Since the fateful day that Dominic Butler and Mark Yardley looked down out their feet, spotted a manhole cover, and thought “perfect”, the name Stanton Warriors has become synonymous with genre-hopping, musical inventiveness. Through their label Punks, the pair breed forward-thinking producers and offer the world an ever evolving sonic palette via groundbreaking mix tapes and remixes.
Currently working their fingers to the bone in the studio, whilst simultaneously managing a hectic touring schedule, time with the duo is hard to come by; however, Data Transmission managed to grab a few precious moments with Dom, ahead of their set at the Desperados Next Level Party at London’s Bussey Building, to talk gigs, broken beats and how to avoid pigeonholing…
So, you’re playing the Desperados Next Level Party tonight; what’s so special about this event?
We come from the garage scene originally; we were working with super early garage pioneers like Tuff Jam – working at their label and in their studio – so we were part of that scene from like ’96 onwards. And although our music comes under different names now, we have that as our roots, so it’s good to be going back and doing stuff with some of the garage guys. Oxide & Neutrino will be quite a mad one, I haven’t seen them for ages! Also Mike Skinner; we used Mike Skinner’s a cappella, on Stanton Sessions Volume 1, before he had any records released or anything. We were signed to 679 with him, so we’ve got a long history. For us it’s sort of taking a step back into our garage days. I know not everyone in there’s garage, but we thought it’s got a garage vibe to it, so we thought we’d drop a kind of Stanton Warriors breakbeat/garage-y set. For us it’s gonna be kind of fun to be able to drop that kind of sound again.
You mentioned how you started in garage, but now you’re probably most associated with breakbeat. Would you agree there’s a bit of a breakbeat revival going on at the moment?
Yeah, yeah. Back in 2001, when we did our Stanton Sessions Volume 1, we dragged in sounds from garage DJs like Groove Chronicles, Bushwacka! was on there doing this techy breakbeat stuff, we had all these different things and we shoved it all together and made our sound out of it. In the sets we’re doing now, we’re getting tunes in from Claude VonStroke, to Diplo, through to stuff from My New Leng and Chris Lorenzo, loads of guys who do trap and dubstep, and breakbeat guys and miami bass guys. You put it all together and it sounds quite similar, in terms of how it’s all got a kind of broken beat. I mean a lot of the individual artists wouldn’t necessarily call it breakbeat, but whatever, we don’t care about names and stuff!
A long-winded way is non-4/4 uptempo dance music; obviously that’s a bit of a mouthful, but in essence it’s digging for tunes and creating really interesting sets; we’ve always like interesting beats, hence why we don’t play house. We’re always looking for different things, and it’s a really good time at the moment, ‘cos we drag in all these different sounds, and come up with something which is relatively new and fresh compared to a lot of whats going on out there. I listen to a lot of mixes these days and there’s a lot of deep house, and it’s cool, but they use the same kind of organs and they do the same bass lines, and to my ears it’s quite same-y. So it’s a really interesting time to be doing this kind of broken beat, bassy sound on our mix tapes, and especially in our sets, ‘cos there’s so much to choose from!
You’ve always been known for big collaborations and particularly your remixes for artists such as Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim, M.I.A. and Basement Jaxx…
It’s always been dance music, you know; like that Gorillaz mix, that was one of Fatboy Slim’s biggest tunes, and there’s so many different DJs from different genres playing our tracks and we’ve always loved that! Like when we did our mix of Azzido Da Bass [‘Dooms Night’], we had Sasha and Carl Cox playing it. If you look back into the history of dance music, to like Kool Herc or Larry Levan, they were just grabbing stuff from anywhere. They were getting loops off heavy metal tunes and putting african percussion on, and that is dance music! When you hear those guys’ sets it’s really interesting, you never know what’s coming next, it’s not uniform. That’s the beauty of that remixes; garage guys are playing them, breakbeat guys are playing them, even the sort of breakdance, hip hop guys were playing them ‘cos it was like uptempo hip hop to them; to us that’s great. At the end of the day, a good beat is always a good beat – whether it’s James Brown or Andy C – so we’ve never been that worried about pigeonholing ourselves.
That’s refreshing to hear, everybody these days seems to be labeled as deep house, or bass house or whatever new version of house they’re calling it…
A lot of that stuff sounds like regurgitated ’90s house, which I love, you know. I don’t dislike bass house and all these types of house, there is some really, really good stuff out there, but a lot of it just sounds same-y or at the very least it isn’t challenging. That’s why dance music is always the best genre – as opposed to rock or whatever – it’s the fact it has the ability to be like, ‘wow, what’s this? It sounds amazing,’ and not just rely on say, a guitar, a drum kit and an indie singer. So when I hear stuff that’s same-y it’s just like: this is not what I signed up for!
