The emperors are here

High on their Grammy win this year,bass-heavy act Nero makes their India debut with a festival that combines art and music.

Published: December 7, 2013 4:15 am

As youngsters partying at the legendary south London club Fabric,the duo,Daniel Stephens and Joe Ray,knew that the music they wanted to make had to be bass heavy. Little did they,then teenagers,realise that the niche genre they love was soon going to take over the world. Nine years later,dubstep and bass heavy sounds have become synonymous with Electronic Dance Music (EDM),and their act Nero,is one of the biggest names in the genre.

The duo,who is classically trained,started making waves in the underground jungle scene as producers when they were still in their teens. But it is a remix of Promises,their own track with Skrillex,which has given them worldwide fame including a Grammy this year. Nero is coming to India to play at a festival that is looking to combine visual arts with music,an Amon Tobin-esque production. The festival which will be held on December 21 in Bangalore will also feature dubstep veteran Rusco and a host of Indian acts including the Bay Beat Collective. In this interview,Nero talks about going mainstream and the future of dubstep.

How did the collaboration with Skrillex come about?

We’d been talking with him about doing a Promises remix,he’d been really into the original when we’d played it to him. We decided to work on a few ideas in the studio and the track was pretty much done the same day. That was probably the first time we’d worked with another producer,it felt very natural though.

There have been accusations of you selling out because Promises won the Grammy. Do you fear being perceived as too mainstream an act?

We never had that thing of wanting to be underground or not liking something once it became popular. We wanted to be a ‘pop’ act but by doing it in a completely genuine way. I’m sure there isn’t a band in the world that doesn’t want mainstream success. We’ve been very lucky but also worked hard so it’s nice to get an award like a Grammy. It shouldn’t change anything.

What were your first few studio sessions as teenagers,and how much has changed now,a decade later?

An understanding of music theory has always been very useful to us,since we both are trained musicians. The first song we ever wrote was on Joe’s mum’s computer at home. In less than 10 years,so much has changed. We’ve been writing our second album in big studios on either side of the Atlantic. Being musicians has helped a lot when we’ve done orchestral work such as The Great Gatsby score and Symphony 2808 for the BBC. It’s also a big part of the way we write our EDM tracks.

Where is the next space bass heavy music is heading in and what do you guys see Nero playing in the next five years?

I think we’ll end up just playing more of our own stuff. We realised at one point that when people come to see an act they mostly want to hear the musicians play their own songs. In terms of gigs,we are doing a lot of big stage appearances,but we still do intimate ones every now and then. We especially enjoy the after party or our record label’s night they do in a small club in East London. We feel like we can play absolutely anything at those kinds of gigs. But for most of the gigs,we stick to structuring good DJs and using a lot of elements of our own music.

Is there a buzz about the India music scene back in London? How do you think the crowd will vibe with the music?

I have to say that I’m coming into this show completely not knowing what to expect,we don’t tend to know what the buzz of a place is like until we’ve witnessed it ourselves first hand. Smirnoff Experience is our first festival in the country and I’m excited to see what’s going on in India.

KEVIN LOBO

kevin.lobo@expressindia.com

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