Interview: Breathing. Quietly, Confidently. Magnetic Man.

Magnetic Man, comprised of dubstep visionaries Skream, Benga and Artwork recently infected the airwaves with the heinously addictive I Need Air, a timeless, brooding slab of electronic perfection. In its devastating wake, Artwork talks squeezing into light boxes, the meteoric rise of the aforementioned track, released digitally 25th and physically 26th July and the all-conquering breakfast genre du jour hours before jetting off to Benicàssim and then onwards, to the slopes of Mount Fuji. Just don't mention the s-word...

Dots: You’re presumably doomed to an inherent branding as the first dubstep supergroup to have squelched out onto the World Wide Web, coming to fruition just as the genre achieves crossover acclaim. How do you feel such connotations have affected you thus far?

Artwork: To clear the air, we never called it a supergroup! We just wanted to make a record comprising decent music. And you’ve got to remember we kicked this project off three years ago so it’s been a long journey already as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon just as dubstep starts to take off. We’ve been in this game since the start, seven or eight years ago, before starting to make music under the Magnetic Man moniker three years ago. We even did our first tour three years ago so it’s not a particularly new thing to us...

Dashes: Artists such as Mount Kimbie and yourselves seem to be veering away from what we’ve now come to expect from the dubstep branding, evolving, delving deeper. To what extent do you feel Magnetic Man can be labelled conventionally as dubstep?

Artwork: It’s definitely dubstep, yeah. If you listen to the record, there’s some pure dubstep on there, or at least what you’d expect from it but the project was born purely of a desire to make music. We never wanted to sit down and lay out precisely what we aimed to produce, we didn’t want to lay down 12 dubstep club bangers because it’s not something you’d sit down and listen to for years to come. It’s great music, and it works amazingly in that environment but an LP’s slightly different, you can shove it on in your car. Not that you can’t with dubstep, you can listen to it when you’re eating your breakfast if you like but we’ve been given the opportunity to sit down and make an album, write some songs.

Dots: When coming up with the musical basis for Magnetic Man, as a collaborative force, yourself along with Skream and Benga, how tricky is it to integrate exactly what you want to be doing when predominantly behind laptops, and how difficult is it to meld together the various and varied aspects you bring to the project individually?

Artwork: It’s pretty easy, predominantly because we’ve just known each other for so long now. We’re practically telepathic quite a lot of the time, and we support each other constantly so if someone comes up with something and then runs with it for a bit, we step back and let them get on with developing it. Then other times if we stumble across a brilliant idea, one of us will ask for a go with it, before bouncing it backwards and forwards so we effectively have no pattern of sitting down and doing things.

Dashes: So you don’t tend to work together, as if you were a conventional band almost?

Artwork: Quite the absolute opposite- we spent two months down in Cornwall locked away in a mansion for the start of the year, just the three of us and a studio so the bulk of the workload was done there, and then we’d come back, record the vocals and start working on some more tracks. We bounce things back and forth a fair bit before we get together and lay down final mixes, yes, but it’s all over the shop really, a weird way of working I suppose..! It’s a bit of classic band song writing facilitated heavily by modern internet trends.

Dots: Obviously I Need Air has already received excessive exposure. Has the track blown up in a way similar to that which you expected it to?

Artwork: Categorically no, not at all. We thought it’d be a little setup single, to get awareness growing, get our name out there yet all of a sudden it’s being spun on Radio 1 all the time. I think it shocked everyone involved, it’s astonishing. We’re making music that’s still only just about come out of Clubland so for it to be so universally accepted is a bit of a shock really... That said, it does become less shocking every day...

Dashes: One of its strengths I suppose is that it does pertain to a particularly memorable vocal hook, an incredibly powerful tool within dance music. How vital was it to make sure you had the right vocalist onboard and how significant are vocals to Magnetic Man?

Artwork: At first when we started making this stuff it was all about making music for a specific club, for Forward at Plastic People so we were catering uniquely for that sound, that club yet as we’ve progressed, we have been taken by vocals, by what they can do and how they can transform a record. And of course it’s great to get working with people from outside the project who can come in and add something truly great to a piece of music you’ve made.

Dots: Similarly almost to Yolanda Be Good & DCUP’s We No Speak Americano, the vocal hook that latches onto I Need Air is particularly addictive. Is it this addictivity that’s transformed the track into daytime Radio 1 A List fodder?

