A staple in UK club land for over two decades, The Freestylers are still on top of their game.
For 25 years, The Freestylers have been a permanent fixture in the club scene across the world. The duo have been rocking clubs and festival stages with their energetic DJ sets and live shows. In this time they’ve released countless singles, EPs and remixes not to mention their 5 studio albums.
Today they release their 6th studio album, 'Other Worlds'. A masterclass of The Freestylers’ signature sounds that has kept them relevant throughout the years, with a mishmash of drum & bass, hip hop, electronica, dub and of course breakbeats. Joining them for the ride is a star studded list of talents from around the world, including; Plumb DJs, Hyperactive MC, Mad Doctor X, K-OSS and Scarlett Quinn.
A couple of weeks back we caught up with one half of the group, Aston Harvey. Just ahead of their first performance back since the pandemic closed clubs for 18 months - we hear about their new album, how technology and music have evolved since their first ventures into music and much more!
How do you feel about going back to the club for the first time?
Well anxious and excited. It’s not performance wise it’s just where I haven’t played in ages. Obviously got this disease and I might catch it. But it should be interesting, I can wear mask when I’m DJing.
Have you been to a club since things have reopened?
No, the only thing we did, we did an event at Brixton Jamm. It was outside, so not an indoor club. We did do this charity stream too. Someone had hired this really good club in Brighton. There was no one there apart from a few VR guys and sound guys so yeah this is it, the first proper one back.
Have you got many more gigs coming up?
I’m basically gigging every weekend until the end of October now. Obviously with the album coming out, trying to promote it as much as possible.
We’ve been loving your new album, it’s like a mash up of all sounds from the Freestylers over the years!
I would say it’s like the best of 'We Rock Hard' and the 'RAW As Fuck' albums. I wanted to do an album that went back to what we are known for, which is a big melting pot of sounds. The album I feel does have the Freestylers’ signature sound . When you have it on, you’ll know it’s a Freestylers record. As a producer you have to find a way to create your own sound. That’s probably one of the hardest things.
As The Freestylers, the musical career has been 25 years. What’s the biggest change for you been?
The biggest thing is how music is released and promoted. Back in the day it was vinyl and then CDs, but it was still promoted in the same way. But since the mid noughties with the growth of the internet everything has totally changed. Music is generally streamed or bought digitally.
Apart from making music you have to be a social media guru. Years ago the mystery of your favourite artist stayed mysterious. Nowadays you can have instant access to your favourite artists. The music wasn’t so accessible, so when you were playing the music elsewhere it was totally blowing people’s minds, people had never heard it. Now you can hear tunes on the internet radio stations or on playlists.
Back then most things were all on vinyl, fans used to turn up to get their vinyls signed. We did this gig once in the middle of nowhere and this guy turned up with all our remixes on vinyl, I remember thinking how the hell do these people get it because it was a lot harder! There was no Amazon back then. Now everything is so much easier to access and you have so much choice. It’s a minefield of choice.
The way music was promoted, you’d have a tune, put it out on promo to see if the record was gonna be big, hype it up and then release it. These days you release the tune and then you hype it. Even 10-15 years ago you could release an underground record, a big club hit, get picked up by a big label, they spend a load of money on it and you can get in the top 40. These days that doesn’t happen. It’s all mainstream dance music if it does go top 40.
Has that made you change your approach?
Not at all. I know we’ve had a few top 40 records over the years but I’ve never been calculated in my music making. I’ve always made something I thought sounded good and really thinking, is this gonna sound good in the club. That’s our mission and I think we’ve done that job well. Some dance acts get lucky, they get one good track and then have a whole heap of tracks. Most of the music you hear during the day time is just gonna be this horrible pop dance music these days.
Some of the biggest hits are usually the ones that weren’t ever meant to be a big hit, but people resonate with it. It just depends what is happening at the time, in the clubs, the general mood. Sometimes something can just come out and capture people.
When we made 'Push Up'. We made a tune, we liked it, it was commercially successful and people would ask why don’t you make another. But I don’t really work like that. It’s not like we were signed to a major. In that way we were never really in that realm.
You’re album is coming and you’ve got some gigs in the diary. Are you working on anything else at the moment?
Myself and Matt started off this project called Pirate Jams. It’s ravey breaks, a bit more 90s sounding. That’s going quite well, it’s the new sound of the old school. Funnily enough the latest release is with Suburban Base.
It’s released as Aston presents, Pirates Jams - with Quicklung. Exciting thing about that, it’s a vinyl only release coming on Suburban Base & Boogie Time and they’ve done these mad coloured vinyls!
How would you describe the journey you and Matt have been on with the Freestylers?
An uneven road. It had its peaks and troughs. The good thing is we’re still on the road, we’re still travelling. We’re very fortunate that in our adult life we’ve been able to make a career out of music. Something I love doing. Performing, playing and making music.
If you weren’t working in music what do you reckon you’d do?
Well strangely enough, before I started making music I actually wanted to be a pilot. Through the lockdown I decided I needed to learn to fly. So I’ve been having flying lessons. It’s so complicated. The maddest thing is it’s like a massive jigsaw puzzle. When you’re learning how to fly you obviously learn about flying, but you also need to learn about; orienteering, the call signs for the radio and looking around. It’s a really good challenge.
IIf you were starting out now what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t do it to yourself! The hardest thing is trying to get your own sound. That's an important thing - how you distinguish yourself from 100s of other artists and that’s only from trial and error.
If I was starting off in music now I wouldn’t even know where to begin. When I first started it was like a cottage industry, really small. But now it’s something massive and there were a lot of people in the same boat at the same time who are all making this music.
The Freestylers' 6th studio album 'Other Worlds' is out now - Buy/stream
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