Helen Giles talks us through her adoration of drum n bass pioneering talent Andy C - everything from his beginnings to his live shows.
Last updated: 4th Jan 2019. Originally published: 18th Mar 2016
In the dawn of the nineties, a new musical craze was sweeping the nation following a turbulent few years for many people in the UK. What rave culture was able to deliver to a generation at this point in history was a release of away from negativity, uniting people from all backgrounds through the combined love for music.
This new found freedom of expression caused colourful tidal waves through society, which appealed to a particular teenage boy who was looking to make his mark in the increasingly popular musical cultivation. Andrew Clarke, known to fans as Andy C, first developed a taste for dance music at the age of 12, thanks to his older sister Sarah leading the exploration into the rave scene.
Taking every opportunity in his early teenage years to immerse himself in pirate radio, mixtapes, and work experience with Scott Bourne and his regular event ‘Imagination’, the determination to learn as much as possible showed the lengths he was willing to go to become a part of this very special movement.
Initially interested in live DJ performance, gaining residencies at many prestigious events including London based promotions ‘Elevation’ and ‘Telepathy’, Andy C started delving deeper into the art of production where he discovered a natural talent for chopping and modifying tracks, putting his own technically creative stamp on many previously released songs.
Working alongside family friend Ant Mills, in a converted garage studio surrounded by analogue tape players and invariable samplers, Andy C also began to show an entrepreneurial side, and in the summer of 1992 with a budget of £1000 and a 4-track EP ready to debut, RAM Records was born. No-one could have anticipated the explosion that was about to hit the diversifying world of the dance music industry.
It wasn’t long before Andy and RAM Records were making waves, receiving awards as alias Origin Unknown (together with Ant Mills) for their “darkcore prototype” landmark track ‘Valley of the Shadows’ at the UK’s Hardcore Dance Awards in 1993, as well as gaining Best Newcomer.
The pair wasted no time in investigating the emergence of the jungle genre, before pioneering a brand new sound to listeners of the era – drum n bass. Alongside Ant Mills and Shimon as RAM Trilogy, the trio fully embraced this exciting new genre with the release of the album ‘Molten Beats’ in 1999. Not only did this album highlight the progression of dance through the hardcore and jungle elements, it also cemented their reputation as the godfathers of DnB.
Fast forward to the present day, and Andy C along with his associates stand at the forefront of the drum n bass industry, with the man himself has picked up numerous accolades as the world's number one in his field. He's sold out Alexandra Palace and Wembley Arena for his Andy C All Night Long excursions, an unfathomable achievement for a genre where, due to the rapid-fire amount of music that DJs power through, two-hour sets are considered extended
RAM Records has now evolved into a multi-award winning empire responsible for introducing the likes of Chase & Status, DJ Fresh, Sub Focus and Wilkinson to a following from all over the world. All of which openly credit the RAM co-founder for their discovery and success.
As a producer, he continues to showcase his talented capabilities and natural flair for creating music with original tracks like ‘Heartbeat Loud’ featuring Fiora. This particular track was the one that introduced me to Andy C and changed my opinion of drum n bass.
Most people would argue that some of his earlier, more jungle orientated pieces were better and associated more with the genre, but what I liked about this song was the way he was able to integrate uplifting moments with the soft vocals and angelic piano melody, whilst keeping to the roots of the genre with that quick, bass-heavy drum pattern.
You wouldn’t expect it to work, but as a true master of his craft he was able to add euphoria to grimier soundscapes to, yet again, introduce society to a brand new category of drum n bass. From this point, I started to look closer at his remix work and I was blown away, particularly with two intelligent remixes that include Major Lazer’s ‘Get Free’ and Chase & Status’ ‘Count on Me’ featuring Moko.
You can hear the guidance Andy C has given to Chase & Status through their original compositions prior to the release of ‘Heartbeat Loud’, with that liquid DnB sound creeping into their earlier tracks. This highlighted even further type of influential artist Andy C is, and the lengths he is willing to go to help others achieve the same status as himself is so encouraging for the industry.
What I like about his method of remixing tracks is that he doesn’t try to do too much to them – a simple change of a drum pattern, an extra sub-bass track added for volume, and you have a completely new track that doesn’t take anything away from the recognisable and popular elements of the original.
And as if he wasn’t busy enough, Andy C continues to push the boundaries within live music performances, by aiming to encapsulate both audio and visual technologies to create an unforgettable atmosphere and experience for fans.
The ‘Andy C Alive’ concept saw him take his remixing talent to the stage, using three turntables and his signature method of mixing The Double Drop (lining up two tracks in order for both basslines to drop in synchronisation), amongst other technical processes and interactive visuals to embrace a digital generation and keep up with current trends and developments.
His more recent venture, the aforementioned Andy C All Night Long, has seen him take on one of his biggest challenges to date – travelling every inch of the country to play marathon DJ sets at some of the most iconic rave venues in the UK.
What I noticed from his performance in Birmingham in November 2015 was the way he was able to unswervingly hypnotise the audience at a packed out Rainbow Warehouse over a five hour period – it was absolutely mesmerising. It takes a person with a certain personality and ability to achieve a set of this calibre and expectation, and Andy C had the power and raw passion to pull it off.
I was unable to move from my spot for the entire night, scared that I was going to miss something spectacular at any given moment, and you could tell the rest of the room thought so too. He lead from one thumping bassline to another, seamlessly tying them together with subtle breakdowns and perfect beat matching; simulating one long soundscape you never wanted to end.
He was able to keep an older audience entertained with classics from the 90s era, whilst attracting more youthful followers with snippets from more modern musical craftsmen. His composure throughout the entirety of the set made it look easy, and this combined with a team of very talented MC’s and a supernatural light display made his performance one of best I have ever seen from any DnB artist to date.
This only scratches the surface of Andy C’s achievements, and after a show-stopping display of talent from his recent shows, there are no signs of him stopping there. If developing a new genre of music wasn’t enough, providing an outlet for aspiring artists to continue pushing this brand of heavy bass beats to the next level will ensure that his legacy lives on.
Hiding behind his many aliases’ to detract from the spotlight and keep the focus on the music, this is a man who genuinely cares about the future of dance music and rave culture, and who uses his position in the industry to do truly incredible things.