Radio BurgerFuel

Interview: Andy C

Posted by Lee Densem


Since he started he own record label in 1992, Andy C has been making and releasing music, DJing around the world and racking up more awards than even he can probably count. Before he flew out to China, Radio BurgerFuel's Lee Densem spent some one-on-one time with the King of DnB in the studio.


From releasing his first music and founding RAM Records in his teens, to consistently being voted amongst the top DJs in the world Andy C is no stranger to the electronic music scene. The King of Drum & Bass had a big year in 2017 with a 13 week residency at XOYO in London, hosted the first d&b show on Apple Music's Beats 1 radio station and rounded it out in style on stage at Northern Bass in New Zealand. With only a few months between visits and having headlined five of the past seven Northern Bass festivals here, one might wonder if he has a certain affinity for this part of the world.

"You always leave here with such positive energy, just a positive emotion"

RADIO BURGERFUEL: We've come across him a few times before, but this is the first we've had the pleasure of having you in here at Radio BurgerFuel.

ANDY C: Indeed! Good to be here, man. It's good to hang out, as well. We've had a good feed.

Few burgers?

Yeah absolutely, mate. So, yeah it's been a lovely evening.

I'd say it's been a long time since we've seen you in this part of the world, but really it was only a few months back at Northern Bass really, right?

It was yeah, it's insane how quick it goes, man. I was out here for New Years Eve for Northern Bass and then last April. I love coming back to New Zealand, man. It's such a beautiful part of the world, the people are fantastic. The vibe here, you always leave here with such positive energy, just a positive emotion and it's lovely.

"Take a weekend off here and there, it doesn't hurt. You don't gotta chase every gig going. There's more to life than that."

You're traveling around the world and playing shows in New Zealand, Australia, you're off to China next. Maybe this is like a slightly timely question [the news of Avicii's death was about 10 days prior], how do you cope with every night a different place and everything that comes with that? How do you manage to stay centered and look after who you are?

You've got to do the obvious. You've got to rest whenever you get the opportunity. You can't burn the candle at both ends. Got to enjoy yourself, but it's like you get on this wave of energy when you're touring. Like we are now. We're off to Shanghai tonight, 12 hour flight, straight off the plane 7 AM, onto the gig, an all day festival and the energy will be there. I don't know where it's gonna come from, but it'll be somewhere in the middle. It will come forth. But, you have to stay in a positive frame of mind and you have to look after yourself, you know what I mean?

Did it take you a while, did you have to grow up and learn that?

Well, listen, I'm sure we all like a couple of beers after a night out and after a set. But, and I was saying this yesterday, some people don't need a lot of sleep. I can go for a month stretch at a time not sleeping longer than 5 hours, so you're just built for it. And I mean let's face it, DJing. I'm a very lucky chap, do you know what I mean? To fly around the world, to DJ and play drum & bass at some incredible venues, that's the fuel in the fire, really. So, yeah man. I mean the music keeps me going for sure.

Have you ever been at a point where you're just like, 'I just need a break' or 'I can't deal with this right now'?

Pretty much the alarm go[ing off]. No, I consciously take breaks. I've been at points where I've come back from tour and you're like, 'I could do with a couple of days to re-assimilate with a bit of normality, a bit of reality', but take a weekend off here and there, it doesn't hurt. You don't gotta chase every gig going. There's more to life than that. I've got a family back home, so kickback, spend some time with the family, hangout with some friends, do a bit of normal life and then we hit the road again.

I'm not trying to be rude here, but, if you look back over the years, you're not making a lot of music.

No, I used to make a hell of a lot more, but the touring schedule...

Is there a point you get to now where you're like, 'I've got this idea in my head, I need to get it out'?

Yeah, if I've got an idea, I've gotta get that out in the studio. I mean, ideas take a long time to gestate these days. More often than not, the tunes are written in a few hours, they happen really, really quickly and then it's just a case of finishing them off. I'm Captain Procrastinator!

I've heard that you end up with 300 takes of one song, right?

You do. It's ridiculous. It drives you to the edge of insanity!

Do you go back and think 'Actually, version three, that's the one that I'm going with'?

More often than not, to be fair! You always think that version 78 is better than version 56. Then you're like, 'No! I had it way better before! But that's the way it is now with the technology. A tune is never finished. DJing for me it's of the moment. If you make a mistake, no worries, man. You're working live. But tunes, you get really into the nitty-gritty of it.

RAM Records, how long has that been around?

We've been around for a minute, man. We're in our 26th year now, which is crazy.

How do you find time to still deal with that with everything else that's still going on in your life?

Well, fortunately, we have a fantastic team that deals with it, headed up in the UK with Jim and the guys in the office. So I wouldn't want to take the credit for dealing with that on a day-to-day basis, that's for sure. I mean, my role is finding music, nurturing artists, A&R.

Is A&R easier with the advent of the internet and being able to listen to whatever you like on your phone in the palm of your hand, as opposed to back 25 years ago?

That's an interesting question, 'cause I dunno. There's so much music around, it's insane. You can listen to too much at one time, you kinda end up shutting down, so I don't wanna listen to 'em in big batches. So, what I'm saying is back in the day, if I was handed a demo by Sub Focus or Chase & Status or Wilkinson, I can immediately identify that they're great tunes 'cause there wasn't so much around.

