We talk with dnb bossman, the Shogun warrior and Elevate head honcho - the mighty DJ Friction.
Few are as big as Friction, a drum & bass DJ and producer who hails from Brighton. He smashed into the scene in the lates 90s early 00s and has dominated it since. Friction has torn clubs and festivals apart, heads not one but two big labels - Shogun & Elevate Audio and represented drum & bass on one of the biggest platforms around - BBC Radio 1.
He’s hot off the heels from releasing his debut album as he ventures further into the world of Friction the producer. His album Connections is sick. He's come a long way from his low-end rumblers and dark jungle-sound that Shogun came to rule - Connections is firmly rooting in high energy dance floor smashers, a sound that Friction's mental DJ sets have also come to represent too. We had a chat with him following the albums release...
Hey, how are you?
I’m good thanks. Just tired after a busy summer. Lots going on with the album coming out. So, its hectic times at the moment.
What was your first thought this morning?
This shows how addicted I am to work, but it was I better get my Annie Mac mini mix that I’m meant to be delivering finished off today. That was literally the first thing I thought about when I woke up.
Addicted or dedicated! What’s got you motivated right now?
Without sounding cheesy, it’s the music really. There’s just so much going on. Everything is being set up for the album, I’m touring and I’m already making new drum and bass tunes. I spent a long time trying to be in a position where I could make a tune from start to finish. Now I just want to get in, write music and test them out at my shows.
How’s your summer been so far?
Summer so far has been nothing but festivals and travelling. Me and MC Linguistics. Looking forward to the album tour.
Let’s talk your new album, Connections. Why did you choose to release it on Elevate, rather than Shogun?
Elevate had kind of been in the pipeline for a while as an alternative to Shogun musically. Shogun is now 14 years old and the sound is slightly more of a deeper liquid sound. Although I might write something like that now and again, my music over the past few years has been more hi-impact and heavier dancefloor music. This album is song based but I just felt that it suited being released on Elevate rather than Shogun. I’m not ruling out one day doing a big EP or some big project on Shogun where I can release some different kinds of music. I’m not shutting that out but for my first album it made sense to release on Elevate.
It’s been in the making for a long time, though good things come to those who wait. What was the biggest obstacle in the road to a completed album?
The biggest obstacle, as far as getting on the road to a completed album was, I’ve been DJ’ing for a long time, so I was always known more as a DJ. As far as production, I actually got in the studio with Camo & Krooked about 6 years ago and we made ‘Stand Up’. I was always a DJ that could produce with other people or if I had a good engineer. I always had ideas but I had never really got my head inside the production thing. I’d spent some time with Dillinja and he started showing me you could literally make some tunes in Logic on your laptop. Working with Camo & Krooked really made me think I need to step my game up and put time into my production. So, the last 6 years has really been a case of me re-learning and delving deep. I’ve got a set up at my house where majority of the album was done. The main obstacle has been myself because I’ve learning as I go along. I would write a track then go back to it 3 months later. Realising I could have used a different compression technique on a snare or something. I constantly wanted to keep developing tracks even when they were finished. I think that’s why it took me so long to get the album out there.
We were surprised seeing you in the Daily Star! How’s your knee now? What happened!?
Yeah, my knee is on the road to recovery. I basically had a football injury. It was my anterior cruciate ligament. It needed surgery and requires 8 months of recovery, physio and training. I’m just now starting to play football again tentatively. It’s getting there.
You discharged yourself early to work with JP Cooper which you later described as an amazing experience. How was it working with him?
Yes, I discharged myself early from the hospital because I wanted to work with him so much. It was an amazing experience. As a producer when you go into the studio with an artist that is so talented, it is definitely worth it.
What makes his music so special?
I think what makes his special so special is for one, his voice is amazing and he’s very creative. A very nice guy as well and a pleasure to work with. An experience I won’t forget.
You worked with JP Cooper on the track, ‘Dancing’ which is a tune! Then it went it got remixed by Dawn Wall!? How did that come about?
I wanted to have a version that was slightly deeper. I’ve always played Dawn Wall tunes, I think their great. They’ve very mysterious and we don’t know anything about them. I knew someone who could get in contact with them and do a remix. It was exactly what I wanted from them.
