Delta Heavy are one of the most in-demand D&B acts on the planet.
Fully-loaded with a bag-full of exclusive new tunes especially for the occasion, the D&B duo will bring the full-spectrum of bass music to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This includes exploring a more dramatic element to their production to fit with this apocalyptic decor!
We caught-up with one half of Delta Heavy – Simon James – to speak about his early influences, how he approaches DJing, his relationship with London and what it means to Delta Heavy to play Arcadia.
Hi Simon! We know that both of you met in 2003 at the University of Nottingham. However, we were wondering when did you specifically begin Djing together?
We were in London in about 2006 when we started writing music together. Then, we sort of started DJing together on-and-off during that same period. But it wasn’t really until we got signed and started gigging that we played-out together. So around 2009/2010.
Who were you early influences?
We were both big fans of RAM Records and all the guys that released on there in the late 90’s early 2000’s – Bad Company in particular! Outside of that, we were very into house and techno. That was what was going around at that time. That sound was really interesting for us, and that’s where we took a lot of inspiration from. We tried to make it work in the D&B genre. Tried to create our own sound.
What is it about DJing that appeals to you above producing your own music?
For DJs who play different genres of music, it can be quite difficult to always make it work. For different shows, people have different tastes and different expectations. So you have to adapt to all those environments every time. You can’t just play D&B. You can’t go there and play the same set. So for us it’s really about just seeing a little bit of what we can get away with. Trying things out and seeing how the crowd respond.
In the studio we try to come up with new things – with tracks that are going to stand out from past material. Things to get people excited when we DJ! I mean, to be fair, it’s kind of similar in a sense, as you’re trying to whip the audience-up. Whatever you do, whether you’re making music whether you’re DJing, that’s the goal. So I guess in that sense the two are similar. With producing you can be a lot more experimental. Sometimes it doesn’t work and you don’t see it through. But it’s kind of the fun of being able to try stuff out. Push some boundaries!
These days with the bass music genre you have to be pretty on point with what you’re doing, because the energy has to remain high. It’s not like a techno or deep house set. You have to be able keep people engaged and on their toes the whole time. That’s truer now than it’s ever been.
Thinking about your sets, what makes you decide to play a particular record?
Is there a criteria other than pure subjectivity? Do you agree with Ben beforehand when choosing a track?
I think we’ve been playing together for long enough now and we know each other inside-out. We know each other’s taste in music, we know what we like to play and we know and what’s good for the dance floor. So we rarely have disagreements. We just want to put on the best show possible! If we don’t agree with each other, that’s cool. There is no issue at all. It has become a really good energy between us, because we don’t play together that often. So this is going to be a cool little gathering for us!
From your perspective, how does the London scene stack-up right now?
For me, it feels like a privilege to play in our home city. London has such a long history with dance music. The culture is so rich and diverse. You find a very educated crowd that knows a lot about music, due to venues like fabric with plenty of history, for example. For us it has always been important to be part of the world’s stage and the London scene becomes more-and-more international, especially when D&B is concerned. Whenever we travel to Australia we witness how popular the genre is becoming. So we can see that the London scene is spreading and gaining more attention. It’s getting more popular everywhere we go! It became a much more global scene the past few years.
Okay, so where have you’ve best sets in London been ?
The most memorable time was when we first got signed to RAM and we were playing at fabric every two months. RAM had their label night there, so were able to play at Fabric four or five time a year. Over the course of time we’ve got to play there, it was an amazing experience and a really good way to try-out new music. There was a real community feel. A spirit. We were able to catch-up with producer friends and other colleagyes who were just big music fans! So I think that period at was great for us. We used to be able to go there regularly and hang out. And for the scene to see that kind of community made it flourish! It was so nice.
What do you think about the Arcadia brand? Have you ever played for Arcadia in the past?
Ben has played once before in New Zealand, but this is the first time we’re playing for Arcadia in the UK. The spider is such an iconic structure. It’s an incredible set-up, so we’re thrilled to be able to be a part of this in our hometown.
In what sense do you think playing inside Arcadia’s brand new 360 degree indoor theatre – The Reactor – going to change your set? Are you preparing anything differently for the occasion?
For this set we are going to play some material we made especially for the occasion, which is pretty cool. We’re pretty excited about it. In term of the set, it’s definitely going to be different. It will be interesting to see the crowd from a different perspective. We are going to fit in some more dramatic music to match the Arcadia set-up.
We’ve never played Queen’s Elisabeth Park before and we’re excited to do something like this in London because it feels like a fresh event. Very different with that level of production. I have to say it does feel unreal to be on the same spot as the Olympics. Everyone in England was feeling very proud because of the achievements in 2012. So it will be very cool for us to go there and do what we do!
Do DJs have to adapt to technological changes? Do you think, ultimately, this kind of cutting-edge, immersive event will become more common in the future?
These days, technology is so much more accessible. And for that reason, Djing is becoming easier. Essentially, it is just a choice for you of what you enjoy doing. Some people choose to only play vinyl, others chose not to master that skill.
I do think this type of event will expand in the future. That’s obvious. It reminds me of this question I’m often asked: if I prefer playing in a small club or at a big festival? For me, the contrast in a small club with three hundred people is a very different kind of energy. I never choose one. The most important factor for me is the connection with the crowd in the here-and-now, and how they feel walking away from that experience.
What are your thoughts on the DJs you’re sharing a stage with?
I mean, Noisia are playing and we have a lot of respect for what they do! They are incredible producers and amazing artists. So, yeah, definitely Noisia. Even though there’s a high probability our sets will clash! TQD are playing as well, right?
They certainly are!
I really dig that sound too. All the guys on the RAM stage, as well. It is going to feel really good to go to the Afters at fabric. We plan on catching-up with all of them there. So yeah, I think this is definitely going to be a wicked after party. It’s gonna be off the scale! (laughs)