Perhaps the very definition of the new popularity of bass music in pop culture, DJ Fresh has had the most astronomical rise to fame over the past year with two UK number ones and an innovative live show to go with it. His work is encouraging brilliant young artists to follow suit and none more so than Messy MC.
After almost a decade of experience working with the biggest names in drum and bass, Messy is now the frontman for Fresh Live and is releasing his own material later this year. He graciously met us for a chat at the Parklife Weekender in Manchester [which, by the way, ended with the most euphoric version of ‘Louder’ you have ever heard] last weekend, and here’s what he had to say.
Hi Messy, how you doing? First time down to Parklife?
Yeah we’ve been down to Warehouse Project before, which is a great gig, but this is the first time down in Parklife, we’re really looking forward to it.
You’ve worked with a few acts on the bill here previously, particularly Netsky and Camo & Krooked who are doing very well at the moment, is good to be around all those guys at the same time?
Yeah those guys have been smashing it since their album came out, I love those guys to bits. They’re in a really strong position and they had a few people bidding for the album before it got released, there’s no denying their talent. Working with them was a different dynamic to the Fresh Live show but it was a real pleasure. I’ve worked with some real primadonnas in my time, naming no names, but those guys are really safe to work with.
How did the live band experience feel, was it all very new to you?
It’s very different, I had a bit of experience with the Easy Rollers Live a couple of years back but I still got really prang about not hearing the audience because we all had in-ears and couldn’t hear the crowd. I’ve got cue points and have to stay focused a lot more now. I’ve done drum and bass MC-ing for about seven years now and to be honest I can do that pissed now, so this is a lot more hard work; doing vocals and sticking to the song is what it’s all about so there’s a bit more pressure. But then I feel a lot more elated afterwards; it’s a level up.
Have you always been a singer more than an MC?
I’m a secret singer, just ask Fleur (Fresh Live bandmate)! If I’m onstage with someone like Netsky or someone who I can be a bit more soulful with then I love to crack out a vocal, I try to shock and impress at the same time.
And how are you working with the rest of the band at the moment?
Working with Fleur is great. She’s got a lot of difficult vocals to work with, tracks like ‘Hypercaine’ and ‘Gold Dust’. She’s got a great stage presence, a fantastic voice. The tracks have got different vibes too, the kind of ragga / Cecile vibes on ‘Gold Dust’ and the belting Welsh warbler on ‘Louder’ and she just smashes it. We have Paul Kodish, ex-Pendulum, on drums and the guitarist Richard de Rosa who I’m doing work with later in the year.
What’s that going to look and sound like then, have you started on it already?
Yeah we’re about 12 tracks deep into already actually and now it’s difficult cutting it down and picking the ones you want on there. Especially with a debut, you get a few labels interested and you give them tasters and snippets but it’s so hard choosing what is going to define you as an artist for the first time. Richard is a really talented guy and he can play anything, very versatile and logical so that gives us a lot of freedom to do some ska, do some banging dubstep stuff, mix up verse chorus middle 8 or just do hook after hook. It’s got to the point where we’ve got so much material now and the manager comes back looking for the completed album and you’ve written two more tracks. I’m just loving everything we’re writing at the moment which is a good position to be in.
And what better way to do it than off the back off a Fresh Live tour?
100%, absolutely. Girls have come back! Which is great when the girls come back cos they bring the boys and the dynamic of the whole dance music scene comes alive again. Fresh is absolutely smashing it at the moment with every track he brings out so as a whole we just want to strike while the iron’s hot. It’s busier than it’s ever been for DJs which is great, no longer can you just have the old guard, it’s just not up to them any more. You don’t see all the indie bands which clogged up every festival about ten years ago. The View came up to us at Rockness actually to have a chat and they’re nice guys, but you see their hair and their skinny jeans and it’s just a different world!
What do you think about the diversity of events like this? There are a hell of a lot of DJs here..
It’s crazy now looking around, we were at Rockness last week and you would obviously thinking that’s a typically rocky festival, but Deadmau5 was headlining! And Annie Mac playing, a DJ who plays tracks across the board, but she deserves it because she represents dance music and champions the scene, she’s exactly where the scene has been the past couple of years personified in a DJ. The people who have to worry about stuff like genres are the people who aren’t gonna rise to the top. Look at Fresh, he’s made seminal drum and bass tunes for the past 15 years and then he made the choice to move from the underground to making music to stuff that is going to appeal to more people.
And you can hear that in those only slightly older tracks like ‘Lassitude’ when he’s making a bit of a transition…
Exactly! And in two or three singles he’s broken into the really commercial market with solid tunes which still have that hard edge to them. People have been asking a lot wanting him to stay true to that underground sound but he’s managed it. Unfortunately for drum and bass, not so much dubstep but similar, a lot of people get very precious about it and say that no-one else understands it because it’s there thing. Well that’s not the case any more.
That’s certainly obvious here (as Danny Byrd – ‘Tonight’ deafens us from the nearby Hospitality arena) when Danny Byrd is drawing in massive crowds and playing tracks which are huge anthems for the people around. Is that the angle you’re going to go down with your solo work, bringing drum and bass to the masses?
Well yeah in some ways. We’ve done a lot of ska stuff but that’s more of a personal enjoyment which may not make the EP, it’s an indulgence really. I think people will be a little surprised because I’ve dipped my toe into a few scenes and it’ll be an amalgamation of those; dnb, dubstep, rap. And some singing! With more hooky choruses and decent vocals, I just hope people like it really.
Fresh Live and Messy MC are touring for the rest of the summer with appearances at V Festival, South West Four Weekender, The Isle of Wight Festival and Global Gathering. For more info check out his facebook.