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SPOTLIGHT: dRamatic & dbAudio

SPOTLIGHT: dRamatic & dbAudio
Jack Smith

With the sixth instalment of Mars Recordings incoming imminently, we caught up with red-hot duo Dramatic & dbAudio to discuss their relationship with Mars, sample-hunting and world cinema…



Julian and James… How has 2012 been treating you so far?

2012 has been a great year, we’ve seen a lot of releases come out on labels that we’re very passionate about and signed a lot more for future releases in 2013.


Yourselves and Mars Recordings seem to fit like hand in glove after a succession of key releases with Ingredients’ sister offshoot. What is it about this relationship and your influences that dictate your take on the perma-soulful, playful ‘Intelligent’ Drum & Bass? What would you credit as the key influences on the music you have built your career on so far?

We met the owner of Mars (Clive – DJ Psylence) when he signed some of our tracks to his other label Ingredients. He spoke about creating the label Mars and it was clear that his ideas were a perfect for us and some of our music. Six releases in and the label has already featured artists such as Random MovementPaul TKluteTotal ScienceGrimmMuteMakoJaybee and Ed Oberon.

The sixth release out soon is the Total Science remix of our track with Grimm – Far Away with our original track Days Running Out on the flip.

So many things from our involvement in Jungle/Dnb over the years have influenced us and of course 70’s Soul and Funk – Soul for its music and vocals, and funk for its beats and grooves. In a similar way, Calibre will always be a key influence, an aspirational standard to achieve in terms of consistency and particularly his ability to make music sound natural and unforced (is that a word?) [ed. note – indeed it is!]

These are just the obvious influences though, there are so many subtle things from the past and present have positive influence over our sound.


The Dramatic & dbAudio sound obviously borrows from the atmospheric Bukem-dominated era of jungle, yet draws on more modern day-influenced, rolling processed percussion. How often would you say you employed a classic sample-hunting approach to your production – for example the strings in Rolling Times – as opposed to a more synthetic, DAW-based method?

dRamatic – I’d say about 75% of our tracks feature a sample that I’ve have hunted out. I usually have an idea of a type of track I want to write. I then start hunting samples that fit with the idea in my head. When you sample an old track I just love the ambience, the feel, the moment in time that sample has captured. I don’t care if it’s poor quality and it doesn’t have to be a large section, it just to have the right character and hopefully the track kicks off from there. From that point I will add supporting music to the sample, duplicating what the sample is doing. Adding piano chords and melodies, strings etc all to thicken and widen the sound. This usually brings the sample alive, gives it some movement and also gives me much more control to turn that sample into a full arrangement. Sometimes it gets to the point where the original sample is removed because it’s no longer needed, it was really just a catalyst to build from.


With the ‘Drum & Bass-influenced Drum & Bass’ argument coming to the fore in recent times, would you say the scene in general is lacking the necessary evolution from the key musical genres of the 20th century such as funk and soul? Does liquid as a sub-genre allow this creative freedom to thrive more than others, hence explaining the development of your sound?

I hear people say that Drum & Bass is not changing or progressing and I think “what do you expect it to do?” I don’t see that it lacks progression anymore than other genres. It can contain drums, bass, pianos, strings, guitars etc, synths, fx all either authentic or synthetic. It can also contain vocals. How is this different to any other genre? There is so much crossover of sounds in different musical genres and so other than the tempo and maybe the guaranteed inclusion of some sub bass what else differs?

I think Drum & Bass will always be pigeonholed under the lack of progression banner for a few reasons. On reflection I suppose a large percentage of the tracks don’t contain full vocal arrangements. The tempo is fast. Drum & Bass ‘bass’ is generally sub bass, which means the track is not really going to sound so good over systems that don’t cater for low frequencies. Suddenly a key critical component is missing.

An acoustic guitar vocal performance will contain a guitar and a vocal, and will always contain those key elements. We don’t suddenly start slating it because it’s not moving on. We enjoy the performances that are great and dislike the ones that are poor. For me it’s not about musical progression it’s about music you like, therefore the music being good in your opinion.

I suppose our perceived assumption is that the liquid sub-genre of Drum & Bass allows total creative freedom. The reality is that it’s no more than any other genre although I guess the music (chords & melodies) have had a more of a dominant role in Liquid. 


You have spoken previously about your ‘first-drop, second-drop’ approach to making tunes as a duo in isolation from one another. Is it an ideal situation to be working in at the moment what with the ‘D & db’ brand beginning to build so much momentum in 2012?

dRamatic – Yeah kind of, as it does mean that the track’s arrangement can get completed quicker. I think the main benefit to our working relationship is that I can focus on production whilst dbAudio can prepare and perform the DJ side of the outfit, be it gigs or mixes. I think deep down it’s our preference, which is also good because it plays to our strengths.


Stepping out of the realm of music for a moment, what are your key interests in life other than those within the scene in general? Something we might be a tad surprised about, or anything that might inform your approach to music production?

dbAudio – The only other key interest I’ve got outside of music is films, specifically world cinema. My all time favourite film in this genre is “Once Upon a Time in the West” I love the way Sergio Leone was able to create an amazing cinematic experience from the use of extreme close-up shots or lengthy long shots without feeling the need to fill the empty space with dialogue. Ennio Morricone’s score for the film is also really good.

What’s the one track in the history of Drum & Bass that you wish you had produced and why?

dbAudio – That’s a really hard question, there’s so many amazing tracks from the many years gone by. If I had to choose 1 track it would be “Complex” by Photek, the drum work in the track was amazing for 95’ .

Can you give us a current Top 10, Drum & Bass or otherwise?

ARP-1, dRamatic & dbAudio – Clash Of The Kings

Random Movement – Down Somehow

Marky & SPY – Yellow Shoes (Calibre Remix)

dRamatic & dbAudio feat Grimm – Far Away (Total Science Remix)

Marky & Makoto – Konfused

David Boomah feat dRamatic & dbAudio – Turn it Up

Makoto feat MC Conrad – Golden Girl (Lenzman Remix)

dRamatic & dbAudio – Days Running Out

Mr Joseph – I Still Love You

Random Movement – Alone This Way (No Need To Stay)


Finally, what’s the one Urban Essential you couldn’t live without?

dbAudio – My smart phone. It’s sad, but I feel lost without it.


Mars 006 is out on Monday – cop your 12″ from Redeye