Loadstar to rock stars

Drum and Bass | Wednesday 18th October 2017 | Arren

One of RAM's leading and long-standing artists, Loadstar talks exclusively to Guestlist.

The pair, formally known as Xample & Lomax, are one of the world's leading drum & bass duo's who've achieved major success, both on the underground and on the mainstream sides of the scene. Signed to RAM Records, they've been bombarding the scene with an endless stream of slick tracks from dancefloor trashers to melodic sing-alongs.

After one of their biggest summers yet and just ahead of the RAM 25 tour, the lads have just dropped their second album I Need The Night. We spoke to Gavin from Loadstar at the end of September just before it's release about Bristol, Ram's legacy and some of their crazier shows.

How was your weekend?
We did Tokyo World Festival in Bristol which was good. The weather was decent on Saturday and after that, we did Tuesday Club up in Sheffield with Sub Focus. Solid Weekend.

The life of a working DJ, probably one of your last festivals?
Yeah, it was the last one. We did it last year too and luckily both times it’s not rained and been really good weather. It’s amazing considering it’s the end of September, it’s always a bit of a gamble.

There’s nothing worse than being at a festival and it’s just pouring with rain, there comes a point when you’re soaked through and it’s not fun anymore!
Yeah! We were at Creamfields a few years ago and it was absolutely pissing it down the whole time and I remember the stage next to where we were playing had sunk into the mud.

So playing this weekend to your home crowd, how was that?
Yeah, it was great, Nick & I have spent a lot of time in Bristol. I’m from Bristol originally and Nick moved here after uni. We don’t play here as much as we’d like to, probably only once a year. Bristol is a wicked crowd, they go hard regardless of the time. Motion is a really good example, it’s one of those places where you can play 10 till 11 or 5 till 6, still they’re having it and that’s just a reflection of the Bristol crowd in general. To play at the festival was wicked. We closed it on Saturday and most of the other tents were closed so it was absolutely rammed!

Bristol has an incredible legacy when it comes to electronic music, what makes the city so special?
There is definitely something in the water. I grew up listening to early jungle, DJ Die, Roni Size etc back in 92/93 when these guys were just starting up. That’s what inspired me to get into music. Older brothers and sisters were passing tapes down to us, me and all my friends got into music that way.
It’s always been a great city for music, the drum & bass/jungle emergence, trip-hop like Massive Attack, Portishead right through to modern drum & bass and dubstep, it's had a massive influence on the city. I think because it’s quite small, it feels like there’s a community. Everyone sort of knows each other and gets along well. It’s a really vibrant place to be in music.

Growing up in Bristol, what were the best parties you can remember?
Part of the reason why I got into drum & bass, was that it was the only place that would let me in! There was Lakota, that’s a massive part of my youth. All the clubs in the St. Pauls/Stokes Croft area of Bristol were a massive part of growing up.

There used to be a free festival called Ashton Court Festival. That was always a great place for us to go when we were kids. It really exposed us to jungle/drum & bass. Roni Size was playing around the time he won the Mercury Prize. That was blowing up massively and having a ripple effect on the city.

You said that you met Nick at uni, where was that?
Well, I was at Liverpool and Nick was in Manchester. In the North-West, it’s not very far to get from Liverpool to Manchester and the d&b scene of the time was quite linked. We properly met at a party in Liverpool. I booked him and we got chatting. It worked out we were both moving to Bristol about the same time. When we moved down we got in contact, ended up meeting up a few times and started getting in the studio together.

How did the party scenes compare between the North-West and Bristol?
Back then it was quite different, coming from a city where drum & bass was so prevalent. It was a very house oriented in Liverpool and Manchester. For me trying to come up through the scene was really good because it gave me an opportunity to play at nights, whereas in Bristol it was quite difficult. I also met Futurebound who was based in Liverpool and still is. He was running a night up there and he made me a resident, which was a good start to my DJ career.

You’ve had a massive summer, ticked anything off your bucket lists this year?
Yeah, Reading & Leeds was a good one. We’ve done most of the major UK festivals over the course of our career but Reading & Leeds is one that we’ve never done. It was great to play there this year.

Matrix, Futurebound & 1 half of Loadstar at Leeds Festival

That’s more of a rock orientated festival, so how did it go down as a drum & bass act performing there?
It’s not a festival that I’d ever been to growing up, but I was walking around the festival and the busiest tents were the Radio 1 Dance Stage and the Radio 1xtra where all the grime was!

You played back to back with Matrix & Futurebound for that as well, some clash of the titans going on!
It was really good, not something we’ve done before, but I have a lot of history with Futurebound. It was really nice that 15 years on, starting where I was a student at uni and he was running a small night in Liverpool, that we’re both going back to back at Reading & Leeds Festival!

We’re fast approaching the RAM 25 tour, now you’ve been a massive part of the label's legacy, like national chart placements, two huge albums, what makes RAM so special to Loadstar?
It’s always been the label that we’ve aspired to be. It’s always been the sound that, throughout all the changes in drum & bass, has always been at the cutting edge. That’s mainly down to Andy C, his ear for talent & good music while wanting to push the scene forward. There’s not a lot of labels that have lasted 25 years and that’s a testament to RAM and Andy, they’ve had a vision for it and they’ve not rested.

