Minggu, 02 Februari 2014

Magic Number "Interview"

We were recently lucky enough to speak to soulful house producers Magic Number about Atjazz, Broken Beat, their new single and advice on setting up a label.

Click below to purchase their latest release "Come Back To Me Part 2 (Atjazz Remixes)".

Links: Soundcloud / Facebook / Bandcamp

First things first, would you like to introduce yourselves and explain where you have been the last eight years!

Wow, yep it really has been 8 years, well, where do we start? Magic Number is Ross Hillard and Tom Wardle. I (Ross) am a bass player and song-writer and Tom is a drummer and writer. In terms of where we have been, Tom got married and I set up a couple of companies, one being a studio, which I still run www.thepaddocks.net and an audio installation company (building and fitting studios, selling audio equipment and training). We both trained as music teachers. I was until recently Head of music at a school, which is funny for anyone that knows me outside of teaching, especially anyone that knows me as “Atjazz’s” bass player, because Martin and I always try to be as inappropriate as is humanly possible (sorry Kev Beadle) lol.

Basically Tom and I have both been busy doing things that have accidentatly taken us away from music so we both recently found our self saying, ‘hang on this isn’t what we signed up for’, it was then we decided to get back into writing. The problem is, as anyone knows who runs their own company or works full time, jobs just eat into your entire life and down time or time to be creative just doesn’t exist. However I have been working hard to get back into music and I am currently in a great position as I have relocated the studio to a site that I own, cutting the overheads to a minimum and allowing us to invest money generated from the studio into things we want, like record promotion, old synthesizers and compressors instead of rent. At the studio we have a really cool old mixing desk that came from Procol Harum and an extension desk that came from Olympic studios, which has consequently had Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling stones record on it. Cutting the overheads means we are able to do really interesting and creative projects with realistic and affordable costs for artists and labels.

We recently had Atjazz at the studio to mix Karizma’s new EP for his Arco label, which was great because Kris is a really nice guy to have around and obviously his music is next level, also with Martin (Atjazz) in the studio it means as well as having a great producer around, its always a laugh and you eat well because he loves to cook. I (Ross) have also been mixing for N’dinga Gaba and his label plus the music he does for DJ Spens Quantize label. The Label ‘NUMB’ is also based at the studio. Obviously having a professional residential studio is the perfect partner for the record label as reducing recording costs allows us to develop artists at a cheaper cost. 

How would you describe your music for those who haven't heard a Magic Number release?

I think it wants to be house but I (Ross) write songs, so the songs come before the style. I like the Magic Number stuff because I tend to write serious lyrics, but phrase it so it sounds upbeat and it hopefully comes across as happy. I’m not trying to be clever I just write down beat songs, I’m not really sure why? Tom's music brings it in a little deeper which works really well. We are currently developing a sub project that’s real deep sounding.

The first album ‘That Day’ had lots of Latin influenced house rhythms and a real summery feel, but the actual lyrics reference the day, ‘That Day’ my mother passed away and the fall out of what happened during that period of my life. Something I wouldn’t have got through had it not been for Tom and Martin (Atjazz or Atdad as I knew him then).

You work closely with Atjazz how did this relationship come about?

Martin ‘Atjazz’ signed a single after I took him a track to remix. He basically adopted Tom and myself and we have been bumming off him ever since. Lol. In truth he essentially did adopt me (Ross) and I lived with him for about six months while we wrote, mixed and produced the first Magic Number album ‘That Day’. We have been friends ever since. I generally play bass on the ‘Love Soul’ remixes and Martins album stuff. I play bass live for him a lot, which is brilliant. It’s all about having fun and the experience. We try and get as many people as possible to join in along the way. Martin is truly one of our dearest friends and one of the nicest people on the planet. Both Tom and I are doing live stuff with Martin and Karizma for their ‘Exist’ project this year, which will be awesome.

Tell us a bit about the "Coming Back To Me" single and remixes.

‘Coming Back To Me’ is the first single from our new album. It’s again a homage to my late mother (I may need to get over that at some point!) it’s with a new vocalist, Angela Armstrong. Angela features a lot on the new album and is now Magic Numbers main stay vocalist. We really want each project to have an overall feel and theme running through it, and for me having Angela on most of the songs enables us to experiment with different styles whilst retaining the ‘Magic Number’ sound.

‘Coming Back To Me’ is quite a minimal piece of music with a quirky feel. I love the space and quirkiness of it. I also like that the bass doesn’t come in until the end and it’s a synth bass. It’s nice for me not to play bass on everything. There are some great remixes from Si Tew, Christo and obviously the killer Atjazz mixes that have just been released. We also have a very special version coming from one of our favorite house producers ……………… we aren’t going to tell you just yet, but it’s a really nice story (maybe next time).

There seems to be a mini broken beat revival at the minute with new releases from Dego and Kaidi and mentions of six new Bugz related singles this year, the Atjazz Astro dub on your new single is a classic example of the traditional bruk sound returning. How do you feel about this?

It’s cool, we were really into the broken beat thing. I think between Tom and myself we bought every broken beat 12” released at the time and we’ve still got them. It’s not something that we are looking to get back into, maybe the odd track, but having been away from music or at least having music at a distance for a while, it feels like only yesterday to us. So a revival feels a bit too soon.

The current fusion of electronic music seems much more in vogue now than it did back in 1999/2000. Do you think the broken beat sound would stand more of a chance in 2014?

