Piers Agget: Keeping It Real
It was almost two years ago since Rudimental’s debut album, Home, started working its way into musical pockets across the UK and then beyond. It’s since gone platinum, won a MOBO, a BRIT, and even a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize; and the four-piece from East London have been touring it ever since, often to massive crowds. Fresh from a headline slot at Lovebox in Hackney, where they felt right at home, they’ve now released their follow-up record, We The Generation, mixed by multi Grammy-winning mix engineer, Spike Stent, which shot to the number one spot. How does it sound? Whirring organs and trumpets with an electronic backbone, fusing jungle and garage beats – and that’s just for starters. And this time around, they’ve had the help of the Class of 2015: vocal contributions from the headliners of tomorrow, plus the odd megastar performance for good measure. But the Rudimental message remains the same as ever: “It’s music to make people happy,” Piers Agget assures us. Headliner catches up with him to find out a little bit more.
So how was Lovebox?
Lovebox was sick, yeah; it’s probably one of our best shows ever. Playing in Hackney, which is where we’re from, and to headline that festival was a dream, really. And as for the vibe, the crowd was really special. The line-up was great, too: Annie Mac, Mark Ronson, Snoop. Unfortunately, we had to go to the Czech Republic on the Saturday [for a show], so we missed Snoop, but what can you do? [smiles]
You’ve been quoted as saying you were saved by music... Is that still the case?
Very much so. Lovebox in particular was a very emotional performance, as we had a lot of friends there, and we’ve all seen a lot of bad things, so it was a definite ‘moment’ for us as a band.
Your first record went platinum, won you a MOBO, a BRIT, and got you nominated for the coveted Mercury Music Prize. There was no pressure on the follow-up, then..?
[laughs] Yeah, the new record came out on October 2, and we're so happy with the take-up. Although we’ve been playing a lot of new tracks this year, essentially, we’re still drawing a big crowd from that first album, and this is the fourth year of touring it, really, which is pretty mad. Now it’s finally out there, we can’t wait to embark on a new arena tour.
In the beginning, is it fair to say you had a kind of bedroom producer reputation: pals from Hackney, pirate radio stations, a kind of underground vibe? Now you’re firmly established globally, what’s changed?
I think the message is still the same, really: we make positive music that makes you feel good. We’ve always been into mixing live music with electronic music, and mixing old instruments like trumpets and organs in with house and jungle - especially in this day and age. We’ve always been conscious, and we’ve always wanted to have music with a message, and a positive message at that. That’s what’s really important to us.
We particularly liked the single, Never Let You Go - it has a great vibe, and some serious jungle undertones. The rest of the record follows suit, to an extent, right?
We The Generation has got more soul funk to it; we’ve been a touring band for three years now, so the musicianship that’s come out of that time, we’ve been able to put back into the new record. If you look at the John Newman collaboration on the first album, this time around, we’ve got Will Heard and Anne-Marie – they’re the Class of 2015, so to speak [smiles]. And there are some legends in there, too, like the late Bobby Womack – he sent us an a capella before he died, which was amazing to work on. It’s definitely one of our proudest moments. We’ve also got to work with George Clinton and many more. It’s a mix of what we grew up listening to, and now contacting those people and meeting us in the studio to work together; and there’s all this new talent being discovered, too, just like we did with the first album.
So the same vibe, but a few more doors opening?
Yeah, definitely. We’ve got some legends on the record, doors have opened, and we’ve also set up our own record label called Major Tom’s, so we’ll be releasing material from the artists that we find. The future Ella Eyre and John Newmans will be released through our new label!
You're A&Rs too, then?
Yeah, well we pretty much A&Rd most of the music on our first album, so we thought we might as well do it on our own label rather than giving everyone else the job! [laughs]
Fair point! Do you find your music is received differently depending on the territory - or city, even?
Yes. I think there are different vibes in different countries. In Eastern Europe, they’re so up for it, as they were in Czech Republic recently, singing along to every word, whereas Londoners can be a bit more reserved. But the whole vibe is pretty similar, and the crowds always bring a good feeling. It’s definitely universal, searching for a feel-good festival band that is about love and peace; and that’s the whole point, to have a connection.
You’re all producers as well as musicians. What is your creative process? We pretty much get involved in everything, in and around touring, which is hard. We tour a lot, we come back, and we write. We started the new album two-and-a-half years ago; it’s been an ongoing process. Sometimes we write a song ourselves and hand it over to a singer and say, ‘can you do the vocal?’ We pick one, like we did with John Newman, Feel the Love, but also sometimes we just write melodies and lyrics with the vocalists. A lot of time we jam with the band, get the instruments out and jam it out in the studio, then we’ll put it on our laptops, and work with it on the plane. And we’ll end up in South America, do a gig, go to a hotel room, and work on it even more [laughs]. We pass projects round to each other, and we all get involved in the production as well.
What are you working on, DAW-wise?
We’re all on Logic at the moment. It’s kind of like, if someone hits a wall on a track, someone else can come in and give it a new fresh spin, you know? It’s great bouncing these projects around and chipping in when we can. Then we have this studio in Hoxton called Major Tom’s, and we get back to that place where we know our speaker setup, so we can not only gauge it, but write it, and finish it all there.
Were you involved in the final mixes?
Yeah, absolutely. We get our records mixed by Spike Stent, who’s phenomenal in his world, and we wanted to continue working with him. We went into his place, and we mixed it with him. We tweaked it for quite a while... [pauses]... Okay, I’m not gonna lie, it took quite a few months to get it right, but that’s because we’re all perfectionists, basically!
So what is the next goal? You seem to be all about making people happy with your music more than anything else, which is a fine attitude, in our book!
Yeah, I think more than anything, in five or ten years’ time, we want to be on our sixth or seventh album, headlining Glastonbury, like the big bands of our childhood. So the goal is really to make music that we’re proud of, and that has a message, and makes you all feel good; and all the awards can come whenever [smiles], but the priority is all about the music, doing what we’ve always dreamed of doing. That’s where we want to be.
Finally, Piers, any tips for any up and coming Rudimentals of the next generation? Please forgive the pun...
[smiles] Really, it’s all about not giving up at the first hurdle. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket because... not all baskets get picked up by... [pauses] what am I trying to say, here? [laughs] Basically, all it’s about chipping away at it, and working really hard. The success that we got took about eight or more years to mould, and the team we built took several years to build. It’s not something that happens overnight, so building that is so incredibly important.