The Kaje talks musical evolution to Freestylers

Having started out in the music industry back in the early 80s, Aston Harvey paired up with Matt Cantor in 1996 to form Freestylers. The partnership would prove more than slightly fruitful, with the pair still going strong nearly a decade and a half later. With a major Australian tour seeing in their 2011, The Kaje caught up with Harvey to find out more about his musical evolution.

You have been working as Freestylers since 1996, how has the dance scene changed in that time?

It has changed so much, just even from the Djing. In the late 90s everyone was still Djing mostly on vinyls, but now you have CDs and so many other different formats. Obviously sales of records were big then, nowadays it is not a much. The music industry in the last fourteen years has changed massively.

How have your ambitions as Freestylers altered over that course of time?

Our ambition as Freestylers is to make the best music we can possibly make. Its been that since we’ve started it. That hasn’t changed. We try to make people enjoy our music. Obviously the style of things we have been involved with in the more recent couple of years has been slightly different, but I’d like to think. If you listen to the first albums we made back in ’98 and to the stuff we are making now there is a continuity in what we have been doing.

As an artist with each album you are trying to push your sound and production skills. You kind of listen to what is going around and incorporate it into what you are doing. But obviously not so much that you sound like them, you have got to have your own distinct sound. That is very important.

It would be fair to stay you have remained fairly underground, but you have had the occasional crossover mainstream hit. Were those moves planned?

When you are making music, you don’t know what is going to happen. You can make a piece of music and think this is definitely going to do something, then subsequently it does fuck all. We just made a piece of music and it sounded really cool. We had a backing track, I sent it to the publishers because we wanted a song on it. We got the song back, actually we had a couple of songs back, but we chose a particular one. We thought it was a bit different and a bit quirky, but you never knew how succesful it was going to be. It wasn’t essentially what you’d call a breakbeat record. It had originally been promo’d for breakbeat DJs, and then all these DJs are loving the record. It started off somewhere rather than bang on the radio. It had a good background to do something with it.

After fourteen years, what do you think they key to continued success is?

I think it is a combination, we still have the ambition and drive to do what we are doing. I think sticking to our guns, not jumping ship onto the bandwagon of a new scene that might happen to come around, but maybe embracing some of the styles and incorporating them into what we do. I think, maybe also the fact we haven’t really crossed over and become commercial, like say Groove Armada or Basement Jaxx. They have been massive, really huge. But they have been commercially more succesful in that respect. I guess when you are making underground music, you can just be a little more faceless and carry on making your tunes. People seemed to have embraced us, so we have been very fortunate. But I like to think we have always been making good tunes.

Do you ever wish you’d had more commercial success akin to the singles “Here We Go”, “Don’t Stop” and “Push Up”?

Obviously financially it would have been better. It is the nature of the music, it hasn’t really had that crossover en-masse appeal. A lot of these acts have radio records, we have been very sporadic in our radio records. It is the radio records that get you commercial success. They still make underground sounding stuff but there is a more of a hint of pop to then. It is just the way the cookie crumbles.

New Year in Australia sounds fab. What are the plans?

Essentially, the first ten days are pretty manic full on travelling, DJing and a lot of gigs. Then we have a few days off. We eventually end up in Byron, so I am going to hang out in Byron for a week, just chill out. Then we have a few sporadic gigs. I am going to be in Perth for a few weeks as I have a couple of friends over their. The first couple of weeks is essentially lots of flying, late nights and booze essentially.

Do you enjoy the travel side of your trade?

The thing is I never went to University. A lot of the time, when you go to university, either before or after, you end up touring around and travel if you are fortunate enough. That didn’t really happen, I just went straight into making music. When we started doing the Freestylers, the music sort of crossed around the world. It is very exciting that somebody wants to pay you to go and play your music in another country. Especially somewhere like Australia, which is so far, we have been very fortunate in that respect. Once you start doing it, you want to keep doing it. You kind of push to carry on coming up with the goods. It wasn’t anything intentional. When you start making music, you obviously have these notions that you want to be massive, you want to be as big as possible. But for a lot of people it doesn’t happen. So we have been quite fortunate in that respect.

What sounds first really got you into music?

The music I was first really into was old school electro like Afrika Bambaataa, all the artists that were making the birth of hip hop and rap. It is really old school electro and hip hop that got me into wanting to make music and DJ. Round about ’88 and ’89, you had the house sound coming around. Producers in England started fusing between the sounds of house and hip hop. That is where the whole rage thing came about. The energy of uptempo dance music with a ragey element. That is where people started sampling breaks and hip hop sounds, putting it at a more dancey tempo. That is what inspired me. That was the first music I started making, a fusion of these two styles of music. When I first started DJing all I could do was scratch really, I wasn’t very good. I spent 2 hours instead of 5 hours in my bedroom. I guess back then, in 86, scratching was very basic.

When did you decide that you wanted to make a career from your music?

At the time, when I dropped out of my A Levels to make music, I thought I could always go back as I was young enough. I was very fortunate as I was at the beginning of dance and rage music in the UK. Everything that is new is unexplored territory as people don’t really know whats going on. Then I started programming for different artists, so I could make a living from that. The first couple of tunes I made were really massive rage records. I thought maybe there is something here then. I believed I had a talent. When I originally wanted to make records, I had a set of decks in my bedroom and people would come over and I would be scratching beats and they would record vocals over it. Then someone suggested going to a studio to make a proper recording. When we were in the studio, I was asking people can you sample this or that for me. I thought instead of asking all the time, I thought it would be good to learn how to do it myself. That is how I got into the whole music production side of things.

What do you prefer – creating sounds or performing them?

The DJing bit is the easy bit. Making the music is the hard bit, but that is the most satisfactory part of the whole thing personally. I love it when I get a buzz in the studio when I am making a tune. Its great to know you can play that out, play it to a few people. That to me is the most exciting thing.

Do you see a time when one will be more prominent than the other?

I don’t know when, but eventually there will be a cut off point when I will be too old to be DJing. But making music is what I love doing, that is why I want to carry on. Maybe producing other artists, maybe pop artists. Carrying on what we are doing, focussing on our name. But we will be carrying on in music for a while. If I make enough money to open up a bar, then so be it. Then I can invest my money elsewhere. But for now it is all about the music really.


1 Comment

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