Ahead of his slot at Tidy's 20th Weekender at the end of March, we caught up with hard dance icon Andy Whitby to get the lowdown on his brand HARD, the importance of the Tidy Weekender, and 'that' infamous DJ bio.
We'd put a lot of money on hard dance fans being the most passionate, up for it bunch of ravers in dance music today. Seemingly devoid of passive supporters, the scene has continued to cultivate an ardent following throughout its lifespan following its evolution from the early rave scene, via gabber, hardcore and trance - spawning a movement that continues to gather momentum.
That dedication was highlighted when scene leaders Tidy Boys announced that they would be running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the 20th edition of the much loved Tidy Weekender. Within two days, the campaign had gathered such momentum that on March 27th at Pontins Holiday Centre in Southport, the Tidy Weekender will ride once again for three full days of the freshest sounds in hard dance music (see what's in store below).
Part of hard dance music's continued appeal is the new breed of artists and DJs the scene attracts, breathing new life into the genre and in turn bolstering it's fan base.
One such auteur is Andy Whitby, who for the past decade has been moving further and further up the rungs of HDM greats with an ever increased touring schedule and the launch of his already successful HARD brand, which connects with its audience via a busy release roster and numerous raves across the country, including the likes of Creamfields and Coloursfest.
Ahead of his arrival at the Tidy Weekender we thought we'd catch up with the HDM maverick to find out more about his love of the genre, where he's taking his brand HARD, and 'that' legendary DJ bio.
So you've got the Tidy Weekender 20th Birthday on its way in March. Are you looking forward to it? How important is the Tidy Weekender to the hard dance scene?
Hi guys! I am looking forward to the Weekender so much! Three nights of amazing music, non-stop daytime activities spent with an entire camp site of people who share the same passions as you – I sound like an advert for it don’t I?
I guess it's because Weekenders hold a special place in my heart; I attended the first couple as a clubber and then as my career progressed I've played at them since their fourth event and every one since and they just keep getting better (hear Andy's live set from 2013's edition below).
Weekenders are hugely important for the scene, for both those attending as clubbers and for those working there; it’s the one date in the calendar where we are all together in one place for a prolonged period of time, so it lets us hang out, catch up, have a laugh and most of all share an incredible 72hrs off from the world with fans and supporters of the music.
This year the event used a Kickstarter to get the funds together, which it achieved in a pretty short time, what does that say to you about the brand and its fans, and with that in mind will this one be even more of a special occasion?
In the week I spend a number of days at my office over in Northampton, working for my own company HARD. It happens to be alongside the Tidy and Ideal Place offices and when they first told me about the Kickstarter fund I knew it was either going to be a massive success or fail horribly; you can never predict how people will respond to something new and different, especially when it had never been attempted in our scene.
When it finally launched, eyebrows were raised across the whole industry; some mocked it, other complained and many doubted they would raise the money. However, within 48 hours it became apparent that it was going to become this amazing success story!
I feel so proud of the harder generation of clubbers who showed they wanted another Weekender and are that passionate about the music and special events like this that they will vote with their wallets to make it happen, it really showed how loyal they are – it’s why I love this scene so much and I can’t see that ever changing.
What was the moment in your life where you just knew you had to become a producer or DJ, was there a night you went to or DJ you saw that made you think ‘Yeah, I've got to get involved with this’?
The first time I saw a pair of decks was at a venue called the Mersey View in Frodsham, Cheshire. Back then I was just a young kid going out getting drunk with friends and didn't pay attention to what the DJ was doing. I saw he was mixing on turntables but it wasn’t until I got invited round to my friend’s house that I had any idea or concept of how they worked or how you kept the music playing seamlessly for hours.
After playing on them the first time I was hooked and begged my parents for a pair of Soundlab DLP1600s – they were my babies! I certainly didn't realise then that it was going to change my life in such a positive way.
Even when I started playing and making tapes for my friends I had no intention of performing in clubs or to crowds of people, that wouldn't happen until years later when a friend said if I could put together a strong enough demo he would give me a set at his local event.
It took me a year to get to the point I felt comfortable to send him something, eventually I did, he gave me the set and I haven’t looked back ever since – Si Withenshaw if you are reading this, thank you for giving me that chance!
You launched your HARD brand not so long back - what is its manifesto and how have you stamped a unique signature on the HDM scene with it?
HARD was born from the ever-changing styles of Hard Dance Music and because I felt the scene needed a fresh brand to focus on bringing people together through new music, events, artists, downloads and products.
One of the criticisms of the hard house scene is that we rely on our past music and achievements too heavily, to the point it hinders the music from evolving and new artists coming into our scene. I appreciate and respect the memories and success our history has created but it is absolutely vital for the music and genre to continue growing through new sounds and ideas by current and future artists.
HARD is the umbrella of many products we put out for people to enjoy our music, from our record label, monthly HARDKAST (listen to the latest edition below) and GIRLS LIKE IT HARD podcasts and giveaways, through to our merchandise superstore and Facebook group TEAM HARD. It’s about catering for all fans of the different styles of hard dance music and bringing them together so we have a healthy community.
What's in the pipeline for HARD?
