The trio of Ben Pickersgill, Benny Griffin and Joel Dawes who make up Klax probably haven’t been tagged as a trio by most fans at first. Their sound is so cohesive it’s hard to believe three people or even more are involved in it. That’s a big reason why they’ve had so much traction with Critical Recordings and, even earlier than that, Renegade Hardware. Klax’s sound is diverse and very different but always tight and produced as if from a single entity.
In the wake of their most recent release on Crtical, The Lucid EP which features even more artists – Charli Brix, Hyroglyfics and Kyist – Your EDM sat down to chat with Klax about said EP, their sound and how it all comes together. It became clear pretty quickly one reason why Klax’s sound is so tight: they’re extremely close. Talking to them is not only highly amusing but it’s almost like talking to a set of triplets. They finish each others’ thoughts, constantly joke with each other and almost always agree on their process, the sound they’re looking for and how it turns out.
Despite their hard beats and positively evil basslines, Klax are funny, fun and focused on their sound. Strap in, it’s a good one! And don’t forget to scroll to the end for Klax’s newest Critical podcast on RinseFM as well as their brand new set on Locked Concept’s podcast. Foreshadowing, perhaps?
So first off, how did you all meet each other and start working together?
Ben: Joel upsold loads of his dubstep records to me in a local record shop. (All laugh)
Joel: True story!
Benny: I’d known Joel for years before. They made dubstep together and me and Ben made DnB together.
Ben: Then we kind of merged. Hence why our early stuff sounded mental!
Benny: Yep then one day we all jammed made hash cakes for a laugh and made a few pretty good tunes together but maybe that was probably to do with the hash cakes. (All laugh)Ben: That’s why “Blackball” was originally called “Benny’s Dream” because he passed out on hash cakes!
Benny: Then we just thought it worked and was fun and were into the same sound. But now we hate each other. (All laugh)
Why did you transition from dubstep to doing more drum and bass?
Ben: We had some success with the dubstep thing, played some shows for Youngstas, shows at Fabric, but we wanted to push our sound and dubstep was in a weird phase then.
Joel: And we all love a bit of DnB
Ben: Yeah we definitely all love DnB and all the bastard versions of it!
So how’d you get the labels to notice when you started making DnB?
Benny: I’d previously made tunes with Foreign Concept a bit and sent some of them to him, and he forwarded them to Kasra (from Critical), Then kaboom! It all fell into place really without us knowing it.
Ben: (Laughs) Yeah that’s pretty much it. Foreign Concept played a tune we made called ‘Vendetta’ at Outlook and then it just sort of went from there.
Benny: Critical was always a label we wanted to be on. So we are really chuffed that it happened so quickly.
Joel: The “Mok” remix too, that was a big help in the beginning. Stray (J Stray from Ivy Lab) randomly hit us up for that.
Ben: We got on Hardware (Renegade Hardware with the single “Vendetta”) before that as well because my mate Nick from Prototypes heard me mixing it down in my room called Scott from Hardware and they picked it up that night. And yeah the “Mok” remix was fun. That was our first halftime tune.
So Hardware was technically your first DnB release?
Ben: Yeah, then a few weeks later Kasra hit us up and asked us to write more tunes.
Benny: It was decent to have our first release together on Hardware for sure.
So it makes sense with your style being quite neurofunky but also having a dubstep or halftime edge to it, since you started off that way doing some dubstep and then hooking up with Stray.
Ben: Jump up’s taking over now though. Or sort of a fusion. Neuro jump I’ll call it. It’s bought back a bit of the fun to DnB. DnB got a bit serious with the whole neuro era.
Benny: I’m fine with that as well. Hazard back in the day was my hero.
Joel: Yeah, this is like the 3rd incarnation of jump up really. It looks completely different from before.
Well there’s no lack of fun on the Lucid EP. Was that a conscious decision?
Joel: Absolutely. Hence why we gave the tune with Hyro the name “Boogieboard,” and really why we wrote it in the first place.
Benny: That and Ben was the UK boogieboarding champion of 2006.
Ben: This is true!
Is there boogie boarding in Brighton?
Benny: Sure, if you want to get hit in the face with a poo or a tampon. (All laugh). I do go fishing there all the time. Caught a shopping trolley and a rubber glove last week.
Ben: You did actually catch a shark though. Other than that, people mostly use Brighton Beach to smoke coke can bongs and take ket.
Joel: Or as a needle graveyard and vomit haven. You should come visit!
