Drum n' bass is, without a doubt, seeing it's biggest renaissance in years. Not just here in Sydney, but around the globe. Leading the charge locally is talented young duo Vice Versa (made up brothers Rohan and Rajesh Deshpande, aka MC Ro DJ Mirage respectively). With diverse interests in music, they originally got into dn'b promotion rather than production (helping to run the Airborne night for a while). Recently, they've got into producing their own tracks, several of which have been picked up by LTJ Bukem's label Good Looking Records (GLO) and appeared on Progression Sessions volume 8.
A chance meeting during Bukem's tour down under last year led to the signing, and the duo is eagerly looking forward to opening for the master when he returns to our shores later this month.
I caught up with DJ Mirage via e-mail to get some indepth insights into what's going down.
RA: The sydney dnb scene seems to going from strength to strength - do you have any insights on ideas on why?
Mirage: It's certainly true that it's much bigger now than what it was say, 2 or 3 years ago. For a while there were no events at all and we ALMOST started to think that the whole thing had just died. But the same thing had happened overseas, so Sydney wasn't really unique in this respect. Now there are more quality local (regular and one-off) drum & bass parties in Sydney than there ever were. In our view the reasons for this are many, including new promoters (Moving Thru Air, 50/50, Airbourne, LIJ to name a few), new venues in Sydney who are willing to diversify their music policies, younger punters who weren't old enough to get into clubs a few years ago (MC Ro is in that bunch!) and not to mention a whole heap of new producers and labels that continue to push the envelope in terms of providing quality music for DJ's to play.
RA: Tell us about your relationship with GLO - do they just pick and choose the tracks they want or you guys have a firm commitment?
Mirage: We feel very privileged to have been picked up by GLO; not the least because it has always been one of our favourite record labels. We both have full-time commitments outside writing music, and thankfully Danny and Co. haven't put any pressure on us to meet a monthly quota or anything like that. We work on tracks whenever we get the chance, and just send them over to GLO as they're finished. We think this is the best arrangement, at least for the time being.
RA: Was it all just as random as handing Bukem a cd last year? What was his reaction?
Mirage: We had a few tracks that we were happy with and we were considering what to do with them. Local DJ's had shown a lot of interest and support in terms of playing them out, and we definitely thought it might be worthwhile sending them to a few labels. It just so happened that Bukem & Conrad decided to drop in to the regular Sunday evening that we're lucky to be involved with (Airbourne), and our good mate Alex (aka DJ Munk) just happened to have a CD with him full of our tracks. Danny got our number and gave us a call the next day saying that he wanted to meet us and that he was keen to release at least 4 of them. He's a very enthusiastic person when it comes to discussing music, and it was hard not to get caught up in his excitement over finding out about what we'd been doing in the studio for the past 8 months or so. When you're writing a track you listen to it so many times that by the time it's finished it can sound boring. Having somebody else hearing it for the first time and liking it is always a good thing - especially when it happens to be LTJ Bukem and Conrad. GLO had already picked up a few tracks from Greg Packer (from Perth), but Danny nevertheless seemed very surprised to find that there were guys in Sydney writing drum & bass. It was all very sudden and its really only now that our tunes have come out (on Progression Sessions 8; vinyl singles to follow) and we're playing the warm-up set that its really sunk in.
RA: How does it feel to opening for the master (not to mention rising Japanese superstar Makoto)?
Mirage: To be truthful, neither of us ever thought we'd be opening for an event such as a Bukem, Conrad and Makoto tour. These are artists that we (and thousands of people all over the world) have the utmost respect and admiration for, and to open up for those guys is an honour to say the least.
RA: How important is diversity in your work?
Mirage: We think it's important not to limit ourselves, since that's the shortest path towards running out of ideas for new tunes. We get inspiration from so many different sources - hip hop, jazz, funk, soul, house, movie and videogame soundtracks etc etc. Although all our signings are drum & bass tunes, we've got a hip hop track that needs to be finished for Cookin' Records (a downtempo GLO sub-label), and even a couple of house and breaks tracks that we've done just for the sake of it. We never start something new saying "okay today I'll do another track for GLO", since there's no pressure on us to keep sending stuff over that could be released on GLO. Having said all that, we both just love writing drum & bass, and that's what we end up doing most of the time.
RA: What made you want to get into producing?
Mirage: ever since I started forming my own tastes in music, I've always had tunes in my head that I'd just hum or whistle or whatever. I guess it's just because music has been a big part of my life for so long - I used to listen to KISS when I was like 3 years old (!) and started listening to hip hop when I was in about Year 4 at primary school (that track "White Lines" (by Grandmaster Flash) got me hooked - even though I only figured out what they were on about many years later!). I never had the patience for musical instruments though. Once I started DJing, the need to find an outlet for all the tunes in my head just became greater.
Although they are yet to replace hardware studios, in the past few years computers have come a long way towards emulating studio gear that costs many thousands of dollars, and I think this has opened the door for many people (ourselves included) who wouldn't be able to afford the necessary gear otherwise. The satisfaction I get from the process of starting a track from scratch and slowly building it to something that eventually gets released is greater than I ever expected it to be...and it's certainly the reason I plan to keep doing it. When it's no longer satisfying that's when I'll stop.
Ro: like my brother I listened to music with great interest from a very young age starting with groups such as Fine Young Cannibals and even Def Leppard (I was 5 years old ok?). I was lucky enough to have been exposed to many different styles of music from three members of my family, from my mother's classical Indian singing to my sister's love of New Order and then of course Mirage's interest in hip hop which I really got into. Initially it was hip hop that really inspired me to make music. I was (and still am) really into the productions of DJ Premier, RZA, Havoc, Pete Rock and Dr Dre and in 2000 I just started mucking around on my PC with samples and drums and ended up making so much hip hop its not funny. But as my interest in the current styles of hip hop became extremely limited, I needed to move somewhere else musically, and drum and bass was where I went because of its links with hip hop but also because it was really inspiring to me. These guys were doing things with sounds that made you just think "how the fuck did they do that?!". So my curiosity was a large factor in me beginning to produce drum and bass. I really took to it though and can't see myself moving on from drum and bass for a long time, I'm really into this music and I absolutley love creating it.
RA: Where to next?
Mirage: We just plan to keep writing tunes. It would be nice to do some more collaboration with other local artists e.g. remixes of other genres of music. We plan to continue involving ourselves in promoting local nights and events and generally spreading the word about drum & bass in Sydney. We're also planning to play a gig up in Brisbane in a few months, and hopefully play at some other places in Australia in the near future. Oh yeah - it would also be nice to finish university (almost there!)
Catch Vice Versa opening for Bukem, Conrad and Makato at the Metro Theatre (Sydney) on Friday, June 27th.