All Good In The Hood

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Sunday April 18 2010 (Michael Bugeja - The Sunday Times of Malta)

South Central - All good in the hood

They’ve been living in the UK for a good number of years, but Brighton-based duo South Central is still very much Maltese at heart. Their music on the other hand is totally international, as is their profile, elevated to global proportions thanks to a brace of genre-bending singles, tons of acclaimed remixes for various artists, and a brand new album that should be out later this year. Thanks to South Central’s pulsating electro-rock hybrid, including their notorious mash-ups of Nirvana’s Teen Spirit and Rage Against The Machine’s Killing in the name, the band has also become a key player in an emerging crossover scene that includes the likes of Justice, Digitalism and Soulwax in its ranks.

All of these factors were crucial in landing South Central some important support slots, among them tours with Does It Offend You Yeah?, Pendulum and for the best part of the last year, electro punk pioneers The Prodigy. South Central will in fact be opening for The Prodigy on the last date of the Invaders Must Die tour at the MFCC on April 30. Keith and Rob talk about South Central’s rising star, hoodies and the difficult task of juggling live commitments with the band’s own schedule.

It’s been a busy and fruitful year for South Central…. Very true, we’ve spent a good part of the last 12 months in the studio working on the album. At times, it seemed to be turning into a long and often tortuous process but fortunately, touring with Pendulum and The Prodigy helped us let off some steam. Playing live helped us gain a fresh perspective through engaging with audiences and gauging the feed back.

At the moment we’re working on a remix for Gary Numan and we just found out that a remix we did for The Crystal Method last summer was recently used in the popular TV series C.S.I. The UK festival bookings are coming in so yeah, lots of cool things happening for us at the moment. With the album now finished we can really focus on the European tour with The Prodigy, which we intend to finish off in style in Malta since that will be the last day of the tour.

Given your hectic performing schedule, how difficult was it to focus on writing and recording the album? When we set out to do this album we were probably a little naïve. We assumed that it would take about three to five months but I think we underestimated the nature of the beast. It's difficult to explain, but for us writing an album is like a quixotic adventure. Perhaps the best thing about South Central as a band is that it has almost limitless options, we are not restricted to extracting music from a traditional guitar band format because of our electronic music backgrounds. Neither are we stuck to a particular dance style; we don’t fall under techno, drum ‘n bass, House, breakcore or ambient but maybe we are all these things.

Conversely, the curse of South Central is also that it has limitless options. We had assumed that because we created South Central it was ours to control and that it would give us the tracks we wanted when we wanted them. Of course, like anything in life that is worthwhile, this was not the case. We had to go in and fight the beast with each and every track. Sometimes we would think we struck gold only for it to turn to dirt in our hands. With an album like this the most difficult thing is keeping things in perspective.

I think this experience has made us more respectful of art, particularly of our own creations. During the making of the album I spent a lot of time reflecting upon the work and reading about the classic tortured artists; from recent ones such as Kurt Cobain or Ian Curtis all the way to Van Gogh and Edgar Allan Poe. Virginia Woolf lived and died just 2 miles from my home in Brighton. It’s only a short walk from her house to the river where she filled her pockets with stones and jumped in. It makes you wonder if all these people were mad or bi-polar or whatever, or if true art does have the power to turn one’s mind so much it drives the artist mad. Maybe one can only stare into the void for so long, who knows?

Keeping in mind that your output so far has had quite an eclectic touch, does the new album have a core influence, a more cohesive, defined direction? Our previous output has been essentially stand-alone singles, with each one reflecting separate experiments in different musical directions influenced by what was happening musically around us at the time. The new album is similarly influenced but because it was recorded in a continuous timeframe it may have project cohesive qualities. This wasn't necessarily the goal as our objective has always been to push boundaries in technology and sound. We’re very interested in breaking down genre barriers and creating something new.

While we were recording the album, we went to see My Bloody Valentine perform during their reunion tour and around the same time we also witnessed the rise of Dubstep. They’re totally diverse genres but we felt influenced by both of them. Similarly, we’re just as influenced by books, TV, films – pretty much anything. I went through a phase of reading books by authors writing in the 1800's about what the world would be like in the next 100 years. It’s quite interesting to see what they got right and also so wrong.

Your public appearances in recent months seem to have been focused more around your DJ set-up than as a live band. Is this focus on the 2-man show deliberate or do your plans still include the live band format? For us, DJing is as important as our live act as it keeps us in touch with both worlds. We were talking to our agent the other day and he said our DJ act is more ‘live’ than some of the live acts he books. We’ve been going out as a DJ act mainly because that’s what the bands we’ve been touring with requested. If they’re into our DJ performance and their fans are too then we go with that quite willingly. There’s also a practical side to it as recording takes up so much time it’s difficult to rehearse a whole band to the level required so we can play dance music live. That said, we are already working on the live band set-up so yes, we will be back as a band by the end of the year.

How do you perceive the current state of the indie-dance crossover scene in terms of growth, popularity and potential? I'm not sure that dance crossover is a scene as such. Sure, you have Pendulum mixing drum ‘n bass with rock, The Prodigy crossing boundaries the way they have always done and us mixing up elements of dance and indie rock. We do tend to stick together, so maybe that’s a scene of sorts involving bands who make dance music and play live rather than indie bands who play a few keyboards. There's only a few who do it well. We see ourselves as emerging from the same scene as bands like Soulwax, Digitalism, LCD Sound System and Justice. These acts are from all over the world yet there is a connection and despite still having an underground profile, the scene is growing rapidly and it has its own history.

Music aside, you’ve managed to keep your identities’ ‘under the hood’. How effective has this air of mystery been in boosting interest in your music within the industry? Well, when we started we didn't think “Let’s hide our identities and really get people interested in us”. It was more about letting our music stand on its own; a reaction to all the Myspace, Facebook social networking stuff that was, and still is, happening. Everyone is putting their picture up on the web, basically saying "Hey, look at me". Of course, it has only got worse with Twitter. People are now saying “Hey look at me, I've had eggs for breakfast!", "I'm getting on a train", "The train is moving" and so on. We have all these things and they are great for communicating with people who like your music. All we are saying is that there is such a thing as over-exposure and too much information. After all, do people really need to see our faces to like our music?

You’ll finally be performing in Malta before The Prodigy in a couple of weeks. How important was it for you to finally get to perform here? Well, after spending such a long time in the studio and band rehearsals, and with the promotion commitments of the new album coming up, playing in Malta is something we’re really looking forward to. It’s a dream come true for us to play our home-coming show and with the biggest dance act on the planet too.