Copyright are Sam Holt and Gavin ‘Face’ Mills, the UK production duo that have emerged from the shadowy streets beneath the grey skies of London to beam rays of 4/4 happiness directly into the gratefully exultant faces of clubbers around the globe. Now, after years of an extremely fruitful relationship with, Defected they have been awarded the ultimate accolade in the shape of their very own In The House compilation.
Their success – at least in part – is due to the carefully nurtured and complimentary relationship their share within the studio and behind the decks. It’s a relationship that has seen their star steadily rise, resulting in Copyright now being one of the most in-demand production and DJ acts in house music. Here, we catch up with the guys to discuss their approach the mix, the re-launch of their Copyright Recordings and how fatherhood can – contrary to popular belief – really help you find your focus in the studio…
We’re more than halfway through 2011…how’s it been for you so far?
Sam: It’s been a great year. We are now in the middle of what we’d call the summer madness; two gigs, a day in the studio, another gig, a day in the studio. Its great fun, we get to see most of Europe, and get a bit of a tan along the way!
Gavin: It’s been a bit of a mad year because Sam’s had a baby very recently and I’ve got one coming. Before Sam’s baby came we just tried to finish off as much stuff as we could because we knew we were going to be very busy. Simon [Dunmore] said to us that we should have babies more often because we’ve never been so productive. It shows what we can do when we put our minds to it.
Sam: Having my daughter made me focus my mind on the little time I had to be in the studio, listen to and A&R tracks. I really had to make the most of out of every session.
If you were to pick a couple of things over the last six months that really stand out for you, what would they be?
Gavin: Meeting Nuwella, who we did ‘I’m All Yours’ with, plus doing the video, was a major highlight because we’ve built a strong creative relationship. She’s going to be a major artist for us in the future, and we’re working hard in the studio with new tracks, with some great ideas.
Sam: Re-launching Copyright Recordings, with Simon and the team at Defected, because it’s one of those things where I thought ‘why didn’t we do this four years ago’. We’ve got some great artists who are creating some great music and we’ve had initial successes with our first round of signees.
Who are the new artists you’re bringing through and how do you feel about the progress you’re making?
Sam: We’ve got people like Born To Funk out of Holland who’s delivering some awesome music at the moment.
Gavin: He’s been around quite a while. We met him years ago, before we had a label and we passed a track he had made called ‘Di Bamba!’ on to Knee Deep USA, which they signed and released in 2004. They didn’t know about ‘Di Bamba’ previously, so we learnt from that lesson.
Sam: He’s just been touring in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and across Africa so his sound at the moment is perfect for the label. There’s so much more to come from him. We’ve also been working with our good mate, DJ Meme from Brazil, who absolutely smashed it with his debut single for Copyright Recordings, ‘Canto Pro Mar’. It’s been huge, so huge that David Morales remixed it because he loved it so much.
Gavin: We want to work with people the same way we’ve worked with Simon; building a team of producers coming up with records, and put out our own records. These guys’ records are doing so well that they’ve set the bar high, the pressures on. We didn’t have a plan, or so much a concept, our main criteria was based on whether we’d play the record, would it go in our record box –if so then we’ll sign it.
Sam: Copyright Recocrdings is starting to take on a personality of its own, because it’s become the place for the Nu Africanism sound, which seems to have happened organically. People are noticing that we’re putting a lot of afro-latin inspired records so people are sending us their take on Nu Africanism.
How do producers get their music to you?
Sam: Putting a CD in our hand will get you a listen! Send your records to myself or Gavin, ensuring that it’s a link we can download. I can 100% guarantee we listen to everything, especially when we’re travelling. We’ll listen on the plane, but we can’t listen to a stream link, we can’t download on a plane.
Gavin: We listen to every CD we’re given, we leave no stone unturned. The next demo might be our biggest record.
Sam: If you don’t have that kind of enthusiasm with House music, then you shouldn’t be doing it. There’s a great family of labels at Defected, and if it’s not exactly the sound of our label, we’ll pass it on to Simon (Dunmore), who’ll pass it on to Ricky Rivaro at Azuli Records, or Simon Marlin (The Shapeshifters) who’s running Nocturnal Groove. There’s a whole universe of other labels, so it’s worth sending demos to us.
A crux of your next album is Hong Kong, what have your experiences been like in regards to playing there, the clubs you’ve played at and the house scene in general?
Gavin: I like Hong Kong because it’s such a small place, everybody knows everybody, so it’s similar to life on a university campus. The core of the House music scene in Hong Kong might be around thirty or forty people, and there’s three main clubs; Kee Club, Drop, and Dragon-I where we play, but it’s a really strong scene.
