Monday, May 19, 2008



Words: Lee Henaghan

Over the years, the drum & bass scene has thrown together a number of partnerships and double acts, who for various reasons have remained associated with each other despite individual achievements. Some, like Ed Rush & Optical, forge partnerships through artistic collaboration. Others, such as Fabio & Grooverider form bonds purely on the basis of friendship. This tag-team approach to the industry has paid dividends for many over the years and Kubiks and Lomax are the latest dynamic duo to prove that the old saying that ‘two heads are better than one’ is as valid today as it ever was.

We caught up with Doug and Nick before their recent set at Cult in Nottingham – a night that is gaining widespread attention for it’s steadfast commitment to booking only the most innovative and exciting artists in drum & bass. You won’t find your standard A-list crowd pullers on the bill here, but the policy of giving exposure to those who wouldn’t normally appear at the larger, more commercial events has seen Cult build up a dedicated and passionate following around the East Midlands. Names such as Furney and Zero Tolerance have passed through over recent months to huge acclaim and the Kubiks and Lomax night proved not only to be a complete roadblock but one which gave a whole new meaning to the concept of back to back DJ sets. Seeing two artists alternate behind the decks is nothing new in itself; but when the microphone is shared to the same extent as the crossfader, it’s obvious that this is not going to be your run of the mill b2b session.

Since making their debut back in 2002, the pair have made their names with a string of releases that have established them as one of the most musically diverse partnerships in the industry. Although their early tunes were heavily influenced by seventies funk and soul samples and very much filed under the ‘soulful liquid’ bracket, Doug feels that this is something they have made a conscious effort to move away from in recent times. "We’ve been making records for more than six years now and although the early stuff was very much in that style with loads of rhodes and silky sounds, we’ve always wanted to make music that’s as varied as possible. I think it can get boring very quickly if you just stick to one sound and we always try to make our next record different from our last" Nick agrees with this policy of constant evolution and experimentation. “As time's gone on we've realised that we've had to adapt and that’s why in the last 18 months or so we've been pushing a slightly harder style than before. We've always wanted to be as diverse as possible so it’s not just about following the sound of the moment. We want to do every style and do it well.”

With a massively varied range of musical influences ranging from Herbie Hancock to Radiohead, pigeonholing the Kubiks and Lomax sound is no easy task and their tune selection throughout their set at Cult was equally eclectic. Combining tried and trusted crowd pleasers from years gone by with hot-off-the-press dubplates, they had the Nottingham crowd rocking from start to finish and Nick feels their partnership is just as effective behind the decks as it is in the studio. “We've been DJing together a lot over the past two or three years it’s always just come naturally – playing back to back sets has always been good because we're into the same sort of stuff and share the same tastes. We've got a similar sort of selection that's always worked well together”. Doug agrees; “For me, it's always been about the people who pay to come into the club and although you try to please the punters as much as possible we're not going to change our whole style dependent on the crowd. I think when we get booked to play out, people expect a certain style of music. Between us we've made over a hundred tunes going back to 2002 and I don't think there's one of them that hasn't been signed at some point. I think that tells us that people are still interested in us, and the diversity of Kubiks and Lomax.”

Although Kubiks has enjoyed considerable success in his own right, producing some memorable tracks individually and also running the highly acclaimed Rubik Records label, he believes that he is at his best when in working in tandem with other artists. “When I'm in the studio on my own I've got the attention span of a brick” He laughs. “I’ve always loved bouncing off other producers really and it's always good to work with as many people as possible. Working with Nick is obviously a pleasure but I've been doing a lot of stuff recently with people nobody's really heard of yet. People like Calculon and Z-Tech, a few overseas people in San Diego too. Z-Tech's a guy that booked me originally just to teach him to use Logic, we've ended up making a few tunes together and it’s worked out well for Rubik as a label. I don’t ever want to get to the point where it's all about me or all about greed. I honestly don't care if I we make any money out of it or not. I think for both of us it's always just been about the passion for the music. We've both got jobs outside of drum & bass, so we're not solely fixed on it.”

The fact that both artists bring different qualities to the table and complement each other’s styles seems to have been a major factor in their success. Doug explains exactly how the production process works when the pair get together in the studio: “In our partnership I'd say Nick is probably 90% the ideas man – he’s the one who will be coming up with the early ideas and outlines for tunes then he’ll bring that in to me and we'll develop it and see what happens. I usually get more involved with the mix process and get down to the technical side of things.” Nick is clearly grateful for Doug’s expertise on the more intricate side of production; “I think starting out, when I first starting working with Doug he taught me a hell of a lot of stuff, especially the more technical stuff that you don't really pick up straight away and it’s been good to see how the sound’s developed over the years”.

