Late last year, the internet, as it's prone to do every so often, blew up. I was on a coach to Stanstead airport at an ungodly hour and whiled away the bleary eyed journey listlessly scrolling through the endless barrage of half-baked opinion and tepid-takes that is Twitter.
It was just about the morning after the night before and the night before was the night of the Red Bull Culture Clash, which saw New York's A$AP Mob tussle with Tottenham's finest, Boy Better Know, the Stone Love crew from Jamaica, and a fourth combatant. Rebel Sound — comprising of bass music badmen Chase and Status, D&B don Shy FX, and everyone's favourite MBE, David Rodigan — were the fourth entrant and they went onto smash the competition with a barrage of wild dubplates, eventually being crowned kings of the clash. This was all everyone was talking about.
If you, like me, missed the clash for whatever reason, but want to bask in the glow of the winning squad you're in luck this summer. Rebel Sound have cooled down after that explosive evening and are currently gearing themselves up for a season of festival appearances. I went down to a rather plush studio near Kings Cross and sat down with Saul Milton, Will Kennard and MC Rage from Chase and Status, Andre Williams, AKA Shy FX, and David Rodigan for a chat about culture clashing and festival smashing.
THUMP: What brought you together prior to the Culture Clash?
Saul Milton: As Chase and Status we'd been discussing the possibility of entering the Culture Clash for a while but past commitments meant we weren't able to. Andre (Shy FX) and I have been talking for years about doing something together, and actually, at another Culture Clash he was the only person to draw for a dubplate and it caused complete commotion. When the opportunity arose to do the Clash, we felt that it was important to represent three generations of soundboy. We were the youngers, Shy was the inspiration, and David was the king. It all comes from that. We were aware that the other teams would have 25 MCs, ASAP could have had half of America with them, and Stone Love were Stone Love. We just thought we wanted to do it as a team. Do something different, something exciting.
Did you all think the event it'd blow up the way it did?
David Rodigan: It absolutely blew me away and I've done a few, but nothing of that volume, that size of crowd, that demographic. To see waves of people, as if you were at a football match or a major rock festival, while you were playing dubs, wondering what you're competitors had in store…it felt like the biggest event in the world that night. It was electric. Those moments happen very, very rarely.
Will Kennard: A few friends of ours had said it was one of the best nights of their lives. Sometimes it's rubbish being a guest: you're not in the crowd, the sounds not great. But there was electricity that night.
Milton: There's something exciting about competition. In our youth we were all like, "I wanna draw a dub on you!" There's documented interviews with Andre as a younger man saying the same thing. To get that competitive thing back is important. You can play shows, have a good time, fist pump at the end, and it's all good, but to do something that involves winning or losing…you're nervous, you're paranoid, you worry about what they've got. Then things happen over the night that might make you more alert or put your mind at ease. A switch clicks.
Were you all bringing the absolute A-game?
Milton: It was a long time in the planning. There were meetings, lots of dub cutting, speech writing, debates, arguments, toys, pram., throwing. It was that meticulous planning that got us the victory.
Would you have felt gutted had you lost?
Rodigan: There would have been years before the jelly. We are, in a sense, boys still. Someone once said that inside every old man is a young man and that's where we're coming from. We still get off on this. I still go, "is this really happening?" when I get sent a dubplate over email. Everyone in this room is the same. I knew we could win if we maintained our confidence levels and did our homework. We did too much prep almost. It was completely nutzoid and losing would have broken our hearts. If you have the intention to win, you will. Think of those guys who carried out the Hatton Garden Heist. They had an intention. That kind of vision and ambition is key. How do you beat A$AP? How do you beat Boy Better Know? Stone Love from Jamaica? I love that challenge, that anticipation, that almost doing the impossible.
Were they gutted when they lost?
Milton: Who knows! We didn't see anyone after.
Kennard: If you stand in front of that many people, put in that much work, you don't want to lose.
Milton: We didn't go to any after parties. We just had a few drinks in the dressing room and went home. We've linked up with some of the BBK boys since and it's all good. It was an emotional rollercoaster. I found it very hard, in terms of my pride, to deal with the fact that we were looked on as the underdogs. People disregarded us. We felt a sense of vindication when we won.
What's your approach to the shows you're doing this summer?
Milton: They wont have that competitive element but there will still be a load of dubs and exclusives. But we wont be cussing the act before us. Or the promoter.
Kennard: It's about being exciting, creative, innovative and trying to put on a good show. That's what we'll continue to do over the summer.
Rage: This is the next hype. This is what we're excited about post-clash. We'll be playing old stuff, new bits, the exclusives.
Rodigan: I remember Andre saying to me before our first show, that this is three generations of soundboy. This is our narrative. There's a story to tell and if we don't tell it then we might get lost in our own mountain of dubplates. This is an exhibition rather than a full on boxing match.
Milton: Also, these are 90 minutes shows minimum, and even though the clash went on for three hours, we only actually played for 40 minutes. We played 15 tunes in eight minutes in the first round. We might get to hear a whole song in these sets and let it breath. The clash was so intense. The show will be a, "let's enjoy ourselves in the sun," thing.
Is that element of showmanship important to bring to festivals?
Rage: That's how we've all always been individually. That's shown in our own stuff, at the Clash, and at these festival shows. We're as excited when the bass drops as the crowd are.
Rodigan: This is still a glorified bedroom situation. It's that whole buzz of, "i've got this, you've got that" and you want to show each other. But we're showing an audience.
Is this the biggest summer ever?
Kennard: When we step on stage at that first festival it'll be incredibly exciting. We've never played on a stage like that together.
Catch Rebel Sound at the following festivals this summer
11/07/15 - Nass Festival, Somerset
19/07/15 - Mutiny Festival, Portsmouth
20/07/15 - Pukkelpop, Belgium
28/08/15 - Creamfields, Liverpool
29/08/15 - Reading Festival, Reading
30/08/15 - Leeds Festival, Leeds