Behind the scenes with d&b heavyweights

The Brookes Brothers have had a meteoric rise in the drum and bass scene. After initial releases on Futurebound’s Viper imprint, plus the head-turning Sub Focus collaboration ‘Verano’, the duo were soon snapped up by DJ Fresh and Adam F and signed exclusively to their Breakbeat Kaos label in 2007. The first release, ‘Hard Knocks’/’Mistakes’ sent the outfit global following sustained radio support from Zane Lowe, Pete Tong and leading d&b figureheads including Andy C and Grooverider.

In 2011 they released their self-titled debut album to critical acclaim. It fused the classic and the innovative by successfully incorporating elements from other scenes, with an original ear for melody and a technical prowess that left dancefloors in a frenzy.

Since then the boys have been DJing relentlessly across the globe whilst holding down their residency at Fabric nightclub in London, doing remixes, and producing chart-busting pop hits for the likes of Example.

With tracks like ‘Tear You Down’, ‘Beautiful’ and more recently ‘Loveline’, the Brookes Brothers have cemented their place at the cutting edge of drum & bass and dance music at large, using a combination of professional as well as their home-based studios.

DJ Mag took the opportunity to interrogate the Brookes Brothers about producing between studios, and how chart-busting tunes can be made in the comfort of any recording environment…

Can you give us a run down of what equipment you use to produce?

Dan: “We both have our own studios, situated five minutes apart. Phil’s just moved into a new studio, and I’m currently on a makeshift set-up whilst I renovate my room. We both run custom-built PCs running Windows 7 and Cubase 6.5. 
“Monitor-wise, I am still using an old pair of Fostex PM1s that we love too much to get rid of. Phil uses KRK Rokit 8s but we mix everything down using a combination of the PM1s and our headphones. We use a Steinberg UR824 souncard, which is a lovely-sounding little beast. And lots of plug-ins, of course...”

What’s your favourite plug-in?

Dan: “There are so many fantastic plug-ins about these days, it's hard to choose. One plug-in we almost always use is the Ferric TDS plug-in from Bootsy. It's a saturation and dynamics effect that just sounds great on so much sonic material — and it's free! We use it on almost every track, particularly for drums and other transient material. I'd recommend all of Bootsy's plug-ins. The new Density MK2 compressor is a current fave as well.”

You have an interesting method when it comes to plug-in-intensive sessions? 

Dan: “Yeah, unruly projects can cause a huge amount of hassle! Our projects tend to get pretty big (normally over 200 tracks and loads of plug-ins), so it's essential to keep them organised and clearly laid out. One thing we do to help with this is to create each section separately in a different project. This also enables us to use more processing power earlier, in order to get things to sound right straight off the bat. These parts will be bounced out to the main project, and we can go back to them later if we need to change any elements.”

You use quite a lot of vox in your productions.

Do you prefer to work with your own recordings, or with samples?

Phil: “We like doing both. Recording ourselves is more laborious, but more rewarding. It’s often good to come up with ideas using samples, and then re-record them down the line. Generally these days we’ll either write a track, and then do the vocals towards the end of the writing process, or we’ll get sent a vocal idea and write around that.”

Do you usually record your vocals in professional studios or do you use your home set-ups?

Phil: “We do both, all the album vocals were recorded in Miloco Studios, but we have our own vocal set-up that we can use from home. Either works well. For pristine, big sounding vocals though, we generally like to record in a dead booth, preferably with a Neve 1073.”

What was it like working with Robert Owens on ‘Beautiful’?

Dan: “Robert is a house legend and a great dude. It was a treat for us to work with him, having been a fan for a good ten years. We were doing our vocal sessions for the album at Miloco studios in Shoreditch, Robert came down one afternoon and we had it all done in about an hour. He just knows exactly what he wants out of his own vocal, and nails it super-fast! Easy work for us, and we were really happy with the way the vocals turned out.”

Do you both have set roles in production? Is one of you more melodically inclined that the other?

Dan: “Not really, we both try and cover all the bases. It’s important to be well rounded as producers individually as well as collectively. We often push each other to work on our weaker areas.”

Who are your main influences?

Phil: “Damn, we love so many different types of music, it’s hard to say! It’s always been a massive melting pot. We’re both big into ‘80s funk and soul. Stuff like Earth, Wind & Fire, The Whispers, Dazz Band, Hall & Oates etc. Electronic music-wise, our greatest influences are more melodic artists like Daft Punk, Jazzanova, MJ Cole and so many d&b artists, guys like Photek, Marcus Intalex and ST Files, Calibre. Currently we are loving Disclosure and Bobby Tank. Also love a good pop tune, who doesn’t?”

Your album track ‘In Your Eyes’ is pretty much a full-on dubstep record. Have you considered expanding on that sound and is there anyone in that scene that you’d work with?

Dan: “We just do whatever we're feeling at the time. We like to switch things up and keep the music fresh. The latest track we've written is four-to-the-floor at 140bpm. There's a load more cross-genre material on the way. In terms of dubstep collabs, we'd work with anyone whose music we love. Loving a bit of Gemini and Bobby Tank at the moment.”

You worked on some music for Example’s last album. How did that differ from your usual production process?

Phil: “Completely different! With both tracks that we did — ‘Microphone’ and ‘Wrong In The Head’ — the actual songs had basically been written already, so besides adding a few parts it was just a case of producing the tracks. Having said that, we had to rebuild all the drums and bass from scratch — that was the most time-consuming part of the process. “‘Microphone’ was a ballad written by Guy Chambers, so we had to be pretty careful not to screw that one up! We’d never done anything in that style before so it was definitely out of our comfort zone, but we ended up learning a lot more as a result. We took a similar approach technically without having to make the tracks as loud as our dancefloor stuff.”

What’s next for the Brookes Brothers?

Dan: “Our latest single ‘Loveline’ featuring Haz-Mat — the Detroit-based talkbox wizkid — is out now on Breakbeat Kaos, we’re DJing a lot as always and just finishing up a remix for the legendary Candi Staton which is out very soon. Also, we’ve got a few exciting collabs in the works. There’s going to be a torrent of releases over the next year, prepare for the onslaught!”