Sigma: In charge
Its been a huge couple of years for Sigma. The men behind massive singles like Paint it Black and Rude Boy, along with some of the most successful remixes to boot, such as Rusko’s Somebody to Love, and, more recently, Route 94’s My Love –show no signs of slowing down. Throw in the behaviour on their own label Life Recordings and endless international appearances; Joe Lenzie & Cam Edwards are smashing it in every direction.
What’s even more impressive is that they’ve done it all on their own. Proof – if needed – that hard work and a passion for music really does pay off. Ahead of our forthcoming triple disc album Drum&BassArena 2014 (which features two of the boys’ tracks) we caught up with Joe to get their take on the current state of the scene, their plans for Life Recordings, and what drives the creative power between him and Cam alive.
Where are you joining us from?
I’m sitting in front of a piano in the studio actually.
Fully clothed I hope? Not pantsless or anything like that?
Haha, no, no, fully clothed!
First of all congrats on the success of Rude Boy! It’ll be featuring on the Drum&BassArena 2014 compilation- did you expect the tune to be so successful?
Well it’s a personal favourite of ours so we were really happy that it became one of the tracks that was so successful. It maintained a certain air of credibility you know? It was good to have a kind of underground, rootsy, jungle track getting played on day time Radio 1 and getting a lot of support right across the scene from raves, up to the big Radio 1 DJs, and also the kind of Urban DJs- all the kind of people we had never reached out to before so yeah it was good, we were really happy!
What was the initial inspiration for the tune?
Well it’s a real mix of all types of styles of drum & bass. We like the jungly stuff, and we like the more euphoric hands in the air type of stuff, so with that track we wanted to do something along the vibe of the Special Dedication remix we did a couple of years ago, because we hadn’t done anything like that in a while. Doctor was a vocalist that we found online randomly when we came across a couple of his videos on YouTube from the dubstep stuff that hes done. We had written an instrumental that was roughly how it was on the finished track, and then we all got in the studio together and finished it off, and the rest is history.
Back to the future… What’s your take on the present state of drum and bass? Is it as healthy as ever?
It’s very healthy. I think in terms of the commercial stuff it’s really strong, and there’s also a lot of good underground stuff around at the moment. What’s been happening lately though, which is kind of good in some respects and not so good for the artists who don’t work with the labels, is that a lot of the promoters now are just booking label nights, which is fine for the artists that are on the labels, but if you’re not, then you kind of have to make your own way and do your own thing. Luckily for us we feel that we’re strong enough to hold our own, which is a good thing, and we’ve built everything ourselves from the ground up. We’ve always done things for ourselves aside from working with a couple of labels here and there, so its harder in that respect but the scene is stronger because of it.
Tell us about your own label Life Recordings…
When we first established the label, which was about 3-4 years ago now, it was because we basically had a bunch of tunes and we didn’t have an outlet to put them out on. We were working with Zinc on Bingo at the time, and I think the first 12” was going to be Paint It Black which came out on Hospital in the end. But basically what happened was that Zinc was going to put it out on Bingo, and then the week before it went out for mastering he said “you know what? I’m done with drum & bass”, so we didn’t have an outlet to put it out on. So we started sending the tracks out to people and High Contrast got it and sent it to Annie Mac, and then Hospital heard it and wanted to sign it so that kind of set us back a little bit on that one track. But yeah it was just an outlet for us to release our own music on without any boundaries, without anyone saying, “you should be doing this”, “you should be doing that”, and us just being able to vibe and do our own thing. That’s hopefully what we’ll keep doing this year, and take on new artists and get them to work with us on that ethos, you know, and not have any boundaries or restrictions.
Does it allow for more artistic freedom?
Well yeah it can but it depends how critical you are of your own stuff. I think sometimes having an external person to tell you what’s good and what’s not can be good and bad. Sometimes you get caught in a loop and start thinking something is rubbish and it takes someone to step in and say “no, that is really good”. But we’ve got a guy that’s going to be running the label for us now, and he is fully qualified man! A junglist through and through, so we’re really excited!
Next release on the label is I Need You/ Auto Gravity by Bladerunner- how did this release come about?
