Bristol duo Dr Specs and Benny Kane, aka Urban Knights, have made a name for themselves in recent times for their genre-crossing audio-visual mash-up sets but they've also been busy in the studio crafting their own original productions. The first main release of these sessions is the 'Step On Dem' featuring ragga MC Blackout JA. Find out what to expect and download their exclusive mix below.
How did you guys meet and get Urban Knights off and running?
Dr Specs: I grew up in south west London and moved to Bristol to pursue higher education. Whilst there my love of hip hop drove me to parties and events that were in fact the places Benny was DJing.
Benny: I was doing student club nights in Bristol at a club called Level when Klaud came on board. We then started doing bigger events, moving into 2000 capacity shows weekly and it just reached a point where we constantly had to come up with bigger and better bookings and ideas to entertain our crowds. We booked a guy called Mike Realm, saw what he was doing and thought we could do it and tailor it to our audience.
You don't seem to associate yourself with a specific genre, using elements from many styles for both live shows and production. Was this always the game plan?
We have always believed in mixing it up and we like lots of different styles of music but, at the end of the day, it all can be defined as bass music. Through playing different tempos in our sets this has moved into our productions, as we're producing music for these different sections. Our AV style has also always worked better mashing up lots of genres to complement the visuals we were using.
For us it's always been fundamental for our sets to have lots of pace, we want people to be dancing, having a rave, it's the reason why we all to go out. We never wanted our AV show to be a stop and stare experience, that can happen a lot in AV, it's easy sometimes for it to become more about the visuals and less about the music, and we really put in a lot of time and thought into getting the right balance between the both.
Do you guys do all the video cutting/editing and arrangement yourself?
Yes, we build the shows ourselves. We have always been able to edit. It was a bit rough when we first started, but just like anything the more you do something the better you get. Now we use a number of different VJ software and editing programs and take the same approach to a video the same way we would a tune.
When we got the booking to do our first ever show to a mass crowd, we spent three months in the studio creating the show!! We definitely had cabin fever. When you're working intensely on a project like that it's hard to gauge what the reaction to it is going to be, but when did the show and people were commenting and laughing and really enjoying the show, that's when we knew we were heading in the right direction with it, with the show format and our style of editing.
Rumours are that some of your first set-ups incorporated a DVD player, is this true?
Yes, good research!! Haha!! When the equipment first came out, DVJs were £2000 a deck and we had no money. We had to put together what we could, bought one deck and then had to use a DVD player for background visuals to mix in and out of.
How does your set-up look for a live show these days, what hardware/software do you use?
At first the only kit you could get was the Pioneer DVJ 1000s and V4 video mixer. All the kit was so expensive which definitely made it hard for the scene to grow, but we saved our pennies and eventually bought all our own kit. This was great, but as we progressed to do more and more gigs overseas, once again we ran into problems with promoters not being able to source kit. Now we've moved onto Video SL Serato which means we can just travel any where in the world with our laptops and perform our shows on standard CDJs.
What were your first influences that made you want to develop your act so that you were putting on more of a show as apposed to just getting behind the decks?
It all stemmed from us putting on events and promoting, we were doing 2000 people shows a week and constantly had to come up with concepts to entertain the crowd. We booked Mike Realm who came down and was scratching film samples, playing music videos, it was insane!! But after seeing his show we thought we could do it in a more tailored way that would work better for our audience. That scratched the surface for us and we delved more into the world of AV, drawing from acts like Eclectic Method and Hexstatic in the UK and Jordan Laws and 2nd Nature who were doing the same across the pond.
Tell us about your latest track 'Step On Dem' out on Top Billin, how was it collaborating with Blackout JA?
Blackout JA's a true don in Bristol, predominantly through reggae, dancehall and drum & bass releases, and we wanted to bring those vibes to a bass house tune. That's the way we like it
You've worked some impressive remixes, most of which can be downloaded for free from your Soundcloud page. Is this just a bit of fun for now? Any particular artist out there that you would love to remix?
A lot of the remixes are extensions of tunes we've grown up with and music we'd like to play in our set. It's nice to give back to our fan base as well and give them access to beats where they can support our sound. DJ Zinc has always been one of our favourite producers so to remix one of his tunes would be amazing. Also Damien Marley, that would be some amazing vocals to produce.
What have you guys got on your iPods at the moment, for when you're not working?
Justin Martin – 'Ghettos and Gardens', that album is siiiiiick.
Any exciting names coming out of Bristol that you can tip us on?
Yeah, these house producers called Forget Me Not (FGMN). I got played some of their beats that are gonna be coming out in the next six months and they have got some bangers!
Last year you were residents at the Volvo Snowbombing European tour, TTR Snowboard World Tour and the Nissan Free ride World Tour. How was it out there? Did you manage to fit any skiing in?
The snow tours are always fantastic, to be in the mountains for work, DJing and playing events, it's always a fantastic privilege. Normally the travel and DJ schedules are pretty relentless though making it hard to find time to ski, but any chance we get we're hitting the slopes (with both DJ hands fully insured).
The summer is upon us, how does the schedule look for Urban Knights? Where can we look forward to seeing you? Any shows or festivals that you're particularly hyped for?
Yeah, pretty busy!! Lots of gigs and trying to fit studio time in between them as well. We now have our sites set on our upcoming set at Razzmatazz in Barcelona, and D Club in Switzerland in the next few weeks.
Cheers for your time boys! Any final shouts?
Knowledge is power!!
Words: Eddy Mac
Download Urban Knights' Kmag guest mix here
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