If you look at the back catalogue, the amount of massive tunes and chart success that a very underground record has had is a major achievement. We’ve been on the label for donkey's years now, I think my first release on the label was a track called ‘Heaven & Hell’ as Xample. It’s been good, with the transition to Loadstar from Xample & Lomax with our first record, ‘Link To The Past’ arguably one of our biggest tracks.

You’ll be playing at their tour, in a ridiculous back to back with Mind Vortex AND DC Breaks, who came up with this lethal combination of people?!
Well, it was really random. We got booked to play at Rampage in Belgium, and there was this idea to do this RAM showcase. That’s where it first happened, and it gained a little bit of traction as a result of that. We got booked at another couple of festivals and now it’s just carried on. It’s not something that we’re gonna do all the time but the key shows; Warehouse Project, Printworks. It’s really great to be able to do it and it’s really good fun. It’s pretty intense when you’ve got that many people behind the decks but it’s good fun because you’re spurring each other on to play certain tunes and that.

If you guys weren’t in the music scene, what do you see yourselves doing?
Both Nick and I had full-time jobs up until about 7 or 8 years ago. I was in banking and Nick was in IT stuff, so we would probably be doing that, to be honest! Thankfully music’s been good to us.

Banking and IT to one of the biggest drum & bass acts!
I would not wanna go back to that, but it’s one of those things. When we started doing music it was quite difficult to get into because the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. It wasn’t as easy to break through and get noticed, so for years we were slaving away on our evenings and weekends. It was hard but it got to the point luckily where something had to give and thankfully it was our jobs!

Do you see the rise of the internet as a positive?
Yeah definitely. Any way to get your music out and for more people to hear it has got to be a benefit. I know a lot of people moan about the way it’s watered down music and the fact it’s so disposable and things like that. But equally, a lot more people can access your music now and it gets you to places where you wouldn’t normally go to.

Have you been to any crazy places where you wouldn’t have expected to be?
Yeah, we played at a festival called KaZantip in Ukraine which was absolutely crazy. We flew to Ukraine, had to get another flight and then drive for about four hours into the middle of nowhere for this crazy festival. It’s mental, it’s this hedonistic place where I would have never had imagined going in a million years.

Was that the craziest party you’ve played at?
Yeah probably was, another quality one was EDC in Las Vegas. It’s in Vegas for a start, which is mental in itself. It’s a weird place, you sort of love to hate Vegas. That is a crazy festival just because of the amount of people there are there for an electronic music festival. The amount of people that go Glastonbury go to EDC and it’s just electronic music so that’s pretty special in itself. The amount of production that they put on the stages is quite a spectacle.

What was your stage set up like when you played there?
We played on the bass music stage, it was massive. The festival was mainly geared up for EDM, but the bass music stage was still massive. We’re talking like 15 - 20,000 people, fire everywhere. They have these things that go around that stage that blow out fire all the time which was pretty impressive I have to say.

Hope you didn’t get burnt!
Nope but when Andy was playing, one actually caught fire and they had to stop the festival!!

What would Loadstar do to change the world?
Probably give free alcohol, my personal preference would be every day but I don’t think many people would get things done. Maybe Friday’s at 3 pm, courtesy of Loadstar - get involved!

What are Loadstar most in love with right now?
I’m massively into house music, I’m really enjoying listening to that. It’s not something I’ve been into for a long time. I went to Glastonbury about 18 months ago and ended up listening to a lot of house music and got really inspired by it. Nick’s the same, he’s quite heavily influenced by house. When you’re tied up in a genre for so long, it’s quite easy to get blinkers and just be influenced and listen to that but we’re always looking for influences outside of drum & bass.

What kind of house music is in your playlists at the minute?
I like a lot of the tech house, people like Solardo where it’s quite bass driven but still quite housey. Nick’s very influenced by the Dirtybird sound out in America.

If you had a superpower, what would that be and what would you do with it?
That’s a difficult one, I read a lot of superhero books to my son, so I should be good at this. The ability to fly would be good, I wouldn’t have to fuck about with airports I could just click my fingers and go somewhere.

What ideas have changed your life?
Not so much an idea, but having children has massively changed my life. I’ve got three kids and I guess it is an idea as it makes you think about things differently. It’s life-changing for the right reasons.

Ah nice, do you ever take them to your shows?
No, I was talking about this with my wife the other day. I really wanna take my son, he sort of knows what I do but it’s hard for him, well all of my kids, to relate. For example, I said to my daughter when I was putting her to bed at like 7/7.30 on a Saturday night "daddy’s gotta go work now". Her comment was; "well you need to have your breakfast", which I thought was very cute! So I really wanna take them so they can see what I do but it’s hard to find a festival that’s near, not full of people totally wrecked and that I’m playing at a suitable time.

What’s the worst trouble that you guys have got yourselves into?
When we were on tour in Australia we ended up getting thrown out of our hotel by the police. It wasn't really our fault, but it was us who ended up biting the bullet. We had a suite in this hotel that a promoter had booked for us. We had just travelled from England and played the show after travelling, so we were pretty knackered. The promoter invited all his mates back to the hotel suite for an after party. Nick and I actually went to bed while they were partying in the living room. I woke up to someone banging on my door shouting "get up, you’ve gotta get out" and all that. I thought it was people messing about. Eventually opened the door and it was the police and they said we had to leave. It was like 5 or 6 in the morning after we’d travelled to Australia and then played a show. We left and got breakfast somewhere and went straight to the airport. It was a nightmare situation.

Loadstar's latest album, I Need The Night is out now, get your copy from RAM's website.

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