Rene LaVice, the perennial joker, talented producer and film-maker, has been one busy man. Since the success of ‘The Calling’, his BBC Radio 1-playlisted track with Ivy Maire, the Canadian producer’s itinerary has rivalled that of Andy C’s, with constant touring (including shows with the likes of The Prodigy and Spor), and a release schedule that suggests he probably hasn’t slept that much this past year.
While some D&B producers have a reputation of taking themselves way too seriously, LaVice is renowned for his playful nature and ability to poke fun at himself, all the while maintaining an air of credibility with a slew of quality productions and remixes.
We managed to lock him down long enough for an interview ahead of his set at our 19th birthday this Bank Holiday Sunday, and what ensued is what certain wankers would refer to as “proper cheeky banter”, which is often the case with a Rene LaVice interview…
(Note: Apologies to anyone who genuinely uses the term “proper cheeky banter”. No offence.)
What up Rene?! Where have we caught you this very second?
I’m sitting in Café Rouge, enjoying a French omelette et frites, avec mayonnaise, with a black Americano. No milk. No bullshit. Just black.
You’re truly a man’s man… We haven’t spoken since the juggernaut that is ‘The Calling’ made it on to BBC Radio 1’s A playlist. I think a huge congrats are in order. Big the fuck up! What’s life like post ‘The Calling’? When it rains do you have an ‘umbrella guy’ come running out of the shadows to protect your threads?
‘Out of the shadows,’ that’s very poetic. I usually just call a helicopter to come and airlift me to wherever… Like if I have to do groceries or something. It’s so easy now that I sometimes forget to get dressed. I mean I always manage to put on a chinchilla coat or something, but I got thrown out of M&S the other day for not wearing pants. I mean not english “pants.” Like I was wearing underwear… I had my red tiger print ones on, but I didn’t have any slacks or jeans or whatever… fuck M&S.
Well that’s where you went wrong. Stick to Waitrose… They’re much more accepting there. Jokes aside ‘The Calling’ really took on a mind of its own… Did you know you were on to something special when making it? Does that even happen, or do you feel the same way about all of your tracks?
Yeah pretty much every track I make takes on a story of its own by the time I finish it. That’s sort of the mystery behind it all, the deus ex machina in my life story. Often I don’t fully understand something I’m struggling with or experiencing until I write a song about it. ‘The Calling’ started as an instrumental landscape that stemmed directly from the conflict between love and passion in my life. It was my way of coping with things that were happening to me and when I explained the story to Ivy, she understood and then the two of us were swept away into the writing of the lyrics and were able to bring a whole new dimension to the song.
It’s an intensely personal story, yet at the same time I think many people can relate to it. Anyone who’s had to leave their love to pursue something, or been separated prematurely. It’s emotional, it’s personal, that’s how we approached the lyrics and that’s where Ivy really shines when it comes to song writing. Ironically however, I kind of have a soft spot for extremely cheesy pop music and an ear for earworm pop-hooks. So once we had set the scene and done the verses, the chorus just popped into my head and it tied the whole thing together. I drove right to the heart of the matter and got the point across.
I think that’s why I’m good at writing basslines in drum and bass. In drum and bass, the bassline is as important as the hook, in some tracks that are more minimal, the bassline IS the hook. It’s the meat of the track, it’s the part that is going to take all the sounds you’re hearing and all the ideas and drive the whole thing home. The rest is bullshit if you don’t have a good bassline.
Amen. How did the connection with Ivy Mairi come about?
I’ve known Ivy for years, we’ve known each other since high-school. She’s a good friend of mine and we’ve seen each other grow into adulthood and go through various experiences. That’s partly why we could relate when writing music. We’ve got a level of communication that other songwriters can’t have. You can’t manufacture that in some pop music factory. It’s real.
You’ve been working hard it seems with the huge remix of Nero’s ‘The Thrill’ dropping recently, as well as A-Trak’s ‘Push’, and your Ugly remix of Rae Morris’ ‘Love Again’ coming out recently as well – do you work a lot when you’re on the road? It seems like you’re always touring, so when do you actually find the time to get in the studio?
Yeah I’ve been working my ass off. I can’t help it though, I absolutely love what I’m doing right now and I’m honestly loving every minute of it. It means that I have to write music while I’m on planes or in the tour van. On the Spor tour I had to find travel sickness tablets that would let me work on my laptop without vomiting because I get really car sick and I had to work on a remix for Wilkinson’s ‘Hopelessly Coping’ while we were driving to gigs. Then I can I stop off at a studio and run certain things through analog gear and mess around.
I don’t actually have my own studio at the moment because I’m too busy to actually get there and work. Sometimes I’m singing something in my hotel room before a gig… I don’t even realise where I am anymore. I’m surprised no one has complained about stuff like that yet. Someone might see me on a laptop in a coffee shop and think I’m just dicking around, but then a week later that might be my next single.
Speaking of touring – You’re always posting vids of you crowd-surfing and getting up to all kinds of mischief. Craziest thing that’s happened on tour this year?
