For the latest Phonica White release we welcome London-based duo Kassian. Individually, Joe Danvers (aka Danvers) who has listed releases on Wotnot Music and Boogie Cafe in recent years and Warren Cummings (aka Warren XcInce), whose solo output with vocalist Jerome Thomas has enjoyed recent exposure via Colors Berlin. Their collaborative project Kassian was spawned from their mutual respect and a wide crossover in each others’ musical tastes, using their influences of jazz, soul, broken beat and hip-hop to produce house music with a more personal and innovative touch.
Their Phonica White release kicks off with title track ‘Faux Polynesia’ which is a warm, rolling and atmospheric house cut that has been getting lots of top-class DJ support the world over. On the flip, you’ll find the uptempo bumper ‘System’, with it’s spoken word hook and cheeky organ riff. Lastly, the EP rounds off with ‘This One’s For You’, which is a truly special ‘end of night’ anthem in the making. You can pick up a copy of ‘Faux Polynesia’ here.
We caught up with the guys to find out about their past, present and future plans. Read on to find out more!
First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your individual backgrounds, perhaps where you grew up and what first got you interested in electronic music?
WC: I’m from North London and went to uni in Nottingham. I was around music growing up as my uncle was making his own music, my mum was always playing it around the house and when I visited my dad he would take me to his record store in Finsbury Park so I was exposed to a lot of House, Funk, Soul and Hip-Hop at a young age. I think I really got into electronic music from being inspired by all the sampling in the late 90s and 00s that was creatively reworking all the music I had heard when I was younger.
JD: My whole family are pretty musical; my dad has always been in bands and plays the drums, bass, guitar and many other things, so our house was always full of instruments. I picked up his bass guitar at about 12 and have been playing ever since. When I was really little I basically exclusively listened to The Beatles because my dad recorded all their records to tape for me to listen to, he even hand wrote all the tracklists. Eventually, I progressed and got into funk and jazz, mainly because that’s where I could find the most interesting basslines. I got into electronic music in uni and that’s when I starting DJing and running parties.
At what point did you two decide to start making music together?
WC: We met at an event called Locodia in Peckham which we were both playing at, and I think we ended up agreeing to do a studio session straight away. I’d actually heard some of Joe’s recent music whilst I was working at Worldwide FM and I was keen to work on some music together, as I thought our styles would suit, we’re both quite soulful yet broken.
Anyway, a few weeks passed and we met again at Joe’s studio on Hackney Road, which is just behind the studio and cafe called ‘The Premises’. In our very first session, we made the track ‘The Premise’ within a couple of hours. I think we were both surprised how well our dynamic worked and also how quickly the track came together – it was a nice touch that Heist Recordings released it as the A1 on our debut EP, so we named it after the studio.
JD: I remember when we made it we weren’t sure if it was a fluke or not, so we ended up scheduling more sessions, and the tracks just kept coming, the rest is history really. Soon after we started producing at the Premises I actually ended up getting kicked out my the studio for subletting to other producers… at that point, we found out about a studio space with Bloc. It was bigger and more expensive, but Warren and I took the leap and went in together as partners. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise; we’ve created a small community of producers in our new space (38 East) and we’re more productive than ever, plus everyone leaves all their hardware in there so we’re pretty spoiled for choice when we’re producing.
What’s your studio dynamic like? Do you each have particular roles or specialities?
JD: We do actually yeah. I’m a big process geek, I’m pretty organised and methodical, whereas Warren follows zero rules and is very creative in that sense. I think this is actually why we work so well together, Warren will usually arrive in the studio with a bunch of sketches or samples, we’ll listen to them together, and then we’ll choose one that we want to turn into a track. Sometimes the track morphs from his original idea completely and ends up as something totally different, and sometimes I’m basically cleaning up and arranging his sketch. A few of our tracks are made together from scratch, like Love 4:2 on The Premise EP. I made the drum track on Maschine while Warren worked on the keys and pads. Also, I’m playing all the bass guitar lines you can hear in our music, even if we’re resampling an old disco track, I’ll always overdub the bassline myself so it packs more punch.
WC: Yeah, our workflows combine well in that way. I think we see the process from slightly different angles but we both know what we want from the track which means we can get to that finished article quite quickly and confidently. That’s quite a rare thing to find. We don’t really make ‘dance music’ consistently within our solo projects so we’ve found a new means of making the house, disco and techno music that we’re playing out. We’re still surprising ourselves with each track and I think you can hear a lot of own styles in each track.
Let’s talk a bit about your latest release on our Phonica White imprint. We’re delighted to have you on board! Can you tell us a little bit about the tracks and how the title ‘Faux Polynesia’ came about?
JD: The EP is three slightly different avenues of our production style, for example, ‘Faux Polynesia’ is the softer, more detailed track, and one that we think is probably the most timeless., ‘System’ is upfront and groove driven for the dancefloor, and ‘This One’s for You’ is the long play B-side, end-of-night kind of thing. We made it around the same time as our Heist EP, and the process was almost exactly the same, the Heist release is very strongly rooted in jazz and disco, whereas we’ve leaned more towards electronica and synth sounds with Faux Polynesia. For us, the big difference with the Phonica White release is the maturity in terms of the ideas and themes, but I think we’ll definitely be bringing out some more disco inspired tracks soon!
WC: Yeah our style naturally slots into one of those pockets now. We’re just having fun with it really… we thought it would be a nice touch to use the same vocals elements to open and close the EP. The word ‘Special’ which has been taken from a few different records and sampled on ‘Faux Polynesia’ and also ‘This One’s for You’, and also the ‘Special’ vocal on ‘Faux Polynesia’ is taken from Peech Boys’ ‘Life Is Something Special‘ which was cut up and used as Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson’s soundboard on Kiss FM in the 90’s, so there’s also some nice nostalgia there.
JD: I’m not too sure about the EP name.. i think we saw it printed somewhere and we just agreed that it was a nice obscure name, and the connotations matched the breezy topline of the title track. We recently played at Pikes Hotel in Ibiza for halloween, and we walked passed a trashy tourist restaurant that was supposed to look like a tiki bar, and we laughed because the design of it was Faux Polynesian. It looked awful.
Do your DJ sets reflect your production style or do you like to play a mixture of many genres?
WC: I would say mostly we cater towards our productions, but we also produce other styles, for example, I usually make more slow and soulful and Joe more broken, plus we like disco and techno so we try to bring all those elements through too. I think our sets and mixes are always quite high energy though with lots of soul whether that be in the melody, chords or just the grooves.
JD: Exactly, we’ve just started a new monthly residence on Balamii so it’s been fun there getting a crew down there and just playing records we love without overthinking it.
What are your favourite record labels out there at the moment?
WC: Groovence, Blaq Numbers, Godmode, CoOp Present
JD: Wotnot, Jazz Cabbage are also putting out some really interesting stuff. I also have to plug my own label here! I recently launched Curve Records with a few pals, our first EP dropped last week by a fantastic producer called Jackson Almond.
What’s the one piece of studio gear you couldn’t live without?
WC: Sub Phatty, Ableton and the kettle haha.
JD: NI Maschine, I’ve written all my drum tracks with it for the last 4 years, I love it.