It was just via us putting up a message on Facebook looking for new tracks and Bladerunner got in touch and sent us a bunch of tracks. Coming from the angle that we do- in terms of liking a real mix of stuff- that track works really well because its got the jungle vibe to it, and has the melodic vibe through it as well, so that tune seemed the most suited to the kind of direction we wanted to go in.
Back to our Drum&BassArena 2014 album… We also have your remix of Fresh’s Dibby Sound. You and Fresh go way back, right?
Yeah, unfortunately we don’t see each other as often anymore though. Our remixes have been well received in the past so our management thought it would be a good move to get involved on that. I haven’t seen Dan for about a year now, and every time we do see each other we get on so well, but we’re all so busy it’s hard to find time to catch up!
You’ve had massive remixes in the past, what’s the official Sigma approach to reversions?
It’s never going to be as personal because you’re just taking someone else’s track and putting your own spin on it. But in saying that, the Somebody to Love remix we did for Rusko, aside from the vocals, all the other elements were basically just a new track, so in that respect that track is just an original so was a bit more personal. Sometimes you kind of wonder if it’s a wiser move not to give it over for a remix but sometimes you don’t realize how big a tune will be until you make it and then you hear “that tune is massive” and it’s like oh.. okay cool!!
And what’s your process when working on original material?
We do a lot of stuff online so we work separately in the studio and come together with different ideas and kind of pick the best ones. The majority of the best work we do though is when we’re together, because you’ve got two views and opinions on it. We’ve taken another angle recently working with a lot of new vocalists, which has been exciting, so lots of new music to come which we’re really excited about!
You’ve been working together for well over 5 years now- Do you argue like a married couple?
Funnily enough we don’t argue at all! You know a lot of people expect us to argue but we’re pretty much just best mates.
So no annoying habits?
I don’t know…. Good question. Nothing! Cam’s amazing! Beautiful! Such an amazing man.
What’s your favourite part of the whole process when releasing new music? Do you enjoy the production the most, or playing out to big crowds and seeing their reactions?
It’s a toss up between the two really. When you do a new track and you get an amazing reaction to it that is an amazing feeling. What you do find though a lot of the time is that when it comes to a track that is brand new- unless it’s a track that is really heavy- the crowds don’t react to it as much until they know it, and it’s that familiarity with the music that makes people react a lot of the time. So it’s a great feeling to get that reaction when people go crazy, but it’s all as good as each other.
Your next single on 3beat Nobody To Love samples Kanye West’s Bound 2– should we be expecting a similar erotic video with you and Cam replacing West and Kardashian?
Haha!! I’d imagine I’d have to get a pair of implants or something… would be a bit weird wouldn’t it?
Were you a fan of the original tune? How did that come about?
Well we just loved that Charlie Wilson vocal, and the piano hook just seemed perfect for a track to be playing out in the clubs. It’s just really weird how it all just suddenly took off, its astronomical really, I’ve never seen anything like it! It was almost like a bidding war between major labels and then 3beat stepped in and decided to run with it, but yeah the response has been insane, I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s really exciting!
What’s next for you guys?
Well the single isn’t out until mid April so we’re doing a lot of promotions for that. We’re also starting a show on Kiss once a month, I think on a Tuesday, and we’ve just got a backlog of tracks that we’re trying to finish off and figure out a track to follow up the single with. It’s funny with music these days though; even before a track has been released everyone’s like ‘what’s next?’ It’s not even released yet, THAT’S what’s next! Haha! We’re focusing on the label stuff as well, and will hopefully turn it in to something over the next few years that can rival the bigger drum & bass labels, which is exciting. The Rudeboy VIP is out now as well, and we’ve got another remix we’ve done for the new Zinc single dropping in May. So just working hard really, and doing what we love!
And one final question: What’s it like working alongside Owen Wilson?
Haha, well I think he’s more commonly referred to as David Guetta! Cam doesn’t mind the Owen Wilson reference, it’s the David Guetta one he hates so you’re lucky you’re talking to me and that’s the one you dropped, otherwise things could’ve gone a bit pear shaped!