Skint Records has a long and fruitful relationship with the duo of Rocky and Diesel AKA X-Press 2.
Fifteen years, three LPs, a barrage of singles and a chart topping collaboration with Talking Heads’ David Byrne are among the highlights of this musical marriage. X-Press 2’s musical pedigree dates back even further, to their early releases on Junior Boys Own over 20 years ago and Rocky & Diesel have been DJ’ing and making music together since the UK’s acid house heyday of the late 80’s. All in all they have a wealth of experience and an understanding of electronic music that still burns bright in their current productions.
Now the pair return with two new cuts showcasing the duo as we know them best. Recent X-Press 2 singles have seen a return to a more strip backed club sound and they continue in that vein here with the superb ‘Sintara’ and ‘Testify’.
Celebrating the release, a collaboration with veteran house duo Mutiny, we exclusively premiere the EPs title track. It’s a direct cut with stomping floor toms and brisk hats opening up, before a graceful and hypnotic melody kicks in as the track grows in urgency and drama. Additionally, we spoke with Rocky and Diesel about the origins of the EP, the state of London’s nightlife, impressions of Amsterdam, gear, and loads more. Be sure to check out the exclusive premiere of ‘Sintara’ at the end of this article.
“It is a fine balance between pushing our sound and entertaining the crowd. We are there for people to have a good time, after all.”
How did ‘Sintara’ EP come to exist?
Diesel: It’s about 2.5 years old. Myself and Rocky have always enjoyed collaborating. A couple of old friends of ours, Mutiny, who we have known for 20 years, told us they have a studio in South London open and asked if we wanted to come by for a collaboration. We were working on a few ideas and ‘Sintara’ was just one of them. Fast forward 2.5 years and Rocky reminded me about the track. He mentioned how it was really deep, and featured a bubbly arpeggio keyboard over the top. He sent it over, I listened to it and I thought it was amazing. It could have been made now! It was nice to hear something that still sounded fresh.
Recently we have hooked up with Skint again, who were recently bought out by BMG. Towards the end of last year, our A&R guy at Skint explained to us all about how they would celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2015 and wanted us to be part of their plans. I’d mentioned how we had been in the studio with Simon Franks (Audiobullys) and made a demo. I played the demo and they liked it. This set our year up.
How does the sound of Mutiny complement your own and vice versa?
Rocky: We have always been friends with Dylan and Rob. We always got on very well and connected with the sort of stuff they were doing. It had a US vibe with a European slant, which was similar to what we were doing; a shared passion of disco, funk, and soul.
What is the background of the name ‘Sintara’?
Diesel: I remember Dylan named it Sintara. We always struggle with titles. Sometimes they come easier than others. In our eyes, it was a working title. When we left the track we didn’t think it was finished. We went our separate ways and felt the collaboration was good but we hadn’t nailed it.
I asked Dylan what Sintara meant and, from what I remember, it is another word for dragon. The name suits the track though. The track weaves and bends, with a strong hook so Sintara is perfect. The only problem with the title came when we did a mix for John Digweed’s Transmissions radio show, where he called “Sinatra”.
You mentioned the relaunch of Skint. As you and the label go back some two decades, can you speak on the nature of your relationship with Skint? How do you find the atmosphere there?
Diesel: We found them to be perfect partners! We are really lucky because, I remember when we had our first single as a test pressing, there was interest from various labels. Our manager at the time said he preferred an album option from whomever took the single on.
At the time we had a lot of contemporaries who went on to very big things. We shared the label with Underworld and Chemical Brothers. It was this time when, all of a sudden, dance producers were making albums. To us it seemed like the next progression. So Virgin, London Records, Skint and another label were chasing us and we chose Skint. I think this was the best choice. It was a big independent label and that was the attraction. Plus, we had good relations with the people who worked there. They were happy to let us do what we wanted and we knew they would give us the freedom to do it. They had a lot of influence since the distribution (via Sony) was strong, along with a lot of cache as they also featured Fatboy Slim.
Have you noticed that philosophy continuing with this new incarnation of Skint, especially with the corporate buyout?
Diesel: Yes! Our relationship with the label is really excellent. We are allowed to go in and do our thing. There are conversations we have with the A&R department where we actually have quite a lot of say. It all seems to be working as we are on the same page. There is a vision. With the first single getting good reactions it is a good jump off toward our album, which we hope to release at the end of the year. We have some really great stuff coming, as well as some interesting collaborations.
Rocky: Skint has always been brilliant with us since day 1, to be honest. They have always let us go out and just do our thing. We are really happy to play some part in their anniversary celebrations. They have always been in the background, but when we needed assistance or contacts or money, they have been there to help out. Aside from that, we have always been left to do as we please. Lucky for us, and thankfully, they have been fans of ours so they have always been encouraging. We are very lucky in this respect. We have always been pleased with the relationship. There have been some changes, especially that the organisation is 2 people in London now, but the care, attention, and positivity have always been there and continue to be.