Chase & Status are Saul Milton and Will Kennard. Emerging from the UK’s Dubstep scene, their music fuses classic songwriting with the sonic expertise of seasoned dance producers. Their once-underground sound has now been discovered by multi-million selling American Hip Hop and R&B stars.
Saul, Will, how and when did you start working together?
We started working together in about 2001/2002
What influenced you to start making music?
We’ve both always loved music and individually have been creative from an early age. I (Saul) have been playing guitar since I was about thirteen and Will was heavily into Hip Hop and making mix tapes from about the same age.
As you’re a duo, how do you collaborate when creating music, do you each take different tasks?
It changes from track to track – sometimes we create from the offset and write a full track from start to finish together, other times we individually start tracks and then finish them together.
Is there a Chase & Status ‘sound’ that you apply across your music?
Early on in our career we were concerned that we didn’t have a ‘sound’ as we did/do so many different styles and genres, but over the years we can hear that we do have a sound! It is something that occurred organically – these days I’d say that we try and combine song structure with big bass and beats. We like the juxtaposition of something beautiful coupled with something filthy.
Your song Eastern Jam is an underground anthem and seems to have opened doors to your work with US artists – Snoop Dogg used the track for Snoop Dogg Millionare – why do think that is?
We’ve been over the moon with the success of Eastern Jam and the doors it has opened for us. I think the big American Hip Hop artists fell in love with the track because it is so different for them but is at a tempo that is universal and works well with vocals. The intro has a very Hip Hop feel with the groove and the Bollywood samples and then switches to something dark and dancefloor. We’re proud that the new sound is coming from London!
You did the remix for Jay Z’s D.O.A. in a Dubstep style, how did that come about?
It was a real accolade to Remix D.O.A. because Jay never gets remixes done – so there was pressure from the offset! We were in New York on a writing session for the company he co-owns with Jay Brown – Roc Nation. They called us and asked us to remix D.O.A. – we jumped at it and did three versions that night and they went with the first one. We wanted to keep the remix close to the original in terms of BPM but decided to put the kind of bass that we’re known for in there too.
Chase & Status produced and co-wrote for Rihanna’s album Rated R. How did that collaboration occur?
Again, it was through Roc Nation. Our manager passed our CD on to Jay Brown at Roc Nation and he called me to say he loved the music and wanted to get us involved with Rihanna’s new project immediately. Shortly after this conversation I received a call at 6am from Rihanna, touching base and saying she can’t wait to work with us. I realised it was for real and within a week we were all in the studio in Metropolis making what turned into Rated R. We ended up writing three tracks on the album.
The UK has given birth to so many dance and urban styles of music, do you have an opinion on why that might be?
The Uk has always been the most exciting place for cutting edge music and I think it always will. Throughout the years we’ve had fantastic innovation and ideas that break the norm – be it the groundbreaking production on Joy Division’s early material, leading to the seminal New Order, to the first ever jungle and hardcore tracks in the early 1990s. The UK has always lead the way and now it’s crossed over to the States. They are looking over to these shores for the new sound and inspiration. I think that in times of economic and social unrest great music is born – it is a commodity that can cheer people up at the weekend and be seen as an escape. The Uk has certainly had its fair share of that.
Why do you think that Dubstep has attracted interest from US R&B artists?
The tempo is very accessible to them and they can sing or rap over it with ease. There is also a wide scope for song structure with it and it also encapsulates the same vibe as early Hip Hop – exciting and with a plethora of ideas. The big bass and half-time groove of Dubstep is so different from anything that has happened in the U.S. so they’re looking at it as a new sound which they can infuse with pop sensibilities as well.
Dubstep is immensely popular, but still very much underground – how do you define the genre, and what direction do you think it is headed?
It’s difficult to define the genre as there are so many styles of Dubstep emerging. The music has come a long way since it’s birth and is constantly evolving. It reminds me of the early excitement of when Jungle first came about – new sounds, new ideas and new production techniques and no rules. Dubstep has quickly become technically impressive with the level of production and bass manipulation being of a very high standard. The music will definitely stay very underground as there is so much of it, but I believe you will also see it in the Top 40 in the future as it has all the ingredients to make cool, cutting edge and respectable popular music. Combining Dubstep with song structure and pop sensibility is something that I believe will dominate.
What’s your favourite piece of music by yourselves?
It’s difficult to narrow down to just one track. A few tracks that we’re proud of are Eastern Jam, Havoc, Loves’ Theme and Pieces.
You’ve moved through Drum ‘n’ Bass to Grime and Dubstep, how did that journey come about?
It was just natural for us – we’ve been into lots of different styles of music forever and have never liked just one genre. We’ve been making all sorts from the beginning of our production career – doing that keeps production interesting for us and you can draw influences from many places and put it into your music. In fact the first music we released was the at the early stages of Dubstep in 2002 on Tempa sister label Vehicle and then on Bingo.
Against All Odds featuring Kano, has a great funky and organic retro sound, with bongo fills and a horn section. What was the inspiration behind that?
We’re massive Hip Hop fans and wanted to create an old-school Hip Hop feel with one of the great British rappers of our time. The inspiration for the backing track came from a fantastic record we bought, which is a live recording of Lou Rawls from the 1960s performing Dead End Street. What he was saying was so relevant and it sounded great too – when we had that the track just came together very quickly and organically.
How did your song End Credits, featuring Plan B come to be featured on the Soundtrack to the Michael Caine film, Harry Brown?
We work with Ben (Plan B) a lot and have become good friends. We made End Credits very quickly in the studio. Ben had an idea for a song, we recorded it and then the beat came together in a matter of hours. The track was called End Credits as it was about someone who was basically taking their last breath. A few months later we got a call from Pete Tong who was the music supervisor for Harry Brown. He asked if we had a song that would be suitable for the end credits of the film – and if we could do something with Ben as he was in the film that’d be great too. We told him that funnily enough we had a new track called End Credits that featured Plan B which might be suitable. The fact that he’d asked for something so specific and that we actually had exactly that there was very strange but we sent it over – they really liked it and thankfully it all worked out great.
Is there anyone else you would like to work with?
There are many people we’d love to work with and luckily for us we’re working with lots of them for our next record, but I can’t go into names just yet I’m afraid. There are the greats like Stevie Wonder that it’d be an honour to be in the same studio as. We’d love to work with Justin Timberlake but there are many others.
Is there a style of music that you’ve not been involved in, that you would like to pursue?
There’s a lot of music on the hard drive that the world hasn’t heard so it might already be in production!
You toured for the first time during 2009, is live performance of your music something you enjoy?
Yes indeed – the tour was great and really takes us to another place. It is fantastic to DJ your own music and see the reaction to the tracks around the world but recreating it with synths and instruments live on stage with a drummer as well is something else. The electricity of being on stage is something that you can’t compare. We’re looking forward to embarking on the spring tour in April and May.
Can you tell us about your forthcoming projects?
Right now it’s short and sweet – we’re currently working on our second album which is untitled as of yet. Everything else has been put on hold until its completion and we’re looking to get it finished within the next few months.
The music industry is going through a period of massive and often painful change. What are your favourite biscuits to munch while working in the studio?
Hmmm – a very taxing question. Biscuits haven’t been too big in the studio as of late but I do like a nice milk chocolate digestive. We’re based very close to a Starbucks so coffee and blueberry muffins are often seen entering our unit.