Brothers Ben and Louis Helliker-Hales had somewhat of an international breakthrough year in 2015 after releasing stellar EPs as Chaos In The CBD on Church and Peckham staple Rhythm Section International. Both demonstrated the pair’s penchant for starry-eyed, jazz-inflected deep house, a sound they’ve been honing since first releasing music in 2011. Just days into the new year and another release is imminent: Digital Harmony on Mule Musiq, pushing complex, organic-sounding drums further forward in the mix while smearing out the tonal elements to create warm, hazy dance floor excursions.
We’ve been really excited to present this one since getting the gears in motion back in September and the mix doesn’t disappoint. Expect a couple new and exclusive CBD cuts in the mix, alongside a jazzy and spectral selection of disco and deep house – tracklist at the bottom. We also asked the brothers some questions about their musical heritage, New Zealand music, settling into the UK and what the future holds.
Chaos in the CBD – Digital Harmony EP is out 15th January on Mule Musiq.
Hi guys, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these.
Firstly, I want to start off talking about your development over the years. Your sound has certainly changed a lot – the earlier stuff being a lot punchier than say, ‘816 to Nunhead’ or your recent Rhythm Section release, whilst at the same time still releasing stuff like the No Signal Found EP. With your recent releases on Church and Mule Musiq, what sort of mode have you clicked into? Or do you even have modes?
Louis: I think we’ve just finally found our groove really. We’ve always been very open to experimenting with new sounds and concepts, partly I suppose to avoid being pigeonholed, but also to keep things fresh and to keep us from getting bored. It’s quite refreshing to have developed a more consistent sound though. You can expect to hear a lot more stuff this year in the same vein as our last few releases. The more techno inclined stuff is likely to come out under a new alias.
With that, have you seen much of a change in your production style over the years, with things like equipment? Do you have a go to piece of production tool?
Beans: In terms of our production style its never really come down to equipment changing our style as we don’t really own much equipment, just an old beat up PC and a copy of Ableton 8! Although I have been sampling a lot more since I started working at YAM records which I think brings a nice organic touch to the sound.
What were your musical upbringings and what was your first introduction to producing?
Beans: We grew up on artists like Joy Division and The Cure, James Brown and Pat Metheny to name a few. Played the drums for eight or nine years in jazz bands and a few indie rock bands and stuff. First got into producing on Fruity Loops back when i was about 15 or 16 and that was just messing around really making things which amused me generally.
How long was it before you found your rhythm and got releasing music?
Beans: It wasn’t until I was about 17 or 18 when I first started making music which was playable in a club environment. Can’t say I can look back on those tracks and say I’m proud of them but it was a learning experience and I think from doing so I have the ability to now produce all types of music.
Growing up in one of the most isolated capital city in the world, what did you experience in terms of nightlife and culture that informed your creative exploits?
Louis: Compared to somewhere like London, growing up in New Zealand I think we were both very naive regarding dance music. We both firmly disliked anything to do with it until we were around the age of 19 or 20. It was around that time we first experienced clubbing and consequently began to understand, not only the music, but the culture that goes with it. That was when we “sold our guitars and bought turntables” so to speak.
For people unfamiliar, is there much of a scene in Auckland?
Louis: Like you said, Auckland is a pretty isolated city. What we quickly learned in London is that if someone, for example, Moodymann comes to town, you can easily give it a miss knowing that he’s likely to return in 6 months time. In Auckland, however, if someone like that comes through, you’d be mad to miss it. Artists like that don’t always make it to New Zealand, even when they’ve got shows booked in Australia. In saying that there definitely is a scene here.
The problem is it’s a constant battle trying to educate people and get people to attend gigs. There are some people continuing to carry the torch that are worth mentioning though. Namely our friend Tom who continues to put on some really fantastic events. He had Seven Davis Jr. and Francis Inferno Orchestra play last Sunday and although that’s generally considered the norm throughout Europe, it’s still quite a novelty here to be partying on a Sunday. Inky Waves is another collective worth mentioning, all local cats showcasing upcoming talent from around New Zealand. There are also some very talented producers here too. Recloose and Frank Booker are two names that come to mind. Both equally amazing producers in their own rights and have always been guys we’ve looked up to.
This will be your second release on a London-based record label this year. What has attracted you to this side of the world and, particularly to Peckham, where you now reside?
Louis: We had eyes on Europe ever since we toured France in 2011. Initially we wanted to relocate to Paris but figured London might be the more sensible option. We kind of just fell into Peckham because our friend’s aunty had offered us a place to stay. It didn’t take us long before we realised that Peckham was in fact a hotbed of local talent and a perfect place for us to do what we do.
You’ve had two majorly popular, trumpet-infused EPs now. Why do you think your mellow, jazzy releases are so popular? Do you work with musicians and record these samples live?
The EP Midnight in Peckham was thankfully very well received, slightly unexpectedly too. We knew collaborating with Bradley and Rhythm Section was a sensible choice but the whole thing selling out in a week or two was rather surprising for us. I think the music is just accessible and is appreciated by a wider range of people. There’s nothing very esoteric about it. The amount of friends we’ve had that tell us their mum and dad really like ‘Midnight in Peckham’ or ’78 to Stanley Bay’ is kind of testament to that accessibility. All the trumpet infused stuff has been collaborative efforts with our friend Isaac Aesili. He’s an amazing musician who tours with the likes of Lord Echo and Fat Freddy’s Drop and is just a real pleasure to work with. We’ll basically send him the framework of a track and he’ll return with some live horn work, it doesn’t require much in way of editing it’s just a little mixing.
Your recent Church EP, Constraints of Time Travel, has a futurism feel to it. Could you go into the overall theme a little bit and what you’d like listeners to get out of it?
I wouldn’t say there is much of an overall theme to the whole record although the title track came about from experimenting with a few different plug ins and using a lot of run sequences and re sampling. I think the whole idea of the track is that it’s meant to be more of a journey/listening experience rather than a dancefloor tune.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve made for us?
I’m currently in New Zealand catching up with family and friends. It’s been three years since I’ve been home so it’s been a lovely reprieve from London life and a much needed break. It’s obviously Summer here so the tracks I selected are a little more that way inclined. I managed to record the mix live at Burger Fuel Radio. They have an open door policy with a fantastic studio setup and are intent on pushing local talent. As always, there’s a lot of new stuff in there we’ve been playing recently and a couple exclusives from us thrown in for good measure.
And of course as if I couldn’t ask, what’s up next for you guys?
We have a new EP on Japanese label ‘Mule Musiq’ dropping this week, which we’re both really excited about. Also a couple contributions to compilations that are coming out sometime this year. We intend to remain as prolific as we were in 2015.
Chaos In The CBD – Invisible Spectrum
Baaz – Endori (Dorisburg Remix)
Mad Rey – Impuissance
Rhythm & Soul – Summer Downtown
KC Flightt – Voices (Original Dub Mix)
Chaos In The CBD – Natural Taboo
Red Rack’em – Wonky Bassline Disco Banger
Call Super – Migrant
Norm Talley – Cosmic Waves
Project Pablo – Closer
Glenn Underground – Mental Black Resurrection
Santiago Salazar – Ojo por Ojo
Jaffa Surfa – Souled Out
Matrixxman – Earth Like Conditions (Instance Remix)
Eduardo De La Calle – The Window Rocket