Creating an album in the midst of a pandemic has been a hugely bizarre experience for the likes of Ed Rush and Audio, known collectively as Killbox.
Normally there would be ample opportunities to work away on a tune during the week and then road test the track on a weekend in a club, either in the UK or abroad. Over the past 12 months the landscape for how fans consume music has changed exponentially, with producers relying more on live streams to maintain the connection.
We sat down with Killbox to discuss how that has changed the type of music they've been working on, the effects of the pandemic on their mental health and much more.
The pandemic has given both Ed Rush and Audio a prime opportunity to step back and take stock. So often in the music industry artists are touring at a relentless pace and it is rare they have an opportunity to assess the impact that is having on their mental health, family life and more.
Audio admitted the scale of the crisis took a lot of musicians, including him, by surprise.
"I think we were all sort of expecting it to blow over after a few weeks," he added. "There was the initial feeling that it'd be fine and then the sudden realisation that it wasn't going anywhere. I'll be honest with you it's probably been one of the best years I've had in a long time.
"I've sorted a lot of things out with my personal life and my health. It's quite isolating when you're a DJ and it's that life of just working at the weekend because you're in a completely different time zone."
Ed Rush explained how opinions were divided when he has spoken to his peers and friends about the impact of the pandemic with some focusing on how awful it's been whilst others have relished the extra time to work on themselves and spend more time with their family.
"It's been very polarising," he said. "There's no one you talk to that says it's been alright. It's either been a disaster where you've lost your family or your mental health and your house or it's been wonderful and people have reconnected with themselves.
"I think it's great because a lot of people have had the chance to chill out and step back and realise what is important to them, what's important in their lives and given them a chance to realign their focus."
With the invention of social media it is so easy to paint things in a certain way and to constantly frame events so that it looks as though life is always being viewed through rose-tinted glasses.
This is another huge misconception for DJs and producers. It is easy to focus on their performance behind the decks to huge crowds but it is everything else behind the scenes which all takes its toll.
"That hour-and-a-half you're in front of the decks is the best bit of it," Audio continued.
"You've just literally come from another country, straight to the club, then onto the airport from the club. You sleep for an hour-and-a-half on the plane, then sleep in a basic hotel in the back end of Russia somewhere.
"It's nice to be in the position we're in but there are some rubbish bits to it which are travelling and being away from home."
For an established artist like Ed Rush, who has been in the game for a quarter of a century, it was a hammer blow when that feeling of being put on a pedestal as the performing artist was suddenly taken away.
"When you are in the club and you're having drinks and doing your thing it's a great time," he said.
"People want to be around you and talk to you. You’re made to feel like you're contributing to people’s experience and contributing to people having a good weekend. For that to be stripped has been hard to deal with.
"I've been doing it for 25 years now so when it suddenly gets pulled away from you I think you've got to be quite strong mentally to deal with that and for it not to affect you. I think you'd have to be emotionless."
When asked for their verdict on Divine Profits the duo both admitted they were delighted with the final product and think it showcases the efforts they've gone to push the boundaries musically rather than try to conform.
"We get sent music from 19-year-old kids which is jaw-dropping," Audio said. "For me musically I still feel like I have a lot to give so I always want to be considered relevant.
"It’s essential that we're up-to-date with trends, not necessarily following trends. Like everything in this world everything is moving at 5,000 miles an hour. You take your finger off the accelerator for a moment and you can get left behind."
Ed Rush also reiterated how important it is to keep working on your craft and was encouraged by the music he's heard from other producers who are trying to delve into uncharted territory.
"Growing up with the drum & bass from the 90s which was the stuff Gareth I and started out making, it was all heavily breakbeat-orientated," he added. "We were literally taking funk breaks, speeding them up and then using samplers to chop them up. It was all focused around breakbeats.
"It's nice to start hearing people using breakbeats again. This is what I've been toying with over the last few months. A lot of the crusty old breaks sound rubbish.
"When you turn them up really loud they just sound even worse so just trying to learn techniques to make them relevant so they sound good now."
