Andrew John Clarke is a well-known man in the dance music industry, but you probably know him as Andy C. You might remember him from the raves you went to in high school, or the raves you have been to in the last year. Chances are the details of the event are foggy but the overall feeling is always warm and joyful wrapped into shocking exhaustion (from dancing all night).
Andy C is the king of drum and bass. Over the years he has won numerous awards and likely millions of fans that span generations and earlier this week he headlined Destiny’s 22nd Anniversary party in Toronto. Quip caught up with Clarke to talk about the early days, his love for DnB, Alive tour, RAM Records and much more. Check it out:
Kateryna Topol: You’ve had a very long relationship with DnB, is there still as much love in it now as there were at the start?
Andrew John Clarke: Of course, if not more! DnB has come a long way since I started, it has grown and expanded into something universal that lots of people can now relate to. Apart from my family, nothing makes me happier than playing out to a huge crowd of people who have the same passion and love for drum and bass as I do. It really is magical!
KT: Looking back at the early days, what do you remember most starting up?
AJC: The early days! Well my dad bought me a drum kit when I was 5 years old, so that’s where I caught the musical bug from! From then onwards, my sister Sarah used to let me tag along with her to all of the raves from the age of 13… and that was me sold! I guess as things started to develop, I was listening to lots of pirate radio… fusing hardcore with breakbeats. I was always into the more mad stuff to be honest, especially the harder cutting breaks. The big turning point for me was hearing a DJ called Just-Jones play a track called “The Beast”, and that’s when it dawned that I have to be a DJ.
KT: You’re known for playing long sets, 4-6 hours, how do you get through those, and more importantly, how do you feel after?
AJC: The long sets, the all night sets, they are absolutely incredible! You have the time to form a really strong connection with a crowd of people. The longer the set, the better! It gives me an amazing opportunity to switch from old classics to some of the brand new tracks released on RAM… and then everything else in-between! Yeah I guess it is tiring but what better way to tire yourself out? I’m really excited for my All Night at Brixton Academy again this October, it was my favorite event from last year. The venue is iconic, the crowd was incredible and the whole night had an amazing vibe! Tickets sold out in 10 minutes this year, which is just mind-blowing.
KT: How did the Andy C Alive come about and how does it work?
AJC: Alive was a tour that I did back in 2011 and I basically wanted to put a show together that was based around the DJ to try and show the crowd whats going on behind the decks with a visual experience. All sounds very good but to put that in practice was very difficult. It took about a year with the whole development period, because the technology wasn’t readily available to do it at that time.
The idea is that none of the visuals would be pre-synced like in a lot of shows and all could be controlled by me whilst mixing. We needed a lot of bespoke software so I teamed up with the guy who does all the visuals for the Oscars and Cirque Du Soleil. I pitched my idea to him, said that I wanted my visuals to be controlled by the mixing desk. He thought I was mad, but after a few hours of discussing how it would come together, we got the programming ideas sorted and tried a few bits out and the rest is history as they say! It was hard work, but it was totally worth it.
KT: You come to Toronto quite a bit (and it’s always a wicked party) – are you a fan of the city or is it the crowd?
AJC: I love coming over to Canada! It’s DnB’s 2nd home and has always been amazing and the crowds just know whats going on with the music, the scene, everything to do with the culture basically.
KT: What led you to launch RAM Records?
AJC: Well the funny thing is that it wasn’t planned at all. I was making tunes for other labels, nothing serious, but I had this EP that took about nine months to make (Sour Mash EP). I was sitting at home one night having dinner with my family and was discussing it with my sister, Sarah, and the idea came about that I should put the record out myself. I didn’t have a clue how to do anything like this so spoke to a family friend who was working in a recording studio for some pointers and I rang round loads of printers and pressing plants to see what I needed to do. My sister drew the logo for me. She suggested RAM because I’m an Aries, I then sent all the stuff off to be pressed and went on holiday to Magaluf.
When I got back from there, the records were sat in the back of the car. It all happened pretty quickly! I pressed up 1500 copies and they all sold straight away. I borrowed a grand off my uncle to make the records, after I sold them all I paid him back and then realised, I actually have my own record label!
KT: How does your artists selection process work when it comes to signing talent to RAM – do you find them, do they find you, what catches your immediate attention?
AJC: We are very lucky to have such an on-the-ball team up at RAM HQ. Alongside tending to our already signed artists, they listen to lots of promos, keeping their beady eyes on up-and-coming talent. Sometimes it’s a case of being sent something that blows us away, other times we might’ve been keeping our eye on a developing talent. Whether music is sent to me directly or to our label manager, nothing slips past us! We look for anything versatile with quality. Something we have always tried to keep in mind is the strength in being different. No two RAM artists sound the same, from Bensley to Frankee, we like to platform diversity.
KT: You are an award winning/chart topping performer for years now, which extends to the label as well, are awards and charts something you pay attention to?
AJC: I am very humbled to have received such awards! It means a lot to be rewarded for something that is my passion. Awards for the label are fantastic. It means that the whole RAM team and the artists get acknowledged for the hard work and incredible effort that they put into the label. I am very confident in the music that our artists are making and everyone in the label are extremely good at giving them the tools and platform they need to excel, it is a blessing really!