Counterstrike reflect on the past 15 years of shredding beats before slipping Kmag readers a free tune sure to have the zombies up in the speakers this Hallow's Eve.
Hard to believe it's been 15years since you guys first linked up and started knocking out tunes! Now that you're older and wiser, is there any advice you would go back in time to give to your younger selves just starting out?
I would tell myself to take it slower. In the beginning we were overly excited. Sending stuff to labels before our production was up to scratch. It's better to go into the industry with a perfect package when you are 100% ready. Also, to take criticism better. I remember basically sending hate mail to Knowledge Magazine after they reviewed our first album 'Biogenesis' in 2000. When I read the review now, it's actually quite positive. In the early days I also remember sending an email to Ram, asking them to not use a sample that I used before. Oh, the shame.
You've had a massive run and watched the scene transform on so many levels. I remember an earlier interview with you guys, where you were expressing how difficult it was to get noticed in the early days, being so far away from the traditional center of the scene. With the developments in technology, the world has certainly become a much smaller place wouldn't you say?
Around 1998/99 when we first started sending out demos, everything was a process. First of all, we couldn't really afford good quality gear. I had to beg, borrow and steal to buy my first sampler. We didn't have any outboard gear like compressors and effects units; we had guitar pedals. Mono drums, mono bass and stereo synths/effects were the setup for most of our early work.
Being in South Africa, there were very few people to ask about making electronic music, never mind drum & bass at that time. So it was all trial and error. There were no YouTube or production forums. Our internet was restricted to dial-up and you could only go online from 6pm to 6am. Download speed at that time was clocking about 5KB/s tops. I only learned about AIM very late when Concord Dawn replied to one of the demo CD's we sent out by mail, asking me to "get onto AIM." I couldn't for the life of me figure what the hell he was talking about until about a year later.
For demos we got the addresses from record sleeves, and then sent the CDs by mail. We didn't think anyone was hearing them, because we hardly received any replies, never considering for once that maybe it was because it was shit. Well, I guess it wasn't that bad. To this day I sometimes hear anecdotes from people about how they first heard our music. I remember Raiden telling me that he first heard our music from DJ Red, who we had sent a demo, at a record shop around 2000, so I guess it was getting out there.
Out of frustration we decided to start our own label and Algorythm Recordings was born in 2000. Distributed only in South Africa, our first release was a four-track cassette tape. After that, a CD, Biogenesis. Dieselboy came to Cape Town in 1999 and we gave him a CD. A week later he phoned me from the US and was very enthusiastic, asked me if he could send it to some of his friends. We were super excited. I remember Stakka getting back to me and asking if we could come to his studio so he could help us with improving the production on some of the songs.
We couldn't afford flying to the UK. One of Dieselboy's other connections, a Canadian label called Dune/Allied Recordings picked up our first release in 2001. Soon after that they decided to stop doing Drum & Bass. Hope it wasn't us. Two years of banging our heads against the wall passed and after a chance encounter with DJ Impact, later from Revolution Records our demo found its way to B-Key who at that time worked at Alpha Magic. In 2003 they signed us for an exclusive deal. We were over the moon.
Let's transition to the present. The Fire EP is going to be the 11th cut on the revamped Algorythm imprint and in so many ways, it's a return to your early influences. You can definitely hear the influence of Trace, Dom & Roland, Ed Rush and the like in so many of these tunes. Was that intentional or do you think that vibe just emerged naturally out of the process?
I'm glad you hear that, because we consciously decided to go back to a more traditional D&B sound with the EP. I mean there are the obvious drumstep and dubstep tunes on there too, but the main idea was to go back to a more classic Counterstrike sound. It's a constant struggle trying to keep our sound up to date, but also not lose our roots.
You can't please them all, but the response on the EP so far has been overwhelmingly positive from all corners of the scene. We have some people playing tracks from the new EP that usually wouldn't play our music. Just yesterday I received feedback from Maxim from The Prodigy saying The Z-word is a "TOUGH TUNE!!!"
The EP itself, as always, is chock-full of heavy-duty bangers, and yet not quite in the way that your younger selves might have imagined. Back in the heyday of balls-to-the-wall dark dnb, would you have ever been able to pull off a bit like "Masterpiece" and survive the wrath of your most rabid fans?
As I mentioned earlier, it's a constant struggle to keep our sound up to date, but at the same time not forget our roots. Masterpiece is in many ways similar to some of older material we did with Soma. Tracks like Can't Let Go and Never Enough. Sure it's a drumstep track, but it's still aggressive.
It does have an intentional 80s feel to it, because I've been listening to a lot of 80s lately; Simple Minds, Depeche Mode, and so on. I did the track and felt that some vocals would send it over the top. After hunting for an 80's sounding vocalist for ages my friend suggested Paul [McClaney] when he heard a track Paul did with Concord Dawn. It was a breath of fresh air. Amazing stuff. Basically sounds like Burial with vocals.
The evolution in your sound comes full circle in 'Step Into The Fire' where Jonny Pettersson helps you introduce a new style of headbanging business to the dancefloor. First off, introduce Jonny Pettersson to our readers and talk a bit about how this tune came together, its influences, and how punishing the dancefloor at a different tempo is in many ways, more dynamic and powerful than may be expected.
Jonny works with my wife here in Prague. She got us to exchange music. He is originally from Sweden and still fronts the band Syn:Drom. Check them out. Heavy stuff. I asked him if he wanted to collaborate and 'Step Into The Fire' was born. He did the vocals and some of the guitar. He can do some amazing things with his voice. Like everyone else I thought it's as simple as growling down a microphone, but it's a way more complex process than that. It's always fun working at a different tempo for me as usually I'm at 172+ BPM. I liked doing something metal influenced at 140 BPM as it sounds super heavy. Doing the breakdown in the song was a lot of fun as it's basically a straight up metal breakdown.
Now, of course, "The Z Word" brings on the apocalyptic vibes in full force. Are you guys a fan of zombies flicks? Have you ever met any fans that maybe inspired this tune?
A friend of mine forwarded me this real, but over the top American news footage of the Bath Salts incident where the one guy chewed off the other guys face. It was an interview with someone from the Center for Disease Control where the news interviewer in so many words asked him if there is a zombie outbreak in America since so many people are "Googling the Z-word". Of course so many parallels can be drawn between festival and club goers and the sample. I have to deal with a lot of kind, but overzealous fans in close to zombie-like states at festivals and clubs on a regular basis. I just couldn't resist using that sample. Made me giggle on many occasions.
Last but not least, what else should we be looking out for both in the coming year?
Next up on Algorythm we have a killer EP from Sinister Souls and we are busy with a remix for BSE of 'Gunseller' as well as a remix for Zardonic. Other than that be looking out for a 12" on PRSPCT and some more solo Counterstrike material.
WORDS: Chris Muniz
Counterstrike's Fire EP is unleashed on the masses via Algorythm on November 5th. Until then, chew on this:
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