Friction is widely considered as one of the most exciting UK artists in the drum & bass world and yet, despite this famed reputation amongst his peers and fans alike, it was only last month when his debut album was finally released. With so many different responsibilities, taking on the mantle of hosting the BBC Radio One Drum & Bass show, whilst running several labels, there was a time when Friction seriously struggled to imagine finishing the record.
We sat down with him to discuss the rollercoaster journey over the past few years, the accompanying album tour as well as his plans to commemorate a special Shogun birthday.
When asked about the reaction to the album Friction couldn’t contain his happiness at how it had been received over the past month, the Brighton-born DJ and producer has played a whole host of locations in the UK as well as a handful of European destinations so far on his tour,
“It’s been crazy,” he said, “I’m really pleased with how people have responded to it. A lot of the tour dates have been sold out so far as well so it feels good. It’s doing the right thing and I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed.”
After spending the past four years grinding away in the studio, whilst continuing to uphold an intense DJ schedule, the Shogun Audio head honcho has had more time to himself in recent weeks, more time to reflect on the experience and so Friction spoke in a rather relaxed manner, highlighting how much he had been looking forward to spending more time with his family,
“Now it’s great because I can take my little boy to football and not have to worry about a particular deadline,” he added,
“Before I was doing the tour dates and then getting up first thing on a Monday and going straight back into the studio. It was hard but nice to get there in the end.”
Aside from seeing his son tear it up on the pitch, Friction confessed how watching his beloved Arsenal was also high on the agenda. Unsurprisingly though, he hasn’t actually been able to attend that many matches because of the high demand of his album tour dates,
“It worked out quite nicely because by the time I’d finished the album, the football season started so that was quite tidy because now I get to put my feet up and watch Arsenal,” he said,
“Now we’re actually winning some games so that has been quite nice really.”
A few weekends ago Friction demonstrated in spectacular fashion just how crazy the life of a DJ and producer can be, finishing a set in Birmingham at 3:30 before rushing back to Brighton to take his son to football at 08:00.
Why this might seem ridiculously hectic to some Friction is quite content leading this lifestyle, particularly when his eight-year-old child is such a wizard with a football,
“After the show in Birmingham I pretty much got up with my kid, took him to football and went to watch him play,” he explained,
“At that point I was so beyond tired but it is well worth it. He loves banging goals away as well so I could watch him score all day.”
With so much excitement and anticipation around the release of ‘Connections’ there must surely have been a lot of temptation to celebrate this huge milestone in a grand venue, but instead, the decision was taken to host a rather intimate party, giving around 150 people the chance to see Friction play London’s Pickle Factory.
When asked about the decision Friction explained how he wanted the show to be accommodating for all ages,
“It was a Thursday night and we were keen to make it more of a family thing,” he added,
“I’m really glad that we did that because I do quite a lot of big shows so it’s nice to celebrate in London on a weeknight. Literally it was like a friends and family thing. The vibes in there were amazing!”
Whilst it might be a wonderful time for Friction now the album is finally out, the journey towards that point provided some of the most difficult times. Leaving behind a role he loved so much, presenting the Drum & Bass show on BBC Radio One, was a shining example of just how stressful the past few years have been.
Friction gave a vivid description of the most difficult times during the album writing process whilst highlighting how tough it was to pass the mantle as the voice of DnB,
“Quite simply I was just doing too much and to the point where it was making me ill,” he commented,
“Something had to give and that was a really hard decision to make.
“I miss it now. I loved going up to Radio One every week and presenting drum & bass as a genre.”
Listen to the album and you will hear a whole range of different styles, from the harder ‘Ultrafunk’ alongside Metrik to ‘Fall Away’ which epitomizes what liquid is all about.
At the beginning Friction admitted he had three main criteria when deciding which influences to include on the record,
“I wanted to have something that people could listen to, play tunes in clubs, make some kind of journey out of it so the emotion would change as it went along,” he told,
“It was a hard task to tick all those boxes. I think I got pretty close to doing that.”
Reflecting on the whole process it was crazy to learn about the number of tracks which didn’t make the cut, although it’s not uncommon for artists to make 50 versions of one record before they are happy with the finished article due to the music industry is highly competitive. When Friction described his quality control process it was staggering to hear and certainly sparked great intrigue around all those unseen songs,
“I wrote loads of other ideas but I kind of stop everything when I’m like 60-70% in,” he said,
“There’s probably another 30-odd tunes sitting on my desktop from that album writing process. They won’t ever see the light of day but they were close.”
Alongside a whole host of UK and European shows, Friction is also set to travel across the Atlantic Ocean next month, taking in the likes of Washington, Boston and Toronto. The DnB DJ is hopeful that these US shows will offer an entirely different atmosphere,
“There is a really good variation with the shows over there,” he explained,
“There’s a small Thursday night thing I do in Boston called Elements which I’ve done two or three times previously. It is a small show and everyone in there is properly up for drum n bass.
“I like going to America because if you go out and do the right gigs there is a passionate, die-hard drum & bass crowd.”
One of the US events which he has played several times is actually more geared around EDM music. For Friction, the beauty of that is earning a chance to impress a crowd that weren’t originally coming to see DnB and end up leaving as newly converted fans.
“I do one for a company called Bassrush who do loads of really big parties out in the States,” he commented,
“One is trying to bring the sound to the masses and there might be people there who’ve gone for some dubstep or trap.
“They might not totally be into drum n bass but might hear your set and be like that was sick.”
Whilst releasing a debut album is going to be a huge achievement for any artist another massive landmark is just around the corner for Friction as his Shogun Audio imprint approaches it’s 15th anniversary.
Launching with his own remix of the iconic jungle number ‘R-Type’ by Jo the label has since hosted numerous artists from across the spectrum and is edging ever closer to 150 releases.
Speaking about this exciting milestone it was clear to see just how keen Friction was to make sure it is celebrated in spectacular fashion.
“There’s going to be a 15 years tour so we’ll try to do a few dates with that,” he added,
“I’m going to do a few 15 years of Shogun sets, go back and reminisce about some of the tracks on the label. I’m looking forward to it.”
We’ll be looking forward to it just as much.
Westfest will play host to Friction at their incredible festival on Saturday 27th October.
Friction’s Album tour continues as he takes to Brighton’s Concorde 2 venue on Friday 16th November, before Detonate host the DnB DJ at The Brickworks venue in Nottingham on Saturday 24th November.
In:Motion Bristol is the next stop for the producer, as Friction will be playing a part in their RUN series on Saturday 1st December.
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