Music is truly powerful stuff. I mean, it’s not everyday that you hear music so exquisite it makes your heart literally ache with its ability to touch your soul and fill it with such complete euphoria that it turns even the most dreadful of days into ones that are bearable. Music that is so emotionally charged it makes you cry 'happy tears' when sitting alone in your living room.... or simply put: Music that actually speaks to you. Call me crazy if you like but the aural soundscapes of Framewerk are able to conjure up all those feelings mentioned above and infinitely more with every new [rewerk] they release and I for one, am loving every single second of it.
It has been virtually impossible to have made it through the last twelve months of lockdowns and not heard a track by the UK based DJ and production duo Darren James and Alec Milliner, aka Framewerk. With a sound that not only encapsulates a fresh new take on the ¾ breakbeat vibe, these guys seem to have an intuitive gift of being able to take the true essence of an original track and stamp it with their own signature sound that pays total and utter respect to its roots with bona fide class.
Their stunning [rewerk] of arguably one of the greatest dance tracks of all time ‘Age of Love’ by Age of Love along with a myriad of other classic 90’s dance tracks including Pete Lazonby’s ‘Sacred Cycles’, Apollo 44’s ‘Liquid Cool’ and BT’s ‘Remember’ are bringing back 'all the feels' for every single one of us old school ravers along with forging new heartfelt memories for all the younger ones as well.
Forming a group together in the mid 90's called 'Manhattan' has seen this union and their musical influences (which range from 70's prog rock to 80's electro) morph into a distinct and diverse electronic style. With tracks ranging from deep house, tech, nu disco and melodic breaks, Framewerk, more recently, have gained worldwide support from a majority of the progressive heavy hitters including John Digweed, Dave Seaman, Anthony Pappa and Hernan Cattaneo along with being signed to labels such as Selador, Toolroom, Armada, One of A Kind and their own label, Capital Heaven.
To say I adore Framewerk would [obviously] be an understatement [*read: I might [still] be getting a few sassy comments from my DJ colleagues after using FOUR of their remixes IN A ROW on my last mix] however, in my defence, as Albert Einstein once said "I see my life in terms of music" and well, quite honestly.... so do I! Their innate ability to invoke some of my most cherished memories of dance floors gone by whilst flooding me with those very emotions that I hold close to my heart makes them firmly my favourite producer duos in a very long time.
So without further to do, I’m really [REALLY!!] excited to introduce: FRAMEWERK
Hey guys! Thanks so very much for taking the time to chat with us all today.
Where and how are you both?
We are good. We are at a pub in Milton Keynes enjoying a post lockdown pint.
So I guess we should start at the beginning... I know you guys have been involved in the scene for quite some time now, not only as producers but as DJs as well…. How did you first meet? What clubs did you go to and what led you both towards DJing/producing music together? Any juicy stories there you would like to share?
We met through a mutual friend who was a vocalist in one of the bands Alec was in at the time (1992). We ended up promoting events together where we would DJ and ended up starting to produce tracks circa 1994. No juicy stories really, apart from the fact that we were generally smashed 24/7 at the time 😊
Do you remember your first really big DJ gig? What was it called and who were you supporting? Tell us about it.
Darren: Opening for John Digweed at Renaissance, Milton Keynes in 1998. Following that I remember playing at a night called 'Frisky' in Northampton alongside Dave Seaman where I was greeted with a big billboard featuring the both of us on it… Ironically, I ended up being thrown out that night thanks to the girlfriend I had at the time.
Alec: I started DJing in 1986 at the age of 16 in a young adult nightclub in Canada. Back then all those nights were big events as I was so young but trying to prove myself as a DJ when it wasn't anywhere near as popular a thing as it is nowadays.
Who were your greatest musical influences whilst growing up? Do you think subconsciously that these sounds influence your music production today and how so?
Darren: My main influences vary from Pink Floyd and Hawkwind through to the early sounds of electro with the Street Sounds Series (Volume 1 – 10 before it all got too hip hop)
Alec: My influences came from early electronic music such as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, and New Order which all still have major influences today from production through to melodic structures.
I mention in the intro that you have worked together under different monikers. Why did you settle on the name ‘Framewerk’ and does it have a particular meaning?
We thought of the name 'Framework' as a name to exemplify the foundation and structure of any dance track – i.e., bass, rhythm, and melody. And, as we generally don’t have any original ideas of our own, decided to rip of Kraftwerk and change the ”O” to an “E”.
In your own words, how would you describe the ‘Framewerk’ sound right now and how has your style evolved since the beginning of your career?
As Framewerk we started out making music more towards the Indie Dance and Nu Disco sound of 2013 but we have always had a deeper progressive edge to our sound, so we didn’t stick with Nu Disco for too long – we have always liked breaks from way back with Way Out West, FSOL, Rabbit in the Moon and Hybrid being particularly great with that sound so the breaks and progressive sound we produce now just kind of naturally evolved over the years.
You guys have had some major players support your music over the past decade or so and more recently having John Digweed championing your remixes on his infamous ‘Bunker Sessions’ series throughout the lockdowns. That must be a great feeling knowing one of the most respected DJs on the planet is playing your music. What does ‘success’ mean to Framewerk? What are your goals together as DJ/producers?
John Digweed has been supporting us for many years now. He dropped a vinyl promo we gave him one night at Bedrock, London (circa 2001) and has been championing our tracks ever since when playing out and on his 'Transitions' show. One thing that makes people like John Digweed stand out is his willingness to play brand new music even if the artist does not have any name or fanbase. Both his backing on the Bunker Sessions and superb support from Anthony Pappa have been game changers for us (and many other producers we know) because they have such great fanbases which allow for real interaction between artists and music lovers during the worldwide lockdown.
