Andy C: Pioneering D-N-B
Andy C is inarguably the world’s most popular drum-n-bass DJ. Holding this position for the last two decades, he is also one of the most genial fellows in electronic-dance music with very few gaps in his gigging schedule. The multi-tasking DJ/producer/label owner (aka Andrew John Clarke) is filling any free time he may have had with the triple release of Ram Drum & Bass USA Volumes 1, 2, and 3, one a month over the course of summer 2014.
The compilations, each an hour in length, give a relatively comprehensive overview of Andy C’s 22-year-strong label, Ram Records, established when he was only 16. From his own “Mind Rise” circa 1992 to the soft and funky “Now It’s Time” circa 2012 from Mind Vortex, the upfront “Timewarp” and electro “Rock It” from Sub Focus, Volume 1 runs the gamut, proving Ram’s staying power in the process. Volume 2 likewise represents Ram’s unerring quality with Wilkinson’s chainsaw bassline “Moonwalker,” Hamilton’s melodic and sweet “Echoes,” and Noisia’s beefy and textured “Façade.”
Rounding off the triple threat, Volume 3 maintains the theme of putting old releases next to new ones by slotting the classic “Body Rock” from Shimon and Andy C alongside the rolling “Thunderball” from Moving Fusion.
“There’s a great line you can draw through the ages of drum-n-bass,” says Andy C the morning after a San Francisco club show, which followed his festival set at Chicago’s Spring Awakening the day before. “We tried to make the compilations through the timescale of what we’ve gone through. If you pick the tracks right, then it doesn’t sound dated. With the artists we’ve had and the tracks they’ve made, the tunes pick themselves.”
Andy C’s DJing traverses a similar path through drum-n-bass. While he has access to absolutely everyone’s music far ahead of their releases, he makes his selections based on the vibe, maintaining that whether it is something from the baby stages of the sound or some next-level thing. Known for using three turntables, Andy two years ago introduced Native Instruments’ Traktor with Timecode MK2 Vinyl into his Technics set-up, which includes an Allen & Heath Xone:02 mixer. His switch to Traktor, he says, happened circumstantially, although he had the software downloaded to experiment with at home when he was working on the digital interface for his ALIVE tour in 2012.
“The first time I used Traktor was completely bizarre,” he says. “I was in Denmark for a festival and my records never turned up. The only way I could perform was to borrow somebody’s Traktor box. I had the software on my computer, and downloaded the drivers backstage with five minutes to go, tethering on the iPhone. I had 30 records in my iTunes folder, loaded them into Traktor and played the set. The sound quality was incredible and it was a fantastic set. The irony was, I flew to Portugal the next day for another festival and my records did turn up and the set was horrible. The needles were skipping and it was an absolute nightmare. I thought, ‘That’s the message, right there,’ and I haven’t looked back since.
“I don’t use Traktor in the box,” he continues. “I figure if I’m flying halfway across the world to DJ, I might as well bust my balls doing it. There might be a few mistakes, but that contributes to the performance. I like the feel of putting the needle on the record, the weight of the platter, when you’re speeding up or slowing down, the way the pitch feels, nice and solid, and how you have to chase the BPM to get the tunes in time. There’s something very satisfying to it, especially with three turntables. That’s how I’ve always done it and I wouldn’t want to change it.”
The Ram USA compilations aren’t mixed—although there is a 15-minute mini-mix previewing each one, done by various Ram artists. The idea is to refresh American audiences to Ram’s history with an eye to establishing the label further with pending full-length albums from DC Breaks and Rene LaVice. Ram’s presence in the States is already quite established, as evidenced by the label hosting a stage at this past summer’s EDC Vegas with some of the heaviest hitters in d-n-b genre.
“When something like this electronic-dance-music explosion happens, it sends down a lot of rope ladders that pull up a lot of things,” says Andy, who spent nearly his entire summer Stateside. “This year is the most gigs I’ve ever done in America. People’s ears are more receptive to drum-n-bass than maybe they would have been 10 years ago. Drum-n-bass has an incredibly passionate following. When people get it, they really do, and the past four or five years, the way people are enjoying and expressing themselves is a beautiful thing.”