Today Rough has a soulful surprise in store for yall. Weve got DJ Modest from the three piece electronica slash soul outfit, Belleruche giving us the gooses on their humble beginnings, new album releases, and all things arty and a little bit weird.
For those not in the loop, Belleruche formed back in 05 and have been blessing our cochleas with a wide range of musical leanings ever since – showcasing at festivals from electronic through to jazz.
Theyve had a very notable progression toward the well-rounded feel of their latest album, having sold an all-time record number of sales for the label “Tru Thoughts with their debut album Turntable Soul Music, and garnering a decent following across Europe along the way. Whats best about this band is the ease with which they adapt and embrace new forms of expression – they certainly know how to go with the flow!
So, without further ado, we bring you the inner workings of the creative talent that is Belleruche.-
Hi guys, great to meet you, hope 2012 is treating you well.
You recently had quite a long tour across the UK, has this been your most prolific excursion in regards to touring, and how did it go?
Modest – Hi, likewise, thanks for asking us questions. The album tour was the longest weve done to date, we had 30 dates in just over a month, so it kept us moving. Its a bit of a blur really, there were some stand out shows, Berlin and Newcastle were really good crowds. Every night is different, its a bit of cliche but you never know what the nights going to be like until you get onstage.
Tell Rough a little bit about the history of the band and how you guys came to be.
Modest – We started about 6 years ago, with just Ricky and I making strange guitar, bass, turntable and sampler noises in a pub in North London, someone offered us a gig, so we had to think of a name. We then met Kathrin, who started coming to these interminable jam sessions we were having, she somehow found a way of seeing through the 10 minute riffs we were playing and we started writing songs.
We did this for a bit, playing every Sunday in the pub, and then started getting offered gigs elsewhere. Then, mainly because Id wanted to since I was 13, we pressed a 7″ record. Thankfully we managed to sell them, and more quickly than we imagined, which meant we did another two 7″s on our own label, before Tru Thoughts bought us a coffee and promised the moon on a stick.
Youve been quoted describing your sound as “Turntable soul” which was also the name of your first release, what is this?
Modest – Weve always struggled with the taxi driver question – when you are getting into the cab, carrying some case of other you get “so youre in a band eh, what sort of music is it?” We thought inventing our own genre was a way of answering the question without answering it really. I think if you can really specifically define what it is you do, musically, then it must be quite boring, Im always interested in music that sounds a bit different, and hopefully weve tried to make some too.
What were the trials, joys and tribulations involved in getting your first release into the light of day?
Modest – a high, or low, light would be hand screen printing 1000 7″ sleeves for our second release we did ourselves. In my kitchen. We recorded most of the early songs on my old PC too, which only allowed you to listen to around 40 seconds of a track at a time whilst working on it, which certainly helps hone your arrangement skills.
Which artists, musical or otherwise, do you glean inspiration from?
Modest – too many to mention, Ive been buying records since I was 12 and have been continually discovering new things since. Currently Id say Brother Ali – on Rhymesayers records, just because his new album has just arrived in the post, and James Yorkston, because Ive been listening to the 10th anniversary of Moving up country a lot recently.
Since your first release Youve released three more albums, your fourth Rollerchain is out now, its a very soulful experience to say the least! Tell Rough about your influences and thinking behind this latest project. How does it differ from your previous releases?
Modest – Its the one we had the best studio for, certainly. Id say we spent more time crafting the sound of this record, taking time to mix and master it properly – we had our own schedule for this album, and I think the time taken in the way we built the songs shows. I think it sounds very different from quite a lot of other stuff, but thats probably a feature of most of our music, in that it sounds different from the rest of it,
Ive seen the video for Stormbird, the track is very cool! Explain the creative process behind making the video and the message you wanted to convey here..
Modest – Basically its a longwinded advert for matches, or a in depth critique of modern politics through the medium of contemporary dance. Or it could have been that the director said “Ive got a good camera that we can edit backwards, and two mates who can fence, whaddya say…” It looks nice though.
Whats the chronology to your creative process when making an album: is there a magic formula in regards to the vocals influencing the melodies and vice versa?
Modest – Not really, most of our ideas come from difference starting points, whether its a guitar line, or vocal refrain, or sampled loop – normally what starts something isnt what finishes up in the recording, but thats the only part of the process that could be described as a formula. Were not really good on planning to be honest
How do you function together when recording material and playing live?
Modest – Live = beer. Recording = tea and coffee.
Im sure youve heard the whole Portishead reference in regards to yourselves, no doubt youll hear it again! How do you feel about this comparison, does it hold any water in regards to your musical style?
Modest – Whilst its very flattering, they wrote some amazing tracks, and sold a lot of music, I dont think there is that much in the comparison beyond that some of our music has scratching on it and we have a female vocalist. I think its a little bit lazy, but music journalism is basically creating little boxes to write about, and I guess wed fit in to a box with that sort of sound in those terms.
Your music is quite engagingly eclectic, from electronic to blues to hip hop to jazz. is there any correlation between those different genres or do you just go with whatever feels right?
Modest – Feels right is about it really, as I said were not good at planning, weve never said we want to make something that sounds like this or that. I think to do so is a bit dis honest really, and whenever I have tried to make a sound that is in one direction or another, it always goes off in a completely different track. I guess Im more interested in sounds than genres, I think Ive given up trying to understand genres.
How do you keep your style fresh and relevant, morning prayers to the gods of innovation, perhaps?
Modest – I think if it doesnt feel fresh and interesting, you dont do it. Music making should be fun, interesting and novel, otherwise youre just working, and there are far more lucrative ways of working if its money you want to create, rather than ideas. So go to a charity shop, buy three old records, cut them into thirds, stick together, play backwards, sample and play glockenspiel over the top….
What would you say have been your career highlights thus far?
Modest – mastering the last album with Transition studios in London was great, to hear what wed spent so long worrying on making sense in their studio, and then cutting it to vinyl was really quite an experience.
If 2012 does herald the apocalypse, what are you aspirations for 2013, have you a new project in the works?
Modest – Apocalypse permitting, Im building a new studio in my new house by the sea, which is quite exciting. Just try and make new things I guess, no plans beyond that.
Now a few random questions Im sure your fans are just itching to hear.. Whats your Favourite fictional protagonist and antagonist from any movie or novel?
Modest – Harry Palmer, in The Ipcress file.
Favourite non-fictional protagonist and antagonist from the planet Earth?
Modest – Three, if allowed, Peter Sellers, Hunter S Thompson and Buck 65.
Best loved band in your teens?
Modest – Not a band but a record label, Rawkus, in that short golden period of independent New York hip hop that came about in the late 90s.
Most remembered teenage heartthrob, famous or otherwise
Modest – not a usual question!… dunno, hard to recall really, probably the girl singer from Veruca Salt – around the time they released Seether.
Thanks for the honest answers guys, its been a pleasure, and Rough would like to wish you all the best for the future!
You can catch Belleruches latest gig here. In the meantime why not stream Stormbird above..