Modern studio sessions using Logic, Reason and Cubase seem to be a world away from Nick’s early days experimenting with the basic, restrictive setups that many of the scene’s biggest names used to cut their teeth in the world of production. “I started off messing about on the family PC when I was about 15. I just had this old four track thing and I remember having this Coldcut sample CD. I was just experimenting on this really basic equipment and seeing what worked and what didn’t.” Despite the rudimentary nature of his early makeshift studio, it wasn’t long before Nick caught the production bug and he soon found himself re-evaluating his whole musical outlook. ”I was pretty much hooked straight away. Even though the stuff I made was pretty bad it changed me from that point on. All of a sudden, I stopped playing the guitar and starting getting more into the more electronic side of things. I went from Pearl Jam to Coldcut almost overnight”

The pair certainly have come a long way over the past few years and are tipped by many to be at the forefront of the scene in the not too distant future. Drum & bass has moved on and evolved considerably in the six years that Kubiks and Lomax have been making tunes – not just in terms of the style of music that dominates the industry but also in the ongoing controversy surrounding the choice of formats available to modern artists. It’s a topic that both Doug and Nick feel passionately about. Doug explains; “I feel quite strongly about it myself and a lot of people have had their tuppence worth to say about this subject. I think you've got your A-list Djs who are earning £1000 plus for a gig and in my eyes, they should be cutting dubs. If they can afford it and talk about supporting vinyl, those are the people that should be cutting dubplates. For us, we're a bit further down the roster and we don't earn a lot of money out of this so for us it makes sense that we embrace both vinyl and digital. Last week I bought new laptop and Serato Scratch and for me, that's the best of both worlds. There's no difference than mixing with vinyl and you still get the instant access to all your tunes. I can't understand people who think you must only play vinyl and anything else isn’t really DJing’

Nick shares Doug’s views on the vinyl/CD debate. “I've very much embraced the digital side of things simply because it allows you to get your stuff out there so much quicker. You can cut a tune straight away and play it that night. To be honest I could never really mix that well with vinyl and CDs do make things so much easier - The main thing for me is that when you're DJing, 99% people in the club just want to hear good music. They don't really know or care what format you're playing. They just want to hear good tunes, it’s as simple as that. Nobody's paying attention to whether you're using vinyl or a laptop if they're enjoying what they're hearing. I don't really give a toss about all that and I don't think most other people do either”

The current musical trends in the scene were also something that both were keen to comment on. Nick seems to be generally positive about the way things are progressing musically. “You've got your top three labels which would probably be Ram, Hospital and Breakbeat Kaos, and I think there's a whole new sound coming through which is more or less born out of Pendulum, I call it ‘super production’ - a kind of highly polished sound. I actually really like some of that stuff, but I think there's always going to be a kind of cloning of that style which dilutes it a bit. I think the scene is really healthy at the moment though - there is so much great music out there at the moment and a lot of people doing some really interesting stuff”

Doug shares Nick’s optimism for the future: “For me drum & bass is always going to be there. It's evolving all the time, it's changing constantly and although the Pendulum style is dominating the commercial side at the moment it's not always going to be that way. I think drum & bass will go back underground in order to survive, there's always going to be your smaller venues, whatever happens. I'm excited about the way things are going though, for us personally and for the scene in general”

Things certainly are expanding and progressing on a global scale and with their first Nottingham booking under their belts, it’s clear that Doug is enjoying the opportunity to bring the Kubiks and Lomax sound to as many different parts of the country as possible. “It's great to be in Nottingham for the first time and we've played in the Midlands quite a bit over the years; especially around the Birmingham area with events like Breakout – the crowds are always really up for it round here. They appreciate the harder stuff and some of the more aggressive beats but you get a good response to everything really” Nick agrees; “We've played all over the place and it's definitely becoming more of a nationwide and even global thing now. You're always going to have London which is where it's at for the bigger nights but it’s good that there are all kinds of pockets around the country where where they appreciate the more musical stuff. One of the best parts about doing this is getting out there and seeing how different cities enjoy the music”

If their energetic and enthusiastic appearance at Cult is anything to go by, Kubiks and Lomax will be earning rave reviews and packing out venues around the country over coming months. With some seriously big things planned for Rubik Records and a string of major releases lined up for the Summer, the future is certainly looking bright for the Bristol duo.

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