Five years is a long time between albums. But sometimes it takes that long to create something you’re genuinely happy with. Such is the case with Calyx & TeeBee: their album All Or Nothing is a whole new chapter in their already impressive history. It’s 100% D&B but to get there they wrote over three albums worth of multi-genre material.
Read on to find how Calyx & TeeBee rediscovered their D&B roots, how their deal with Ram have taken them up a level or three and how Calyx is quite the mic smith!
It’s been a long time since Anatomy!
“We didn’t plan on it taking five years. But we knew we had to take time out from the whole production line process of tune writing: Write a track, put it out. Write a track, put it out. Write 10, you’ve got an album. That’s how it goes. We didn’t want that. And we wanted to experiment with other genres so we invested the last five years writing loads of different music. Loads of house, downtempo, weird shit, everything except for dubstep! The plan was to write a multi genre LP then realised we’d written so much good drum & bass we wanted to do a proper D&B album and when you hear these multi genre LPs they always seem to be a showcase for production skills and not a consistent album. Why cover lots of different bases when you don’t have a clear message?”
Wise words! All or nothing says it all…
“Yes! Do it properly or don’t do it at all. That’s why we wanted to move away from the conveyer belt and actually try to evolve and get creative. Making music for the love of it!”
Now it’s not purely D&B… Pure Gold is more hip-hop than D&B. Kemo at his finest…
“Awesome! I love the picture Kemo’s painted. It’s so visual. It’s got that nostalgic bitter sweet feeling about the hip-hop culture he grew up with.”
Awesome indeed. Didn’t it get massively bigged by Trevor Nelson?
“No, that was actually Elevate This Sound. The one with me singing on. Trevor Nelson played it every show for three weeks running. We had eight or nine daytime DJs on Radio 1 playing it. We never expected that type of crossover.”
Was that the first track you’ve ever sung on?
“Yeah. It’s the spirit of the whole album, pushing ourselves into different scenarios and really seeing what we’re capable of. People have commented on my voice when I’m joking around in the studio. I’ve always thought ‘yeah we’ll see’ but never done it. Now was the time. The lyrics are personal too, I didn’t want to write anything generic so they’re very special. I’ve always played instruments since I was young, but I’ve never felt so psychologically naked when I’m singing. It’s not just notes and tones, it’s got thought and meaning behind it.”
Deep! How about the Craze and Foreign Beggars collabo, tell us about that…
“This was mental and done completely remotely. We sent an instrumental to Foreign Beggars. They sent the vocals back. And we sent the instrumental and vocals to Craze and asked him to get creative. He sent back all these amazing scratches and we crafted them into the track. We were really excited about it. Craze is legend. His routines are mindblowing!”
Big time! Now let’s talk Beardyman. He’s a legend too!
“He is! We met him in Hungary at a festival and I wasn’t aware of him. I saw him and it blew my mind. I’d never heard anything like it. We played after him, we all got along and played each other music on the long bus ride home and stayed in touch. I sent him an instrumental and he came over to the studio. Off-stage he’s as charismatic as you’d expect. He’s got a brilliant mind. He was running round the room! He whacked down layer after layer after layer, shouting to turn it up. Brilliant! We’re talking about doing more stuff, possibly for his next album.”
Wow, cool! I think we’ve covered the album… Let’s talk about you signing to Ram.
“We’d been talking to Andy for ages and he always showed an interest in what we were doing, but we never expected things to work out as well as they have. We originally planned on releasing the album on our own label but we don’t have the distribution, staff, budget and everything else a big label like Ram has. It meant we could take the music to a wider audience. So we finished the album and played it to people in person. Only about four or five DJs to be honest, but we wanted to take things back to a pre-internet time. I know how it is with AIM; you get mountains of tunes and only have time to flip through them. We put so much time and effort into the album that we didn’t want it to fall into that trap. So we took it up to Andy and Red One, played it and they loved it. They wanted to talk about signing it straight away. It went so well. Almost every day since signing to Ram I feel vindicated in that decision. They do such a great job. They have incredible contacts and they know what they’re doing.”
They’re a proper label and not just an imprint set up by a DJ to release their own music…
“Exactly! Everyone’s got a label. There’s a sea of labels out there. Personally I think running your own label is overated. You’re preaching to the choir. You’re only selling to your fanbase. But releasing it on Ram will take it much further. Everything from the strategy to the videos; we’d never have had the exposure if we’d done it in-house. Most importantly, they want us to do our thing. There’s no Ram sound they want us to conform to. They want us to be creative. That was a big deal for us. We want to do what we want.”
And do it with complete freedom…
“Yes! We can focus every bit of our energy on the music and nothing else.”
All or nothing!
All Or Nothing is out now on Ram Records.