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Interview: Friction

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Friction is a modest man.

Having spent the last 15 years at the heart of the music community, hosting a drum & bass show on BBC Radio 1, playing international festival stages and dropping a slew of stinking club tunes, you’d think he might have a bit of an ego on him. But, this Brighton-born DJ and producer has come from humble beginnings, working hard to cement himself as one of the most adept artists in the industry.

We caught up with him just before the drop of his debut album Connections, where he reminisced on his beginnings in the industry. “I used to go out to raves and clubs when I was in school. I then started making my own mixtapes to get my name out there and eventually got to the stage where I was being paid £5 for a gig...It all helped to show me how to make music and learn how to put concepts together.”

Soon enough, people began to recognise his name. Which, at the time he dropped his debut single ‘Critical Mass’ wasn’t Friction, but Kinnetix. And as all good things do, they spiralled. Soon enough, Friction dropped a slew of singles on some of the biggest labels in the drum & bass biz, including Tru Playaz, Hospital, and his own imprint, Shogun Audio.

“I started Shogun Audio when my DJ career first started 13/14 years ago. It’s kind of developed its own deep rolling sound....Now I’ve got two labels; Shogun where I mainly act as an A&R for the music that comes out. Whereas Elevate is where I release my music and sign artists that are new and fresh.”

As Friction’s sound developed, so did his priorities. Moving away from simply reproducing beats in the club or remixing classics, he’s become far more interested in the grander production process. While Shogun Audio is the perfect stepping stone for middle-ground artists, his new label Elevate is ever-changing with his own sound and innovative, new styles coming through.

It’s great to have that control of what I think is the right vision for each label. As opposed to being signed to a major label where I wouldn’t have as much control.”

But as much as his sound grows, sprawling into all different sub-genres of drum & bass and far beyond the other side, his dedication to his live audiences is unshakeable. As an artist very much embedded within a genre that thrives on a live audience and a bloody good sound system, Friction dabbles in the dumbfounding artistry that is the 4-deck mix.

“If I have a club mix, I like to have 4 decks and really put tracks together live for people, so they can hear the mixes and build up emotion in the club. I think it makes a massive difference if you can combine songs together in a way that makes it new...something different.”

One of the great aspects of Friction’s latest cut, Connections, is the way the album is set up - from start to finish - with his audience in mind. Steady build ups, double drops, silky smooth production and all-important vocal collaborations have given each track an identity of its own within a greater body of work.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to put an album out without being able to [engineer and mix my own music].

“I tried to work with vocalists that each had a different sound...I’m lucky to have artists like JP Cooper, Kiko Bun, Indiana. These are people I really respect. It makes writing music that much easier when you have such great vocalists to work with.”

Drum & bass has a community built on mutual respect. Artists work together closely on new tracks and full-length LPs, like Connections, to bring the very best out of their genre and are hugely excited about bold, new styles coming up through the ranks. A man with oodles of experience and a label geared towards up-and-coming artists, Friction knows the secret recipe to breaking onto the scene.

“Genuinely enjoy what you do.

“Be yourself and make sure you’re looking for things that make you different to everyone else. The problem these days is there’s a lot of people doing the same thing, making it difficult to name a name for yourself.”

Friction's debut album Connections is available now, via Elevate Records.

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