Pendulum's Rob Swire talks DNB, dubstep, and disliking 'In Silico'
Rob Swire of Pendulum
It's kind of hard to tell what year should be written on drum and bass's headstone since its influences are still so obvious in electronic and fringe genres. Standing on its own, DNB pulled the most muscle in the late '90s, back when duo Pendulum were just beginning their journey as producer/remixers. By updating their sound over the last five years by fusing it with rock and metal, the pair came squinting from out of the underground and ripping through on 2008's In Silico (which producer Rob Swire now tells us he hated).
Swire's earth-shattering bass and bold synths had clearly graduated from arena rock drum and bass to hardcore rock n' roll DNB, and at the center was partner Gareth McGrillen's metal ballad vocals. Swire says they've now found their sweet spot with Immersion -- a more streamlined album that caught Linkin Park's attention and ultimately led Pedulum to open for them on their Stateside tour (tonight at Xcel with Does It Offend You, Yeah?). We wanted to hear more from Swire so we rang him up few weeks ago as he was packing to leave the UK for the States.
You're touring as a supporting act for Linkin Park. How are you feeling about launching this one?
It's probably the biggest opportunity we've had in the States, which, if you're a drum and bass fan you'd know it's not as exposed as we'd like it to be. DNB is having a hard time in the States, but being more of a band thing and less of a DNB thing now I think it makes a lot of sense for us to support a band like that over there. Hopefully it works out.
What can fans expect from your set -- the usual lasers and craziness?
We'll be setting it up for the Linkin Park show, so unfortunately we can't bring out our full arena show set up. We'll be bringing in as much as we can though.
Curious about your album from '08, In Silico. Can you speak to that album since it was really the first time you went all out with the arena-style drum and bass?
We've done other albums since In Silico but that album was a tough one. There wasn't very many favorite moments, it was a very hard album to write for some reason. It was definitely second-album syndrome, I think. I think we were finding ourselves musically and figuring out which direction we wanted to go in.
(Our favorite track from In Silico is below - the official video is UFO themed and has more than 4 million views:)
So with new album Immersion, you feel you've found your footing more?
Yeah, I think so. I think the 3rd album is when a lot of bands find their sound and get more comfortable with what they're doing and that's true for us.
When you think back to the late 90s electronica scene and then think on your career now, there are obviously huge differences.
To be honest with you, we came into the scene quite late so we caught the backend of it when vinyl was already dying. I think in a way we never really got used to seeing the best side of the industry when it was at its peak. That's lucky, because you can't miss what you never had.
(An awesome Pendulum remix - things get serious at 1:05:)
Who were people you were really listening to back then that ended up shaping your sound?
Lot of drum n bass guys. Like Hive from the States, Bad Company (BC's DJ Fresh featured above), Konflict, etc. We were also listening to a lot of metal, lots of Tool and Deftones and that sort of stuff.
Does it bother you when music magazines point to the arena rock side of you and say you're just rock and roll drum n' bass, or when fans of DNB get upset you're not playing in a more upfront style?
There have been a lot of people who have sort of jumped on the wagon and once they saw that it was working as a formula for us either pointed fingers or tried the same. Everything we've done from day one has been genuine. When we put guitars on a track it's really because that's what we wanted to hear.
Do you have any opinion on how the popular dubstep genre has evolved in the last few years?
I love dubstep and I think it's a shame that it couldn't have happened for drum and bass the same way. But you know, I understand it, it's the tempo and a link to the hip-hop side of things. It's kind of exciting because any form of dance music getting big in the States is a rare thing and it's exciting to see dubstep doing what its doing.
Do you guys feel lucky in your U.S. success for far?
Definitely. But I think probably as a result of us stepping slightly away from street drum and bass.
Fringe electronic music like that is almost pop music in the UK now, would you agree? It's almost like a different planet over there by comparison.
I would agree, yeah. The second half of Tini Tempah's UK #1 track, Pass Out, was drum and bass and that was the biggest tune out here last year. Bands are always on about how cracking the States is such a different thing, but it's not that it's a different planet -- people are going to like music if its good and appreciate it anyway. Hopefully we don't have the same uphill battle that many UK bands have had.
(Pendulum's first single, "Witchcraft", is out now:)
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