An interview with Voyeur

An interview with Voyeur

There’s no shortage of young British deep house producers at the moment. Most can capture the core ingredients to get a dancefloor moving, but only a proportion achieve style and soul.

Cue Voyeur, who back in 2012 were taken under the wing of someone significant. Kerri Chandler, one of the originators and most respected artists of the genre, had Leo Pickings and Benson Herbert release on his Madtech label with their debut EP ‘Blame it on the Youth‘. Then a few years later came a promotion to parent label Madhouse and EPs ‘Rain Away’ and ‘Tonight’.

Last year the duo’s impressive debut full-length ‘I’ dropped on Chandler’s newly inaugurated Kaoz Theory; (‘chaos’ with a Z) ten tracks of deep and dusty grooves interspersed with the odd down-tempo moment. Standouts come from ‘Presence’ with its stirring piano motifs and vocal, the 12-minute long ‘Seamless Seamstress’ which makes you feel like you’ve been catapulted into outer space, and the chunky bass hook driven ‘Spirituality’. As with the preceding EPs they’ve achieved something genuinely emotive; going well beyond the pacing, club-orientated foundations of the sub-genre.

They’re touring DJs as well, including residents at Flux when the event goes to London, and on Easter Sunday Leo and Benson join Kerri Chandler at Mint Warehouse for the annual Terrace Party. Before that, we got better acquainted with the guys.

As Flux residents your Leeds connection is obviously a strong one so we should start here. What did the origins of Voyeur look like? How did the underground culture affect where you are today?

We both were studying Music Production in Leeds when we met, (Leo at LCoM and Benson at Leeds Met) and basically met through a mutual friend. We started off messing about with a few track ideas and it seemed to always go really smoothly, so we just carried on working together. The scene in Leeds is so beautifully saturated across so many genres, and being residents at Flux was amazing for us. Even just warming up for all these DJs we really aspired to was a dream come true!

What’s the story behind Kerri Chandler’s first contact with you? Had you always aspired to release first on a label like Madtech?

A friend of ours was working in the champion offices and just by chance she was playing a remix we had done when Kerri walked through the door. He stopped and asked what the track was and contacted us saying he wanted an EP for a new label he was starting up… Madtech. So very lucky!

I’m not sure what our ideas for a first label were at the time but Kerri’s music was always playing in our houses in Hyde Park so it was a no brainer!

You clearly come from the same smooth and soulful place musically, but how much of an involvement has Kerri had on your production up to now? What do you think your discography would like like if he hadn’t arrived on the scene?

We’ve always been massive fans of Kerri’s music and so we feel incredibly blessed to have met him and for his help and guidance along the way. He has been a massive inspiration to us so he has definitely influenced the music we make today, but in terms of involvement in production, Kerri has always been adamant we do things ourselves. His knowledge is passed down to us but he wouldn’t touch a track of ours unless we were going to collaborate on it properly. We did so on the track Patron Saint from our debut album, where he laid down one of his amazing bass lines!

The ‘I’ LP is a really tasteful and cohesive debut. Tell us about the production of that. Was it a musical narrative you’d wanted to tell all along, or did the ideas emerge once the process was underway?  

Most of the tracks on the album had been in the making for a few years, they were tracks that we either couldn’t quite finish, or that wouldn’t fit the sound of a previous EP. We started off writing another EP for Kaoz Theory and Kerri felt there were so many demos, he could hear an album coming from them, so it was essentially his idea and drive that pushed us to starting such a large project. We’d always had ideas to write an album but had never given it too much thought.

After months of working the track-list and writing new tracks for it we decided it finally worked and started the process of making them all work together then mixing down and finishing off. We wanted to album to be diverse but also keep a consistent sound to it.

You guys seem to own a lot of equipment. What’s your most prized piece of kit?

Think it would have to be the Roland space echo, it’s unbelievably sexy and probably gets used in every track we make. We do like to sample from vinyl a lot, so the turntable is an integral part of the writing process, as are our samplers. Akai S-series rack unit, and the Maschine is incredible too!

How much of a feature do live instrumentals have in the album and your music generally? Do you think purely tech or sample-driven work can ever be as impactful as using live sounds to some degree?

We often try to put as much live instrumentation in our tracks as possible as it adds a more real feel to tracks. Particularly in the album, all the tracks have some sort of live recording in them, whether it was violins, piano all the way to our field recordings. Sometimes we like to use improvisation as a compositional tool, letting go behind the Nord can be a great way to get ideas over a beat. And these can also then be re-sampled and manipulated afterwards.

What does the future look like for you on the release front?

We just about to have a remix released for the band Nubiyan Twist (originally formed in Leeds), an amazing group of musicians you need to check out if you haven’t yet! We have another forthcoming track on Monoluges, and in the process of finishing off a few more EPs which we’re really excited about releasing in the coming months!

Is DJing an equal passion to producing or does one trump the other? As a pair, how do you tend to navigate through a b2b set together? 

They are of course equal! They survive together alongside one another.

In terms of our sets, without sounding too cliché, we’re all about trying to make it feel like a journey, so we like to go through different sections, disco to acid to more techy to more housey. Our favourite DJs we aspire to will work there way through different sub genres and we try to emulate that same kind of vibe in our sets.

What’s your standout DJing moment up to now? Where would you most like to play that you haven’t yet?

Playing the Rex Club back in December was amazing and somewhere we have always really wanted to play. Sub Club as well was an incredible night, however, playing room one in fabric has to trump it for us though, emotional! Would love to play Eleven, (formerly ‘Space Lab Yellow’) in Tokyo and DC10?

You meet someone who knows nothing about house. Three best tracks of all time to convert them to the genre?

Larry Heard – Deja Vu (remix)

Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It

Kerri Chandler – Rain

Tickets for The Terrace Party are still available, and you can listen to ‘I’ in full below.

Julia Connor

(Image: Lewis Khan)

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