So, the album was released on September 7th and you’ve got some album launch parties including one here in London at the Pickle Factory. Have you played that venue before?
6th September was the London album launch at the Pickle Factory. I’ve actually done a little surprise set there for another night before. I was really hyped to get in there and play a 2-hour set celebrating the album.
You and your Shogun imprint have been a big brand in the London clubbing diary for years now, playing at several venues and warehouses across the city. Is there one that you miss?
Shogun have done a lot of big shows. The Warehouse parties we did in particular. The scene has changed now and what I think suits Shogun at the moment is smaller parties. The Suffolk Street Warehouse gigs were pretty legendary.
What makes a better venue for you, a club or a warehouse?
I think a warehouse or a club. It depends on the vibe. You could turn up at a tiny room compared to a festival and it could better solely because there’s this unmistakeable vibe. Something that’s so important for a good club night. It’s all about the vibes.
Aside from DJing everywhere, you run two major dnb labels, Shogun & Elevate. As a label head what’s you main priority in terms of the music you release and the artists you sign?
As far as music I release and the artists I sign, I look for the music first, then the production second. Because if you can make music that can really grab people’s attention, that’s so important. A lot more people can produce music to a certain extent these days. It’s about hearing something that takes your breath away.
Is there a track from your labels crates that you still can’t get over? What makes that tune so special?
Shogun have a big back catalogue, there’s many tracks I could pick from. Something that stands out for me is Alix Perez feat. Mc Phats - ‘Down the Line’. A tune at the time that really stood out for me when the label started rolling. One of those moments when you realise you’ve got something special and different to other record labels out there.
Earlier this year you left the Radio 1 drum & bass show, handing over to Rene LaVice. We know that must have been a hard decision, though all good things must come to an end. What’s your fondest memory from your time there?
Leaving the Radio 1 Drum & Bass show was a very tough decision. I’d got to the point where I couldn’t do anymore. I was literally working 24/7, sleeping 3 hours a night. Then having to get back up to go in the studio, travel for gigs or handle label stuff. It was too much. It got to the point where I made myself quite ill by the end of it. I was really struggling, and something had to give. I put it off for so long because you can’t just leave Radio 1. But I really wanted to pursue everything with the album. And I have to say within the past year, I couldn’t have asked for things to go any better. I’ve finished my album and had some great remixes come out this year with Prodigy, Sam Smith and Fatboy Slim. It’s been an amazing year culminating the album release and upcoming tour. I did enjoy my time there, everyone is like family. I learnt a lot and it’s a skill I’ve developed that I want to get back to at some point. One of the best things about working for the BBC and Radio 1 for one is the quality of the people around you and how professionally everything was done.
Once you’ve got the Friction album out of the way, you got anything from FineArt in the pipeline?
Definitely going to try and get more FineArt tunes rolling. I’ve got a couple of collaborations with Skepsis and Notion. I also have some solo tunes. It’s a nice change and switch up when I want to do something different.
What ideas have changed your life?
I’d say starting a record label. I’m glad I started my own label because I had offers to sign to other drum and bass labels. 14 years ago, I said I was going to my own thing and have control. Shogun has given me some of the best experiences of my life, as far as seeing it develop into something people all over the world recognise.
If you could play anywhere in the world, again or as a new place, where would that be?
I’d probably do a gig in the Maldives and have a nice holiday afterwards. Staying in one of those really nice houses. One of my favourite places to play in the world has got to be Japan. I can’t wait to go back and play in Tokyo.
Aside from your gigs, anything big planned this summer?
There’s nothing really planned this summer aside from studio, gigs and touring. It’s my life at the moment. It’d be nice to have a few days off but I’m so happy to keep creating music and doing gigs. I love it, it’s one of the best things to do.
If you could meet anyone, dead or alive who would that be and why?
This is such an obvious thing to say but I’d probably say Elvis Presley. He was literally living the craziest life ever. To get some insight from a man like that would be mad.
If you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would that be?
I would fill it with cheesecake. I hadn’t had it in a while and I decided it was the best thing ever, so yeah I would fill it with cheesecake.
Friction's album Connections is out now on Elevate Audio - Buy
Facebook - Twitter - SoundCloud