Having put the self proclaimed monster of their debut album Northern Soul and its subsequent CPF Live project back in its cage, Craggz & Parallel Forces take us on a warm, lyrical journey through the music that's firing them up again.
Well known and respected across the scene - due to their hard working, harder partying antics - if the musical feast on offer on Northern Soul was any measure of how far their production skills have come since Dillinja and Lemon D snapped them up, then the treats on offer on this month's cover CD are a further yardstick of how quickly their reputation has been cemented in that two year period.
"One thing I will say about doing this CD is that it was insanely hard to do," admits Craggz with a furrowed brow.
"When you approach everyone, all your friends and the producers and labels that you know, and say that you're doing the CD, not one single person will give you a track because it's a free CD. So basically we just went round with a sledgehammer and threatened people," he laughs.
"No, but we've pulled a lot of favours in and begged all of our mates to let us use their music. I can honestly say hands down, that this is probably one of the best ones there has been for a couple of years."
More on the CD later though. The last time we met with the lads, they were looking stressed and restless, with album artwork to finalise and live dates to arrange. After meeting, we make our way across Shoreditch towards Cargo's outdoor terrace and it strikes me that they both look a lot happier and healthier. Have they been hiding out on a health farm since the album launch?
"We've been doing this since we were kids and not writing music would send us insane. It has done," Craggz points out. "We had about six months off after the album. That and the live thing just took so much out of us. Just recently we've had the inspiration to get back in the studio and over the last two or three months we've been loving it. We invested in a whole new set up. We stepped away, came back and started to develop a new sound which is quite far removed from what we're known for."
"It was nearly three years in the studio every day with each other," says Doug nodding in agreement. "When we weren't doing stuff for the album or for our label, we were doing remixes. You need to pull yourself out of it to get excited again. You almost get to the stage where you're going through the motions.
"It's important to stand back and think about coming in from a fresh direction. What we did wasn't formulaic but obviously you establish a sound. People want to hear that sound but we needed more of a challenge. If we had just kept going, then by now it would have just been music by numbers."
You can almost see the shadow of the fatigue in their eyes when they point out that their collective musical output has delivered seven 12-inches, a 22-track, double album and 12 remixes in just three years – most of that in the latter part of the period. They also reckon that at least ten tunes ended up on the cutting room floor in the final stages of the album's production.
Then there was all the DJing and the time and energy spent promoting the CPF Live project. The shadow of the fatigue is just that though and it's fading fast. This is clearly a great time to get them to mix a cover CD for Knowledge, with the hunger for new music, new productions and new experiences clearly burning bright again.
"It's a really exciting time," Craggz duly informs us. "Our focus for now is our label, Product. Release five has just come out which was a hidden track off the album. Valve couldn't fit it into their schedule so we felt we should release it ourselves.
"I think that Product as a label has always had a lot of respect. Not as much as Valve but when we go abroad everyone is talking about releases like Red Octopus too. It's the deeper side of what we do. Valve has really looked after us though. They gave us a platform to release our album on and we can't big them up enough."
"You have to use a more established label as a platform," Doug interjects, "to get people to take notice of you. It's not the way you're gonna make a lot of money in the long run though. Most people make the majority of their money from DJing. Obviously we're lucky that the label we deal with, unlike other labels, weren't asking for a cut of our PRS money or half our remix fees. All of that has been ours so compared to a lot of people we've done quite well."
"We're going to keep releasing our stuff through Product," he continues, "but we're gonna start doing a little more A&R and put out other people's music, from established or new artists. We want to get it up to a steady release rate but obviously still keep a quality control. We're not in a hurry to get new artists but if people want to send us their stuff, if the right things come along then we'll listen to it. Musically it really has to grab our imagination."
Although Craig and Doug have always been the more public face of the group, undertaking DJ duties and conducting the interviews, fellow cohort Malcolm Sharp (aka Mala) played a massive role in shaping the sound that they developed and cemented in the album. Kmag is aware that Mala recently relocated back to the band's hometown of Newcastle but Craggz is quick to dismiss any rumours of a departure.