Possibly? I think people take ‘scenes’ far too seriously and this is not necessarily the artist’s. It can be a consequence of the consumer or both. Jazz is a classic example. We love jazz but I think new people (listeners) can be put off by the people involved in the ‘scene’ it’s just all too serious and often comes across as elitist. Who cares what pressing it is or even who played on it or why Miles played something a certain way? (and as I geek and collector, I generally do haha) but people on the outside wanting in don’t know, and why should they? The question should be, is it good? if someone likes the music then lets help them to get into it.

People should just enjoy music for what it is. To us we write songs within dance music. We don’t think about genres or the micro managing of genres, it makes things smaller than they need to be. There’s a place for it all in ‘dance music’. The ‘broken beat’ thing doesn’t need to come back as a scene it should just ‘Exist’ (see what I did their?) within ‘Dance Music’. When Martin sent the ’Astro dub’ we were like, "Yeah that’s cool" and a lot of people have said they like it, which is awesome because it is, but its just great, refreshing dance music.

As you may have noticed from our website we are not taking music too seriously. It’s fun. We are not in it for anything other than to write good music in whatever style/genre it turns out to be.

You run a label called Numb Records, how have you found setting it up in these modern times of digital downloads, reducing profits, streaming sites and online piracy?

It’s me (Ross) that runs Numb and I love it. It’s realistically a little too early to tell how well it is doing. Generally the only thing that gets me down is that no one seems to value music anymore. As a collector I love the physical product, but I also love digital and the infinite possibilities it holds., however, no matter what the format, there is so much value to an album. If you buy an album for £10 it will sit in your car for months getting played over and over. It’s such great value, but people don’t seem to see this anymore because music is available everywhere on the Internet for free. It’s annoying but I can’t see it changing. I am however amazed that the government have watched one of the biggest forms of taxable revenues slip through their fingers, especially in the current economic climate. I understand the ethics and rights issues associated with stopping downloading, but when has any government bothered about ethics and morals? What we have to do as artists and labels is just get on with it. We (the artist) want to write music, if people steal it, then that’s on them.

Ultimately though, as an artist and label I don’t think the consumer is to blame. If Sainsbury’s offered free food, you wouldn’t say no, and then go buy your shopping at Tesco. People that buy music buy it because they understand that artists cannot write music without the revenue form sales and gigs. The problem is that too few people recognize this. On the flip, there are so many positives to the internet, especially the transparency and communication between artist and fan.

For Tom and myself it’s all about writing music, recording, playing live and spending time with people doing what we love.

In terms of the label and setup, it’s been a really enjoyable experience. I have worked for Martin (Atjazz) at Arco so I knew a little and unfortunately for Martin I bug him a lot of the time but it brightens up the day and gives me my daily dose of weirdness. Yesterday I called Martin on Skype about the promotion for ‘Coming Back To Me’ Pt2. He had set up a lamp and talked to me the whole time via shadow puppets he had made with his hands projected on the wall. Each character had their own personality and Martin created a voice for each of them. They each had their own opinions on the promotion of the new single. Out of all the hand shadow characters Martin made my favorite was the dinosaur.

What's next for Magic Number?

We’ve been doing some remixes that are sounding cool. We just remixed ‘Listen To This Drum’ for Diephuis and Ursula Rucker, which will be released on Foliage Records for Pete Henry who we like a lot. We just did a Remix with our friend N’dinga Gaba for Dave Storm called ‘Rain’ which sounds really good, that's on Dave’s new label and is out now. I really like the bass line I did on this and N’dingas keys are great.

We have a new Magic Number single from the album ready to rock. Amazingly as I said before we have an abundance of remixes for ‘Coming Back To Me’ amazing mixes from Christo and a super down tempo mix from Si Tew. These will come out later in the year.

We are also doing an album with N’dinga Gaba who I (Ross) meet in SA last year whilst on tour with Atjazz. The first single will be out in April It’s a real nice soulful House record with a live band feel. We have started rehearsing the live band, as we are doing some live stuff with other house producers including Atjazz, as well as looking to get some live shows for Magic Number later in the year.

Finally, any tips or advice for anyone considering starting up a label or an artist trying to get noticed?

To us it’s all about people. We work with people because we like them. Obviously it’s all about music but good music starts with good people. If I could go back 10 years, I’d take it less seriously and try and be a bit cooler. By ‘less seriously’ I mean worrying about what and how you are perceived, ‘do they like me and my sound?’, ‘am I cool enough’ and so on. Just be yourself it's way more fun.

In terms of starting a label or being an artist it’s simple. You just have to work really hard. The thing that has always amazed me about a lot of people that want to be involved in the music industry is that they seem to think they don’t need to work as hard as people that have ‘normal’ jobs. This is sooooooo wrong. You need to work at least twice as hard, and be eight to ten times more skilled. It’s no longer just about writing a good record then mixing and mastering it. It’s about the graphics/ branding, promotion, social networking. gigging, networking and on and on. We have to wear many hats, and personally we think its great. We are really enjoying it. You have so much control over everything it’s amazing and luckily for us we are surrounded by amazingly talented, hard working individuals like Martin ‘Atjazz’, N’dinga Gaba, Si Tew, Christo and Charles Webster who help us at every turn, make us laugh, cook us food and make us tea. Perfect.

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