Ground Control: Rudimental

“Scientists – work that out!”

Being in Rudimental's East London studio is a treat in itself. Up on the top floor, the neat space seems to be packed with all manner of synths and odd pieces of kit. The band themselves – well, Amir Amor and Piers Agget are representin' – are bouncing ideas between them, playing with the brand new, limited edition Moog that they had delivered a few days before. It's a hefty piece of kit, but nowhere near as hefty as the bass vibrations it is currently pummelling out across East London rooftops.

“This is up top,” Amir muses. “Bigger windows! When you're in the studio the whole time, without windows… you're a zombie.”

But we're not here to tinker with synths and talk about windows – Rudimental have a new album on the way. 'We The Generation' – the follow up to the smash hit debut 'Home' – is out on October 2nd, and it's a stunningly diverse piece of work. The title is, as the band readily admit, a little bold.

“For us, there's a song we created called 'We The Generation' and that kind of sparked the idea,” exclaims Piers. “And I feel like this new album is a statement for us; it's a statement of positivity, and being yourself, believing in yourself and doing what you want to do rather than being told how to act or what type of music to make. It's the self-expression of us and what we are. The soul and positivity is just all there. It's saying that we are the generation in a positive, uplifting way. We're not trying to be anything else.”

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Rudimental are part of a generation of London kids who have been cast in a bad light – caught up in a poverty trap, riots and Form 696. This gesture of positivity, it could be argued, goes much deeper than the tempos on the new record. “We came from backgrounds where that was the case,” explains Amir, taking time to get his point across. “Three of us don't know our dads. We were in those situations and it could have very easily been another way. We represent ourselves. There is a lack of positivity towards this generation, it's often portrayed in a bad way.”

“Positivity is important to us just because there's a lot of bad negative things in the world and especially where we come from,” adds Piers. “Ten years ago it was such a dark place. It's just a really important thing for us because to come out of that negativity in whatever situation you're in, you kind of need to think positive. We just all had experiences where it all mattered to us. To look at things in a positive light. Rather than looking at the bad things in the situation, you need to enjoy the good things.”

The group are certainly in a position to enjoy the good things. The enormous success of debut album 'Home' was as deserved as it was unexpected, establishing a new pop paradigm with its fusion of breakbeat house, bass frequencies and gorgeous, pop-tinged soul vocals. “The crazy thing is that the dust never settled,” says Piers. “That's what's been mad. I don't think we've had more than a week or two weeks in one place, in one studio.”

“We toured so much last year around the world – we went to Australia, we went to America, South Africa, India. We went everywhere. This summer we carried on playing a lot of new album tracks to crowds that don't have the album. We're used to that. And the album feels like a continuation. We never, ever stopped.”

But it seems that the energy of Rudimental's live show has fed straight back into the band's studio approach. “Fast touring and recording go hand in hand,” insists Amir. “A lot of bands take about six months to make an album or whatever but I think, for us, we get a lot of inspiration from performing as well. We're pretty eager to get back into it.”

Working quickly, the band utilised spaces across the globe before finally assembling the finished product at their Hoxton studio. “In South Africa we'd book three days in a studio while we're there, LA, New York… all these places we'd book some extra days and collaborate with some artists while we're out there,” says Piers. “It's been really fun to do that because then we can take it back here, have four days off from the live show, come back here and craft it to the sound of the new album. And start piecing together all these things we've recorded, with amazing little jams. It's fun doing it that way, I can't imagine stopping and making an album for six months.”

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The crazy thing is that the dust never settled…

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Featuring a host of guest vocalists, one of the curious things about Rudimental's generation is that it doesn't stick to one time, one sound. Working with some of their heroes, sessions included contributions by everyone from disco icon Nile Rodgers – who didn't, in fact, make the cut – to reggae legend Max Romeo. “I think that's been one of the really amazing things for us, and is something that we'll look back on in 20 years, because a lot of these guys won't be around,” Piers enthuses. “George Clinton, Bobby Womack – who actually passed away last year. It was one of the last vocals he was working on. Max Romeo. Barrington Levy.”

“We could have gone for all these pop people and filled the album with that, but we went for people who we were really influenced by, who we love and grew up listening to,” he insists. “We grew up listening to a lot of soul. Our parents would play us soul records and show us this music. So that's been an amazing part of this new album, along with all this new young talent that we're also launching. The Class Of 2015, I like to call it. It's great to have this nice balance. In 20 years time I'm going to be so proud of it, when I look back.”

One of the album's real emotional highpoints is a guest vocal from Bobby Womack. Sketched out while the legendary soul hero was battling cancer, it is one of the final projects he embarked on before his sad death. “We found out that Bobby had passed away and his wife was kind enough to pass on his message to us and send us a recording that he'd made and he'd asked us to finish it,” explains Amir. “He'd started writing to one of the beats but he couldn't finish it. So he said: here's a song that I've nearly finished the lyrics to, give it to the guys and ask them to finish it'. And that was the last time we heard from him.”

“It was one of the most amazing vocals that I've ever heard,” he gasps. “The lyrics are unbelievable. We actually made a random beat on the bus a couple of weeks later, we made it and it was in the same key, the same tempo and then we put it together. Over that month, basically, it just seemed to sort of manifest itself.”

Piers looks up, visibly conflicted between enormous pride in their achievements and lingering grief at the loss of a hero. “Scientists – work that out!” he beams. “How do you explain that?”

Arriving back in London, Rudimental began the difficult process of assembling these fragments, samples and beats into something approaching a coherent album.

“It's hard. You live in your records while you're mixing it and we were mixing it for six months. On and off,” sighs Amir. The process, somewhat inevitably, causes enormous friction, with the four often coming to loggerheads on the path a particular track should follow. “I always say, the sum of four of us is bigger than the four individuals,” states Piers. “It leads us in its own way and we're almost like running after it. We don't know what it is, we're still trying to figure it out!”

“That's just how it works,” adds Amir. “We're tweaking stuff to the last second. Especially because we play the songs live before they're finished, to just try 'em out and change things on the stage and come back and be like: sorry we have to put this new part in! So yeah, it's a schizophrenic process.”

'We The Generation' is finally complete, with the band now left with the difficult decision as to what they should do with the offcuts. Prepping their own Major Tom's imprint, it seems that some of this material could yet see the light of day. “Recently we've managed to turn it into a proper label and now we have the right to release stuff,” explains Amir. “Potentially, we're thinking about different routes of doing it, we haven't done it or anything. It's not solid yet. There's tracks with the legends.”

“We could probably do a hip-hop album and a reggae album,” Piers insists, his arms gesticulating wildly at the sheer excitement of it all. “But that's the fun thing about the label, we've got the scope now to just do what we want. Those songs can surface. There's at least two or three of 'em that are amazing enough to kick off album three with!”

And with that, we wind our way back down the staircase, leaving Rudimental to play with their freshly unwrapped synths, take phone calls from legends and argue, argue, argue over their third album. 'Home' it seems, is definitely where the heart is.

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'We The Generation' will be released on October 2nd.

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