"To put the record straight Mala hasn't actually left," he explains. "He simply fell in love and moved back to Newcastle. It's just a sabbatical and we still talk to him a lot. He's still part of CPF and we're gonna write music with him again. We're just trying to make the most of things for now, get on and try some different stuff."
Although they are all highly proud of their album, they are in no hurry to go through that painful creative process again just yet. They don't, however, rule out the prospect of further work with Jungle Drummer, Stamina, Deeizm and Andy – all now close friends.
In fact, Shelley lends her sultry vocals to this mix CD and plans are in the pipeline to incorporate Jungle's rhythms into some new tracks. As well as refocusing on their collective musical output Craggz has also apparently turned his hand to his first solo 12-inch in four years – a release for Hospital Records sister label Med School Flick The Switch / My Detroit.
"We want to bring the brand of Product forward," explains Craggz in conclusion. "It would be nice for people to walk into a record shop, see the logo and associate it with some sort of quality, in the same way as when you see say the Moving Shadow symbol. It's all about writing music for us at the moment - getting back in the studio and just enjoying ourselves really. That's why we came together."
Craggz & Parallel Forces talk us through their cover CD, featuring Deeizm on MC duties.
1. High Contrast – Everything's Different (Calibre Remix)
"Been playing this tune a lot over the past few months. Got a wicked intro that just keeps building. Great as an opener or for cooling things down mid-set. All about the groove."
2. Makoto & Deeizm - Monotonic (Bingo Beats)
"Shelley's recent collaboration with Makoto shows she can flex it behind the buttons too. Smoke-y, jazz vibes where horns and funky organ bass mingle with smoothed out Rhodes and Shelley's sultry vocals."
3. Pharoahe Monch - Body Baby (Sigma Remix)
"This cheeky little number flips the original in fine style. Sparkling Rhodes and soulful vocals go head-to-head with menacing synth-y growls, percussive Bingo bass and Pharoahe's sizzling rhyme stylings."
4. Mutated Forms - Blue Magic (Formation)
"Estonia's up-and-comers. Been playing this for about a year and it always goes off. Warm, synth-y tones, heavenly piano and euphoric diva wailings, combined with driving beats and bassline to great effect."
5. Craggz & Parallel Forces - Thundersoul (Valve)
"One of our first tracks on Valve and probably one of our favourites. Don't wanna blow our own trumpet but this one always smacks it, nuff said."
6. New Generation - Da Da Da (Craggz & Parallel Forces Remix)
"The British Council and Bulgarian government commissioned some artists from different genres, including us, Howie B, Ladytron and Krust to remix music from an old Bulgarian record label."
7. Heist - Go to Work VIP (Dub)
"Heist getting thugged out here with trademark chunky rolling beats and twisted jump up b-line. Loved the original and the VIP just takes it up a notch."
8. S.P.Y. - Ghost Ship VIP (Dub)
"Another tasty VIP of an already smokin' riddim. Great combination of spooky sci-fi atmospheres, heavy stepping beats and fucked up, speaker shaking bass lines."
9. Fracture & Neptune - Killa What (Play Music)
"Taking things further into the realms of the spooky and twisted. Original, other worldly vibes with an aggressive rattling Ryde break, paranoid synths and a distorted, twitchy bassline."
10. Craggz & Parallel Forces & Mosus - Boogie Down (Product Dub)
"Totally different from our usual sound. Spaced out vibes and naughty, analogue bass, mixed with a couple of choice hip-hop samples. More to come from this meeting of minds!"
11. Mosus - 1999
"This takes us back to the future, stripping things right down. Deep driving bass tones, stepping beats and eerie percussive effects create an awesome edgy atmosphere. Perfect for taking our sets in another direction."
