – we had a few firm favourites like Sneak and Kerri Chandler, and through hanging out with people like Kowton, Shanti Celeste, Chris Farrell and The Kelly Twins we were definitely hearing a lot of quality stuff, but when we started writing B&S stuff, we were pretty much just exploring different sounds and atmospheres. We eventually found ourselves writing super-deep stuff at about 100-105 BPM, but it was only later that we started looking around to see if anyone else was doing that kind of thing, and discovered some of the disco producers like 6th Borough Project and Crazy P had already been there and done that! So it wasn’t like we were hugely inspired by anyone in particular, although one track that stood out to us was Trickski’s ‘Pill Collins’. It’s 100 BPM but tough with it, and very much aimed at the dancefloor – so that encouraged us to go further and experiment some more.
Have you always been into house music? What are your thoughts on the following genres: Classical, Blues, Soul, Hip-Hop, Folk, Dubstep, Trap.
We’ve always liked house although we weren’t real heads to begin with – we were junglists in the 90’s, before getting into dubstep, grime and ‘bass’ later on. We like pretty much all genres to some extent, from Stravinsky to Leadbelly to Penguin Cafe Orchestra, although as far as that list is concerned, Trap music is rapidly disappearing from our stereo. We’d rather listen to classic Jeezy and T.I. from the mid 2000s than the hyper-bro ‘EDM’ Trap that seems to be blowing up at the minute. In fact, it might be time to load up ‘Trap Or Die’ after we’re done here.
What’s your favourite track at the moment?
This changes every day but right now, this afternoon, it’s ‘Burnin’ Up’ by Imagination. It’s a disco tune but the groove is so tough that it really anticipates the later house and techno sound – you wouldn’t think it’s from 1981. Until you hear the chorus, which is an instant grin maker.
You are now one of the most influential artists in Bristol, both as producers and label owners: how would you compare Bristol and London music scenes?
We’d probably argue with your first point there, but regardless, Bristol is a much smaller city and has a much smaller scene. That means it’s very laid-back, and people mix a lot more. So it comes fairly naturally that there’s a lot of collaboration between promoters, DJs, producers and so on. It’s all fairly tightly knit. London, by contrast, is an amazing city full of inspiring venues and amazing events, but it’s so huge that this tends to manifest more as competition between crews and even areas as opposed to collaborations. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different vibe… Having said that, we’ve never lived in London, so what do we know!
How do you enjoy running your own label?
We’ve run various labels over the years, and it’s a mixed bag! The benefits are obviously that you get complete control over everything to do with how the music is presented – from artwork to mastering and promotion. Also, if it’s your label, then in theory you could actually make some money, as there’s less people needing a cut of any profits. In practise, however, you have to work extremely hard to collect any money that’s out there, you have to really push the promotion, and all the time spent doing that side of things is time that could be spent in the studio, actually making music. We’ve got a lot of respect for those people out there who run labels the way they should be run!
In terms of gigs, do you always keep your sets around 110-115 BPM or do you vary considering the type of venue/event?
That’s our favourite kind of range but yeah, depending on the event and the crowd we’ll play anything from about 95 up to 125 BPM.
How would your perfect gig be like?
It would involve us playing a four-hour set, taking the tempo from about 95 up to 125! In terms of the venue, we love playing smaller clubs – 200 or 300 people in a basement, a couple of lights, a top-notch sound system and some beers. Keep it simple, but do it well.
What’s the worst gig you have ever done and why?
Oh, take your pick…! Any gig that got shut down by police, any gig where you travel a thousand miles across Europe and play to 15 people and a dog, any gig where you’re so sick you just want to be at home in bed drinking Lemsip instead of forcing down paracetamol on a stage. Maybe the festival where the stage we were due to play on was condemned as unsafe by health and safety. Or the gig in Australia with a promoter who said he didn’t believe in flyers and posters, and then put us on in an empty club. We’ve had our fair share of crap nights over the years, but fortunately we’ve had a lot more good nights. And generally, any time you’re feeling a bit down about the bad ones, an absolute killer sparks the fire again.
Talking about your productions, what do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
It might sound dull, but we probably take most pride in having written good tunes in a range of styles. Getting your tracks in the record bags of people as diverse as Tensnake, Pinch, DJ Friction and Modeselektor for instance – internet hype and polite feedback is one thing, but when a DJ you’ve always respected starts playing a track in clubs, that’s a real vote of confidence in your music. So to be able to do that in genres from dubstep to jungle and disco has been very gratifying.
Any releases coming soon?
Plenty! We’re not sure on schedules yet, but we’ve got a 3-track EP coming soon on a big Spanish label, and 3 remixes ready to go, (including 2 remixes of one of the biggest names in house music, which we’re very excited about). But anyone who’s keen for some new B&S beats should check our release on Black Jukebox which came out about 3 weeks ago, and we also did a tuff remix of these guys Purple Velvet on Exploited which came out last week and has been doing the business for us in our sets since then.
What’s next for 2014? Any exciting projects, collaborations you can tell us about?
We’ve always got a lot of plans on the go, and we’re currently working with some amazing vocalists on a bunch of new tracks. We’re developing our sound a little bit, as well as working on solo projects too, and collaborating with other producers. It’s all quite exciting!
House Reverends – Drivetime (Well Rounded Individuals)
Adjowa – Red Leather (Happy Skull)
M5K – Sky Road (Outernational)
Tarjei Nygard – Katapult (Full Pupp)
Rhye – The Fall (Maurice Fulton Remix) (Innovative Leisure)
Soul223 – Fear Of Stopping (Delusions Of Grandeur)
Behling & Simpson – Linctus (Black Jukebox)
Joss Moog – Drummin’ It (Robsoul)
Purple Velvet – Solstice (Behling & Simpson remix) (Exploited)
Pablo Valentino – Old New Swing (City Fly)
Art Of Tones – The Same Thing (dub) (Local Talk)
Break3000 – Mod1 (Ten Thousand Yen)
Behling & Simpson – Lucin
Karizma – Darqness (R2)
Lukas – Narwhals (Futureboogie)
Kano – I’m Ready (Emergency)