I think you can not be pigeonholed, but at the same time have your own sound. I guess that’s why, over the years, we haven’t jumped onto bandwagons, we haven’t gone, ‘oh dubstep’s big, let’s do dubstep; or electro house is big, let’s do that, or let’s just start making trap or whatever.’ We just like to make the music we like to hear, that’s first and foremost and I think that’s what’s won us a lot of fans. In the longterm they know we have a certain sound and when we do our gigs it’s almost like we’re a band, in the sense that you’re gonna hear the sound that we’ve made. A lot of our tunes we don’t even release, we like to keep stuff for ourselves, and I actually think that’s kind of interesting. If you’re gonna fly across the world to do a gig in Australia, and you’re just gonna play the latest Beatport top ten… anyone can do that! It kind of defeats the object of you going all that way and makes it less special for all the people coming to your gig.
You’re single with Eboi, ‘Jerk That’, dropped back in March, but you’re already back in the studio; what are you guys working on at the moment?
We’re just about to release an EP called the Bones EP – that’s a 4-tracker – and we’ve also finished an album. There’s quite a few tunes on there; we’re doing collaborations with Cause & Effect, AC Slater, this New York guy, Tony Quattro, from Trouble & Bass, Hostage… lots of artists who maybe perceived to be from those scenes you mentioned, but are also quite open-minded as well. Like we’ve just done a remix for Worthy and he’s done one for us, and he played at our Stanton Sessions nights in Miami and was loving it and we were loving his stuff, even though he was playing 808 techno-y stuff. It was arguably breakbeat, but our sounds were so similar even though they were from different worlds, so it was nice to kind of cross-pollinate.
The album I think is the most exciting work we’ve done so far and the collaborations have helped with that. Some people have us in this kind of breakbeat box, so they might not be open to listening to new stuff we do – especially if it’s sort of house or whatever – but I think when you listen to Radio 1, like MistaJam or Annie Mac, the tunes they play aren’t all house; again the artists probably wouldn’t call them breakbeat, but they are broken beats. It’s a good time for this kind of music; we’ve tested the [album] out around the world and it seems to work. It’s more of an album album, not just a bunch of club tracks. We do have a bunch of club tracks to release around it too, so we’ve got a lot of material coming out; we’ve been working very hard so we’re excited about all of that.
It’ll be a busy 2015 for Stanton Warriors then?
Yeah, it’s funny ‘cos we’ve just got this whole tour thing going on, and some people are like: ‘When are you going on tour?’ And it’s like we’re on tour every week! We’re doing the Desperados thing on Friday, then a bass festival in Poland on Saturday, and then next week, two other things somewhere else abroad. Even over christmas we’re doing a big festival in Goa, with Dillion Francis and Paul van Dyk, all these different trance DJs, and Maya Jane Coles. Then we’re off to Bali, and then the Philippines and all these different places. One thing about not putting ourselves in a genre specifically – I know people call it breakbeat but it’s a bit more stand alone – is we get to play loads of different styles of festival. We did Ultra in Miami this year, we did EDC and all that kind of EDM stuff, even though we don’t play EDM, and at the same time we do the cooler festivals and even like drum & bass and deep house places. We played in LA recently, and I looked at the line-ups for the next few months and it’s all Claude VonStroke and Richie Hawtin; I was thinking, we’re the only guys who are playing this club who don’t play 4/4! In essence we’re playing 4/4 accessible breakbeat. When we’re playing big house clubs in America, the simple fact that the DJ before us or the DJ after us is playing house or techno or whatever, means that when our beat comes on it stands out. When we finish our sets a lot of kids come up to us in these places and they’re like: ‘What’s this music? I’ve never heard this before, this isn’t techno but I liked it.’ We’re winning over fans from different genres so to speak; we even played a club night in Miami and it was all trap, and our music fit right in because we’ve still got that 808 boom. We love the fact that we’re not just in the deep house scene or the bass house scene or whatever, ‘cos I think that’s kind of boring.
One negative thing about it, is that if you are on your own doing something, you don’t naturally have a world you fit into. If we were drum & bass DJs we’d be doing all the drum & bass clubs – I guess that kind of restricts you as well – but going it alone means you have to work extra hard and make more tunes to play, but I think it bears more dividends in the long run and gives you more longevity.
Do you think it would be difficult for somebody coming up now, to do what you guys have done?
I know of a few people who are coming up who are doing that kind of thing, and the ones we like, we kind of pull them under our wing. We’ve got our label Punks, and we’ve got people like Martin Hörger and a lot of young artists coming up who have that freedom; a lot of what we do is just bringing people into our label. So yeah, it is possible; if you are doing that and you send us a tune and we can hear you’re doing something cool, DJs like ourselves will help you out and play your tunes. Literally, my best advice for all young producers just coming up is, as cliché as it sounds: originate don’t duplicate. That’s what are ears are gonna pick up on and you’ll get support from bigger DJs.
Stanton Warriors are performing at the Desperados Next Level Party, a party with a difference, at London’s iconic Bussey Building on Friday 17th October. #PartyInstinct Facebook.com/Desperados