Exclusive Interview: Death On The Balcony
Death On The Balcony are a Leeds-based duo who we’ve been following for quite some time. Always consistent with their DJ sets and their musical productions, as well as being absolutely lovely chaps, it was only a matter of time before we grabbed them for a chat. They’ve recorded an exclusive track for NeedWant’s new Traxx: Vol 2 compilation, so we started off by asking them all about that…
First off guys, tell us about your contribution to the new NeedWant compilation… we hear it’s an exclusive? What was the idea behind the track?
We wanted to make something that focused on the drums and bass groove, a track that keeps rolling. We added some strings and a piano as we wanted it to have that sort of classic house feel and also this resonates from the drums we used to keeping it to the 909 sound.
In your opinion, what would you say are the key characteristics that make ‘real’ house music what it is?
At the risk of sounding cliche, it would be something that stands the test of time. Something that you can play tomorrow and play again in 10, 20 years and it doesn’t age, or if it does, it ages well like a good wine or Joan Collins!
What’s your earliest memory of house music?
Mark: After my rave and drum n bass days I went on to find house and disco from two separate trips to the infamous Hacienda (Manchester) before it was closed down in ’97, those two nights out really did have a major influence and positive impact on me. After that I should also include my first escapades and early nights out in Leeds at Back to Basics, Hard Times around, and just after, the same time which was another big influence for me before I moved to Iive and then be based there. I was totally hooked from the dance floor to the decks and I suppose the rest is history. Here I still am even more involved than ever!
Paul: I was introduced to proper house music, during my time studying in Leeds, via nights like Back To Basics, Technique, Asylum and so on… Before that I used to mess around making electronic music on my old PC and I used to buy electronic music compilations like old Ministry Of Sound annuals. But I hadn’t been exposed to the good stuff until I moved to Leeds. Leeds is an institution for that, and many people move there for that reason. It’s the school of rave!
Why did you end up becoming house music artists rather than, say, rock, or RnB??
Paul: We love everything that house, techno and disco embodies. The sound, the repetition. It’s a primal thing to follow the beat of drum and you either love it and get it, or you really don’t. We also love synthesisers and are inspired by disco, soul and pop music from the seventies and eighties – all these things lead to what house and techno became. We are DJs so we enjoy the spontaneity of a DJ set, which is different every time depending on your surroundings, also the connection to the dance floor. It’s also that thing of sharing your music and other people’s music with a crowd, a full club who want to listen to that music and dance to it. We relish taking those people on a musical journey depending on the set time, dance floor and environment, It’s a community thing!..
Mark: Performing live as Death on the Balcony has never appealed to us yet but we have a project called “Views from the Balcony”, which incorporates our own productions and visuals. We would like to start touring wit this too. The idea is that we play music from our back catalogue of productions – we think this could be interesting. We also have another side project, which we are working on with someone which is very exciting. It will be electronic music predominantly across genres and styles but it won’t be house or techno, so it’s exciting to see this develop and, who knows, this could quite possibly go down the live route eventually. To be confirmed…
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Who were some of your idols when you first got into the music?
Paul: KISS!! [Laughs] I watched them on TV when i was maybe three or four years old and, with hindsight, at that point I knew I wanted to be a musician of some sort.
Mark: I try not idolise or put people on pedestals as I have always been influenced by so many artists, musicians, people, places, scenes, subcultures, movements, fashions, events, everyday things past and present around me… all of which feed into my creative process as an artist.
And who, from today’s worldwide scene, really inspires you? Any new names you’ve come across recently?
There really are too many to list and, as we said again, across genres. Lee Burridge/Matthew Dekay are doing some great things with All Day I Dream. Mathew Jonson is continually amazing live! There are so many good independent labels putting out quality stuff. Mono/Luvless and Rose Records, Colors Ldn; Guilhem, Stephane, Adrienne, Remi and those guys, so many unsung heroes and talented producers. DJs truly in it for the music and art of… There are far to many to ever answer this question properly.
Why do you think house music is so universal?
As mentioned before. It’s a tribal thing, a community. You don’t have to know the words or have heard the music before to enjoy it. In fact, completely the opposite! When it works it brings people of all colours, creeds, sexualities and ages together through a shared love of music and a sense of belonging with a sprinkle of hedonism and escapism.
What would you say are the pros and cons about the changes that have occurred within the music and the ‘scene’ since you guys first got involved?
It is perhaps more noticeable how people have to deliver the “full package” these days to not just excel, but to survive in the industry. There are very few people touring from just DJing. Your music is your calling card to the world and can get you noticed in places you would never have dreamed would hear your music. This is obviously facilitated and magnified by the internet. Obviously digital music has risen massively in popularity, as has piracy! Vinyl declined and has risen again and continues to do so fortunately!.. The CD is all but dead with USB quickly filling its shiny circular shoes. The whole scene has attracted a lot more popularity too with electronically made music dominating the pop charts whereas, when we started, the mainstream was filled with more rock and guitar based music. So in turn, this has blurred the lines between underground and commercial. Trends come and go in circles. everything comes back round again there will always be those gems that you can pull out from 10, 20, even 30 years ago that still sound fresh. We try not tie ourselves up with genres where we can help it, if you focus on the energy a track has and break it down to “good and bad” music, especially as a DJ, everything becomes much more simple!
