UK duo insignificant Others released one of the singles of the year ‘All I Wanna Be / Need U Want U’ EP on OCD Records this June. Nick McCall and Dave Robinson have been mincing around together for 15 years, each bringing their own individual flair to the studio – Nick possesses the musical knowledge plus an unhealthy obsession with vintage synths, whereas Dave has the ears and engineering know-how to bring it all together.
Their love affair with dance music is now coming into fruition with this old school tinged release, which combines retro rave and new school production. Perhaps they’ve ignited the litmus paper for a revival of early 90’s rave - we quizzed them.
We never take anything to heart or too seriously, and to expect something to automatically do well is a dodgy game. We just make music that we like and feels right for us and hope that other people will like it too...The new single All I Wanna Be / Need U Want U nods to the sound of UK rave - are you consciously trying to side step deep house and spurn the rebirth of this genre?
Hmmm, the thought of re-birthing a genre certainly sounds interesting (!) but we’re never really too conscious of steering a track in any particular direction when we set out to produce a new record. The rave influence running through this release comes from a sense of nostalgia towards that era: the days of driving around in search of illegal raves and the simplicity of the productions back then. If truth be told, we just sit in front of whatever gear we have with us at that time and try to come up with something that both us, and hopefully other people might want to listen or dance to.
Your single 'Sentimental' in my ears was a big hit - I really can’t see why it didn’t pick up more heat. I guess the saying ‘the cream always rises to the top’ isn’t so true nowadays. Have you guys come up with a revised promotional plan?
Well that’s very kind of you to say, thank you! We were quite pleased with the reactions and radio play that it did get but unfortunately, you can’t second-guess what people are going to take to. We tried to do something different with that one and unfortunately it didn’t quite catch the mood but hey ho, you live and learn. We never take anything to heart or too seriously, and to expect something to automatically do well is a dodgy game. We just make music that we like and feels right for us and hope that other people will like it too.
How does the collaboration work - do you work together or bounce across ideas in isolation?
In the early days, we would have to ‘book’ ourselves into a studio session so we could get together to write and produce, but current technology has allowed us to have a new workflow. During the early stages of creating a track we tend work separately, using maybe Ableton or Logic, as well as Maschine or the analogue gear, then bounce ideas back and forth, each adding elements and tweaking the arrangement.
It also helps to be best mates, meaning we can usually settle our creative differences without any big drama. Incidentally, the name ‘insignificant Others’ was actually born out of a piss-take of us spending so much time together!..Once we feel the track is progressing we’ll then get together in the studio where it all kind of glues together. In a way, it can be advantageous to work separately during the early stages of a track as one of us might come up with something whilst working solo that we maybe wouldn’t have if we were in the same room together. Also, it can sometimes be a good thing to send your ideas across to get checked with fresh ears, to get a bit of perspective and make sure you’re on the right track. This is definitely a major advantage of working as a duo. It also helps to be best mates, meaning we can usually settle our creative differences without any big drama. Incidentally, the name ‘insignificant Others’ was actually born out of a piss-take of us spending so much time together!
Tell us a bit about your studio - any interesting equipment that you’d sell your grandmother to keep?
We’ve acquired quite a decent collection of both old and new bits & bobs over the years, mostly through Nick’s slightly-worrying obsession with all things synth. There’s vintage gear like the Juno, Jen, TB-303, TR-606, SH-101. And newer synths like the Novation Bass Station Mk.2, the new Roland Aira units and the Arturia Micro-Brute, which features heavily on this new single. We're also big fans of Native Instruments, having used early versions of Kontakt on our first EP to more recently jamming with the beast that is Maschine. We're yet to plumb for an original 808 or 909 though, so if the offer is there, the ‘Granny’ transaction could be on the table! More recently, we’ve been experimenting with Nick’s home-made-modular sounds, soldering iron firmly in hand.