We had such a strong 2014, from hosting our own arena at the last Weekender, a string of chart-topping releases and a series of popular events in Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester and Newcastle, so I knew this year we had to go even HARDer... excuse the pun!
This week I am finishing the new HARD Superstore, which will also be the home for all things we are doing with the HARD brand, plus the place to get their hands on the latest HARD products and clubbing clothing.
The label will continue to release new music every three weeks (listen to and we’ll be putting out a string of albums showcasing the hottest artists from the hard dance music scene – there is so much good music being written right now! We are also launching our own sample pack and sound bank series for producers.
There is a real lack of fresh sounds and content for new artists to use when they first come into the scene. I want to change that, so we’ll be releasing both fresh royalty free samples plus banks for Massive and Spire.
On the event side of things, we will be starting our own regular night in Birmingham. I’ve always loved that part of the Midlands and the crowds there never disappoint, plus it’s only 90 minutes away from where I live so I know we can put on some exciting parties for people who want to come out and enjoy fresh tough music.
Overall, I'm more excited and motivated than I have ever been with this scene and I think this year is going to be special (listen to Andy Whitby's 'Money Maker' below).
HDM fans have been lapping it up as well haven’t they? What's the support been like for HARD?
The support has been unreal, just incredible – alongside a great guy called Paul Hardman we launched a clubbing group on Facebook called ‘TEAM HARD’ and within only a couple of months it has already surpassed 5000 members. It is a home for all fans of HARD, plus anyone who loves any style of tough music – from Hardstyle through to Hardcore, we are a mixed bunch of great people.
On the label side of things, every release we've put out has topped various download charts and been supported by a host of artists in the scene. I am writing more than ever and it’s from the motivation I’m finding by how excited people are getting about our music, their support and belief in what we do is what makes it all possible.
A while back you had a very old, and yet brilliant DJ bio resurface online which we have to say you dealt with really well. With so many uninspiring DJ bios out there, it stood out as easily the best and most entertaining DJ bio we've encountered! Do you think taking things less seriously and having a bit of a laugh are important in the life of a hard working DJ and producer?
The old DJ biog is both surreal but very funny at the same time. It first came to light about ten years ago; people think that it was written by my management or even by myself, but we never found out who wrote it, or why!
At the time we all found it interesting, especially that someone would dedicate such time to writing such a well-thought out piece describing my DJing in such ridiculous ways. It pops up now and then and always makes me smile from how silly it – it's as OTT as a biog can get isn't it!
Of course, whenever things like this happen you just have to laugh and move on - having a sense of humour is absolutely essential in music, you can’t survive without one. The amount of time we all spend on the road, on our own in the studio or hotel rooms means you would end up going crazy if you didn't stop and laugh at yourself every once in a while.
What do you get up to in between the DJing, producing and label running? What are your other loves in life?
Well my most exciting news right now is my partner Cally and I are expecting our first baby in May. We have been together for eleven years and now to finally start our own family is such an incredible feeling – I can’t wait to meet my first son and try and be the best Father I can for him. Coupled with the fact we are in the middle of buying a new house and moving the studio means things are very busy for me right now.
Away from my music my other passions are graphic design, video games, basketball and watching the UFC – I don’t get much time off but when I do it’s always one of those four things!
So how is 2015? It looks as if you’ll be having a busy one.
Each year I have one goal and that is to top the previous year. I become incredibly frustrated if I feel things aren't progressing or moving forwards, sometimes I'm my own worst enemy as it doesn't allow me to enjoy things as much as I should became I'm instantly thinking ‘what’s next?’ or ‘how can we make this bigger?’
This year I want to focus on HARD, keep the brand growing, the music and releases flowing – spending as much time as I can in the studio and also pushing forward on hosting more events and parties around this country and beyond.
Any international dates coming up you can share with us? What about festivals?
A lot of dates are still being sorted and finalised but I think I'm allowed to tell you I’ll be playing the closing party at BTID in Magaluf in June, returning to Australia for my yearly tour and appearing at Creamfields and Coloursfest festivals – there’s lots more but I’ve been told to keep it a secret right now!
Ok, we know its February, but did you make yourself any New Year’s resolutions and how are you getting on with them?
My New Year resolutions are always the same; work hard, enjoy life and always remember it’s about the music, making people dance and giving them a great night out or an album or mix they can enjoy at home.
Oh and to quit smoking… which is going ok, although I keep having a sneaky one or two at the weekends, so if anyone sees me and I ask; JUST SAY NO!
Finally, do you have a message for those thinking of coming to the Weekender and what three tips do you have for them to make it the full 72hrs?
I look forward to seeing everyone there and having an absolutely mind-blowing weekend of music, fun and partying, so my three tips are;
1) Make sure to eat and drink – keep those energy levels up if you want to keep partying!
2) Pack some warm clothes – it’ll be warm during the day but when you are wandering around the site between chalet parties in the early hours you need to keep wrapped up in your favourite HARD or Tidy hoodie!
3) Don't spend all your time in your room – after every Weekender people complain they missed all their favourite sets and activities from never leaving their chalet, GET OUT OF THERE AND GET STOMPING!