Delta Heavy walk us through their ‘Only In Dreams’ LP
UK bass duo Simon James and Ben Hall AKA Delta Heavy first met at Nottingham University back in 2003. It’s a friendship and partnership that’s proved immensely important to the pair, both personally and professionally.
As a duo, their respective skill sets were perfectly matched: Simon was the one with the more traditional musical background while Ben had a knack for sound engineering. Both loved the DJ culture though and both mixed with more than a little capability.
Bonded by a love of underground club nights like Stealth and Detonate in Nottingham, their passion for music from drum ‘n’ bass to house music was intensified after many a night and early morning dancing ‘til dawn. Needless to say, after they graduated, Simon and Ben made their way to London where they have been making beautiful music ever since!
To coincide with the release the guys agreed to walk us through each track of the album, so you, our ever devoted readers, can get inside their heads and find out how and what inspired them to create this new masterpiece!
‘In Dreams’ (Intro)
‘In Dreams’ was actually the last track we wrote for the album. We wanted to start ‘Only In Dreams’ by setting the scene, taking listeners to another worldly place in their minds. The artwork had been created and it was written always keeping that in mind.
Everyone You Know – ‘Anarchy’
Working with Everyone You Know, we really liked their take on the early ’90s, rave era/jungle vibe mixed with punk vocals as well, it all gelled so perfectly so when we sat down to write the tune it was of obvious to go down that route and it was also really exciting for me to be able to work on something that was more guitar-based as that’s what I grew up on. I’m always trying to wangle guitars into music when I can and it was brilliant to do something a bit different as we hadn’t done anything like that before. It was a great opportunity to mix that it in with big drops like we normally do, a great hybrid tune.
Zeds Dead – ‘Lift You Up’
Zeds Dead approached us with a few basic ideas and this one we decided to start with. Lift You Up pretty much wrote itself, as soon as we heard the initial ideas we knew where to take it. It was incredibly quick to finish, we had been road testing it since summer last year but it was 90% done from the start, other than some slight tweaking as the vibe was there immediately. In a way, the track was focused toward the US crowd, I guess because of Zeds Dead name and what they are trying to do by bringing Drum and Bass to the attention of the masses over there, we fused the track with some half time bass elements that are more traditional to the ‘bass heads’ in the US, although the US listeners were kept in mind, we didn’t really deviate too far from material we have produced in the past.
‘Here With Me’ feat Modestep
‘Here With Me’ started from a simple musical sample we found that you hear at the beginning of the intro. We developed that idea and finished the intro to where you hear it in its current form now. It was at that point we decided we wanted to get Josh from Modestep to sing on it as we felt his vocals suited the vibe perfectly. Normally we would do the vocals at this stage of the writing and then finish the track but we actually did it the other way round, which is very rare for us. So we approached him with a totally finished backing track and he came up with an idea. We had a few conversations to tweak the idea and then it was done.
‘Exodus’ is one of the oldest tracks that we released earlier last year, it wasn’t initially going to be on the album but we felt that it fitted the vibe and had stood the test of time in our minds too. It was a slightly different track for us as when we wrote it, we hadn’t really done a heavy/bassy dubstep track like this, they’ve always been more musical or a little noisy I guess, ‘Exodus’ is a far more bass driven track with a huge intro, we felt it really worked for the mood of the album so it’s addition was a definite must.
Muzzy – ‘Revenge’
Just before playing at our London show late last year we started talking about getting in the studio together, so the following week we went down to his place and spent a day conjuring up ‘Revenge’. The track was one of the last that we started on the album, it literally resulted from a day in the studio with no real plan or agenda and within the day, we had written most of the track. We’re a fan of Muzzy’s music and vice versa so there is a mutual understanding of what a collab between Muzzy and Delta Heavy should sound like so there wasn’t much pondering or jostling about which way to go, it was more about finding a vibe and going with it. We came up with a melody that was a nod to his Middle Eastern roots and thought was a theme that would be quite cool to play on, turning the melody and mystical vibe into the adventure theme.
We were inspired by the slightly slower, trippy, darker material but the heavy vibe that producers like 1788-L have been doing but we really wanted to put our own spin on that type of sound. Kind of half time DnB, kind of not…It’s not like we haven’t done anything like this before it but AI did feel slightly different, a progression of what we have done before with the half time sound. It kind of has a Prodigy inspired vibe too and that sense of epic drama that we try to achieve in a lot of our tracks. It’s a real melting pot of ideas.
‘Collide’ ft. Rae
The ‘Collide’ vocal was written with a guy called Stefan Abingdon and of course, Rae Hall. It was a really cool day in the studio, we started with nothing at all, we actually wrote it on guitar initially as an acoustic track. When we began to produce the music it started out as a straight 4/4 track with a rave feel but once the music drop was written it was triplets, so we then went back and manipulated the vocal so it swung. We created this intense brooding and soaring atmosphere for the vocal to wash over. The track then develops into a heavier second drop – totally different from the first. What was initially written and what came out was quite different which is really cool. We went in there with no real plan, all we knew was we wanted to let the vocal air and do its thing, keeping that front and centre, so that’s what we stuck to.
KUURO – ‘Replicant’
KUURO went through quite a few different versions, it actually started off as a totally different idea. You can hear by the different sections in the track that there were so many ideas coming through, we really needed to latch on to the great ideas, filter out the excess and concentrate on the work that we really liked. I love the fact that it was a tune that progressed and that it’s not a singular idea, we wanted to let the track evolve as you listen so it starts as some kind of half time hybrid sound, develops into dnb and finishes with trap.
‘Show Me The Light’ ft Starling
‘Show Me The Light’ was a labour of love, to say the least. The vocal was written in 2017, it was the first track on the album that we started writing and it went through so many versions you wouldn’t believe. It was hard work trying to get all the music and drops right, even the tempo changed wildly. It ended up a lot faster than it was originally written and recorded. It was the last track that we completed and to be honest at times we weren’t even sure that it was going to be finished! ‘Show Me The Light’ turned out to be something we never expected, we thought it was going to be some kind of future bass type of track and it’s ended up being more of a slow, offbeat DnB track driven by guitars and inspired by artists like the Foals and other euphoric guitar lead music. Feels like perhaps it found it’s natural conclusion after a heavy process of elimination. We loved the vocals so much, we just couldn’t give up on it. When you have something that good, you really want to make it work
‘Take Me Home’ – Ft Jem Cooke
The initial idea was to write a vocal with a vocoder effect and for it to be quite gentle and beautiful. Inspired by Imogen Heap’s track ‘Hide and Seek’, the vocal was written with just a really stripped back chord progression and we then ran the vocal into that chord progression under the main vocal to create the initial backing. That vibe formed the basis for the whole tune although it developed into something with peaks and troughs that take it from sparse and still, to intense and pounding. Half time and full dnb drums and two different drops give it the kind of progression we love to hear in tracks.
As the last track, ‘Take Me Home’ has a certain feeling about it, the line “take me home” feels like a conclusion, it has that slightly euphoric, finale feel in the same way that Ghost has in ‘Paradise Lost’. It felt so obvious to finish the album with this track. We never had a running order in mind when we began working out the tracklist as we never we wrote the album with a concept in mind. We wrote all of the tracks individually and did the order at the end, something that was natural and very easy to decide.