Death On The Balcony – Vices & Virtues
British duo Death On The Balcony have been creating quite a stir of late, a fact that’s chiefly attributable to their quality-laden fare, which has come at us of late on stellar and seminal imprints such as Culprint, Illusion, Dirt Crew, Resonance and – of course – their much-lauded Vice&Virtue label. Their latest endevaour, however, is a brilliant EP on the fast-rising Brazilian label, D-Edge, and as we learned from talking to the lads, their relationship with the label is nothing if not a reciprocal one. Here’s what happened when we nabbed them for a quick chat recently…
How are you guys then? What’s been keeping you busy aside from music?
Paul: All is well thanks! When not paying attention to music, work & our travels we are probably either out seeing friends, spending time with girlfriends and family or watching TV and movies. Mark’s a trained photographer & designer, which is another creative escape for him but that can easily cross over into work. Just regular stuff! Working for yourself, especially in this industry, it can be all encompassing and working opposite timescales to a lot of friends even with the job being social it’s normally with people you have just met or briefly know. It can be a little challenging so just trying to fit some normality into our lives really helps, It’s definitely important to be able to switch off every once in a while!
What was your first introduction to electronic music? Why did it really appeal?
Paul: We both had different entry points into House/Techno but I would say electronic music connected with me when I first heard 80’s bands like Depeche Mode. I grew up with that as the soundtrack so it must have planted itself firmly in my psyche from an early age! Obviously I tried to rebel against this in more formative years and picked up a guitar only to come back to electronic music a few years later.
Mark: For me I grew up around 80’s & disco music as it was always on in my house between the radio & my mum & older brothers record collections as a kid! From there in my early to mid teens – probably a bit young in hindsight – I started going to normally illegal hardcore, drum and bass raves and warehouse parties in Blackburn, Wigan, Manchester areas of the North West and everything that came with those scenes. I loved it and still do!
I was knocking about with an older crowd who drove – that helped – and also had 1210s. So that’s where I first began to learn how to play and use them at the various pre and after these party adventures over the years! From there I then found house & disco from two separate trips to the infamous Hacienda before it was closed down in 97 and those two nights out really did influence me. I was totally hooked from the dance floor to the decks and I suppose the rest is history. Here I am…
Cool. How would you describe your style to someone who’s yet to encounter your music?
Paul: Someone wrote this a while back in a article about us… I can’t quite remember the source, so apologies to whoever wrote it but I think they summed it up quite well!
“Whether it’s disco inflected fuel or house & techno rhythms, these eclectically deft producers will juxtapose anything they lay their hands upon, mixing the beat of the drum with the melodic buzz of a hazy brain.”
Warm, melodic, trippy, groove based music to lose oneself in on a dance floor!
From that point of view, who really influenced you when you were starting out? And who continues to?
Mark: Musical inspirations for us range from NYC Disco scene in 70’s/80’s and the Paradise Garage‘ Larry Levan, David Mancuso’s ’Loft’ through to Ron Hardy’s ‘Music Box’ and all the Chicago House sounds heard there. Larry Heard has always been one to us that stands out but when you start naming names you have to name them all!
Paul: Also the sounds of the UK such as the new wave / electronic pop scene the Blitz sound, Visage, Depeche Mode, Howard Jones, Kate Bush etcetera into early 90s music like Beloved, Portishead, Pharcyde, J.Dilla and then obviously into acid house with the Hacienda sounds and also older labels like Strictly Rhythm, Cajual, Hard Times with Todd Terry, Cajmere, MAW and the like.
There is also a great wealth of European electronic music that needs mentioning like Kraftwerk, 80’s Italo. Also 70’s/80’s soul music like Rose Royce and the more popular choices like Prince which is a popular choice for a reason! Soundtracks and scores have also always had a big influence on us and our style as another point of inspiration. This answer has been a long one as there is so much to get through and we’ve only really begun to scratch the surface!
It’s is a big question. Did you meet one another through a shared love of music?
Mark: We have been involved in music separately for a lot longer but together we have been producing and DJing since 2006. We met through mutual friends and various parties / after parties but we definitely bonded over tastes in music and culture. Mainly old 70’s/80’s stuff… Oh! and endless Disco, House and Techno records!
At what stage did you realise you’d very similar tastes then? Do you disagree on many things musically?
Paul: It was from the beginning. Pretty much from the day we met we were hatching plans to make music or DJ somewhere together. Sometimes you get disagreements in the studio about whether things should be one way or another but those are fairly easily resolved. It’s about respecting one another’s opinion and trying things differently to the way maybe you first heard it. It either grows on you or it doesn’t its important to always be honest, open and upfront on ideas and things if you’re feeling it or not to make it work as best or to leave it and move on. This can apply this to a lot of things in general life. If it’s still a problem then talk about it! Style wise though we tend to appreciate a lot of the same stuff.
So how does it work in the studio with you two then? Who does what?
Mark: There are no set rules to the process. We are both adept in using equipment and piecing together tracks. We are fairly conscious that whilst we want to bring a sound that is “us” we don’t want that to be apparent just through the use of the same drums, patterns, or bass and ideas. I would say we are aware of a formula and trying to break these “comfort zones” you can fall into. So in terms of who does what it could be either of us who brings an idea to the table and we take it from there between us to completion! That’s when the work starts, getting it signed to the right or best home and everything that comes with that is a whole art form in itself as the far as the job side of the industry goes!
And what are your studio days like? How do they differ from day to day?
Paul: We used to live together so we could be very spontaneous with our studio sessions. We wouldn’t really plan and still don’t too much. With recent developments in living arrangements and living in separate cities now, we have to be slightly more organized. We have 1 week a month of solid building & structuring of ideas. This is everyday for 12 or more hour days working on stuff. The productions have been fruitful so far. We are happy it seems to be working.