What else have you been up to so far in 2015?
We had a rework of a track from ‘78 out on Exploited’s Black Jukebox 10, which has done really well. Also a remix of Amy Dabbs on I Records and our track coming up on Needwant’s “Traxx” compilation. Also some forthcoming collaboration projects with Robert James and Neverdogs from Music On which we are looking forward to launching. We’re really excited for the release of our debut with Lee Burridge’s All Day I Dream label coming soon and look forward to continuing to work with them, also there’s another full EP forthcoming on Dikso including a Daso remix!
The year seems to be flying by! What are you looking forward to most about the summer?
We have a few festivals confirmed for summer. One in Barcelona, some in the UK and our residency for Hideout in Croatia, Secret Garden Party… Other than that we are looking forward to our fabric debut in July for Kubicle’s Birthday. There is some more stuff; releases, pending gigs, tours in the pipeline too but it’s too early to talk about that as yet!…
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This industry can be very demanding on even the strongest of people, what keeps you driven and hungry for more?
It can be tough. Mentally and physically at times. Regardless of how busy you are, there are different obstacles to overcome whether it’s the tests of constant traveling or the uncertainty with living and earning enough money month to month. You have to have a good handle on this otherwise it will drive you mad! You really have to believe in what you are doing and every day you are chipping away at something and progressing. The hunger is always there and there is always more to achieve. If that disappears it’s time to have a word!…
Simply you have to truly have a passion for it and sincerely Love it, All of it!…
What do you guys get up to when you’re not making/playing music? Any other pastimes?
Paul: Probably sleeping… Oh and I like cooking or attempting to cook!
Mark: Yeah I love my down time, hanging with friends, family, lots of films, shit TV, good food (cooking in and eating out). I’m also a trained photographer and designer so that; the arts, fashion, having fun!
You guys have spent a long time together for a number of years, what would you say are your most annoying habits?
Not gonna lie we have had some arguments but they are normally reconciled fairly quickly and are normally over something fairly silly. Also potentially caused by the stresses and strains of the industry or something, or maybe it’s over something really really important… Like which hi-hat sounds the best!
Who’s the better dancer?
Paul: I have no idea. I can do some pretty good extended hand claps when I have had a few drinks. I get reeeeaaal low, so low that I quite possibly need a hip replacement now!
Mark: Me! [laughs] I got into this from many a rave and dancefloor from a young age! It comes natural to me it’s important to feel and connect with the music. It’s crucial to DJ that way and to get that from the dancefloor, as it’s a fudimental part of it all really. For me I was inspired on many a dancefloor, I still am and continue to be so; Dance floor, decks, studio, scene, industry, that’s how I’ve evolved! I like to feel I always try to DJ from the dancefloor back in each set. I also continue to see myself as a clubber or party person as well as a working DJ and artist, I think its important never to forget that. Never loose your roots no matter how successful you may become!
I’m also a bit suspicious of, and have a pet hate, of DJs that don’t dance (ehh?) not necessarily full on moves when in the mix, as that’s not the one but definitely after a set or before when at a good party or event with a talented great DJ playing! Each to there own in the end, but it doesn’t quite add up to me when you think about it and the essence of all of this. I like to see enthusiasm from a DJ when they’re playing as its a extension of yourself, your personality and the music. It creates a strong connection with the audicence and I feel that most paying clubbers want to see this!
Who’s more likely to need looking after during a long weekend of gigs?
This questions should read “Who’s more likely to need looking for after a long weekend of gigs!” Send the search party out!….
What’s your number one rule for a successful after-party?
Paul: Sounds obvious but having a mini jack cable to plug your iPhone in is always a saver if you don’t have decks.. YouTube sessions can get really rowdy too. Failing that maybe a swimming pool and some sun!
Mark: Lovely people, silly beggars, lots of laughs, good and funny chat, lots of supplies and vibes… None of this “Lord of the Flies” shit, thank you please.
Outside of house and techno, who else have you been listening to lately?
Paul: Someone chatting their phone in the quiet coach on the train. People talking about Jeremy Clarkson. Karl Pilkington talking about Gremlins and Time Travel.
Musically; Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter, Depeche Mode, Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby, many Funk/Soul/eighties originals and edits, NUDES, Lois & The Love, Crazy P, James Mason, Sade, The Orb, Nils Frahm, Grace Jones, Psychic Mirrors, Vincent Floyd, Soichi Terada, Beloved, The Pharcyde, Tokyo:Cow:Killer, Lots of film scores and soundtracks, and much more.
Finally, what’s your top tip for any young person reading who is considering trying their hand at becoming a house DJ/producer?
Love what you do. Learn and care for your craft. Find your styles. Do it for yourself. Make meaningful connections. Have a real, positive and grounded perspective. Get feedback. Believe in what you do. Don’t take yourself and everything too serious. Be kind and consistent as an artist, DJ and person in general.
Make sure you pick up NeedWant’s Traxx: Vol 2 by clicking here..