For their fourth album, Adventures in Freestyle, The Freestylers have moved that little bit more towards the centre, with one foot still firmly ensconced in the b-boy underground scene, and one sidling down irreverently in the pop world. Matt Cantor and Aston Harvey have been making tunes together in London since 1996, and both have been making dance music since the ’80s. Australia’s Pendulum makes a welcome return to this album on the track “painkiller”, a dirty, bass-heavy track that has had JJJ listeners begging for more since it dropped on the radio, while Aston says “In Love With You” is the real crossover single. Either way, this is probably the densest and most eclectic offering yet.
Tell me how this album differs from Raw as Fuck, in your mind… With the success of “Push Up” I think it led us in a direction of doing something that’s a bit more crossover than the Raw as Fuck album. There are a lot more vocal tracks on this album, but I still think that it still has our Freestylers raw edge to it. Although there are 16 tracks and of those 14 have got vocals on them. And I think that this album is a lot more eclectic than the last album; there are rocky elements on there, there’s also funk and it’s a real mish-mash of sounds – that’s why we called it Adventures in Freestyle, really.
How did you approach the writing of Adventures in Freestyle? Normally we go into the studio and listen to a load of records, and at home I listen to a lot of records because I’m always trying to get new ideas and come up with new things like melodies or beats or whatever. I’m constantly thinking of ideas musically and I’m always looking for new samples or breaks and as soon as I get something I’ll go into the studio and chop it up to see if I can do anything with that. I might sit there and do some beats and then Matt might do some bass lines or some keyboards and I’ll add to it. We play 50-50 on it and I’ll generally mix the tracks when they’re finished. I’m not a gear head, but sometimes it’s brilliant, you can do mad effects and stuff. But you know what they say about these new films, right? Like they lost a bit on the story, you know, with all those effects, so it’s just like if you have a really great straight script then you don’t really need effects or you use effects just to enhance it a bit. I know a lot of our music is probably not technically advanced but we like to think what is there is fat and it’s got enough without having mad tricks on there. The music I grew up listening to, it didn’t have any mad tricks it was just raw tunes whether it be funk tunes or hip hop or old school hip hop stuff.
How did you hook up with Pendulum? Basically, a friend of a friend was working at Breakbeat Chaos and was going on about these guys Pendulum. I was really a fan of their music and this guy Jarrod who manages them said why don’t you get in touch, the guys would like to do a track with you. With us being pretty popular in Australia and stuff it kind of went from there, really. We did that track “Fasten Your Seatbelt” with them on Raw as Fuck and then on this album, we did “painkiller”.
So how has your life changed with the success of Raw as Fuck and all the singles? Well, we didn’t exactly sell a billion copies of that album. We didn’t sell anywhere near it. When we set out doing Freestylers, when anyone starts a band, you don’t know how well or bad your music’s going to do, you just believe in yourself. You’ve got no one to tell you if it’s right or wrong until you pull it out and then it does what it does. Obviously, my life has changed in the way that I travel a lot more, and buy more things. Financially, it’s like I’m in no way in the same league as Basement Jaxx or the Chemical Brothers, but I’ve been doing music for a long time. Before Freestylers nothing had taken off, so I’ve been able to travel, having more of a name, more kudos – those sorts of things have changed.
Adventures in Freestyle is out now on Shock Records.