THE GUESTLIST NETWORK | MAY 2010
Driving this popularity, is a vanguard of talented producers challenging the might of established underground acts. Amongst them, Joe Ray and Dan Stephens, aka Nero, are smashing it hard with a succession of massive tracks, so filthy they warrant a damn good scrub.
Breaking into the limelight last year with their epic remix of the Streets, Blinded by the Lights, Nero have gone on to remix and support a host of heavyweight talent, from Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and La Roux, to the likes of Drake and Eminem. With their live sets receiving rave reviews, their first release on Chase & Status’ new label just out and a debut album due in October, they’re fast becoming sizzling hot property. Celia Garforth caught up with the boys to cut through the buzz and find out just what’s going down in Nero- land...
Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you two meet?
We grew up together in Northwood. I swear, the north-west London suburbs are a hotbed of drum ‘n bass. LTJ Bukem, Goldie, J Majik & Adam F are all from down the road as well. Fucking weird!
How did you get into dance music?
Joe - When I was 16 I went to Fabric, heard James Lavelle and that was it... sold! Before that, I’d actually not really liked dance music, but then I got into raving and discovered why it’s called club music.
sounds so good when you’re off your head in a club!
So when was Nero born?
Dan – As we got more into clubbing we wanted to try the creative side of things ourselves...so
we started experimenting with producing at home. Joe – I loved the geeky-techy electronica approach that Aphex Twin and Squarepusher were using, trying to do it on my mum’s mega slow, old skool Dell computer! We wrote our first drum ‘n bass track when we were 17.
Wow, that’s almost 10 years ago - ages! Describe the dynamics of your duo.
Joe – Ummm, like Mark & Jeremy from Peep Show?! Dan looks a lot like Jeremy, a load of promoters have said it. I like winding him up about it, it’s amazing!
Seriously though, how does the partnership work? Who does more of what?
Dan - In terms of the musical partnership, it’s really equal. We produce together, we DJ together.
Do you ever fight?
A bit maybe, but just bickering. It can get a bit brotherly. We probably spend more time with each other than anyone else!
Where did the name Nero come from? A tribute to the popular coffee chain perhaps, or a reference to ancient Roman history?!
Ha! We get this all the time. So many people ask us if we’re named after the coffee shops, and properly mean it as well. No, it was after the Roman Emperor. He was a really dark chap, killed his brother and fucked his mum. And it’s a catchy short name so, people can remember it when they’re out.
So how did you make the leap from bedroom mixing to commercial producing?
Dan – About 9 years ago we wrote a tune called Space 2001. I was at uni then and gave the demo to a mate at Formation Records. They liked it. And that was our first release! Then Zane Lowe picked up on it and started airing it on his show.
You’ve received a lot of support from Radio 1 since then. In fact, Annie Mac selected your Mini mix as one of her top 4 favourites from 2009. How important do you think that backing has been?
Did she? We didn’t know that! Oh wicked, good choice from her. It was people like Annie Mac picking up on our Blinded by the Lights remix that really got us noticed. After that, we got loads more live bookings, so I guess if it wasn’t for her, and others like Zane Lowe, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Now we just need Chris Moyles to start playing our stuff at 6.30am. That’d wake people up!
Why did you choose to sign with Chase &
The rise of UK dubstep has been meteoric. In just two years it’s become one of the most dominant genres, rocking underground dance with its grimy 2-step beats. It’s no longer a niche drum and bass offshoot. Dubstep is officially huge.
Status new label, More Than Alot?
We really like the direction UK dance music is going at the moment, with much fewer genre boundaries. Chase & Status are the kings of crossing over into the mainstream, but still keeping it quite underground. That’s where we’d like to be. They’re still cool, and play live as a dance act, but daytime radio stations will play their stuff too.
known as a dance act rather than pigeon-holed as purely dubstep and dnb DJs.
Where do you see dubstep going next?
It’s exciting. A lot of music genres are merging. You can see it in the big club line-ups which have a huge breadth of acts on the same bill. It’s much better to mix it up, playing anything with a massive bassline, that gets people moving. Dubstep’s got huge cross-
Nero the Roman Emperor was a really dark chap, killed his brother and fucked his mum!
Since your early dnb releases you’ve moved more firmly into the dubstep camp. Is that where you see your sound staying?
We’re keen to just see what happens naturally with our music. The more we produce, the more we think tunes should be at whatever speed they sound best at. Our album’s coming out in October, which is gonna have about 3 dnb tunes, 3 or 4 house tunes and some dubstep tracks obviously. We wanna be
What’s been your favourite Nero remix so far?
Blinded by the Lights probably. It was the track that really made us, and ultimately why we got signed by MTA. Everyone still loves it when we play it out.
You’ve been producing a lot of your own stuff too. Tell us about the new single, Innocence,
that’s just been released.
Uh, it’s a trancey dubstep smasher, with an eighties style animation video!! It actually had more hits on YouTube than any other track in the UK last week, which is awesome. Some random guy’s also started a facebook group trying to get the record into top 10. It’s great - Rage Against the Machine guerrilla stylee!
And what can we expect from the album in October?
It’s gonna be big! Bassline heavy, but melodic too with even a few sing-along anthems in there. Like we said, it’ll be a dance album more than anything else with tunes that aren’t necessarily in a genre, just an interesting new sound hopefully. A Nero sound. Just fucking dirty, like our tyrannical emperor namesake!
Any idea which festival’s you’re playing at yet?
We’re doing Glastonbury, in the Glade on Saturday night, which we’re really excited about. Oh and we’re playing at Pukkelpop in Belgium in August, and there’s some more in the pipeline. Keep an eye on our MySpace for details...
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