Chase and Status are drum ‘n’ bass idols

Chase & Status
Chase & Status
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Picture the scene: a cavernous room, full of sweaty, expectant youths. The walls are lined with speakers which rumble into action the second the anonymous DJs appear behind their banks of decks, laptops and flashing LEDs.

The crowd erupts, swaying and throbbing in time to the bass-heavy music. There are whistles, screams and arms in the air.

It could have easily been Manchester’s legendary Hacienda club in its 1988 rave heyday, but in fact it was the Kentish Town Forum in north London last October.

‘We were quite apprehensive about playing live before a few years back,’ begins Will Kennard, the ‘Status’ half of London drum ’n’ bass duo Chase & Status (Chase is otherwise known as Saul Milton).

‘We’d seen some DJs trying to recreate electronic music live before, and it’d fallen short in our minds, but then [metal/drum ’n’ bass crossover merchants] Pendulum showed us that you can recreate those sonics, and take dance and club music to massive stages.

‘We thought about how we could make it work, and the first thing was to get a drummer involved – Andy Gangadeen, who has drummed for James Brown, Michael Jackson, Spice Girls, everyone really, and that brought us loads of confidence.

‘It was all about getting the same energy that we have in our recorded music over to the live performances.’

It would be fair to say, on the evidence of their festival shows over the summer, that their mission has been accomplished.

With the help of their numerous singer friends, their forthcoming tour, which kicks-off in Southampton next week, is not to be missed.

Will and Saul began producing music in 2003, after dropping out of Manchester University.

Their 2008 debut More Than Alot won Best Album at the 2009 Drum N Bass Awards and featured the likes of British rappers Kano and Plan B, before his recent soulful ‘Strickland Banks’ reinvention.

They produced songs on Rihanna’s last album, Rated R.

She said: ‘From when I first heard Chase & Status, I had to work with them. These two guys are magic. They make the grungiest, most amazing beats ever.’

The second album, No More Idols, was released at the end of January and currently sits at number 11 in the UK album shart.

Crucial to the Chase and Status act are their guest vocalists.

This time round they have both credibility and a major label behind them (they’re signed to Universal subsidiary Mercury), so attracting more varied artists was an easier task.

The record reads like a who’s who of this year’s BRIT awards, with Best British Male Plan B, British Breakthrough and Single star Tinie Tempah and International Male Cee Lo Green, all lending their considerable vocal talents.

‘We really enjoyed working with Plan B and Kano on the first record, and were keen to expand on that formula,’ explains Kennard who asked his old friend Ben Drew (aka Plan B) back to appear on two of the second album’s 15 tracks, Fool Yourself and End Credits.

‘We made a list about two years ago and were lucky enough to get almost everyone we’d put on there: Tinie Tempah, who we became friends with over the summer at festivals, and Dizzee Rascal, who we saw a lot too.

‘It’s just us asking, which is much better than getting different managements involved, we ask the artists directly when we bump into them.’

Cee Lo, of solo and Gnarls Barkley fame, was a fan and contacted the duo himself to see about collaborating.

He sent over a song wondering if Will and Saul could work their production magic and, taking a rather pedestrian, upbeat soul song, they managed to turn out Brixton Briefcase, an altogether darker proposition, with Cee Lo sounding completely different from how you might expect.

‘It’s got a really punky feel to it, and as he’d just released a retro soul album, we weren’t sure what he’d think, but he loved the distortion on his voice, and even asked us to make it more distorted.’

It’s not all about big names, however, and you might struggle to recognise some of the names on No More Idols. Clare Maguire and Liam Bailey, for example, have both been hotly tipped in the music press, and you will definitely be hearing more from them as solo artists throughout 2011. Clare released an album this week. Her second solo single is at number 23 in the charts and she has already made plans to collaborate with the duo again. While Liam’s album is due in June and his single with Chase & Status, Blind Faith, is currently at number 35.

‘The key is finding singers with unique voices,’ says Kennard.

‘We actually got a lot of offers from really well-known singers at one point, but we knocked them all back because they weren’t right for the songs. We don’t want to feature someone for the sake of it.

‘A cynical mind might say we prefer lesser-known singers because they’re cheaper,’ he jokes.

‘For us it’s so exciting having the stars of the future on the record before they’ve released their own music.’

Returning to the rave culture that inspired Chase & Status, the video for Blind Faith recently had people of a certain age moist around the eyes with its spot-on depiction of an early 90s warehouse party.

Despite not being quite old enough to remember it themselves – Saul and Will are 30 – the director of the video, Daniel Wolfe, became obsessed with the idea, filming and editing the footage on equipment available in 1991 and scouring Manchester clubs for revellers who danced like they were from the era.

‘The authenticity in that video is incredible,’ says Kennard.

‘I thought the director was insane, but he was right and it looks incredible.

‘I’m really glad it got the reaction it did, it’s a loving tribute to that time.

‘We weren’t old enough to go out then, but as soon as Saul and I could get fake IDs, we were out at clubs, barns, warehouses, wherever. We came of age just as The Prodigy became massive, and they were a huge influence on us.

‘We want to bring that spirit back, and we’re playing some amazing venues on our tour.

‘If the crowd are standing still and just enjoying the music, something’s not right.

‘Unless they’re all bouncing off the walls, punching each other in the face, we’ll consider it a failure.’