I'm going through that process at the moment of trying to work out the best way 'cause I'm doing a new mix CD, 'Nightlife 7'. For that, we started a competition so new producers can send their tunes. We have been inundated. I mean, there's hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds. So, I need to work out this strategy, the best way to listen to them so I don't overlook any.

I guess that's your job. Not to miss that. Not to overlook the next Chase & Status?

I don't wanna quickly skip through and miss that one diamond, because there's some incredibly talented people out there. Because there is so much music and the access to it is so easy, I think it's incredibly hard now for new producers to get heard. I dunno, there's a kinda conversation isn't there? Is it easier, or is it harder? 'Cause anybody can make a tune. Is that gonna get listened to? Is that gonna last? I mean, who's out there hearing it? And then, as soon as someone's heard it, they're gonna be like, 'Next, Next.' The shelf life for tunes is very, very short these days, which I think inhibits new producers more.

With streaming these days, once you've got enough of a catalog, then there's gonna be people that do keep coming back and back. To get to that point it must be quite hard though?

That's the conundrum that people in the places of power, I guess, are having this conversation. Because, in the music industry, people are like, 'How do we break new artists now?' Established artists no problem whatsoever. They've got their Spotify playlists that have got gazillions of followers, so of they upload a tune, all them people are gonna hear it. But, you've got a new artist, how do they get from nothing to having that platform? Unless they are obviously championed by one of these music power brokers.

So still the old school way right?

That's the old-shool way. So, in going back to the start of this particular question, I guess with the competition that we've done is like, 'Yeah, let me try and find a couple of artists and put them on the mix CD', or a mix album. I said mix CD. How old-school does that sound? Put them on the mix and, hopefully, they'll get noticed and I can then get a stream, get music from them...and they can hopefully grow. But, I think it's hard out there, man. I think it's hard.

"the next tour. I'm gonna do 52-week house party"

One thing I wanted to ask you about is your radio show, because that was the first drum and bass show that Beats 1 and Apple Music had picked up?

It was, it was. It was very cool, man and it was a fantastic opportunity and a really cool crew of people who are massively into their drum and bass. I mean, we had some really cool conversations about the old-school music and what they were doing. They got fantastic facilities in London, and it was a really good experience. They got in touch and I thought, 'Wow! What a great opportunity, man.' Just to be able to be in the studio, to play music, to talk about the music. I love talking about the music. Somebody asked me a question about a tune and I talk for half an hour on one tune and all the memories it invokes. Hopefully, I'll get to do it again. There's talk about season two and stuff, so could be cool.

Being around London, obviously there's other musical scenes and genres popping up. Are you kind of aware of that happening as a drum and bass person?

Well, I remember eras when speed garage and that was coming through. I actually had a very big-time promoter, once upon a time, call me up and say, "Do you know what, Andy? You got to get off this drum and bass tip, man." He's like, "Honestly, this is the new stuff. You've got to start DJing that, man, otherwise you're gonna be on this sinking ship." And I was heartbroken, man. I was like, 'No, what? You're joking!"

It's like telling you to sell your children, right?

This is my passion, man. But, fortunately, we've stood the test of time. We're kinda unique. I was having this conversation a couple of days ago after the show. The drum and bass energy. The clubs are just always packed and you've got people that do span a generation, literally, in the same club on the same night. 

But it's London, isn't it? There's always new stuff. I mean, there's pirate radio stations popping up left, right and centre every five minutes with a new genre, and then the new nights would start happening. Unfortunately we've had a lot of club closures in London, which has probably affected the ability for new stuff to get a foothold, 'cause you always need a club. Genres, they don't just appear at festivals with 10 thousand people in front of a stage. They don't just turn into sellout international tours.

It's fifty people in a room with a DJ or an MC or whatever?

They start out in a room or a venue probably much smaller than where we are sat now. I mean, I've DJ-ed in house parties about as big as this, with a table lamp as the lighting show. That's where genres start. That's where scenes start. We're suffering from that a bit in London now. Hopefully they'll sort it out. More smaller clubs. I love them underground vibes, man.

So, Andy C, house parties. Sign him up!

That's the next tour. I'm gonna do 52-week house party.

That would be awesome! You could make a good documentary about that.

Do you know what? That would be wicked fun. I remember, digressing a bit, my sister took me to a rave, my first rave when I was 13 in a barn, which was a momentous occasion. But, not long after that, I'd made a record, me and Ant Miles had a first ever record called, 'Turn On', proper old hardcore vibe. I went to a house party in Dagenham, which is just down the road from where I live, and this house, the whole interior had been painted like space scenes and planets. God knows what was going on. I mean, it was just freaky place. And I just remember standing in this room and there was a UV light going on and stars, and my tune came on in this house party and I think was just nearly 15 years old, man, and it was like, 'Fudge, man!' Early years for me is all about them kind of vibes, man.

Andy C may or may not be releasing new music anytime soon, but keep an eye out on RAM Records for the Nightlife 7 Mix mentioned above.