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Rudimental week: Piers Agget interview

Last year, as if from out of nowhere, inimitable Hackney quartet Rudimental crashed onto the scene and demanded to be heard. Their debut full-length Home entered the UK Albums Chart at Number 1 after infectious anthems ‘Feel the Love’ and ‘Waiting All Night’ each hit the top spot in the singles stakes, leaving a stupefied nation to marvel at what seemed to be an overnight success story. Piers Agget sets the record straight, explaining to Notion that it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the band.

PlanetNotion: Before you were launched to the big leagues you were turned down by a lot of labels who couldn’t pigeonhole your sound. Do you think there’s a problem nowadays with the industry stunting new bands’ creativity for the sake of making money?

Piers Agget: There’s always going to be that problem with major labels. Essentially you’ve got to look at them as investors. Why would they invest in something they can’t see the market for? In that sense you have to make it your own and do it yourself, which is what we did with Black Butter. You find an independent label that will give your music a platform, and then once you get success, the majors will come running. One person at Black Butter heard ‘Feel the Love’ and played it to someone else who liked it, and they said “right, I really believe in this band, let’s go full throttle with it”. You’ll get a lot of supporters who can’t see the end goal, but so long as you as an artist can see it, you’ve just got to go with it. Eventually someone will believe in you. Someone with money.

PN: So it didn’t make you doubt that you were on the right path? You always knew how you wanted to keep with it?
PA: When ‘Feel The Love’ first got put out there none of us thought that it would do that well; we just loved it as a piece of work. We were just like ‘I’m well proud of that, because it’s got everything that we’d always wanted to do. Ever since I was about 16 I was trying to make crossover grime and blues, and we’ve all been like that. We’ve all tried to mix live instruments and electronic music, and that’s what ‘Feel The Love’ gave us; the license to carry on and make the kind of music that we wanted to make.

PN: If you hadn’t found your success organically, would you have considered going on something like Britain’s Got Talent?
PA: Oh hell no! I’m not going to ridicule those programs entirely, but there are a lot of negatives that come out of them, like flooding the market with too many artists who are produced by labels and not themselves. It takes away from singer-songwriters and bands who work hard towards making the music themselves; the artists who actually deserve a chance. You definitely wouldn’t have caught us trying to make it on one of those things. For us we’d been working for 6 or 7 years really hard to get where we are, and it’s not definite success if you go on one of those programs, in my opinion. It’s a very quick success; it might be success for six months, but doesn’t last.

PN: You’re not afraid to work with unknown vocalists. How you go about finding new talent?
PA: There’s not really a method. We’re always on the lookout, because we enjoy being a platform for talented people. I met John (Newman) when he was doing an open mic night in a pub and he just blew me away. I knew I needed to make friends with him – it’s all about networking. People like Ella (Eyre) and John are just so talented, it’s been great to give them a kick start; they help us and we help them. We might do a couple of big collaborations here and there, but because of their voice, not their name.

PN: So the universe just brings you together?
PA: Yeah! It’s like the molecules in the air just attract. If you enjoy a session with someone, you stay in contact with them; that’s what we do. If we like someone then we’ll keep going.

PN: Do you think it’s been harder to make a name for yourselves without an identifiable frontman/woman, or has that worked to your advantage?
PA: I think we’re proving the point that you don’t necessarily need a frontman. It’s been done before by people like Massive Attack and Soul II Soul, who created a culture, an entity… But we did definitely have a moment when we all sat down and thought ‘oh god, how can we market ourselves?’. Ultimately we decided just to let the music speak. So long as you stay true to what you believe in and make the music how you want to make it, then your ‘face’ will be the music (laughs).

PN: How does your creative process work? Do the four of you have specific roles?
PA: It varies. We’re a band and we all play instruments. Sometimes we all jam together in a rehearsal-room style, because our studio is full of instruments, so we’ve got like guitars, keyboards, Hammond organs, drums… all sorts of stuff. We like to jam it out and sometimes we’ll pass Logic sessions around to each other – we’ll all be working on different tracks at the same time. It really does vary, but I think the unifying thing is that we all just listen to each other really well. Like if Kesi’s got an idea and he’s really passionate about it, we’ll all go with it, and we’re also very critical of each other, which is a really good thing I think. And obviously sometimes we write with the artists as well, so that can be really fun.

PN: You talk a lot about art being an outlet, and feature inspirational, real people in your videos. Do other artists need to be more aware of their potential as role models?
PA: Well I’m not going to start telling artists how to behave, because everyone does what they want to do, but I think naturally role models are important, and there’s probably not enough of them in a lot of communities. We come from inner-city London, but it’s not just about Hackney, it’s about people perceiving a place to be worse than it is, and maybe there not being enough role models in that area. You have to find outlets in that kind of area for creativity. We’re not the perfect role models; if anyone saw us party they’d be like ‘oh my god, these guys party hard’, but it’s deeper than that. It’s about believing in young people and finding positive things in negative places. Our videos are about showing real people and love and positivity in communities like the ghetto of Philadelphia; to show people other aspects of the abyss that they wouldn’t normally know about.

PN: And you’re back in the studio now?
PA: Yeah, yesterday and today we’ve been in the studio working with another unknown singer for album two. We’d been itching to get back into the studio, so it’s been a really good couple of days. The first album was just the start for Rudimental. I’m really excited for the future.

So are we, Piers. So are we.

Catch Rudimental at GlobalGathering, 26-27th July at Long Marston Airfield, Stratford Upon Avon. The band is also set to set to play a host of festivals across the summer. For full details, see www.rudimental.co.uk

- Ally Russell



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