Sam: Because of Hong Kong’s history with Britain, it feels like a little bit of London in Asia, in regards to the spirit of fashion, shopping, and brands. These days we’re a lot more sensible but in the early days it was easy to lose yourself on a shopping spree where you’ll end up thinking ‘Oh my god, what have I done? I’ve brought ten pairs of trainers and five Adidas leather jackets, I better take some of this back’.
Gavin: We’ve visited Mong Kok, famed for its row of sneaker shops – which is the length of Oxford Street – on many occasions. Gilbert, the owner of Dragon-I, got us tickets to see the Star Wars premiere too. There are a few places that we play that have become my favourite destinations, but Hong Kong is most definitely one of my top three. I always try and arrange a few extra days where I can catch up with all the many friends we’ve made over the years.
Your sound is ever-changing but recently it seems as if your sound has evolved sonically into something much bigger and elaborate. Would you agree, and if so how has it changed?
Sam: I think the essence of the sound is the same but the dynamics of have changed because we’re playing all over the world, experiencing different situations in different clubs, and that just follows us back into the studio. One week we could be playing a massive festival, and the next week we could be playing a small intimate club so it’s just trying to make our sound relevant to where and how we play.
Who was the last producer that really inspired you?
Gavin: Maya Jane Coles. It’s refreshing to hear someone so young coming with such a mature sound, she has the essence of house and every time she releases something I always go and listen to it. Maya’s tracks do not always work in our sets but her music is moving, taking you on a journey with each listen. She’s really stood out in the last year or two as someone to watch out for, and could easily be the new Dennis Ferrer.
Sam: We’re also massive fans of Frankie Rizardo, and I feel like he’s on an upward curve and doing some amazing things. We play his records in every set and I feel in time he’s going to develop into a producer to be reckoned with. He’s a great DJ and we love his sound, and for a young guy the sky’s the limit. Another duo we really rate is Roul and Doors. We’ve got to hang out and have some great times with them in Holland, but they’re some guys to really watch out for in the future. They’ve got a great attitude, some dope tracks, and I see them on a massive upward curve.
Gavin: I think it’s on the cards that they’ll have a big hit soon.
The tag line for the album is ‘Uniting the voices of Africa, Asia, New York, and London through House Music’, can you talk us through it…
Sam: We’ve always had a very global sound in terms of what we make, there’s always been influence from American House, and New York sounds, but then we’ve got another sort of sound which is the Afro Beat, and we’re from London. It’s like a melting pot of influences and our sole aim was for the album to captures the global dance sentiment and influences.
Gavin: When we DJ we play a wide spectrum of different sounds. We might play a really soulful old disco track, we might play something that’s really deep and techy in our set but that’s a major part of the appeal, where we can pretty much turn up to any party and fit in because we’re eclectic.
Sam: You might hear a Jamie Jones record in our set, you might hear a Dirty South record; if it’s good, it’s good and if it’s got the funk we’re after, we’ll play it.
How did you mix the compilation…was it live or an Abelton session?
Gavin: It was a mixture.
Sam: It starts as just us playing CDs, getting a vibe for CD1 and CD2, the next process is to mix both CDs to an ordered and balanced track flow…
Gavin: That’s where Ableton comes in.
Sam: Then there’s a next level of Ableton where we’re engineering, editing, and adding effects before it goes to the next level, entering the Copyright mainframe studio HQ…
Gavin: We add the sprinkles on top using Logic. Just the winds, DJ sounds…
Sam: Probably stuff you can’t even really pick out, but it does have an effect, it’s more on a subsonic level of consciousness so we can give these mixes a little bit of flavour. It’s a labour of love. We sometimes say that if you don’t hate something you’ve made, you haven’t worked on it hard enough. Having said that, we don’t hate the compilation, but we’ve definitely been through it a fair few times!
From inception to 100% finished, how long did it take?
Gavin: From us starting the actual mixing, it’s about four or five weeks but then there’ll always be a little curveball at the end where someone won’t licence a track.
Sam: The track that you absolutely love, the lynchpin of CD2, gone!
Gavin: Sometimes just taking out one track and having to fill it with another track is hard.
Sam: It’s good fun but to get the quality that we’re striving for takes quite a long time.
What else are you working on at the moment?
Gavin: Mark Knight, a great friend of ours, and a producer we really respect, came to Sam and asked whether we’d be interested in doing a mix of ‘Babarabatiri’ which is a Todd Terry record sampling Tito Puente. It was used in a Guinness advert a few years back and it’s one of my favourite old House tracks. We’ve been working on that for the past few days we’ve been in the studio, and its sound pretty good. I’m looking forward to road testing it and see how the crowd reacts.
Sam: We’ve also got a follow up single with Nuwella, but I’m not going to tell you the title until it drops. It’s another cover, which has come out really well, and what we’ve been able to do is find a tune which fits Nuwella because she has got bags of charisma. The song not only suits her, but also her artistic direction as an artist. We’re really excited!
Copyright In The House Hong Kong ’11 is out 29th August