Interview: Hexadecimal

Words: Ella Fearon
Monday 19 July 2004
reading time: min, words

"When Scott and I are on form we've been described as one DJ with four arms and two heads"

If there was a 'how to make it as a DJ' checklist it would probably run a little something like this:

- Learn how to mix well
- Get gigs in the best clubs in your area
- Build up a residency (or two) at a high profile night
- Take bookings for gigs elsewhere in the UK
- Play alongside the greats in your field
- Jump on the books of both a fresh new agency and reputable label
- Release a record that turns people's heads
- Record guest slots for radio shows; Hell, get your own radio show...

Run Nottingham breaks duo Hexadecimal through this list and you'll find all of the boxes ticked. Well, almost... give them a few days and they'll have this under their belts too. It all seems so simple, but it's taken five years of fine-tuning and dedication to their passion to get to where they are now, the jumping-off point to notable success on the breaks scene.

From their first gig together in the shadowy realms of the Lenton to their present residency at award-winning breaks night Spectrum, Scott Reeder and Ben Harvey have played perfectly together. Whether remixing tracks for mates or putting together tunes for legendary DJs their productions are tirelessly perfected. With a track record like this, there's no doubt they'll be putting ticks in boxes for a long time to come...

How would you sum up your position at the moment?
Scott: "I think we're in a great position right now. We're signed to a very promising new label Heavy Disco. We've got some wicked residencies in the city and beyond. We have a wicked manager and our agent at Deepfreaks Will has been pushing all the right buttons."

"I think we have most of our bases covered and have a tight support base, recently reinforced by Spectrum promoter Pete Jordan's very helpful input. I feel a lot more secure in our locality and in the breakbeat scene in general. Musically, I don't think we could ask for any more at this stage. The future is bright and breakbeat certainly has a future!"

Ben: "We are lucky to be able to play at Spectrum of course, and we've recently begun to get gigs in Bristol at Vagisness and Roll-On, two fantastic club nights with brilliant, enthusiastic crowds. The Bristol breaks scene is growing rapidly and it's a natural progression for us to play there as well as Nottingham."

"We've made some wonderful friends, too, especially Josie Harold, without whom we would not be able to do what we do there. Production-wise, our techniques have come a long way since we did our first releases and i'm confident that the tunes are about to get bigger and better."

This summer sees Hexadecimal playing abroad for the first time, with dates coming up in both Spain and Croatia. Where exactly are you playing and how did you manage to get these gigs?
Scott: "The gig in Spain first came about from Pete from Spectrum. He plays over there periodically and let slip to our agent that there might be some slots going. We're going to be playing in Majorca on 7th July at a night called Naked."

"The club is set in the side of a mountain looking out over the sea. I've heard they keep the place open until sunrise and the Freestylers and a number of other UK artists have been making regular visits. Croatia is a Spectrum Tour. We're going to be playing three open-air gigs at bars, clubs and on the beach. We head out on July 22nd and play Tribu in Split, then we move on to Citluk on the 23rd and finish off at Jakov, Beach Sv in Dubrovnik on the 24th."

Are you nervous about your debut as international DJs?
Scott: "It's hard to say how I feel about playing internationally until we've done our first set. I'm certainly looking forward to it and I'm glad we've finally got some overseas action confirmed. I'm not really nervous about it as I know it will do both of us some good. These kind of events are what you dream of and I'm looking forward to them becoming a reality."

"A lot can be learnt from other countries and cultures and it will be interesting to see what the scenes are like and the people... well the women anyway! Worst case scenario we'll step off the plane into an onslaught of Kappa jackets and dodgy 'taches but we've both seen the Market Square on a Saturday night, so we're prepared for anything!"

Ben: "It feels good to be taking bookings at international venues, partly because dance music has suffered a slight recession in the UK recently. It will be interesting to experience the different attitude to clubbing in Eastern Europe and beyond. Strangely, we seem to have bypassed the whole London thing and gone straight to playing abroad. I guess this is a good thing though because the big names have already saturated the London

What do you know about the breaks or general club scenes in both Spain and Croatia?
Scott: "I know breaks are massive in Spain, I have a few Spanish friends who confirm this. I don't really know many Spanish breaks producers or DJs but I'm sure there will be a number of them already contributing to the scene. I suppose when the breaks scene is predominantly in this country you hear less and less about what overseas artists are doing. I have been told that the Croatians are in their club drug honeymoon period. The atmosphere is meant to be like it was in 1992."