All right so we’ve gone from Critical signing to “Boogieboard” to Brighton Beach trash. Anything in between?
Ben: (Laughs)Nope that’s everything. Couple of EPs in between that people can’t or won’t mix…
OK, so your first “unmixable” EP with Critical was when then?
Joel: It was “Ask Yourself,” wasn’t it? With Foreign Concept around 2014?
Ben: Or was it the “Blackball” EP on Binary? Oh actually yeah “Ask Yourself” with Foreign Concept was first. People saw our name on his EP and were like, “who?” Then it was our EP on Systems (Critical) with “Ritalin” on, then “Rekanize” and a few singles here and there, some remixes.
Benny: We have pretty much always just sent our stuff to Kasra.
Ben: Yeah we haven’t released on another label apart from Renegade.
How did working with Foreign Concept help with how you wanted to develop your sound?
Ben: Matt (Foreign Concept) has got a great ear for rollers and we were still coming up with mental song structures, so he kind of helped us to rein that in I’d say. He taught us a lot about sampling as well.
Joel: Yeah, he’s good at not overcomplicating things, unlike us.
Benny: I think it worked well as we both had a similar sound I guess, and I’d done a thing on Shogun with him a few years before. So it was natural to do something with him for sure. He’s a good lad and we are all good pals.
Interesting. Fans of your current stuff may not have pegged you for Shogun.
Joel: Well they’re Brighton based and Benny’s known them for donkey’s years.
Benny: It was a long time ago just one tune on a compilation album, but I’ve been pals with Friction since I was a kid.
Joel: He’s been really supportive.
So would you call those three, Shogun, Critical and Hardware your main influences?
Joel: Definitely. Shogun, Critical and Hardware have all been huge inspirations.
Benny: Yeah old True Playaz as well, Hardware, Valve, Dsci4, RAM, all that shit. There’s so much good stuff from those that’s timeless.
Ben: I loved all the old neuro bits: Calyx, SPOR et cetera, but Shogun, Critical and Exit just brought a classiness to it, people started taking it a little more seriously again I feel. Critical 2011 onwards has just set the bar in my opinion. Plus they’re great to work with. We trust Kasra and the whole team. And everyone pushes everyone else to see where they can take the sound, we’re always excited to see the dubs drop in the Dropbox.
Benny: Everyone on the label is super cool and supportive and everyone gets on like a big family. It’s wicked. Plus you always feel like you need to up your game when you hear the other guys’ stuff you like, like Ben said.
Joel: Agreed. It definitely keeps us on our toes.
Ben: (Laughs)Like someone will ask us, “did you listen to my new dub?” And I’ll be like, “yeah, it was cool,” as I’m rushing back to the studio cursing.
Joel: (Laughs) So true.
Benny: That’s why we’ve only done one EP in the last year! It’s clearly everyone else’s fault!
So coming to more recently with Critical, a lot of U.S. fans probably were introduced to Klax on Critical’s 15 year anniversary compilation with “The Mute” single. How did that one come aroud?
Ben: We actually wrote the intro four years before.
Joel: Oh wow, yeah it was an idea floating around for years and years so you’re right it was only out last year on Crit but it seems much older to us.
Benny: Yeah that was a mental one wasn’t it? Went through at least ten different versions.
Ben: And I swear it had like a weird chilled halftime drop before or something didn’t it?
Joel: We had a great sample and concept, just needed to hit the mark with it. Benny is right, we went through ten totally different versions: halftime, deep roller…loads of versions.
Benny: Yeah the final version was legitimately version 120 odd. And the vocal…we did a lot of tweaking and basically reconstructed it but it’s out of a pop song. You’d never know it though.
Ben: Kasra was really what got us to finish the thing. I think we played the intro to Kaz because he was like “where’s the new stuff guys?” So we panicked and just sent something. And he was like “finish that.” But also we knew the whole time we needed a pretty big drop to fit that intro, it was almost like the intro was so good but we weren’t good enough producers to write the drop until four years later
Joel: (Laughs) That is true, but once Kasra got hold of it then we had to finish it. Deadlines really help us, and at this time point we actively encourage deadlining.
Benny: So Kasra has to do that a lot! “Right in one week you’re sending them no matter what.”
So was that the same process with the Lucid EP?
Ben: Actually no. I think this is the first EP where Kaz told us to go back in the studio and write more. Before he was just like “yep I’ll have that,” but this time he did push us to write all new stuff which was good.