Artwork: When we were writing the song with Angela [Hunte], she’s an amazing songwriter and it was her that came up with the melody for I Need Air, she hummed it to us before sitting down and working on the words so we saw the whole thing come together before our very eyes. Within the first ten minutes we were just like “this is amazing, I want to hear it again” and for the first few weeks having finished it, it was just stuck on repeat in my car, spinning round, and round, and round.

Dashes: Having witnessed Magnetic Man round off this year’s Glastonbury under the canvas of the Dance West, there’s a truly impressive and intriguing emphasis on the live show which many listeners may not expect. How much time and consideration has already been put into the show side of the project?

Artwork: Well quite honestly, we’re still learning. Every time we go out and play live we’re learning, it’s all down to trial and error at the minute. Predominantly we can tell what works and what doesn’t almost instantly but we’ve reached a stage now where we’re pretty happy with it. The light show, and the syncing together of the diverse elements is really going well. It’s going so well now actually, and the lights really do add so much to the overall experience. No longer quite as embryonic as it once was of course, we started with a single projector three years ago, we played in a tiny little box that the three of us could barely squeeze into with a screen behind us, onto which our visuals were projected. The idea was already in place, with live visuals that were triggered by sounds in the live set but now that we’ve got this huge monster that takes 12 people to construct, it’s a different ballgame but the vibe is most certainly consistent. Obviously it gives us a whole gang to have a beer with after the show too, where once it’d have been the three of us and our tour manager. Which is good, we’ve got a bigger entourage these days.

Dots: With Skream & Benga having worked quite closely in the past, their collaborative efforts having been rather well documented, did you ever sense yourself to be an outsider of sorts within the close-knit dynamic of Magnetic Man?

Artwork: The thing is, we used to run a label called Big Apple Records so when Skream & Benga were thirteen, fourteen they used to come down to the studio to see how to make records before we eventually signed them so I’ve known them since then. We’ve been around. I think they’ve only collaborated on one previous project though, which was on Big Apple Records so the rest of the stuff they’ve been doing on their own so it’s not particularly as if they’ve been working together on any of these past tangents. It was easy to integrate into, to sit down and get along. Every one of us brings something unique to the party.

Dashes: Returning, apologetically to the subject of the supergroup branding, there’ve been recent instances of supergroups in other genres in which particularly noteworthy artists brought very little definition to the project yet with Magnetic Man, to those trained ears out there is it possible to pick out which of the three of you has contributed what?

Artwork: Yes and no, and it’s kind of strange. It’s difficult talking about the album before you’ve heard it, but there are tracks where you have to rack your brains to work out from whence certain bits came, bits that are just crazy, then there’s Benga-ish top lines on there, then you get mad bits that Skream would’ve done. It just works. But there’s no concrete distinctions I wouldn’t say.

Dots: Looking at dubstep crossing over into mainstream conscience, perhaps the most evident portrayal of such a switch was provided by Magnetic Man gracing the cover of the NME to herald in its rebranding. For almost any indie band that’s more or less the Holy Grail. How significant a statement of intent was that for you three?

Artwork: Hugely significant. It was bizarre to be asked at first, given that we were yet to put out a single and they were trying to get us on the cover but it was a big move on their behalf. It really did mean a lot though, regarding the amount of interest it generated as well as the amount of people that rang us telling us how amazing it was, it was phenomenal. It was big of NME though, and it truly demonstrated how up for discovering new stuff they are, almost incessantly, rather than just sticking with the bigger bands. For them to take that much of a risk was quite an honour for us, affirming they believed in us, they went and stuck their necks out. You see it on the shelves all your life so there was not even a shade of hesitation when we accepted the offer, especially when it came to Skream- he said “yep, I’m on the cover of NME” immediately. He loves rock bands and that end of the musical spectrum so for him it was particularly special.

Dashes: Finally, you’ve been talking quite extensively of your forthcoming debut LP, and that’s presumably exactly why we’re talking now. With I Need Air shattering expectations, how high have you set the bar for yourselves with the release of the full record?

Artwork: Having been around in the music industry for a little while now, I always try not to get caught up in the hype, preferring to adopt an optimistic approach as it's easier that way. But I believe in this record, it’s brilliant. We’ve put in a load of hard work, we can’t stop playing it and hopefully it’ll work for others too.

Dots: Quietly confident comes to mind...

Artwork: Quietly confident, exactly. But then again I think you have to be...

   Magnetic Man - I Need Air by tds

Magnetic Man's Myspace.