Oh I dunno… I never plan for this stuff to happen. I’m just a spontaneous person and I get ideas all the time. Sometimes stuff just happens and I go with it. I’m not trying to be a shit disturber, I’m just living my life and enjoying life. I want everyone to enjoy their life too. That being said there have been some epic crowd surfs. I don’t even really know how it happens. I just get lost in the music sometimes. I’ll be playing a track that gets me really excited and I’ll just be at the front of the stage all of a sudden screaming at people and high fiving and then a second later I’m flying through the air and doing the back stroke across the crowd. Some of the surfs get really long too… Sometimes I think ‘maybe I’ll be lost at sea this time’ but somehow the crowd always miraculously carries me right back to the stage. They love it. It’s just some of the wild stuff that happens like being at a punk rock gig. It’s alive. We’re just going crazy and expressing ourselves. You gotta let out that energy somehow you know?
The craziest thing though? I don’t know, depends on what you think is crazy. A funny one that comes to mind is on the Spor tour I got us all animal onesies and we walked around the streets meowing like cats like some sort of demented cat-gang. Not all of them are as PG as that so I’ll leave it there for now, haha. I don’t know, I can’t think of one that’s better than all the others, it’s just a constant barrage of madness. You either go with it or you look back and you wish you had. We’ve got so many good memories from that tour.
I bet! Now back to the ‘Thrillseeking’ remix – when you heard the tune did you know exactly what you wanted to do with it?
When I heard the original it kept swimming around in my head and I had the idea for how I wanted to change the chords and I had a sort of mental map for how I wanted it to progress and how the elements would change shape. I kind of painted it out while I was working on it and then I went and started putting it together in the studio. When I picked up my guitar to lay down a new riff for it that’s when it all came together. I wanted more attitude, more electricity. I wanted it to sound like it had been amped up and then just when you think it’s as far as it can go, push it even further and even more perverted, into a crescendo of orgasmic fury. Only to end up right back where we started.
Her voice is so beautiful, it’s such a nice reprieve when it comes back in after all the mayhem in the first drop. I love that part. I always hear a bunch of cheers from the crowd when that part comes back in. What a great vocal. It was a real honor to work on that one.
Well you certainly did it justice. You’re helping us celebrate 19 years in the game on May 24th along with a who’s who of D&B legends. You’re somewhat of a Drum&BassArena favourite and you played at our 18th birthday last year as well – what are some of your fondest memories of the brand?
Aw ur mekin me blush. Ye m8, the big banana. So many good memories. You know, probably the interviews and stuff. I think it was one of the first resources I had access to back in Toronto where I could actually hear D&B artists being interviewed and hear them speak about things. That was cool, it really opened things up.
Did you follow the brand as you were growing up and getting in to D&B?
Yeah definitely. It was a real hub for what was happening in the UK scene and even stuff that was going on around the world.
So much has changed within D&B in the last couple of years, let alone the past 19 years – is there a part of you that wishes you experienced the old days of d&b or do you think the scene is in a better place right now?
Kind of? I mean I know a lot of people now who are older than me who were around in the 90s and early 2000s and experienced the scene during different eras. Often when we’re out eating or hanging out somewhere they’ll start reminiscing and tell a lot of stories about different things that happened back then. It’s really cool, I get to experience it vicariously through them and also learn a lot of respect for the history of the music and for related genres of music.
It’s cool though. It’s like rock n’ roll now. There are 3-4 generations worth of D&B now and different schools of thought and ways of integrating and relating to it. I’m on my own wavelength now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve got respect for all of it, but I’m on my own artistic journey and people are along for the ride too. I’m living in the moment and I’m living it to the fullest, so I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
On to the album – Your “working on ma nu album” posts across your social media sites brought me a lot of joy… Have you actually been able to get any work on the album done amidst all of this? 😉
Haha, yeah cool. I’m glad they make people laugh. You have to laugh during your life. You’ll live longer. I guess a lot of people only have a tiny little window into my life through instagram so they don’t really see the colossal amount of shit I do every day (or while they’re sleeping). They see one instagram go up of me lying on a piano and think “WHAT THAT’S ALL YOU DID TODAY? WORK ON THE FUCKIN ALBUM MAN WHAT THE FUCK?????” ….not realizing that I probably spent 16 hours on it that day and got about 3 hours sleep and then got on a plane and worked on it some more.
Or they see a photo of me lying in a park on a Monday and they’re like “YEAH SURE, WISH I COULD LIE IN A PARK, I GOTTA GO TO WORK YOU FUCKFACE” ….not realising that I probably had 3 days worth of international flights the day before, finished a remix, slept about 2 hours and had some mad intense meeting with a lawyer about some super tedious legal thing that morning, and a tax accountant phone call explaining how fucked I am because I live in two different countries and barely qualify as a ‘real person’ by societies standards, and now I feel too physically ill to move……. yeah. I’m gonna lie in a park and fucking love it for the rest of the afternoon. Deal with it.
Own it Rene, don’t take any shit mate. So when can we expect a release?
Soon as fuck. It’s gonna be fully loaded & worth the wait.
Any exclusives or secrets you’d like to share about the project?
It’s got more attitude than a rottweiler on steroids and scientifically designed to scare your parents.
I need this in my life. Will you be directing any of your own music videos for it do you think?
The magic 8 ball says it’s likely. I want to shake things up though. Don’t expect the same old bullshit.
We never really do with you.. So, what’s coming up next?
Australian tour, UK & EU tour, an EP leading up to the album release, and a remix announcement that will blow your freaking pants off, & more…
I’ll bill you for the damaged pants. Final words?
Shouts to all my fans who I interact with day to day and see at the shows, you guys fucking rock and you keep me going and keep me smiling. Respect!
Catch Rene at our 19th birthday this Bank Holiday Sunday. Tickets available here.