So on this EP it was stuff you were working on over a few months but mostly new material?
Joel: Yeah it was all new from after the last EP, within last 6 months maybe.
Ben: Yeah so we generally have a few sketches, then we might totally deconstruct the original and just take a few elements, and slowly merge and re-mold until we get the finished tune. “Lucid” was originally a liquid tune. Then we hammered it together over what, like four to six months? But then “Become” and “Boogieboard” were just a few days in the studio.
Benny: Yeah and I think when sketching we do make a lot of varied different sounding tunes. Sometimes halftimey musical stuff, sometimes liquid or dancefloor-friendly but then we pull bits from all genres into the other tunes. They never sound anything like the original.
Joel: Yeah it probably seems like a strange process but I think it helps us find the best possible version of a tune. Like I’ll say “here’s a minimal thing I was working on that needed an extra thing,” then we’ll cut away the chaff and combine so yeah it never looks like how it started.
Ben: Yeah or we might have a halftime chilled tune and just go, “mate what would that sound like with a big minimal DnB break under it?” It’s a lot of experimentation. And finding that “thing,” as Joel said. We always say it in the studio to one another, “it’s cool but needs that ‘thing.’” (Laughs) Highly technical stuff over here.
That sounds like a good way to keep it fun, but now it makes sense why you like deadlines. You could be tinkering forever if you wanted.
Joel: Exactly. It keeps us interested at least.
Benny: Oh yeah it would never stop!
Ben: But I think we all know when it’s there, generally.
Well it’s good you eventually find a stopping point! How did you come to work with Charli Brix on “Become?”
Ben: We’d started a beat at home and Charli actually just came down to Brighton for a social visit, then I played her the beat and she started kind of humming over it. (Laughs)
Joel: Yep then she took it away and came up with “Become” and Sam Binga kindly recorded it for us in Bristol.
Ben: We actually have a full version of just her humming which is the version Kasra heard and signed the tune from. (Laughs) We wanted to write something that was slightly uplifting but still had a dark tone, and she made it in that informal setting. She took the humming version home and wrote the lyrics. Big up to Sam as well for the help.
Benny: I don’t think that tune would’ve worked now with anyone else. She really nailed it I think
Ben: Agreed. We wanted to do a tune with her where it wasn’t just a 16-hook before a big drop. Charli is very into her jazz neo soul vibe which we dig and it works well with darker chords. She definitely smashed it.
So how did the collabs work out with Hyroglifics and Kyrist on “Boogieboard” and “Regulus?”
Ben: “Boogieboard” came from some mad synth sound we made. Matt (Hyroglifics) was down for a studio session and we just pulled out this sound.
Benny: We’d known both of them (Hyroglifics and Kyrist) for a while before the tunes though. We’d always talked about doing a collab with Hyroglifics, but “Boogieboard” wasn’t even gonna go on the EP until the end. We’d always planned it as a four-tune EP.
Ben: Then Matt Foreign Concept heard it and was like, “you’re mad, put that tune on there.” Then it went off at Corsica as well.
Benny: Yeah it always seemed to do the damage on the dance floor. As for the Kyrist tune (“Regulus”), it was only half a tune but Kasra really saw potential and it sounded big on the system.
Joel: That one was completely done by exchanging stems online.
What bits did Kyrist add to the track?
Joel: Bass, effects, some drums. It’s hard to remember exactly since like all our other stuff it went through a few incarnations. She basically did all the good bits. (Laughs)
Ben: Kyrist’s sound is quite rooted in dark techier stuff, so the kind of C4C style high end bits is what she did. Her style is great. We loved having her on the track.
Joel: If you don’t know her definitely look her up. Big up Kyristy!
What have you enjoyed most about this EP?
Ben: We’ve loved the response and want to big up everyone supporting and all the sick feedback for one.
What other releases do you guys have in the works?
Ben: We’re working on the next batch of tunes as we speak including some collars with some of our favorite producers and a few remixes fairly soon.
Are you planning any tours or shows during the festival season? Any plans to tour in the U.S.?
Benny: We’d love to do an American tour! Wink wink hi Americans! And yes we will be playing Let It Roll this summer.
Ben: Yes we’d love that! So much of our sound is influenced by American hip hop trap so would love to do some shows over there. And yes Let It Roll will be B2B with Shyun. Big up Andy!
Joel: Yeah, hook us up USA! (All laugh)