THE VAN­GUARD PROJECT

DnB duo BCee and Villem show us how they work to­gether at light­ning speed, cre­at­ing a whole track in front of our eyes in this 80-minute stu­dio video

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

Straight into the ac­tion

Rolls and Royce… De Niro and Pa­cino… ba­con and cheese… when the perfect pair join forces, you know it’s gonna be some­thing spe­cial, and The Van­guard Project brings to­gether a two­some that’s sure to worry even the most res­o­lute of sub­woofers. Com­bin­ing the badass bass sadism of Steve Je­froy – aka BCee – and the low-down dark and dirty deeds of Villem (An­drew Wil­son to the DVLA), this act has shaken more cones than a 90-year-old ice cream man.

For Steve and Drew, what’s im­por­tant is to get stuff done, and the two have set­tled into an ef­fi­cient sys­tem that lets them col­lab­o­rate on tunes with as lit­tle fric­tion as pos­si­ble. “I think one of the rea­sons we’ve both got so pro­duc­tive do­ing this is be­cause we’ve both got kids,” laughs Steve. “You don’t have the lux­ury of just say­ing ‘ I feel like do­ing it now’ – you’ve got to do it when­ever you have a win­dow.”

We’re in The Van­guard Project’s Ip­swich stu­dio, and Steve and Drew are about to show us ex­actly how they put to­gether their tunes in hyper-quick time. Be­fore the cam­eras started rolling, we got chat­ting to find out how things were go­ing. Com­puter Mu­sic: It seems there’s been a lot of Van­guard Project stuff com­ing out… Steve Je­froy: “We only had our first Van­guard Project re­lease last March, and we’re about to re­lease our sev­enth EP! We’ve done about 20 remixes! We’re pretty much hit­ting our one-tune-a-week tar­get.

“We’re plan­ning to do an al­bum, but we won’t stop put­ting out our EPs – we’re up to num­ber five on Spear­head and we’ve done two for Fo­cus.”

: OK, it’s time to spill the beans – how can other peo­ple man­age to be as pro­duc­tive as you are? SJ: “The big­gest prob­lem for [young pro­duc­ers] is that they’re hung up on the lit­tle things – they’re wor­ried about get­ting their sidechain­ing right or what­ever… but how many tunes have they fin­ished?

“My way of do­ing it is, fin­ish the tune, and then let’s worry about mak­ing it bet­ter – oth­er­wise you’re just never ever go­ing to re­lease any­thing.” An­drew Wil­son: “We want to write and write and write, not get bogged down in the ma­nip­u­la­tion. As soon as we’re work­ing to­gether re­ally well, it’s fun! We used to spend way too long on the kick drum and stuff like that, and now I re­alise that not many peo­ple even care about it! It’s only the pro­duc­ers’ pro­duc­ers who re­ally care how good that kick drum is; most peo­ple are just lis­ten­ing to the tune. It’s re­fresh­ing to be able to just roll it out. SJ: “The tech­ni­cal side is im­por­tant, but you can worry about it later – if you haven’t got a tune, you’ll never have any­thing for any­one to work with.”

“We want to write and write and write, not get bogged down in the ma­nip­u­la­tion”

: Plus, you guys are mostly sam­ple-based, and Drew does a lot of work on sam­ple packs, so in a way, that’s where a lot of the work is done. AW: “I did spend many years build­ing that col­lec­tion of sam­ples – kick drums and stuff – and now I don’t have to do that be­cause they’re all there just wait­ing to be used. You for­get how much ef­fort it was to get to that point.”

: So where does the mix­ing work come into the process, if at all? SJ: “We mostly mix as we go, but one or both of us will give a track an ex­tra bit of at­ten­tion be­fore it goes to mas­ter­ing if it needs it. It’s of­ten more things like put­ting an end­ing on a track if we’ve made it stop dead, or some­thing like that.” AW: “It’s the Cal­i­bre mind­set – he writes so much mu­sic. His mix­downs can be a bit shabby, but ev­ery­one loves it. It makes me think: should you spend four hours on the mix­down, or just write another tune?”

