Andy C is, quite simply, the biggest name in drum and bass. His DJ sets are legendary, whether he’s playing an all-night set at a massive venue like Wembley Arena – his date there on November 17 sold out in just three days – or in an underground club. In the summertime, though, his time is spent gracing festival stages all over the UK and indeed the world, happy to fly the flag for d&b whoever else is on the bill. As head of the Ram label, too, he’s mentored and brought through a succession of acts like Chase & Status, Subfocus and Wilkinson, all of whom are now household names in their own right. Best of all, as we discover, none of this relentless devotion to his art has dimmed his enthusiasm for it in the slightest.
So, Andy, we’ve caught you on a rare weekend off. Are you enjoying it?
Absolutely, yeah. It’s really cool. I took this weekend off out of the madness of the summer. My first weekend off – and my last, until I don’t know, September, October time I think. So I’m soaking it up.
You picked the right time for some decent weather too…
Yeah – you know it, man! Next week’s going to be a heatwave apparently. I’ve got the Hideout Festival on Wednesday, I mean that’ll be hot but I’m going to enjoy it.
When we interviewed former Ram signing Wilkinson recently, he said he craved doing ‘real life stuff’ like buying furniture….
Well, you’re going to laugh
because I’ve just had an Amazon delivery of garden furniture. We’re obviously like-minded individuals, even down to what we do on our days off. No wonder I signed him!
You’ve just announced your biggest ever show at Wembley Arena. That must quite be a buzz.
It doesn’t really hit you until the announcement is made and there’s no turning back, it’s out there. Two minutes after the announcement and your phone’s blowing up and it’s gone crazy. I spoke to Scott (Ram label manager and artist RedOne) and I was like ‘is this actually happening? Are we doing this?!’ Even my mum texted me and was like ‘is my boy playing Wembley?!’
We’d done a couple at Brixton Academy and then Ally Pally, so was like ‘where do we go next?!’
These are really historical venues too, where all the old skool legends like The Beatles and Rolling Stones have played….
I know. I remember going to Alexandra Palace to view the venue and seeing all the pictures of all the people who’d performed there, there were pictures there of Led Zep and The Stones, just craziness. But I view Ally Pally as more of a rave-based venue, where the thing with Wembley is we’re actually going to go until five in the morning for the first time, which is like crazy in itself. Depending on whether they actually want to chuck me off at 5am – I’ll keep going if they don’t!
You’ve become famous for your all-night sets of six-plus hours….
You can really take it deep and nasty with a long set as well. I think the beauty of drum and bass is that it’s got such a passionate audience and a lot of people who have stuck with it through life, they’re so into it, they’re so passionate.
The energy and reaction of the audience must play a big part too.
It’s definitely a two-way street, that’s for sure. And I need that. I feed off the energy and I feed off the excitement. I spot people in the audience and I think ‘I can’t do it just yet but in 20 minutes half an hour I’m going to be playing you some tunes you’re going to love.’ In my mind, I’m kind of excited by that.
Music has a very special power to really transport you back to a certain time and place, doesn’t it?
In the build-up to a show, I’ll be mixing at home and I will get really, really emotional about the tunes. They bring back such amazing memories, not just of me, but of other people, memories of times out and stuff. All music’s like that. No other art does that. It can evoke a thousand memories and a thousand conversations.
You’ve become a bit of a fixture on the festival circuit in recent years.
I did a couple of outdoors festivals last week – Detonate in Nottingham and Parklife in Manchester and they’re pretty cool. I mean, at Parklife the rain did start coming down at one point which it always does in Manchester, but that was still vibing out big time. Then there’s Dreambeach in Spain, and of course, all the Eastern European ones that have sprung up. There’s a massive one in the Czech Republic where it’s like looking out across a sea of people. They love their drum and bass in the Czech Republic they do.
It always blows my mind how far and wide d&b has spread, and also how many festivals there are in the world. People get their value for money too, get their weekend tickets and go for all the days. That’s why those festivals out in places like Croatia are so good because it’s not as expensive as some other places. It’s nice to be able to go and buy a few drinks and that.
You’re always on the lookout for interesting locations then.
Absolutely. Like when I did the residency at XOYO. The moment I walked down the steps and saw it I was like ‘yes, sold!’ I didn’t even need to think about it. Because I’d never done a set in there before, all the time it was around I’d never been in there. There’s a beautiful balance to all the different spaces we do.
It sounds like you can relate to that aftershow gig vibe, where even massive acts like The Stones and, when he was around, Prince like to slope off and play in a tiny club after their stadium show?
I can completely relate to doing that – we’ve all done that. I was with Noisia and we did Reading and Leeds last year and I was hanging out with Noisia in Leeds. The festival was closed and we were all backstage having drinks, and those guys were playing some absolute stinkers backstage, we were having our own little DJ vibe going on there. You do those big shows and you’re like ‘right, where’s the afterparty?!’ Everybody’s on the same vibe, let’s just kick back and do a little set. They can be magical moments those, and inspirational moments as well.
You’re doing a back-to-back in Ibiza with another huge act that started out on Ram, Chase & Status…
Yeah, we’re going to do a back to back at Amnesia. We did one last year and it was so much fun.
Is it one tune each or do they get two, as there’s two of them?
No, no. It’s got to be a fair split so one for me and one for them innit?! It’s great because we’re very very like-minded musically, and those guys are just brilliant, they are all about the authenticity of the music. It gets very much ‘oh, so you’re going to play that are you? – well, I’m going to play this then!’ I mean, they’re Chase & Status so they can play whatever they like. I’m looking forward to that again because we should be, hopefully, having quite a party for a few hours over there.
You must be proud of having a serious hand in their massive success?
It’s amazing to think how they’ve come on from the first times we put them on the bill at The End to where they are now, they’re just on another level, they’re fantastic.
We hear there’s a new ‘Nightlife’ mix CD coming on Ram soon, the seventh in the series. You opened it up to bedroom producers this time too….
We did a competition where we had people sending in demos – brand new music from brand new people and there’s going to be some of them on there which I’m excited about. These guys are so talented and the level of production compared to back in the day is incredible. I mean, if you went in a time machine…!
Do you still listen to your old tunes, like the ‘Sour Mash’ EP that you did when you were 15? What do you think of them now?
Some of it has stood the test of time, some of it hasn’t. Because the S950 I made it on was monophonic – if I wanted to do a three-note chord I’d have to use three outputs and play them into the Fostex at the same time. So mainly when I listen back to that stuff I think ‘God, that was hard work!’ But I’ll never forget the first time I heard something off the ‘Sour Mash’ EP being played – it was at the Tesco warehouse, back in the day at Life Utopia. I remember being on the dancefloor with my hair down to my shoulders, and then it came in. First of all, it didn’t really register, then I was telling everyone ‘this is my tune’, what a buzz! That feeling never really leaves you.
For upcoming Andy C shows check ticketweb.co.uk/andyc