Audio and Ed Rush were actually afforded some good fortune when creating their forthcoming LP as they had the chance to road test the material before the pause button was pressed on normality as we know it.
The one thing which they are both slightly concerned about is the first time back behind the decks. The last time Audio had a mix was September.
"We're quite lucky in the fact that we got to test 90% of the album in the clubs before but I've sort of forgotten what they sound like," Audio commented. "I’ve forgotten what music sounds like on a big system and that feeling of bass rattling through your body."
Meanwhile Ed Rush admitted it's been much longer.
"The first time I get back on the decks I’m going to be so rusty," he said. "It's literally been a year. It's mad."
There couldn't be a clearer conviction as to just how much nervousness there is around that first show back when a seasoned veteran like Ed Rush confesses it is going to feel like the very first time he showcased his turntable talents.
When asked about upcoming shows both artists responded enthusiastically, confident in the knowledge that the end is in sight and the clubs won't remain dormant much longer.
Ed Rush is looking forward to a few dates in the UK, taking in the likes of Brighton, Leicester and London whilst Audio highlighted the debut edition of Hospitality Weekend in the Woods and the world-renowned Let it Roll festival in the Czech Republic as the ones he’s most excited about.
Audio did want to stress once more that he will be adopting a gradual approach when making a return to playing shows.
"I'm going to ease myself back into things and if it doesn't feel right then I'll just ease myself back out of it," he said.
"I'm in a position where I don't need to go back to it so if I feel as though it's not good for my health mentally or physically there's no pressure there. Before all my bills were dependent on this and now I'm doing it with other things."
Dreaming about what lies ahead fills both artists with real excitement, in particular being able to witness the reactions up close which their new album will hopefully evoke.
Ed Rush was quick to admit the one they both feel is going to do the most damage is 'Rodan'.
"Stylistically it seems to just fit in with the current movement, especially in the UK," he said.
"It’s a shame we can't be standing in clubs with it rattling our rib cages, but hopefully it won't be too much longer. I remember the first time it was played at the Virus party. It was 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, they'd been battered all night. Sweat was dripping off the walls and then you [Audio] dropped 'Rodan' right from the vocal."
The tune was enamoured so much that night it was rewound several times which is always the best feeling, according to Audio.
"It's also a confirmation thing as well because in your opinion you could've perhaps played four tunes that might be mixed better in your opinion," he continued.
"You can tell a vibe in a tune a million miles away. That's evidence that it can stand head and shoulders above other tunes."
Whilst most of the world has been unable to rave freely amongst big crowds New Zealand has been able to return to normal much sooner as they implemented strict lockdown measures to combat the virus from the early outset.
Subsequently there have been a selection of artists, including Dimension, Andy C and Hybrid Minds, who have endured the extremely strict quarantine rules imposed by the Antipodeans to play a series of shows.
Ed Rush admitted he would give the idea some consideration but there are some big sacrifices involved which make it seem rather unattractive.
"I said I would definitely consider it but it entails quite a lot," he said.
"You’ve got to quarantine for two weeks when you get there so if you're doing two weekends worth of shows it means being away from home for at least a month. That sounds a bit daunting to me.
"I think it's quite barbaric what you have to go through. The military turns up and you have to wear a tag. I think it's a bit like being in prison so it doesn't sound like a lot of fun."
Audio also explained he was in no rush to go out there and jump through tons of hoops in order to play a handful of shows. The last time he was there it was for NYE and within four days he was back in the UK so it's not something which fills him with huge excitement at this moment in time.
The present situation has also altered people's priorities because there was a time where artists wouldn't think too much about hopping on a plane to go to the other side of the world for a handful of shows.
However since the pandemic has forced everyone to spend more time with their families it has helped them develop stronger relationships with their partners and children meaning the impact of going away for a prolonged period will incur a much heavier toll.
Ed Rush agreed wholeheartedly with this idea but did admit there might be a certain amount of delight from his wife.
"If you were to be away for a month you would suffer with separation anxiety," he continued.
"You would end up missing your wife and kids terribly I think whereas before you would only be away for a couple of nights and you don’t really think about it. Although I’m sure my wife would be quite glad to see the back of me for a month."
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