It’s relevant in as much as it means there’s more choice these days when it comes to making electronic music.We don’t really see one being better than the other. What’s your opinion on the digital vs analogue debate - is it relevant anymore?
It’s relevant in as much as it means there’s more choice these days when it comes to making electronic music. We don’t really see one being better than the other. Advances in music tech have speeded up certain tasks that were potentially quite laborious, such as sampling. Back in the day it was a case of manually dialling percentages into an Akai S950 with a tiny back-lit screen, whereas nowadays you can throw a load of samples into Ableton and gets a groove going within minutes.
But then when it comes to how something actually sounds, there are times when you won’t get any better than a fully-rounded analogue sound, like a 909 kick or a bassline written on a 303. It's horses for courses really. Each can be used as a way of creating the sound you’re looking for, so embrace both, we say! Things have changed enormously since we started making music but it’s all forward progression, which is a good thing. Purists may moan but isn’t that how a lot of guitarists felt when synths came along?
You’ve obviously been in the 'scene’ for a while - do you have a favourite era e.g. the Chicago house explosion of the late 90’s?
We both actually have quite different musical backgrounds: Dave began DJ’ing house in the early 90’s, while Nick was playing metal, eventually discovering electronic music so it’s tricky to say, but people like Hardfloor, Slam, Jeff Mills and Dave Clarke were definitely early influences for us when we first got together. We also drew inspiration from older artists such as Prince, MJ, John Morales and Parliament.
In terms of a particular era though, as you mention, we don’t think you can do much better than Chicago...In terms of a particular era though, as you mention, we don’t think you can do much better than Chicago. It’s where this sound originated from and we certainly still draw from it nowadays when we’re making our tracks. DJ's and originators like Frankie Knuckles, DJ Pierre and Jesse Saunders. Without them we wouldn’t be answering these questions.
What’s the most musically inspiring thing you’ve heard/seen recently?
On a house tip, tracks like Après ‘Chicago’ and Justin Jay ‘Mindgames’ are doing it for us in a summer vibes kind of way. Also in that vain, Dusky and Psychemagik are putting out some lovely records. The Boston Bun remix of Etienne De Crecy's ‘You’ and Claude Von Stroke & Jesse Rose’s ‘Bare Mountain’ are proper nice and bouncy, and we’re into a bit of indie dance stuff too like Everything Everything. There are also a number of performance videos online that are really inspiring. The ones of Jeff Mills mixing it up with his drum machines are something else and Jamie Lidell doing his thing is always pretty special.
If we could offer an honorary award from the Knights of the Realm though we’d probably give one to Tadao Kikumoto, inventor of the 303 and 909!..As strange as it sounds, Pete Tong and Norman Jay are MBE’s - officially recognised by British Monarchy for services to dance music. If you were the Queen, who’d you honour?
It doesn’t really sound strange considering what they’ve achieved in the industry over the last 20-30 years. To be recognised for their services to dance music only confirms what a massive thing its become. It used to be very much an underground scene, sometimes even operating outside of the law but look at it now: Dance music is a mainstay in popular music alongside rock, folk, country etc. Much like the leap that Hip Hop made a few years earlier.
If we’d recommend anyone for honours for their services we’d have to look at DJ’s and producers like Andrew Weatherall, Carl Cox and Chemical Brothers. As well as the early promoters like Exodus and Raindance. If we could offer an honorary award from the Knights of the Realm though we’d probably give one to Tadao Kikumoto, inventor of the 303 and 909!
Tell us what's next on the release frontier?
At the moment, we're just putting together our next single as well as batting a few other new ideas around. We'll hopefully be putting some more new music out on OCD Records too. As well as this new release, we've had a few other tracks out with them and we just really like the way they do things, it's very much a collaborative effort. Oh, and we've also sent a couple of emails to Prince and Mark E Smith to see if they fancied getting together for a bit of a studio session but we haven't heard back yet; very odd. They've probably just had a bit of a busy week...