When the official drum & bass encyclopedia is finally written, Andy C will have his own volume. There’s no way to have an intellectual conversation about the genre without a major spotlight on the UK producer. This year marks his 25th anniversary since launching his storied career in the bass world, and his latest single, “Heartbeat Loud” featuring Fiora, is proof there’s never an end to his bass onslaught. Along with his influential label RAM Records, operating for over 20 years now, Andy C has kept drum & bass alive and relevant for a quarter of a century. The legendary producer chats about the art of DJing, the challenges of curating an entire stage lineup, and the future of drum & bass.
It’s my hope that every DJ has a story they want to tell during their sets. Do you have that in mind when you perform?
On a personal level with my sets, I hit the ground running. I go in hard because I like to get peoples’ attention. But in the middle, especially at festivals, it’s a really nice thing to take people on an emotional journey with some tunes and really get them. There’s a point where I play one tune that has an emotional connection and it seems to resonate around the crowd. That’s a really beautiful part of the set.
“When people experience the unique energy and the vibe of the music, I don’t think they can forget it. They’re gonna keep going back.”
You’re telling a story via audio and via visuals. You have the power and potential to do connect directly with the crowd.
With the amount of LED screens, it’s not hard. Funny thing: Anybody that’s DJing never sees the spectacle because all you see is the crowd lighting up or going dark. You’re not aware of what’s going on around you.
“Some genres, they go and they fire up, then they’re gone. Drum & bass is never gonna go like that.”
In telling these stories, do you prepare beforehand? Or does the crowd partake in the storytelling experience?
I read the crowd. Obviously, I know there are certain tunes that I want to play, and I know there are certain tunes that people are hoping I play. But apart from that we’ll just go. My aim is to enjoy myself as much as the crowd. We’re all raving together. I don’t think you can be so fastidious. You just go with it. Pour yourself a drink, get in the mix, and see where it goes.
Your label, RAM Records, hosted bassPOD during the final day of EDC Vegas this year. What are some of the challenges when curating an entire stage lineup?
Because we’ve got such a large roster, unfortunately we can’t have everybody. But because Insomniac is great to us and we’ve been doing it the past few years, everybody gets a go.
You’re the second most-booked artist in EDC history. You might have played the first EDC ever. Take me back there.
It was a lot smaller; production was a lot smaller. The LA parties were fantastic. When it went to the Coliseum, Pasquale took me through the tunnel. I couldn’t believe it. That was the tipping point when it went from a really cool event to being a phenomenon.
Is the growth of EDC reflective of the expansion of electronic music and music festivals overall`?
In Europe, we’ve been blessed with festivals for a long, long time. But they’re on a different scale to this. There’s nothing of this size just for electronic music. You don’t see that anywhere else in the world.
In America, one of the moments of clarity was Daft Punk’s pyramid production at Coachella 2006.
There are tipping points, aren’t there?
That was the moment when people started taking the electronic movement seriously again, post-‘90s.
It’s funny because in the UK, it’s just always been there.
And it’s always been here, but this…
What’s currently going on in the world of drum & bass that is exciting you?
What’s exciting me is the growth of it, this year especially. I’ve been DJing a minute, and it’s my busiest year ever. I’m feeling renewed energy and interest from people in the scene and it seems to be translating. It’s drum & bass, it’s not a fad; it’s not going away. Some genres, they go and they fire up, then they’re gone. Drum & bass is never gonna go like that.
Drum & bass is much bigger in the UK.
It was born in the UK. It’s huge in Europe. “Bigger in the UK” is hard to define because the volume of crowds over here is huge.
Where does drum & bass go from here?
It continues on its growth because we turn over a new generation. There’s always a new generation of ravers coming through, so there’s always a new generation to forge. It’s like a fishing reel: You got ‘em and then you reel them in. When people experience the unique energy and the vibe of the music, I don’t think they can forget it. They’re gonna keep going back.
Andy C is performing a special three-hour Thanksgiving set at Exchange LA tonight (November 27) in downtown Los Angeles, presented by Bassrush.