Home is where the heart is - Rudimental interview

We quiz Rudimental producer and songwriter Amir Amor about the band’s success and rapid rise to fame.

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  • By Paul Nichols
  • 1 Jan 2014
  • min read

Amir Amor and his group Rudimental have had a mind-blowing 12 months, climbing to the top of the charts and being crowned kings of the UK’s festival season. Jim Ottewill finds out how they did it.

‘It’s all been a totally mad ride,’ says Rudimental producer and songwriter Amir Amor when quizzed about the band’s rapid rise to fame.

It’s not surprising. This year the world has fallen at the feet of Hackney’s Rudimental and their debut album Home. Amir and band members Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden and Leon Rolle have blazed a trail through 2013, taking festival crowds and the record buying public with them. They’ve come a long way from their base at Amir’s east London HQ (and recording studio) Major Tom’s. When we chat he’s in New York after a run of jubilant US shows.

‘There’s something else about coming to the other side of the world and playing your music to sold-out crowds. It’s nothing like home but it’s been kicking off here big time,’ he says, sounding surprised.

He shouldn’t be. It’s been ‘kicking off’ for Rudimental in the UK ever since Amir joined the group two years ago. Having discovered the crew via the illegitimate sizzle of pirate radio and a link via Black Butter Records, Amir’s membership was the touch paper behind an intense period of musical creativity. It gave birth to Rudimental’s debut album, a 12-song explosion of brass, soul, jazz, funk and bass. The record, with the help of number one singles Feel the Love and Waiting All Night, transported them into the very heart of the mainstream.

‘There was a rare energy in the room when we were writing those songs,’ Amir explains. ‘It’s something none of us had ever experienced before. Our success since then has far exceeded our expectations, even though we were always ambitious. When I joined, we talked about what we wanted to do in five years time. Headline Glastonbury. Release epic albums that will be around forever. It’s happening - but far, far quicker than any of us imagined.’

Rudimental made the album at their base in Hackney, an area they have such an affinity for they featured the borough’s Peace Mural on the cover of the record. The colourful spirit of positivity and unity embodied in the famous artwork is one which bursts out of their music and the album’s numerous collaborations. John Newman, Emeli Sandé, MNEK and Ella Eyre are some of the artists to feature, many of whom have recorded at the band’s Major Tom’s studio in east London. It’s this family affair, reminiscent of classic British acts such as Soul II Soul or Basement Jaxx, which Amir believes is behind their success.
We’re bringing positivity in the lyrics  and some happiness to dark times.

‘We have a wicked family vibe and energy on stage. There are nine of us up there so when people see us enjoying ourselves, they enjoy themselves too. Our shows have really connected with people as there isn’t one star or one stage. It’s more like a James Brown school of thought - every performer has their moment. We’re bringing positivity in the lyrics and some happiness to dark times.’

Rudimental’s HQ Major Tom’s role in the record cannot be underestimated. Not only is it the band’s base, but it’s also acted as an unofficial training ground for new and emerging acts. MNEK, John Newman and Plan B are just some of the artists and songwriters to have passed through its doors and gone on to make serious dents in the UK charts.

Amir says: ‘We recorded and produced the whole album in Major Tom’s. It’s been my brainchild for about six years now and is a base for Rudimental, MNEK and John Newman. It’s always been a really vibrant and creative place.’

The album Home has been much-loved by the music industry and music buyers alike with the record picking up the best album gong from the MOBOs and registering a Mercury Prize nomination. They may have lost out to James Blake for the Mercury but their record received the biggest sales spike in the run up to the event (29,000 units according to Official Charts Company data). Amir picks out the nomination as one of the biggest nods of acceptance yet for the band.

‘To be nominated for that, aw man it’s the best and most respected award the UK has,’ he exclaims. ‘I’ve bought all the shortlisted albums from the last few years so to be nominated ourselves was really amazing. All those records have been on heavy rotation on our tour bus. I’ve been listening to a lot of James Blake, Arctics and Foals.’

The record’s popularity is one thing but Rudimental’s spectacular live show has done much to help them get where they are. They’ve left their mark all over the UK festival season, becoming one of the ‘must see’ bands from the last year. Amir picks out V Festival as a huge gig for the band.

‘We’ve performed in front of thousands of people but that one was really special. Us and 50,000 people. The V organisers had to lock off the field because there were more people trying to get in. It was the biggest crowd at that stage since The Prodigy in the mid-nineties.’
We’ve got a lot more coming. Really. We’ve only just scratched the surface.

While Rudimental have enjoyed such success in the live arena, their chart topping has helped propel them to the front of a revival of British dance music. While UK bleeps have been healthily pulsing away underneath the mainstream for years, Rudimental, alongside fellow Mercury nominees Disclosure and rising star Duke Dumont, have brought beats to an even greater number of ears. Couple this British resurgence with the unstoppable juggernaut of EDM in the US and the future looks dazzling for dance music artists.

Amir says: ‘It currently seems like it’s in the best health ever. You’ve got acts like Disclosure who came through at the same time as us. They’re playing undiluted dance music in the mainstream. People are listening to it and getting it. We’re in America right now in New York playing jungle music which first came out of London. It’s definitely now an international thing.’

So why have the band achieved such success? Amir is pretty convinced that their willingness to collaborate, along with their work ethic, has been essential to their success.

‘Being stubborn and persistent are two of the most important qualities if you want to work in music. There will be a lot of obstacles in your way which could set you back,’ he says.

‘You need to be able to work with people, listen and collaborate. Making music is a collaborative thing. It’s not something you can do entirely on your own. That’s something which has taken me years to learn.’

While the band are now back from the US and working hard on spreading the word even further, Amir has no worries about the group risking burn out from working too hard. He says they have been constantly writing during their travels and are itching to get back in the studio.

‘We’re always writing music. It doesn’t matter whether we’re here or there. It’s a continuous process,’ he explains before promising: ‘We’ve got a lot more coming. Really. We’ve only just scratched the surface.’