"I'm not sure if Ben has the energy to go through that period again, he only just survived it last time! It sounds like the Croatians just want to party and to be fair who could blame them, their country has had such a terrible time over hundreds of years, if Spectrum can go over a raise a few smiles then it will make this tour worthwhile."

Ben: "Nothing, really. Sorry!"

Back home you have recently been signed to Heavy Disco Recordings. Tell us about the label...
Scott: "Heavy Disco is a brand new label set up by a collaboration of the Young Punx and Infeckto, two artists well known for their production and Radio One experience. They aim to promote good breakbeat of all styles."

"Heavy Disco approached us at a good time and have shown a really professional approach throughout. We've got a two single deal to start with, in order for both parties to test the water. I'm confident the label has the ammunition to do well. Our first single Brain Machine / Deep Frequency should be out by the end of the summer. This is a massive achievement for us because there is such hype around these tracks just from other DJs playing our material."

Ben: "Heavy Disco is an amalgamation of several breaks producers. They heard a couple of our tracks on a CD Pete Jordan put together to showcase Nottingham artists and to date, they've been the only label to show enough balls to release Brain Machine, a track we've become notorious for, and which reached no.1 in Muzik mag a while ago before it was even finished but that's another story!"

You also have a residency at 'officially the world's best breaks night', Spectrum @ Stealth in Nottingham. How is this going?
Ben: "It's amazing! How could it not be?! I personally have to pinch myself every time I think about it. Pete stuck his neck out to get us the slot and hopefully we are fulfilling his expectations. Stealth kicks ass in every way and frankly, Spectrum belongs there without a doubt."

Scott: "Spectrum has given us a fresh injection and we're becoming part of the family. Pete is really on it at the moment. Our first proper gig was Spectrum's Fingerlickin 5th Birthday celebration at Stealth early last month. It's a really nice event to play, I meet such wicked people on every occasion, all anyone wants to do is party. It's great to see a club night that steers away from the anal attitudes that some other genres adopt."

"We also had a little outing for the Spectrum boat party, which went well and I can't wait for repeat performances. Unfortunately I happened to be quite ill at both events so couldn't enjoy them as much as I should have but this is only just the start of a really good thing and there is much more fun to be had. Pete works so hard for that night, the last two years Breakspoll Awards show this, no one deserved to win best club night more than the Spectrum crew."

Have you had much support from existing names in the breaks scene?
Scott: "We've got some good relationships with some existing people. It was James Zabiela who first took real notice by putting our remix of Sound Alliance, The Hit on his debut mix CD. We still keep in touch regularly, he's has been playing a number of our tracks around the world and single handedly put Brain Machine on the map by playing it in every set for a year."

"James is really genuine and helps us where he can; it's good to have one of the world's top 10 DJs telling you how wicked you are! We also get on pretty well with the Plump's since another of our remixes, Sound Alliance, From Home, was used as the opening track of their Fabric Live CD. They have also been supportive and have said some quite stunning stuff to us.

"The only problem with them is that they're so busy, we just catch up with them when we can. Mark Pemeber (Meat Katie) has also been hugely influential. We initially wrote Deep frequency for his Bedrock Breaks compilation and have been shown a different direction by him. He can often be seen on message boards putting in a good word for us and although he didn't use our track in the end he has been there supporting us ever since we started."

Ben: "Mark Pember has been saying lots of good stuff and he encouraged us to do Deep Frequency, which was great motivation. Also, the Plump DJs including our remix of Sound Alliance's From Home' on their Fabric mix was a huge boost to our confidence. We recently spoke to them about it and Lee Rous thanked us, saying it was an amazing way to start the mix. That kind of stuff keeps us going."

Where do you see Hexadecimal fitting into the current breaks scene and what do you hope you can bring to the scene in the future?
Scott: I think we've found our slot in the breaks scene now, our sound is unique enough to be given its own place. I just want to be able to put something back into a scene that has excited me through the years. It's good to be doing something constructive towards it. There's a lot of breakbeat about but not that much really stands out, we aim to bring in a fresh supply of breaks that the scene so desperately needs."

Ben: "When Scott and I are on form we've been described as 'one DJ with four arms and two heads'. We love mixing simultaneously because as a duo we can invoke an extra level of energy that's hard to achieve alone. People like to see their DJs as well as hear them and when Hexadecimal are really going for it, the body language says it all.

"We're not afraid to push in and get involved in each other's mixes as we go, sometimes creating a strange frenzy of limbs and headphones. So far, we've been able to un-tangle ourselves unassisted at the end of the set but there could be an opening there for an enthusiastic third member!"

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