Cutting his production teeth way back in the 90's, Billy Howe AKA Billion has now stepped into the limelight alongside MC Sense & Codebreaker MC... We catch up to find out about his club smasher "Defence".
As a DJ and producer you have been around for a long time even though you are a relative newcomer as a releasing artist in drum & bass. How has this wealth of experience influenced the way you now write music and your drum & bass productions?
I actually started DJing in 1991 under the name Billy Whizz working for a night called Creased Up at Ministry of Sound, then spent a few summers in various holiday destinations DJing pretty much every night and working back in the UK.
I got involved in pirate radio in 1994 for a station called Flex FM 103.6. In 1998 I ended up buying the station with Deekline. We spent 5 years co running parties under our Pure Promotions branding such as Trip to the Moon, Underground Steppers, Flex FM parties and monthly events at Chunnel Club, Hidden, Gass Club, Colosseum and lots of one off parties at various venues.
I got into production side of things around 1999 and basically learned from watching my friends EBK, Nathan Lockett, ILS & Donna Dee. In 1999 I sampled the famous hook from a TV programme onto DAT tape "Do you smoke Paul?... I don't smoke the reefer" which Deekline put on a track he was working on and it was UK No. 11 in June 2001. Before it charted we managed to sell 21,000 vinyl copies ourselves from the back of a Fiat Punto! We performed it on Top of the Pops which was a mad experience as I was steaming drunk! I also did a remix for Ils of Storm from the East which was a digital exclusive on his Bohemia album. I released a 12" 4 track EP in 2000 on Rat Records with EBK under The Beat Hustlers guise and remixed Out of Space in 2000 with Deekline and Donna Dee which got signed to Ministry of Sound.
My drum & bass life started in June 2009 when my mates Outlaw & Carlos decided to bring back Flex FM. I didn’t want to go back on the radio doing what I did before when it went off air in 2003. So MC Sense, being my flatmate at the time decided to turn me on to the darkside and got me into drum & bass. He also came up with my new drum & bass name Billion. He will tell you himself I threw myself deep into it and kind of lived and breathed the music non-stop. We did our radio show on Flex FM every Friday and it was a massive success. The back end of 2010 was when Codebreaker MC came more into the mix and was a regular alongside Sense on our show. I got into the production side of things and it was only a matter of time before we were making drum & bass tracks with both MCs rapping on the beats.
"I’ve had a strange path to drum & bass as I wasn’t into Jungle back then, I was playing house music."
So I’ve had a strange path to drum & bass as I wasn’t into Jungle back then, I was playing house music. I guess I’m lucky seeing as I’ve been in the music for a long time as I draw my influences from House music, UK garage, breakbeat and 88-92 oldskool.
"Defence" is your latest single alongside Codebreaker MC and MC Sense, what was the original idea behind the track?
I guess it came at a time when I had been writing a lot more minimal stuff and just wanted to make something with tuff beats and bass. It was one of those tracks that just came about in like 2 days when I was almost living in my studio and Codebreaker came over and just laid a few bars and they sounded really good. I then got Sense in to do the next verse and instantly knew it was sounding just how I wanted it to. Sense & Codebreaker are both very professional and once they’ve written their lyrics for the tracks they have been almost instantly recorded and in the mix… Well Codebreaker is a little harder to please hahaha!
The latest single sees you working with your fellow Fathom Audio members Codebreaker MC and MC Sense. How does the introduction of MCs influence the way you work? Are there considerations that need to be made, or adjustments in approach?
To be honest Sense is responsible for some of the twists in the bass and edits as well as the vocals and is kind of my QA before the tracks go out the door. I am pretty lucky as I have had a lot of guidance in the 3 years I’ve been in drum & bass.
"I’m well chuffed to be the 10th release on Alignment."
I think that most of my releases have been with MC's, in the old days I put out tracks with Hyperactive MC, Nasty Jack and then in drum & bass with Sense & Codebreaker. If anything its weird when I write music that's not for an MC.
One of the most celebrated producers of the last 12 months, Skeptical has given "Defence" the remix treatment. Possibly needless to say he has not disappointed, what did you think when you initially heard the remix?
When I first heard the mix I instantly knew it was just what I wanted. With the original being more loose, harder and live sounding this was the opposite. It was tight, stomping and sounds so controlled and snappy. It is also an honour for the track to get the remix treatment from a producer that I look to as one of the pioneers of this sound.
You are in the envious position of claiming the 10th release on Alignment Records. Traditionally something of a milestone for any label, and also marking the labels birthday (just about), how did you become involved with Mat Alignment?
Being a DJ you are always looking out for new labels with new beats. I spotted Alignment pretty much straight away when I started to get into drum & bas as I liked all the music they was releasing. I then started doing my Fathom Audio set with Sense & Codebreaker on a legal community radio station in Guildford called Kane FM 103.7FM. We got Mat down for an interview on one of our shows and I guess that was when we made friends. Me and Sense were going to do a label ourselves but after thinking about it seriously I realised I was too busy with my working life to even consider running a label so we signed "Defence", which was going to be our first release, to Alignment. I’m well chuffed to be the 10th release on Alignment and want to say a big thanks to Mat for everything and good luck for the label going forward.
Billion feat MC Sense & Codebreaker MC - "Defence" / Skeptical Remix is out 26/11/12