Gorgon City

Jungle and hardcore are at the heart of dance music act Gorgon City. We discover how they’ve injected these sounds into the mainstream…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 19 Dec 2014
  • min read
‘Watching 50,000 American kids dancing to garage was weird. Especially when they were dancing as if they were in a London club but were actually in Palm Springs.’

Producers and DJs Gorgon City are reflecting on their time at the Coachella festival from earlier this year, one of numerous highlights for the pair Matt Robson-Scott and Kye Gibbon. Alongside contemporaries and friends such as Clean Bandit, Jess Glynne and Duke Dumont, they’ve been one of the biggest British success stories to come out of the purple patch dance music is currently enjoying.

Their debut album Sirens and break out hit Ready For Your Love (with another man of the moment MNEK) have done serious damage to the charts and clubs on both sides of the pond during 2014. The pair initially bonded over their love for underground jungle and drum and bass sounds but are now known for a pop-friendly sound someway removed from London clubs where they first cut their teeth. We quizzed Matt to get to the bottom of their success…

How did you get into dance music?

I grew up in the UK surrounded by my brother’s crew of friends and listening to their rave tape packs. I became really intrigued by jungle and hardcore, bought some rubbish decks when I was 14, started buying records and making my own music soon after.

I was always into other music through my parents but after hearing jungle and garage, that UK London underground kind of sound, it got me really into dance music. I started working on my parent’s rubbish laptop with fruity loops and Logic and went from there.

How did Gorgon City form?

We met because we both had the same DJ agent and ended up playing at the same nights together. One night we had the idea of getting in the studio and making a tune just for fun. Many dance music producers do that - collaborate just for a laugh and put it out as an EP. That was the original plan, there was no thought into making it into an actual thing.

But it worked really well and we finished tracks every time we’d meet. The sound was pretty different to our solo stuff so we decided to give it a real go.

Why does the partnership work so well?

We both grew up on similar music. Kay was also really into drum and bass, jungle and garage and we just had a similar love for making bass lines and mixing drums. Being into similar sounding music worked really well when we wanted to create our own ideas. We both kind of knew what we wanted to do as we’d been into it for a while and that made it easy to finish tracks.

How did you connect with Black Butter?

I started Rack n Ruin, my solo name, with Henry who kicked off Black Butter. He used to manage me, he still does and I put out a few tunes via them. Then, when me and Kye got together, it felt like the right place for Gorgon City at the time. That’s where we stuck, then we started working with Virgin/EMI. We’re still affiliated with Black Butter, still friends and family.

How did you go about making Sirens?

We didn’t have a plan. We were just writing tracks to make music rather than an album. All the tracks were more dancefloor orientated at the time, but then when we started to realise we had a big body of work, we opted to do a full length record. It all happened naturally and organically.

How many songs did you end up writing for the record?

We made about 30 tracks that we were really into - there’s a few that didn’t make the final cut which we want to revisit and release at a later date. We whittled it down to the LP but when we were making it, we had no idea of what we were doing or how to piece it together.

How do you approach each collaboration?

Generally we try and make sure we go into the studio with nothing at all, particularly after working with Yasmin on Real. We wrote that song all together from scratch. Once we did that, we decided we’d start every collaboration the same way. We’d chat for a bit, get a vibe, play some random chords and write the lyrics, melody and hook together, even the bass line on some of them. It was all very collaborative, which makes the tracks sound more real and a lot less generic. When you work like this, the songs have more meaning rather than just being random dance tracks with vocals thrown on them.

You collaborated with MNEK on Ready For Your Love – how did you find working with him?

It was great. We met him through Black Butter and Rudimental and got to know him through partying and at nights we’d be DJing at. The natural thing to do was to get in the studio. We were mutual fans and it just worked really easily. We wrote for Ready For Your Love in an hour lyric wise, then me and Kye went in on the production afterwards. Hopefully we’ll work with him even more on the second album. He’s a good friend of ours, plays out with us, comes on tour a lot. It’s been a great journey with him and watching his solo material progress.

Clean Bandit, Disclosure and yourselves have all enjoyed amazing success this year - why do you think audiences are connecting with you guys?

We met these guys because of Black Butter. The label was really forward thinking and kept signing these interesting acts and artists, most of them from London. We kind of do similar things but also everyone has their own unique take on it. It’s cool. Everyone seems to have loads of ideas. When you meet up, we talk about equipment, production techniques, everyone is bouncing ideas off each other and giving each other advice, even with songwriting. There’s an energy where everyone is helping out each other out.

What have been the highlights of 2014?

Many of the US shows have been amazing. It’s been a mad time for us over there – but we’ve been really well received at Coachella, HARD in Los Angeles. We couldn’t believe how many people came to see us. Glastonbury was also amazing. Getting the album together was really exciting. That final moment when the LP got mastered was incredible.

What are your thoughts on the current state of dance music?

There’s a lot of amazing music being made at the moment and some people are jumping on the band wagon and doing a similar thing. That happens with all types of music, particularly dance music, but I think the real solid producers and artists – their tracks stand the test of time because they sound original.

In America, EDM doesn’t feel very European or British. It’s a very different vibe. We went to the club and didn’t want to see the DJ, just hear the DJ. We don’t care what they look like, we just wanted to dance and listen to the music. So EDM doesn’t feel very relevant to what we’re about. But then again, if they’re gonna embrace our sound, then great.

Watching Disclosure at Coachella this year felt like theirs was the most important set. 50,000 American kids dancing to garage like they were in a garage club in London but they were actually in Palm Springs. It’s quite weird but amazing to see it.

What’s next?

We’re getting back into writing. We’ve been constantly making stuff on the road but we really start work on these new songs when we get back from tour in January. We’re looking forward to it. There’s only so much you can do on a laptop on a plane.