Are You Okay With The Producer Duo Side Projects?
And the potential difficulties faced when only one can go on tour.
DJs and producers working in tandem is of course not a new thing. People have been collaborating and working on dance music together since the dawn of disco. From Daft Punk to Classixx, Justice to Booka Shade, The Chemical Brothers to The Presets, the list is long and full of bangers.
Something that is a relatively new phenomenon though is the teaming up of already well-established solo artists to join forces to begin a new collaborative project, combining their respective strengths to release music under a new name. The “big four” floating around currently – particularly in the realms of music we discuss often at the Pile – are Skrillex and Diplo's Jack Ü; Flume and Emoh Instead's What So Not; L D R U and Yahtzel's Carmada; and Ta-ku and Kit-Pop's HWLS. There are others – Jackmeister and Oneman’s Can U Dance and Leon Vynehal and A1 Bassline’s Laszlo Dancehall Project spring to mind – but for the purpose of this article we’ll focus on the acts most relevant to the Aussie electronic scene.
There are obvious and plentiful benefits to a duo combining forces, the initial impetus generally forming out of a desire to work on sounds that might fall a little outside their respective sandboxes.In an interview with Kit-pop recently discussing the HWLS project, it was this, along with a long and healthy working relationship/friendship between himself and Ta-ku, that saw the birth of HWLS:
“We’d always toyed around with coming up with a different project, so we could explore different music. Our own projects are going very different ways. And why we came up with it at the start of last year was due to our sounds had finally reached different points within ourselves. We were leaving these kinds of sounds behind, with ourselves, but we didn’t really want to, we still wanna make those beats but where our audiences are pushing us we’re not able to anymore. So if we make this other project we can just follow it and do whatever the hell we want in the bass music culture. With no barriers. That was the main thing, to create that outlet for the music we like to make.”
And if I could cast a generalising sweep (one garnered from reading about these artists every day) over the other three, you’re likely to find a similar story – the chance to work with a close friend on music that falls slightly outside the realms of their solo projects. And it’s the fans who benefit when it comes those projects’ releases. They’ve been responsible for some massive tunes over the past 12-18 months, and in the case of What So Not it’s seen them expand into huge markets like the US, with Carmada presumably soon to follow after releasing their debut EP Realise on Skrillex’s OWSLA Label.
The first 10 seconds of this video randomly turned out very relevant to this article.
Where things can get a little tricky is when it comes to touring, and where we want to open up a discussion today, is in that live realm. If you’re buying a ticket to a show featuring one of these acts – is it okay that only one is available to turn up? (pun totally intended) Again, pointing back to our HWLS chat, Kit-pop revealed it would be him taking the reigns over the debut HWLS shows late last year: “I’ll be doing a lot of the DJing myself for the start, because Reggie is back in the studio working on an album. It really comes down to timetables.”
What So Not in touring mode has primarily fallen to Emoh over the past 12 months while Flume works on album number two. It’s done nothing to really slow down the WSN juggernaut though – Emoh took America by the scruff of the neck last year, destroying huge festival crowds and club shows alike. That in itself is something that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen Chris Emerson behind the decks; the dude is easily one of this country/the world’s most technically proficient wheel spinners.
Thus far Jack U have only played a handful of shows, and always together, likewise the relatively fresh Carmada twosome. Given the respective global stardom of Skrillex and Jack U, in their case it would seem counter-intuitive for just Skrillex to rock up for a Jack U set, and I dare say we won’t be seeing a show of that ilk anytime soon.
Does it really matter though? Sure it’s nice to see both of the people involved in a given project on stage going B2B, but as long as they play the tunes you’re after it should be fine right? In their earlier days I’ve seen - in the Facebook-flesh - public outcry over a What So Not show only featuring Emoh Instead, yet the show still sold out well in advance and Emoh still tore the roof off the place, and you would have been hard-pressed finding anyone in the crowd sad about not seeing Flume onstage. It was still very much a What So Not show, the one guy who was available just had a little more room to move around the stage. But then you could make the argument that if it’s just going to be one artist playing, why are they not billed as such, because there’s no doubt they’ll be dropping a couple of their side-project’s biggest hits in there anyway? Yahtzel isn't NOT gonna drop Maybe when he's playing on his own is he?
Is it a case of having their cake and eating it too? Just booking Emoh Instead or an L D R U for a show, even though you can be pretty sure they’ll be dropping a couple of their side-project’s tunes, obviously doesn’t have the same weight as booking a What So Not or Carmada show with half the team.
This obviously isn’t a diss on any of these artists – in fact every single one of them (and their side projects) have been making some of the most exciting electronic music filling headphones and d-floors here and around the world – we're just generally curious as to your (the punter) take on things, and is definitely worthy of a pow-wow over Friday beers.