Ulterior Motive

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May 16

Alice McKay talks to James Davidson, one half of Ulterior Motive, about his upcoming HK gig and inheriting Goldie's teeth

Bournemouth based duo James Davidson and Greg Hepworth make up the dynamic duo that is Ulterior Motive and they’re going to be breaking down walls this Saturday 16 May in Hong Kong. From building boats for Formula 1 drivers, completing degrees and remodeling old synthesizers for their studio, they have made time to consume music from the whole spectrum.

Old house Fantazia and Dreamscape hardcore tapes started them out on their journey to drum & bass. They cite Teknikal with introducing them to 'proper' drum ‘n’ bass in 1996 and they haven't looked back since.

The resounding success of their first album, Fourth Wall, which landed on the iTunes dance chart at number 9 alongside David Guetta and Calvin Harris, gave mainstream dance music a refreshing slap round the face whilst staying true to themselves and true to the label. Their motive was simple – to make a great drum ‘n’ bass album. With its popping stabs and licks coupled with a furibund of percussion and rolling bass lines, they most certainly did create something really special.

Hey James, how are you? Excited to be playing in Hong Kong?
Yes, all good thanks – really excited to be playing. I’ve never visited Hong Kong before and all I’ve ever heard is good things so I can’t wait!

You were my absolute highlight of Sun&Bass last year and your Bal Harbour mix is the mix I always play ‘at that time of the night’. What do you put on ‘at that time of the night?’
That Bal Harbour party was definitely one of, if not THE highlight of last year for us - so many vibes from everyone. As for a mix ‘at that time of night’ it honestly changes every time but its usually not drum ‘n’ bass if we’re at home – more like machine drum or Run the Jewels.

Labels, labels, labels... If you had to market drum and bass in one sentence what would you say?
To someone new? Something like, chart topping radio drum ‘n’ bass isn’t all there is. Dig a bit deeper to find the real music

If you want to physically go digging for new music where do you go?
That question is getting harder and harder as time goes by and music shops close down. Charity shops can sometimes reveal hidden gems, but it’s rare. Oxfam in the UK have special music charity shops full of vinyl & CDs, so they’re a good place to start. 

Ulterior Motive are a duo, so 'Where's your mate' for this gig? 
Greg is currently on tour in Australia and New Zealand, we love getting the opportunity to play abroad as a duo but isn’t always possible

Who do you listen to or where do you go if you want to:
Dance - A wedding (usually playing 80s music) 
Be inspired - This is a tricky one as inspiration comes as a surprise 9 times out of 10. Probably listening to something new though
Experience a great sound system - Berghain in Berlin or Fabric, London
Be entertained - Backstage anywhere if Paul Jubei is around

You've been killing it with remixes, your first album Fourth Wall being released last October, and playing sold out gigs and festivals all over the world – so what has the rest of 2015 got in store for Ulterior Motive?
Well, like I said, Greg is in Australia and New Zealand, we’re hoping USA comes through soon, playing Glastonbury for the first time which is really exciting, Dimensions in Croatia, Let It Roll and loads more. In between the shows we’ve been putting a lot of effort into writing new music which is coming really soon.

Many performance opportunities must come your way; what would make you turn down a gig?
Haha, I’m not sure! Maybe if it were a back-to-back set that I know wouldn’t work – like with a wobbly dub step artist for example

You get the chance to put on the best night ever with whichever artists or bands dead or alive you want, what would your perfect line up be?
Hmmm, there's just too many and all our fave artists on the same lineup probably wouldn’t work. But to give you an idea maybe James Brown, Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, Amon Tobin, Boards of Canada, Konflict, Wu Tang, Nirvana….

How do you go about constructing an album like Fourth Wall in terms of planning, process and creativity? 
Our process from the beginning was clear: we feel that the most important thing is the creative idea, the actual song as it were, not how heavy the drums are or how sick the bass is. That can be crafted later (it’s long and frustrating but it can be done).

So every day for a few months we always opened up a blank page and created something new, didn’t matter what it was, just poured it out. Then we ended up with 80 or so sketches for tunes, picked the really strong seven or eight contenders and finished them. Then we had, say, 30 or so good ideas we could draw from to make the album a complete and rounded package.

We wanted it to be 100% drum and bass as that is what Metalheadz is to us – but although we wanted every tune to be able to be played on the dance floor, they didn’t all have to be smashing rollers or big room tunes. 

What’s the best perk of being a part of a label like Metalheadz? And who out of you all inherits Goldie's teeth or Ant Dispatch's record collection do you imagine?
I think the best part of being on Headz is getting that respect as an artist and being associated with its amazing history – the team is very tight too! Also we get free t-shirts and jumpers. Hah, I don’t think anyone will inherit Goldie’s teeth – they’re all his! No one has the space for Ant’s records so he can keep those, too!

James, what's your Ulterior Motive? (Sorry…)
Probably vegetarian Dim Sum.

Do you have an alter musical ego? 
Yes, but its a secret.

Is there anyone across any music genre that you'd love to get in the studio with you?
Loads of people really - anyone who’s gifted is great to be with in the studio to get inspiration from. Think Warp records / Ninja tune for the creativity inspiration or Noisia / Phace for engineering inspiration

Head down this Saturday to Zafran where SYNTHETIK x MISCHIEF x HEAVY are bringing you Ulterior Motive, who will be digging deep and sharing some no rules drum ‘n’ bass.  With local support from Phaeton, Blood Dunza and MC RVEE.

Sat May 16. Zafran, 43-45 Wyndham Street, 11pm; $180 (adv), $200 (door). ticketflap.com.

Follow Ulterior Motive on FacebookTwitter & Soundcloud

You can catch Alice hosting the UK Top Singles Chart show on Billboard Radio China


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