Freemasons: Shakedown 3
Divas, drama, and disco moments: These are just a few of the essential ingredients of the Freemasons.
The Brighton, England-based DJ/production duo—Russell Small and James Wiltshire—achieved club ubiquity with a series of seminal reworks of pop smashes from Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, and Kelly Rowland. Additionally, the pair enjoyed their own crossover smashes, including 2007’s “Uninvited” and “Heartbreak Me a Dancer,” a collaboration with Sophie Ellis-Bextor. With their penchant for euphoric melodies, gorgeous strings, and huge vocals, it’s no wonder the boys continue to turn out clubs worldwide year after year.
Now, the Freemasons’ focus is locked on Shakedown 3, their new three-disc release featuring two full-length DJ mixes and an album’s worth of new material. We connected with the duo to talk about the upcoming release, their Pegasus alter ego, and their seminal remixes.
DJ Times: Shakedown 2 came out in ’09. When did you decide to create a follow-up?
Russell Small: We have been stockpiling a body of work for some time now, probably around three years. We decided the best way to get it all out there was to do a third Shakedown, as the other two had been so successful for us. This time we wanted to give a little bit more. We’ve been working together for 10 years now, so we wanted to make it a bit more special, a true reflection of what we both are about musically both in terms of production and remixes. It contains influences from different genres, eras and styles of house music. We are very proud of what we have created.
DJ Times: The new album contains reworks of your hits, including “Uninvited” and “Believer.” Why did you decide to revisit these tracks?
James Wiltshire: We always wanted to feature them on the album. “Believer” was not on any of our previous albums. Times have changed and the sonics of dance music are very different from the time we released “Uninvited.” We made a careful plan to revisit them and bring them up to date, added a few things that we missed the first time around, and—most importantly—made sure they can be played in today’s house sets. These revisits are as much for the DJs as for the fans.
DJ Times: What went into the creation of Shakedown 3?
Small: Although it was a very intense period to get it all together, we have used a new stem mastering system from the geniuses at Wired Masters in London. This made the end part of compiling it all and getting all the different versions so much easier than normal.
DJ Times: “Bring It Back” saw you explore a funk-house sound, while “Dirty Organ” was a much dirtier club record. Are there any particular artists or styles that are particularly inspiring you now?
Wiltshire: We have always been influenced by different genres of music, but the resurgence of ’90s-infused house music in the U.K. is really inspiring at the moment. We also have some great singer/songwriters coming through and we’re hearing some great tracks on mainstream radio, so it’s all very positive.
DJ Times: There’s no shortage of larger-than-life diva moments throughout your work. What goes into deciding which vocalists to work with?
Small: We’ve always been attracted to voices that have something beyond the norm. We’ve never been ones for “diva by numbers” and we enjoy creating an atmosphere that lets a singer feel comfortable enough to enjoy the whole process. Also, we have to get on with them; all of our vocalists have become friends and it’s a point of pride with us.
DJ Times: What was your studio approach for this album?
Small: I’d say 95-percent of the album was made in Ableton and we have a very much hybrid approach to equipment with hardware and software playing equal parts.
DJ Times: How do you generally approach remixing a track?
Wiltshire: We always work out what is staying from the original. Often that can mean nothing at all, but sometimes—the remix of John Newman’s “Cheating,” for example—we end up keeping the chord structures and parts. The brass on that track was always going to be a keeper. Then we rebuild the music until we hit the sweet spot where you know it’s going to work. From then on, it’s just a mission to get to the track that’s in your head, which in the past has been weeks!
DJ Times: With production credits for Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Kylie Minogue in the past, do you have any plans to produce for others in the future?
Small: Probably at some stage, but our focus has been our own material for the last six months. It’s a very different industry than even a few years back, so you have to be aware of what every job can bring to you.
DJ Times: What else do you have planned for the rest of 2014?
Wiltshire: DJ gigs, promotion for the album, and some much needed rest.