Four years ago I heard a UKF dubstep exclusive called, ‘Feel Good’. At the time, I didn’t know who Modestep was, and I didn’t know it was their first official release. After an extended dubstep overdosing, beginning in roughly 2008, I was getting ready to take a step back from the genre altogether. Modestep brought me back. I had a chance to see them perform live in 2012 for the first time at Baltimore’s final Starscape Festival. Their live performance was unrelenting. As the band played through the sunset, fans were drawn in to their energy, their poise, and to lead-singer Josh Friend’s on-stage charisma. You could feel the blood pressure elevate and the passion in the band descended osmotically onto the crowd. In 2013, Modestep released their debut album, ‘Evolution Theory‘, followed by a massive North American tour.
After a two year hiatus, straight from the smoke of London, Modestep has catapulted back into the spotlight with their sophomore album release. After touring on Evolution Theory for 3 years, band members admit “it got to the point where we didn’t enjoy playing it.” The album was loaded with monstrous singles, including ‘Feel Good’ and ‘Sunlight’. Despite the album’s success, it felt rushed and incomplete. Being desperate for new material and for a new sound, which they described, as “more authentic… We went into the studio for 2 years to learn our craft properly, and make the record we intended Evolution Theory to be.” The result of a ton of hard work, bleeding dedication, and a vicious love for music, was the release of their second album, London Road.
“If you want to dedicate your life to your art, get up and do something about it, don’t just sit at your computer, copying everyone else, and doing what everyone else is doing”
EDMTunes was given the opportunity to interview Modestep before their recent show in New York. Unlike Evolution Theory, London Road is the culmination of years of exploring music, technical learning, and tremendous hard work. So, what’s the point? London Road covers the Modestep spectrum; “garage, grime, drum n bass, jungle, and early dubstep.”
“With this record, I don’t care what anyone thinks about it. I’m proud of it, and that’s really the long and short of it. We could have made records for other people and made a lot more money and been a lot bigger… We could have done another album of ‘Sunlight’, but we didn’t want to. We’re sick of it. We’ve been touring with a live band for three years and our sound completely changed… We really wanted to get that across with London Road. We wanted to make sure that when you come and see us live, and when you buy our record, that they sound the same.”
Having had a chance to listen to the album prior to the interview, I was excited to hear about the creative process and collaborative work. I was also able to get the inside scoop on some of the songs on the record. Of the 12 original tracks on London Road, 7 were collaborations with other artists.
“Some of them are good friends and some we had never met. All of them we admired. They were the ones who got us into the music in the first place. This is just the dubstep that we like. We like Funtcase, we like Trolley Snatcha, we like Teddy Killerz. I’m quite old school, I come from the background where if you want to collaborate with someone then you have to be with them. You have to vibe and you have to feel the energy of that person in the room.”
“I feel like all the collabs we have on London Road are genuine… They feel like they come from both sounds”
The first track on the album is a collaboration with Funtcase called ‘Damien’. This tune immediately hit me as a new Modestep sound; something that wasn’t familiar from Evolution Theory. Damien took the intensity to another level, adding heavier basses and dirtier wubs. Obviously, working with Funtcase isn’t going to make anyone’s music fluffier but it was interesting to hear Modestep talk about how this is the sound they’ve always wanted.
“Funtcase is someone who we started listening to and decided we wanted to make music as good as him. He’s consistently made amazing music, since the beginning. We really wanted to do something together. Going back to Evolution Theory; if we had had the time, and the resources, and the expertise at that point we would have sounded more like Damien. The heavier dubstep thing took over, got bastardized, and then people became uninterested. The riddim sound that’s a bit more wobbly seems to be more popular at the moment. It’s the original dubstep that we listened to back in the day. It’s pretty cool that it’s made a full circle and it’s not just about how many fucking sounds you can get into 16 bars without any soul or music. That’s just stupidity. Stuff like that is painful to listen too; it’s just too intense. It’s not music anymore, it’s a ball of horrible frequency. It’s not just about kicking people’s fucking head’s in with sound for an hour and a half.”
The album’s second single, ‘Machines’, laid down controversial lyrics on top of ridiculous power chords. The band compares human beings in the digital age to living life like machines; “why do we just do what we’re told to do?” Modestep draws influence from The Prodigy and Rage Against the Machine.
“I feel like we should probably do a bit more, but I don’t want to get up there and talk at the crowd for half an hour about politics. It is music, and you are supposed to enjoy it as well as appreciate it. It’s just relatable stuff. There’s nothing too deep and heavy and disgusting. We’ll see what comes in the future. It depends how pissed off we get. The whole ‘Machines thing’ just comes from being pissed off at the up-rise of technology, government, and social media. We’re massive Rage Against The Machine fans.“
Finally, one of my favorite tracks on the album, ‘Circles’ featuring Skindred, takes an infused mix of reggae and drum n bass with a blast of death metal. I can’t wait to hear this one played with the live band.
“If you watch our live shows, they’re intense, they’re fuck you, their loud and obnoxious, and we really wanted to get that all across. The song is called ‘Circles’ because we want to start circle pits. I think when that drops, the pits are going to be there.”
Early that morning, I had just finished writing about an event that had specifically written on their ‘Festival FAQ’, that moshing would result in being thrown out of the festival. I was curious what Modestep would have to say to such strict policy.
“Go fuck themselves, that’s what I think about it. It’s quite pretentious to tell people how they can act at a show and how to take in your music and emote to it. If that’s how the music makes you feel… As long as no one gets hurt… Don’t be an asshole, obviously… If some dude was walking around [our show] swinging his arms, punching everyone, I’d probably jump down and fucking throw him out, to be honest.”
Now that London Road has finally been released, all that’s left to do is a massive international tour, right?
“Hopefully, we’ll be back in the U.S. in September to do a full, live show… We lose tens-of-thousands of [dollars] ever tour we do. We do it because we love it and we do it because we want to show the world what we can do. We fucking suffer in the pockets, but we do it, and we will continue to do it until we physically can’t do it anymore. I don’t think we’ve ever made any money off a tour, ever.”
Assume that the purpose of this article is to try and convince you to buy Modestep’s new album. I’d probably do something like put a really big link to iTunes at the bottom of the story. You’ve already spent a ton of time reading about our interview, so it makes sense that Modestep wants you to buy a copy of London Road, right? Maybe not.
“It’s all about sharing the music. More people need to share the music when they like it, instead of just keeping it to themselves. Buy [the album] if you want, if not fucking download it, just listen to it. Do it. It’ll be on Pirate Bay… Get it, listen to it, show your friends. Who gives a shit? We didn’t make it, to sell it. We want people to hear it. We put so much work into the album. If you like it, we don’t care about buying tickets to our show if you can’t afford them; we don’t care about buying merchandise if you can’t afford it; just tell your friends… Next time, I don’t think we’re going to sell it…“
“…we’ll just give it away for free”
London Road Tracklist:
1. ‘Damien’ feat. Funtcase
2. ‘Make You Mine’ feat. Teddy Killerz
4. ‘On Our Own’ feat. Culprate
5. ‘Feel Alive’
6. ‘Rainbow’ feat. The Partysquad
8. ‘Nightbus Home’
10. ‘Sing’ feat. Trolley Snatcha
11. ‘Circles’ feat. Skindred
12. ‘Game Over’ feat. Big Narstie, Dialect, Rude Kid, Discarda, Flowdan, Frisco, and LayZ