Ram Raid! Drum 'n' Bass royalty Andy C rolls into Dubai this weekend
Andy C – Ram Records boss – brings his legendary set to The Music Room, Dubai on April 10, with Mc LowQui. Our friends at Hype profiled the drum ‘n’ bass superstar.
What were you doing when you were 16? No doubt mucking about at school, casually getting into extra-curricular activities that you were unlikely to be proud of two decades later. Not so Andy C. At 16 – just a week after completing his GCSE exams – he set up a drum ‘n’ bass label and named it Ram Records after his Aries star sign. To this day that label is one of the most influential and taste-making in the worldwide drum ‘n’ bass scene.
Andy was also releasing records back then, most notably alongside pal Ant Miles as Origin Unknown. Listen back to the pair’s earliest releases now – things like Valley Of The Shadows (31 Seconds) – and it’s impossible to overestimate their importance. Often referred to as the archetypal darkcore prototype, the hugely inventive production picked up the award for Best Hardcore Tune at the 1993 Hardcore Dance Awards where Andy, born Andrew John Clarke in the Midlands of England, also collected the prize for Best Newcomer.
At this stage the young hardcore and rave obsessive had already chalked up plenty of knowledge thanks to an older sister taking him under her wing. The story goes that at 12 years of age Andy was obsessively educating himself by listening to her rave tapes and local pirate radio, eagerly absorbing the sounds of the nascent rave scene and desperate to become involved in its rapidly emerging culture. Before he had even left school, Andy’s DJ career had taken off and he was an unwitting poster boy for the silky drum ‘n’ bass scene that slowly emerged out of rough and tough ’90s jungle.
Having achieved so much, so early on, it makes it even more remarkable that now, more than 20 years later, Andy is still as energetic, enthused and busy as ever. But how? And why?
“The goalposts are always moving,” he says in a friendly drawl. “And the targets are different every year. It’s a challenge, though, because there’s a pre-conception about drum ‘n’ bass not really breaking through and being the monster it is, but for me, I believe in it: the music is my life. I see the vibe and the response from people around the world and that’s the challenge, to move it on. That’s what keeps me going, the vibe and the feeling. If there was no one at the parties I’d lose the motivation, but it seems the crowds get bigger, new generations come through and catch the mood. And it seems the parties we’re doing get bigger every year.”
Those parties have become a large part of what Andy does on a day-to-day basis. In 2014 it’s all the rage for labels, producers or DJs to host their own parties under their own banner, but Andy C and Ram predate that trend by at least a decade. Ever since the late ’90s he has been putting on sold-out Ram parties around the world, selling 3,000 tickets for events at places like London’s matter, and now doing so at festivals and clubs everywhere.
“It’s grown exponentially for us,” reflects Andy. “We used to do them every couple of months as a showcase for the label, but with the artists we’ve got and the way the brand’s gone all over the world, we concentrate on doing parties in every territory we can. I think we did 50-odd last year, so there will probably be more this year.”
After turning out a huge number of still classic rollers until roughly the turn of the century (including standout full lengths like Speed Of Sound and Sound In Motion in 1997 and 1998 respectively, but also Molten Beats, a landmark drum ‘n’ bass album that was a collaboration between Andy, Ant and friend Shimon that marked a huge evolution in the genre in 1999), Andy somewhat slowed down on the production front.
“I actually started producing before I was a DJ,” he remembers. “But you can’t stay in that creative place, churning them out forever. Well, you can, but you need to stop and take stock and come back with a head full of ideas. Some people can endlessly knock out tunes, but with the label and the DJing and travelling, production has taken a back seat for me. I’m actually in the studio now, though, at home, getting my old rave guns out and knocking up some tunes for the summer.”
Whilst production has slowed down, Andy’s DJing has gone from strength to strength over the years. Known as someone who specialises in fast mixing, for much of his career he has employed three turntables. Initially, it was a London venue that wanted him to do it. Andy was unsure, but when a deck arrived at the Ram office with a note from the venue, he had no choice but to get stuck right in. “I love it,” he says when asked of the extra mental challenge of juggling three decks. “The first ever time I did it was at One Nation in Brixton, London, about a decade ago. There’s definitely a strategy to it because you lose your mind trying to keep track of the ’tables. It took a while but was a brilliant challenge. When I first did it I thought, ‘Why haven’t I done this before?’”
Andy is also revered for his on-going Nightlife mix series. He has turned out six volumes of the series so far and each one stands as a perfect snapshot of where drum ‘n’ bass is at in any given year. “I was one of the very, very last DJs to still play vinyl. Now I use Traktor with the control vinyl so I still use turntables, so I still have that beautiful feel of needle to record and pitch control, but I find it so much more fun to have every record I’ve ever had with me at all times. It enables me to do six-hour sets or to go on some weird ode to 1992 in the middle of my set.”
Nowadays, alongside his DJing, Andy is enjoying his curatorial role in charge of the Ram empire, bringing through new talents at a fantastic rate, with recent success stories including chart topping, globally touring crossover duo Chase & Status amongst others. “We like to take people from first release right the way through,” enthuses Andy. “What a buzz that is. The point of Ram is to do that – we’re a platform and we invest a lot of time in our acts. In December, I was at London’s O2 arena watching Chase & Status headline and that’s a case in point of bringing someone through. It’s a beautiful feeling and I love seeing the guys on stage or hearing them on the radio and thinking we played a part of that.”
Globalfunk presents Andy C and MC LowQui, The Music Room, Majestic Hotel, Al Mankhool Road, Dubai. Thursday April 10, 9pm to 3am. Dhs100. Taxi: Majestic Hotel. facebook.com/globalfunkdxb