D&B Diary

Culture Shock

We jumped on a call with James AKA Culture Shock to talk through his new Ram Records release "City Lights"

We jumped on a call with James aka Culture Shock to talk through his new Ram Records release "City Lights"

For die-hard fans of Ram Records, the thought of ever seeing "City Lights" in their record bags was a far-flung fantasy. The track first made headlines when it gained considerable attention on DnB Forum back in 2010 in this thread and was widely regarded as one of the biggest dance floor dubs at the time. 5 years later and the track is finally coming out on Ram Records this year. We caught up with James to talk through the history of the release and his plans for the future.

As premiered by Annie Mac's Special Delivery on BBC Radio 1, "City Lights" ft. Bryn Christopher is the brand new single from Culture Shock.

Let’s talk about "City Lights", I saw that on DnB forum that the track has been floating around for 5 years. How come it has taken so long for it to reach our record bags?

Culture Shock: It’s sort of changed a bit. I always wanted a vocal on it and then it kind of took a while to get round to doing that and finding the right voice for it. That’s mainly it, also it’s a bit hard to finish tunes, especially old tunes.

Yeah tell me about it! It’s taking me so long to get my tunes finished haha!

Well it’s always fun to start a new idea isn’t it! I think that’s what holds us back you know.

I start a tune and then the next day I’m listening back and I want to start a new one, it’s this continuous loop of new tune after new tune and none of them get finished! It’s so frustrating.

Yeah I’m pretty lucky in that I can give anything I’m working on to Andy and see what he thinks. But the downside is he’ll hear it and want it released even if it’s 32 bars long and then I’ve got to make the breakdown and 2nd drop haha. Of course there’s all the business side of getting a release out there which keeps the pressure on as the labels want the release done in a certain time. Speaking of which, I think this release has just been pushed back another week now so it seems to be going on forever and forever!

When’s the official date?

I’m not sure now, it was 18th of May but I think it’s getting pushed back again! Who knows?

What’s the rest of the release accompanying City Lights?

I’ll be putting an instrumental on the other side, I want the release to focus on this track. The instrumental will appeal to DJs as it’s this big club track that has been tried and tested and seems to go off every time.

It will be weird it not being a dub! Hopefully it still gets rinsed by the DJs!

I hope so yeah!

Have you got any new bits in the pipeline, I mean actual new stuff!

I’m working on a couple of remixes on my own. It’s really early days on these though. I only got the parts through the other day so I’m not allowed to leak out what remix it is I’m doing. You never really know though, sometimes it just doesn’t happen with remixes. I’m working on another release soon after City Lights which is maybe an EP or something but nothing is confirmed yet!

I saw there were rumours back from 2011 in that same thread about a new album on Ram?

I’m not sure. I don’t know how things are going to come out, it might just be an EP and a single this year. It might also be an album but probably just more regular releases for now.

Not giving much away then haha! Anyway, when you work for Ram is that a full-time job for you or do you do it on the side?

I’m pretty much full-time at the moment. I’m obviously a DJ for the majority of the time. I’m heading to Belgium at the moment for a night called FCKN beats and Pendulum, Wilkinson and Misanthrop are joining me on the line-up.

Decent line-up!

Yeah hopefully it’s a good one. I’m at the airport now so fingers crossed I don’t miss the flight haha!

I’ll be quick don’t worry! So what other gigs have you got lined up this summer? How’s the schedule?

Yeah fairly busy. I’m going to Australia next week which is going to be fun.

Is that for a Ram night?

It’s something that Shock-One is putting on, it’s called ‘The Best Rave In The World’.

That’s a very big claim!

Yeah, I think it’s a bit of a joke night, you should see the flyer for it. It’s got Ulterior Motive on the bill though and it’s at Metro City in Perth.

That’s a crazy venue isn’t it?

Yeah it’s cool as there are loads and loads of levels. It’s like you’re playing at a wall of people! Festival-wise I’m also playing at SW4, Brownstock and a few other European ones.

Do you find your sets change at festivals than smaller venues?

I don’t really like going in at festivals by just trying to wing it every time. So I’ll make a little playlist of stuff that I think will work. I always picture the room I'm playing in and most sets depend on the venue.

I can imagine picturing Metro City must be quite daunting!

I think it’s going to be big full on clangers for that one! Haha. When I produced back in the day I would always imagine hearing what I was working on at The End or Fabric. I always picture the room it’s playing in and it always varies. I think bigger, more anthemic stuff works for the festival stages and then the tight fat in your face deep and dark stuff sounds better in smaller clubs.

How do you think over the years your sound has changed? I was listening back to your old stuff and your debut was on Moving Shadow!

Obviously "Troglodyte" was quite gritty. I really like making funky weird loops with more light stuff. I always make sure it’s crafted enough to have a distinctive sound that kind of ties it together.

A lot of your tracks are dark enough that they appeal to the core heads that love the scene and then it’s also light enough that it appeals to the more commercial side of things. It’s a nice balance I think!

Yeah I’m glad you think that, I think it’s important. There’s a real skill in getting everyone in a party to feel the same thing at the same time. Often some people kind of get hung up on things being too cheesy but often those cheesy moments are the ones where the whole club comes together and everyone puts their hands up at the same time. You get that awesome feeling.

What kind of stuff do you listen to outside of drum and bass? Where do you get your influences for the tracks you write these days?

I go through patches of not listening to anything. Making a conscious effort of ignoring everything else. Doing my own thing, which I think is quite important. Otherwise you constantly get distracted by going down other avenues. Sometimes you want to make projects your own sound and that’s the only way to do it.

But yeah I listen to all sorts of electronic stuff, even classical music and everything really. I have listened to a lot of techno but it’s not that interesting at the moment from what I’ve heard.

So do you ever write anything that isn’t DnB?

I’ve dabbled in it. Not to the state where I’ve finished a track and thought it was good enough. It would have to be as part of an album.

Maybe under a new alias?

Possibly, I do like the idea of tying it into the same project. It’s quite a leap from what I’m doing now. It would be cool to do it as Culture Shock so that people get that it’s the same vibe. It would be perfect album material!

Anyway mate, I’ve just seen Paul El Hornet checking in, I think it must be time for the flight!

No worries James! Good luck with the set and I hope the release goes to plan!

You can pre-order "City Lights" here

More drum & bass:

Read an exclusive interview with Xtrah

Check out our review of Renegade Hardware's 20th Anniversary

Check out our best selection of drum & bass festivals this year

Written by Barney Blackhurst

22 Apr 2015