Album Reviews Q&A: The Count & Sinden
The Count & Sinden - aka Josh Harvey, who also records as Hervé, and Graeme Sinden - have been steadily rising to the upper echelons of the UK dance scene over the past couple of years. The pair released their debut artist album, Mega Mega Mega, in August via Domino, and have undertaken remix work for the high-profile likes of Robbie Williams and Mark Ronson, among many lesser-known but eminently cool outfits. They took time out from their ever-hectic schedule to answer our Album Reviews Q&A.
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Mega Mega Mega arrives at a time when several prominent UK producers are issuing artist LPs - Rusko, Skream, Fresh - and the old guard are still very active - The Chemical Brothers, for example. Is this a healthy thing, or as artists is there any concern that the UK dance market is a little saturated at the moment?
H: I think it's good I suppose, though I've never really thought about it. There is an overload of music at the moment, I think. We actively didn't rush our album because we felt if we were going to do one, we had to do the best we could and only put it out when we felt it was ready. There's some great stuff out there but also a lot of throwaway tracks; but dance music has always been a mixture of both.
S: Yeah, I think it's healthy, as long as the quality of the music is high and not as disposable as the dance singles market - this is more of a concern, especially now that anybody can launch a record label online. If this quality control is maintained with albums it can only be positive. The UK dance album market will always be active, as artists aspire to write something with a bit more longevity.
As a debut, is Mega Mega Mega everything you hoped it could have been? Is there anything you didn't get the time to finish for this LP? Anyone you would have liked to work with but just couldn't make it happen?
H: The reason it took so long is because we were not prepared to release it until it felt right to us and worked as a whole album, from beginning to end. We're totally proud of it, and feel that it is something fresh. There were two tracks, though, that sadly didn't make it. One was something we were going to do with These New Puritans, but their singer Jack Barnett just didn't have time to get something finished as our album deadline was fast approaching and it was all kicking off for them with their album. Same situation with the second track as well, really. We are still working on the tracks in one form or another for something cool early next year. There were definitely some people we wanted to get but couldn't, but hopefully we will snare them for the second album.
S: We're already thinking about the content for the next album, so I guess that's where the ideas that didn't make this LP will go. We had a really creative eight months of working at the end of the album - we didn't want to stop. We're just happy that the album is as rounded as we could make it. There were a few higher-profile people that we worked with and had completed great tracks with, but they didn't end up making the cut. It worked out for the best in the end - these things always do. Mystery Jets, Bashy, Katy B, Rye Rye - these were all people that were a real pleasure to work with. It was a natural fit.
Mystery Jets feature on the single, After Dark. Is this kind of collaboration essential in attracting new listeners, those who might not gravitate towards the album otherwise?
H: It wasn't really an idea to draw other audiences to our music. It will be amazing if it does help to open up new audiences to our album, but we just thought it would be a great and interesting thing to do. All the guests are people that have caught our attention through being interesting to us. It's all about trying something fresh and interesting with the vocal collaborations.
S: We didn't really think about that at the time. The collaboration happened very naturally as most of these things seem to do. It wasn't contrived in any way, just something that happened through friendships and hanging out. You're right, it has introduced us to a few new audiences; but we never really make it easy on ourselves as the follow-up is a completely different kettle of fish. It's cool though, I think it keeps people guessing and we don't like to retread old ground and old sounds.
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The Count & Sinden feat. Mystery Jets - After Dark
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Do you think that signing to Domino might also have opened some doors in the indie world that perhaps you might not have stepped through otherwise?
H: It's been up-hill and hard work all the way. At first we thought it might because it's such a cool label, but many people are just not that receptive to dance/electronic music. Hopefully now we have our album out it will be a better signifier of what we do and a hint to where we are heading, and getting people interested will be easier.
S: The label might help, possibly, as it has a definite kudos with the indie world which we're aware of because we both are fans of the bands on their roster. I'm sure there are a few people that wouldn't have checked us out otherwise, but the main reason for signing with them is so that we could pursue our album projects. We were thinking long term; this isn't about releasing disposable dance singles. We wouldn't get this freedom elsewhere and Domino let us get on with it and we didn't compromise anything. Ironically, it was us that started to tone it down, thinking that they wanted us deliver something more commercial.
Katy B also features, and things look likely to go very well indeed for that girl this year. Is she someone you've known for a while, or was the track in question the first time you properly met?
H: It was the first time we met but we both really liked her vocal on a DJ NG track called Tell Me. We just loved something about her voice. So spring last year she came in and we wrote Hold Me. She is a very talented young lady, and it was obvious to me she would go far either as a writer or artist.
S: This collaboration has been in the can for quite a while and stems back a few years. Like Hervé says, we first heard her on DJ NG's underground UK funky record Tell Me, although she was Baby Katy then. That was three years ago. We tracked down the voice and had to get her on board. We thought she was one of the best voices we had heard for ages and when that happens we just hone in. This was the way we worked with all the artists really, picking the future quality and not just for the buzz name.
The pair of you have done your share of remixes. Does this work often inspire your own material, or do you treat the two avenues as wholly separate areas of what you do?
H: Sometimes you can come up with a new trick or musical motif that is really good, and you will find that reappearing in original tracks. So I think remixing and writing original material do sometimes overlap, and certainly one can inspire something for the other.
S: Yeah, remixes can inspire and inform future directions for original tracks; it all feeds into our original stuff. Some people can be quite negative about remixes and say it's like giving away an original track as if that remix blows up, you've already signed it off. That's true, but certain elements can be used again without rehashing the track. We inspire each other with remixes though, it's where new ideas breed.
Beeper, the track you recorded with Kid Sister (watch its video on Youtube) doesn't feature on Mega Mega Mega - simply a case of it being from another stage of your career? Did it not fit the tone of what you're doing in 2010?
H: Yeah, totally. We knew really early on that we didn't want or need it on there, as our sound has moved in several different directions several times since then! It didn't fit on the album; it's from a different era as far as we are concerned.
S: We are really proud of Beeper, but I guess it's from another part of our career. We wanted to present new tracks on the album, we have to move forward. Not to discredit it in anyway but it does sound a bit dated. Making music - especially dance music - is time sensitive so we kept having to update tracks all the time and ditch some others. That's one of the reasons why it took a while to get the album completed, as we ended up with two records.
Finally, what are your favourite albums of 2010 so far?
H: Steve Mason's solo album is the one I've played the most, I think. I loved The Beta Band and love this as much, I have to say.
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