12. Spirit - SHK (Play Music)
"One of the original masters of the scene. This techno-fuelled stepper perfectly combines the deep and the dark. Great emotive sound on this really takes you back."
13. Phobia - Lifeless (Dub)
"Another wicked track from our old pal Phobia. Scarily good with real seedy, morphing Reece lines, spooky vocal snippets and great switching breaks. Guaranteed to pummel the crowd into submission!"
14. Craggz & Parallel Forces - Red Octopus (Product)
"One of our darker tunes with a skanking, dubby vibe. Made it in our old studio at Doug's mum's house. She was a bit scared when we were recording the eerie monk vocals. Shouts to Big P!"
15. Heist - Feel No Way (Dub)
"Been playing a lot of Jim's stuff over the last year. The heavenly pads and rising arpeggio synths lull you into a false sense of security, then out of nowhere comes the sick synth line."
16. Miracle – Blazin' Fire (Valve)
"Glad to see Dan back on it after a brief hiatus. Aggy, ragga vocals over a background of dub sirens, set the tone for a barrage of rolling breaks and heavy weight bass lines."
17. CLS - Flashback
"Picked this up from CLS's partner in crime Wax last time we were DJing in Poland. Definitely a heavy hitter for the end of the night. Love the dancehall step and bassline pressure."
18. Dillinja - Fly Away (Valve Recordings)
"Always keep a few of Karl's bits in the bag to finish our sets - only problem is choosing which one! This one does the business with his winning combination of dreamy intro and trademark vocals meet super thuggin' beats and bass guaranteed to bring the house down."
Mix hosted by www.digital-tunes.net
Aussie drum & bass producer Safire drops by for a chat and reveals where to download his Innerspace Audio track for free!
Check The Foundation With David Heartbreak
Brooklynite David Heartbreak is launching the Foundation EP on OWSLA, and reception has been hot so far. Blending hip hop with dance vibes, we wanted to investigate from the man himself.
Philth Pours Out His Heart Songs
More well known for his, well, filth, Philth has gone all romantic on us for his new EP. We chat basslines, waistlines and inspirations right here.
Goodlooking Meets Spotify
One of the most groundbreaking labels in the history of UK dance music has teamed up with one of the leading streaming services online. We bring you the info right here.
Digital Soundboy Set Sail For Boat Party
Digital Soundboy are at it again. Ship ahoy for a summer boat party, we've got the details here.
Emissions Festival 2013 Review
We check out 'West Coast Bass Culture' festival Emissions...
Love Saves The Day 2013 Preview Mix
In anticipation of what promises to be an awesome event, Hodge & Shandy have put together a preview mix for Love Saves The Day.
Clima Guest Mix And Free Track
Spanish production duo Clima have some big releases coming up, and to celebrate, they have a guest mix and a track to give away.
One World Many Cultures With David Boomah
He has gone and done it. The new album from David Boomah is out now, and of course, Kmag wanted to get the lowdown from the man himself.
Empress Guest Mix
Best known for her marathon genre-bending sessions behind the decks, Empress checks in with a heavy-duty guest mix and broad-ranging interview that spans the course of her career.
Swindle Lives For The Jazz
Swindle's new album is coming out on DEEPMEDi on June 16th. We caught up with the bass music jet-setter to discuss his work and the sense of achievement of the album's completion.
Bassclash Meets Dubstar
Leading dubstep label Dubstar is teaming up with Bassclash for a huge compilation album, out now. Find out more here.
With interest peaking in their upcoming London night, we find out more about the Innersoul crew, and what they are up to.
CM Sounds Competition
CM Sounds have some amazing music technology courses on offer. They are now teaming up with Kmag for a competition. We give you all you need to know right here.
Aural Imbalance Comes Out Of Plato's Cave
Aural Imbalance is one half of Out Of Plato's Cave, who have recently dropped an album on the Greta Cottage Workshop label. We speak to him about it here.