Our goal is simple – to keep evolving our sound both in the studio and within our DJ sets.
You guys have released SO.MANY.TRACKS on SO.MANY.LABELS over the years such as Selador, Toolroom, Armada and of course your own label, Capital Heaven. Can you tell us a little about how the label started and where you see it heading in future? How do you choose your artists and what sound do you usually look for?
We started the label in the nineties where it was all vinyl. At that time, we just released music from a handful of artists that used our studio. When we went digital, we got the chance to reach and promote music from all over the world. We are proud that we put music out on our label based on just that – the music. We are not into how many followers an artist has or whether they have been producing for long. We have been the initial platform for many artists to get their first pieces of music out there, and a good deal of them have created good names for themselves over the years. What we look for is well produced, deep and melodic progressive house, breaks and electronica.
Rightio, so I need to ask.... How do you remix those classics with such perfection? I really [REALLY] love the way you guys incorporate the use of certain samples into your remixes, for example the 'Gandalf' vox at the beginning of BT’s ‘Remember’ really resonates with the narrative of that particular track. Why did you guys first start remixing the 90's classics and how does the whole process work?
Our “Rewerks” stem from our love of the Global Underground, Northern Exposure, and Renaissance Mix Collections. It is a testament to the original tracks that we still love to this day, however, as they are tricky to work into today’s sets due to levels, sound quality etc… we decided to start tweaking them for our own shows. With some tracks we can release them as cover versions and obtain the correct license to do so. With others, we simply put them out through Bandcamp, just to get them out there.
Speaking of the studio, I have heard you guys only use hardware equipment (for the most part) rather than just software to make your music? Is this because it’s more ‘hands on’ and ‘raw’ sounding? Or is it just more fun doing it the old school way? What are your most important pieces of gear for you and why?
We have started to incorporate the digital side of things with Ableton but we tend to be happier and quicker using the analogue gear as it's more instantaneous. However, with things like the loudness war and the need for cleaner tracks, our hand is sort of being forced to take on digital in a more full-on capacity. In saying that, our most important pieces of gear are our Akai samplers, Access Virus and Waldorf Blofeld sound modules.
As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people… and why do you think that is? What aspects of making music excites you the most right now?
We both listen to music with totally differing purposes. This is where the partnership is so divided but works so well for us. Darren listens to music perhaps more artistically, for pleasure and inspiration. Alec listens to music probably on a sound design basis; samples, key ideas and structures.
Do you guys have an ALL TIME FAVOURITE ‘Framewerk’ track? If so, which one is it and why?
We are both in agreement here – our track 'Electric Religion'. So much so that we are reworking it for our new album 'Analogue in a Digital World' due out later this year.
Name a band or musician, past or present, who you absolutely LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favourite recordings by this band/artist?
Pink Floyds' 'Dark Side of the Moon'. On a more electronic tip then Sasha & Digweed’s 'Northern Exposure' album is still an absolute classic. We are big fans of the concept album that take you on a journey, regardless of genre.
What are your top 3 dance music albums ever produced and why?
Leftfield – Leftism
Air – Moon Safari
Massive Attack – Blue Lines
Chemical Brothers – Exit Planet Dust (I know that is 4 but they are all great albums)
Tears for Fears – The Hurting
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasure Dome
Depeche Mode – Music for the Masses (Not strictly dance albums by todays standards but they were when they were released)
What track do you wish you wrote?
Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
Delerium – The Silence
New Order – Blue Monday
Prince – Computer Blues
Pink Floyd – Shine on You Crazy Diamond
Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea
You both seemed to have used the current global situation to your advantage having release so many tracks last year. How would you say the ‘extra’ time has allowed you both to grow as artists?
It has been tricky as we used to meet up on almost a daily basis to go through ideas and produce music. We obviously had to adapt to continue and found ourselves sending ideas back and forth sometimes on an hourly basis. It has given us the scope to analyse what we are doing at a different pace, in our own time and in our own environments, rather than it being just in the studio every day from 11am to 5pm. We had to become aware very quickly of the dynamics between the two of us and ended up becoming more unified in our productions than before lockdown.
What is some advice that you can give to someone hoping to make a career in music production?
What works for us is the balance between inspiration and perspiration and a real focus on what we want to achieve with each individual track or DJ set. We put as much effort into our DJ sets as we do our track productions. Also, to never stop learning, new ideas, new equipment, new techniques.
Away from music, how do you relax? What hobbies etc do you enjoy?
Football, cooking, pints of Guinness, good red wine and comedy are big obsessions for both of us.
So, in closing up today, what does the future hold for you guys? What are you most excited about?
We are looking forward to a continuing relationship with John Digweed and Bedrock and the chance to work with some of our favourite labels in the coming months. The release of our aforementioned concept album 'Analogue in a Digital World' which will be available in two parts. One on Bandcamp and one on Beatport, Spotify etc… And of course, we are welcoming back the return of clubland and DJing to hoards of fantastic people going nuts on the dance floor. We already have some big bookings lined up… Namely alongside Sasha in Aberdeen in 2022 and we are also really excited about playing on the Isle of Wight at the Toogether festival on Sunday August 1st this year – that is going to be a massive event and it cannot come around soon enough 😊
Thanks so much guys for taking the time to have a chat with us today!
Framewerk's latest [rewerk] - Solar Plexus available now on Bandcamp
Links to everything Framewerk below:
Frisky Radio (Foundation Show): https://www.friskyradio.com/show/foundation/
For more info on Global Dance Music Collective please follow:
Our next FIRST BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION interview will be published on Friday the 4th of June at 7:30pm (AEST)