5 Minutes With: Upgrade

5 Minutes With: Upgrade

A name that’s never far from the minds of a drum and bass fan, Upgrade has continued to raise the bar tune after tune, DJ set after DJ set. Jamie links up for an exclusive interview.

It’s been a minute since our last chat and it would seem so much has changed in the world of drum and bass. Do you ever see the scene slowing down for a quick break? Would you say 2019 has been the fastest moving year music development wise or have we been dropping foghorns for 9 months?

“I think it’s growing at a faster rate than ever! People have taken a liking to more atmospheric soundscapes and simple but effective drops, you can hear it being applied to everyone’s work.

The foghorn thing has been rinsed to death in the short time it’s been around but there are people who do it well. 

I don’t care for the hype around that style at the moment but I’ve heard some fantastic stuff come from it. Benny L undoubtedly being the front man! Big up Benny.”

The ‘Shot Down’ project was A BEAST but I bet it was also a fucking headache. Did you rope anyone else in to manage the admin side of it or was this solely down to you and T>I?

“I’d built the entire track before taking it to T>I and asking him to join in on the project. Simply out of respect. It had his style implemented from the get go and once it was complete he helped out with the final arrangement and adding a few bits to bring more of him into it. 

There were DJ’s on the cricut playing a 1.25 minute clip back in 2015 before I’d even finished it! Out to Heist, Voltage and Brockie for being some of the first to rep that tune before it was a thing. Massive shouts to my good friend Reece Ketly too. He’s been a part of this project as much as anyone else.”

How do you deal with negative or impatient people online? A certain mental health element must creep in here and as easy as it is to rise above it, how you not let it ruin your day?

“I have a lot to say on this issue but I’m slowly learning that taking time to myself and remembering that I don’t need to rise to it is often the best solution. I’ll happily call someone out if they’re just being an asshole but I don’t hold grudges. We all say stupid shit at some point and I think people don’t believe that you’ll actually see it or it’ll effect you in any way or that you shouldn’t let it because of the position you’re in.”

On the subject of mental health, social media and an online presence in general, do you think DJs and producers have the right grasp of how to react, behave and actual deal with it in general? Should labels or agents be doing more?

“It’s a difficult thing to approach. I think one major aspect which is overlooked is the way the majority of us have gotten into this scene. A lot of us started with very little and maybe wasn’t surrounded with the best people. There’s also those who probably haven’t had to struggle a day in their lives. Most of us regardless of how we started out understand how difficult it can be to live the double life.

I personally don’t think it’s healthy working in an industry where the majority of promotional, social and musical process is predominantly run independently by the artists. It’s a lot of work to take on and understanding boundaries is a major learning curve for any producer.

One wrong post could ruin everything. I remember Funtcase tweeting it’s like we’re all on a game show waiting to be buzzed out.

I think we should give people the chance to explain what they mean before lighting the torches.”

After all this, would you do another USB project again?

“No. Maybe. We’ll see.”

Vinyl is obviously heavily supported again, is this something you would entertain knowing that you love to experiment with various sub genres. An Upgrade jungle project via Serial Killaz would be nice.. (hint hint)

“Ha ha I’ve worked with Terra and Vita Elements for as long as I’ve been releasing music. My first release with Serial Killaz was back in 2013 on vinyl! I do love my jungle but I think it would be rude to call my interpretation of it actually jungle. I’ve made some jungle for Liondub before! Out to Eric in New York. Track was called ‘Mashup’ – check it out if you need a fix.”

We all know about the big trends this year but what’s 2020 looking like for you so far? How do you see the next year panning out? I spy something on RAM..

“I’ve been working closely with the team at Ram and I’m definitely doing more work for them. I’m hoping people will start to recognise the vibe I’m going for. It’s definitely a direction I’m looking to take in the future.”

One thing that sets you apart is your willingness to try new ideas. For example the recent car audio test with your track ‘Real’ featuring Bassman. Who knew that the modified car scene was still a thing! Will you be doing more videos like this? Did your ears and heart need a rest after that amount of bass?

“I had so much fun filming that. I like to think that that’s what separates my style of promotion to the usual promotion routines.

Shakey video playing out. Announcement video with cool graphics. Further shakey club videos. Release. Rinse and repeat.

I wanted people to be involved with the process a bit. I won’t be doing them all the time but when I get the motivation to do it I always have a lot of fun so expect more. My ears were fine! Not that they aren’t totally battered already but bass frequencies work differently to the ear. We can tolerate them better.”

You’re a car fan right? Talking of the modified scene, can you drop your top 3 classic hot hatches below and any stories that link to them? 

“Fiesta XR2, Golf R32, Renault 5 Turbo.

Dad had a Fiesta XR2 for a while. Golf R32’s look wicked and The Renault 5 Turbo was from watching Group B Rally as a kid!”

If you could rewind time, what would be the one car you wished you had salvaged or picked up back in the day and why?

“Back in the day? I’m 27! Saying that. I’m into American classics. 69 Chevy Nova with a V8 Is my dream car. One day…”

On the driving tip, do you have any epic journeys in store DJ wise? Will this New Years Eve be a mammoth fuel expense?

“Bookings have been fantastic this year. The next journey I’m looking forward to is Belgium to Rotterdam then to Cardiff! Logistically it’s a nightmare but I’m ready for it.”

Lastly, sticking with present times here. A lot of producers and DJs have set up their own labels this year with varying levels of success. Is this part of the scene any interest to you? It must something be frustrating sitting on music or do you find that as soon as you complete something, you know where it’s going?

“I’ve got everything in place for a record label, I’m just not sure how I’d like it to go. Few more brainstorming sessions and I’m sure I’ll have a clearer vision. I want it to be different.”

Any shouts or big ups?

“Out to all the Ram team. Logan at Low Down Deep. Trigger and Bass too. Big up the Serial Killaz team, out to Urban Agency (bookings) out to T>I my main G.”


You can follow Jamie Section 23 on Twitter, @JamieS23
Jamie S23 is part of the editorial team at Drum&BassArena, has a huge collection of vinyl from the 90’s and spends many hours wishing music still came on cassette. He’s stupidly into fitness and most importantly, a devoted Dad. Reminisce about air horns, lighters and The Sanctuary with him via Twitter or Soundcloud