Tag-team tune-writ­ing

Steve and Drew are both se­ri­ously busy men. With Steve’s busi­ness at­tend­ing to Spear­head Records and his own work as BCee, and Drew’s work on tunes and sam­ple packs as one half of Villem and McLeod, time is al­ready tight for The Van­guard Project, and it’s not go­ing to get looser any time soon. As if that wasn’t enough, the two both have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for young hu­man be­ings with needs, de­sires and emo­tions! With this in mind, the boys have had to get them­selves into a groove where they can col­lab­o­rate with ease. We asked them how they man­age it… Com­puter Mu­sic: So what’s a typ­i­cal work­ing setup for a Van­guard Project ses­sion? SJ: “Over the years I’ve built up a ridicu­lous num­ber of sam­ples. I know Able­ton back­wards, Drew knows Logic back­wards, nei­ther of us use the other one.

“We both work in the same room but kind of in­de­pen­dently. Some­times we’re mak­ing two tracks at once and swap­ping them over. It’s like you’re col­lab’ing on­line, but the dif­fer­ence is you can say, ‘Mate, this needs a string’, or ‘Lis­ten to this’ – and of course you get a re­ally quick re­sponse from the other per­son.”

: How do you make it work be­tween two dif­fer­ent DAWs? It cer­tainly seems that one can be hard enough to col­lab­o­rate with some­times. SJ: “We just have a Drop­box folder set up, and we go back and forth. This morn­ing, I put a beat to­gether, sent it to Drew, and then while I added a few sounds over the top, he pro­cessed the orig­i­nal beat and sent it back to me via Drop­box… and what I got back was a pro­gressed loop, which I put back into my project!”

: And you wouldn’t have it any other way? SJ: “I mean, I can use Logic, and Drew can use Live. I learned to pro­duce in Logic 4, but I don’t re­mem­ber any of the short­cuts, I don’t know how he has it all bussed…

“One time, we did do a remix in Stu­dio One, be­cause Drew de­cided he felt like do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent that day. He uses it with Sam McLeod. I mean… it came out al­right but I don’t re­ally know why we both­ered! As I’ve al­ways said, with liq­uid DnB, it’s all about the vibe.”

: How much do you find you can get done in one ses­sion? SJ: “We usu­ally get some­thing fin­ished. Of­ten I’ll come in with a sketch al­ready, and to­gether we’ll get that to the point where it’s half an ar­range­ment.

“If we get to the point where it’s just an ar­range­ment, of­ten he’ll just do it and I’ll start some­thing else – and then we’ll come back in the end and we’ll see what we feel about the whole thing.”

: Do you find that work­ing to­gether helps the mu­sic in other ways? AW: “A lot of it is con­fi­dence, I think. You know when you sit there think­ing, ‘Is this any good or not?’, the other one will say, ‘Yeah, that’s wicked, carry on’, and it stops you sec­ond-guess­ing your own de­ci­sions.”

: Pre­sum­ably, you’ll come back and tidy things up later on… SJ: “Of­ten our tunes haven’t got out­ros, but when we’re go­ing to re­lease them, yeah, we might de­cide to spend an hour tidy­ing it up.”

: We’ve talked about work­ing fast, but are there any times when things start to slow down? SJ: “Be­cause we’re so sam­ple-based, we’re cau­tious about start­ing to get vo­cal­ists in… but we’re do­ing it that way to make the al­bum a bit dif­fer­ent. We’re wait­ing for at least three vo­cals at the mo­ment – it can be frus­trat­ing to have to do that.”

“When I’m do­ing BCee stuff, and when Villem’s do­ing his stuff with McLeod, we don’t work any­thing like this. I take ages do­ing ev­ery­thing; re­ally faff about with it.”

“We both work in the same room but kind of in­de­pen­dently. Some­times we make two tracks at once”

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