“Making an edit is like paying homage to the original and bringing it forward in time”
Following recent runs on Detroit Swindle’s Heist Recordings and Phonica White, emerging London duo Kassian now make the venture into label territory their own as they launch a new imprint Kassian Versions, solely dedicated to their twisted disco explorations.
The production project is the partnership of Joe Danvers and Warren Xclnce, both regulars on the London club circuit whose ties to channels like WotNot music, Worldwide FM and CoOp Presents run deep. Whilst their previous works have explored the deeper ends of house and club music, here they take a more sample focused approach, tweaking their favourite disco jams for a modern day dancefloor.
With Kassian Versions 001 out just in time for your summer soundtrack, we catch up with both Joe and Warren to get the lowdown on what inspired their new project, how they work together in the studio and what makes the perfect edit.
How did Kassian initially come about, and what was the idea behind it?
Joe: So we met at a party at Rye Wax in Peckham where we were both playing. Warren came up to me and said he liked my last release. After that we met up for a beer outside my old studio on Hackney Road, Warren showed me this amazing drum groove he’d been working on, and we took it into my studio and made The Premise in a couple of hours. We were stoked when we found out this was going to be the A1 on our first release with Heist.
So Warren, your individual style seems to lean towards a more laid back sound; a lot of downtempo hip-hop and soulful, whereas Joe (Danvers) you seem to look closer to club. Was it easy to navigate these differences in styles and tastes during the production process as Kassian?
Joe: Surprisingly easy actually! Everything fell into place very quickly, we made a bunch of tracks very quickly over a few weeks. Some of those early tracks are still scheduled to release later this year. Although our styles are very different, there are actually a lot of aspects to electronic music that we both find important; the main thing is being a strong distinctive groove with loads of shuffle, something unique. Neither of us are really bothered about straight up 4/4 machine house music.
Warren: Yeah, it was really natural in the beginning because even though our music is technically different by genre we’re actually quite similar in influence and style. Like In the past I’ve made quite broken hip-hop and played a lot of House, and Joe makes House and Broken Beat with quite hip-hop influenced dusty sampling, so it just worked well. I think with Kassian we have a new found creative licence to really push the boundaries, so there’s a playfulness which I think comes out in the music.
What kind of challenges have you faced so far with Kassian?
Warren: The only significant hurdle I can really remember was having to leave our old studio where we first started working together due to tenancy disagreements. To be honest it was a blessing in disguise. At that point we luckily found a newer, bigger studio at Bloc so that was the tipping point really whereby Kassian became a ‘thing’ and we could start building a home to be creative.
Joe: Launching was pretty tough, we’ve both been doing solo projects for years so we always knew how much work it would take to get Kassian off the ground. We basically had to call in favours from everyone we know in the scene to make sure we launched with a bang, and thankfully a lot of good friends helped us out loads.
How do you find it best to operate in the studio? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Joe: When we’re producing together, I think we both have OCD but in different directions… I’m quite meticulous and organised, I think I’m stronger at arranging music and bringing ideas to life, but I find it tough to create new sketches that sound really original. Warren has an amazing ear and I swear he can hear frequencies that I can’t, he’s brilliant at creating unique moods and soundscapes, just like all his solo work.
Warren: Our workflows work really seamlessly actually, Joe is easily the best arranger i’ve ever worked with and that then makes us really productive. I know I can come up with tonnes of new ideas and not have to overthink the arrangement which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. We’ve also now got loads of hardware and toys to play with, so there are less ‘brick-walls’ so to speak because we’re not using the same process every time.
So Kassian Versions is your new edit series. can you tell us more about what you’re setting out to achieve with it?
Joe: We’ve been sitting on the Versions project for about a year now (since we made ‘Montana’ basically). The idea was to make edits but really bring them to life and make them sound like us. We’re pretty bored of those basic, badly product edits that sound weak in a club. On all the Versions tracks, we’ve replayed the bassline and layered it with the original, and we’ve added a whole new drum groove to compliment the original.
Warren: Starting our own label gives us a bit of freedom to be able to release whatever we like which is great, also as our first release was only 10 months ago, we’re still just starting out as a duo so it’ll be interesting to see how these edits develop with time. Putting together EP’s for labels can be quite serious as you’re constantly thinking about the story you’re telling or how you’ve developed from the last release whereas Kassian Versions can be more carefree.
What, to you, makes a good edit?
Joe: Pick a good track to start with! We don’t really care if the track is well known or not, what matters is how you treat it. For us, making an edit is like paying homage to the original and bringing it forward in time. ‘Montana’ is a super well known disco classic, but we couldn’t find any edits that we were satisfied with, so we made our own.
Warren: It’s gotta have personality and add something new or what’s the point, because the likelihood is it’s not going to be as good as the original.
There’s definitely a fine line to walk when producing edits, how do you make sure to do the original justice?
Joe: For us I think the key is bringing something original to the table. Anyone can cut up a disco track and quantise it, that’s not really the point. We wanted to add our own original groove and flavour to each track.
Warren: I agree, It’s just a unique angle you take. For instance we’re both knew that Montana had been edited to death – but we noticed there was something special about having those strings filtered down. There’s loads of character still left in the sample so that allows the percs to do all the groove work, so we were able to tease the sample and build some tension because you know what’s coming, you’ve heard it before. We hadn’t heard anyone do that before.
What’s in store for Kassian and Kassian Versions?
Joe: Our next EP is on a brilliant French label called Groovence. We’ve been in contact with them for about 2 years and we’re really looking forward to releasing with them. As for Kassian Versions, hold tight for 2020…
Warren: Yeah, there’s no pressure at the moment to follow it up which means we can wait until it feels right to do number 2.
Buy Kassian Versions 001 here.
Words: George Hancock