For those of you who don’t know Virus Syndicate, let me give you a little refresher… Eptic’s “Bust Em Out,” Skism’s “Like This,” Protohype’s “Pacemaker,” Rise At Night’s “Fingerprints,” I could go on. Virus Syndicate is one of the most sought after vocal collaborators in the business, throwing on a sincere UK hip hop vibe onto any bass track effortlessly.
Virus Syndicate is a collective from Manchester, centered on DJ Mark One and the MCs Goldfinger, JSD and Nika D. They’ve been running the game since 2006 with their first LP Work Related Illness and again in 2008 with Sick Pay. Along the way, they’ve made a name for themselves as premiere collaborators and have since been relatively quiet on the original releases, instead focusing on collaborations with major and up-and-coming bass producers. Earlier this year, they released their 3rd official album titled The Swarm with 17 awesome original tracks, along with their own slate of collaborators like Buku, Maztek, Teddy Killerz, and DJ Muggs. The album draws influences from most elements of heavy bass music including some jungle breaks, heavy sub-bass rhythm and that oh-so-recognizable kick snare beat. With all of the tracks featuring vocals, you can expect this to be an album you can sing and dance along to for months or years to come.
This past Monday, December 15th, Virus Syndicate released a deluxe version of the new LP with two additional tracks, collaborations with Mark Instinct and SKisM. You can purchase it HERE. To celebrate the release and re-introduce them to the US crowd after so long, I asked them a few questions.
Your last full-album release as a collective was Sick Pay in 2008, and The Work Related Illness before that in 2006. Why the long wait for a new album?
We came up in the UK making grime/dark garage initially which eventually evolved into what the media called dubstep. The first album The Work Related Illness had a more grime/hip hop approach. And I think Sick Pay had that too but you could here a slight shift in direction with some of the beats on Sick Pay (“vibrator” for example had a much more club feel to anything we’d released previously). Then the scene evolved and dubstep was born like the unwanted birth child of bass music haha. The music became more complex and the sounds bigger and badder. It began to match drum and bass in terms of production quality. It was natural for us to move in that direction as we’d always been a part of the bass music scene as opposed to the UK hip hop scene. That was never a conscious decision on our part just the journey that was chosen for us I suppose. But we wanted to keep the lyrics 100% at the same time and not just make a load of sound fx and stupid noises like a lot of people were doing back then in the UK grime scene. Once the music evolved and dubstep became huge globally we were getting calls from all the biggest dubstep labels to feature with their artists and we’re getting bookings all over the world so it kind of just took us away for a while. We all agreed that we didn’t want to just make an album for the sake of it. We didn’t want to rush it. We would wait until the time felt right to unleash something special for the fans. So that’s why there was the big gap. We also wanted this album to represent that journey. The raves, travelling, partying… Haha you know the drill!!!! So that’s why it has that real bass music backbone throughout and the lyrics depict the crazy lifestyle we’ve been living. But we are already crafting the next project. There won’t be such a long wait next time haha. And the music will reflect something else… A next phase in the journey.
You’ve arguably made a name for yourselves as featured artists on tracks by SKisM, Protohype, Eptic and more. Obviously the bass scene appeals to you. What’s the process in coming up with lyrics to match the usually harsh nature of the music?
This shit is ingrained into our DNA hahaha!! We grew up on bass music from The Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land” to Goldie’s self titled debut or Adam F’s “Circles”.. We all got into writing lyrics inspired by UK MC’s who hype the crowd and chat some lyrics here and there. People like MC Trigga and Skibba Dee. It’s a part of our culture being from the UK and although we’re all huge rap fans (Ill bill, Sean price, red and meth, Canibus… Just a few of my personal favourites) we don’t really approach bass music from that angle (we do make more hip hop orientated tracks too like “Pack Leaders” or “The Future” which we would approach differently again). We come at it from a live show angle I guess. Our live show is the crazy…. the energy levels are immense!!! We are trying to match the energy of the music with our vocals. But still keep the lyrics (flow and content) tight. But like I said it’s just a part of the culture we grew up in so it comes naturally in a way.
The only other notable bass/hip-hop group that has made it big in the US, to my knowledge, would be Foreign Beggars. Do you see them as rivals, collaborators, or someone to aspire to?
Haha we get this all the time and the answer is always the same. The Beggars are sick. We have known the guys for a very long time and have collaborated on a few records (“The Nature of It” and Son Of Kicks “EOW”). We are big fans of their music and any comparisons are taken as a compliment. It’s fair to say that we are the two acts to really break out into the world as a bass music/hip hop act from the UK and we’ve both been flying the flag since day one! So nothing but love and respect from them. We see them as collaborators and friends!
Why the special re-release to the US? Why choose “Venom” and “Like This” as the two new tracks on the deluxe edition?
They’re the two tracks which we really love to perform live. They have both had so much love and always destroy every single show we play no matter which continent or country or city. So we felt they had to be on there. They were the missing pieces to our story of the last few crazy years!
Is an American tour something you want to do with the release, also?
We’ve been over to the states about 5 times and we absolutely LOVE IT! The energy at the shows is crazy and the amazing people we’ve met along the way make it a special one for us. But it’s been a few years now since we’ve been back to see our cousins over the pond haha we’ve been so busy touring Europe we’ve not managed to get it sorted. The diary is filling up raaaapid already for next year but we really hope we can come over and do a really good run in 2015.
So watch this space!
If you had your own headlining tour and got to pick your own support acts, who would they be? What kind of vibe would you want to set before you came on?
Hmmm great question! I think someone like Araabmuzik would get the vibe going nicely… Doing some of that crazy live shit! Then followed by something a bit more vocal but still with that trappy, double time vibe… Maybe Dipset? Yeh, fuck it dipset can do a few tracks… Haha then God would come on stage grip the mic and introduce the Virus boys innit haha!!!
Are Goldfinger, JSD and Nika D on every track together, or is there a certain amount of mix-and-match?
Yeh it’s mix and match really. It all depends. Sometimes someone might not be feeling the track or may not write something they wanna put down. But if the other 2 are feeling it then it’s gonna happen. Sometimes 2 people might not feel it but then one might lace the track and it might come out sounding sick. But generally we all try and have some input.
Hip-hop lyrics and dubstep rhythm go surprisingly well together, why do you think that is?
Because we’re sick at it haha so it sounds good! We converted you over to the darkside! Not any old dude can come along and try and do this… If Big Sean tried to vocal a flux pavilion tune I think everyone would join hands in a mass suicide pact haha. Nah I’m just playing… Kind of haha!
You can purchase The Swarm (Deluxe Version) on iTunes HERE.