The Freestylers’ Matt Cantor is chatting to me over a dodgy connection munching on some toast, so it’s very hard to hear him in some parts of the conversation. Which is a real pity because the Freestylers are amongst my favourite producers, and have been for about 8 years. Unashamedly responsible for some of the biggest “big beat” records around, they’ve progressed with the scene and have arrived with Raw As Fuck. The first single Get A Life hit the No. 1 spot in the English dance music charts with very little promotion. “Obviously we’re really happy with getting number one in the charts,” says Cantor, munching on some toast. “That’s with absolutely no promotion; it’s just people going out and buying the records. It’s nice to know that people still know the name and want our stuff. It’s the first thing we’ve had out under the name Freestylers for a few good years.”
The Freestylers disappeared for a while after the collapse of their record label Freskanova. “For a while there it was really great, just a bunch of friends together and we all used to A&R it”, Cantor explains. “We’d been recording for the people who ran it for a long time. But I guess it just ran its course. They lost a lot of money and went bankrupt and ceased to exist.” This explains the absence of the band, and also the rise of a little group called Raw As Fuck. “Just to keep the music out there we decided to put some underground breakbeat out under the name Raw As Fuck. And another year down the line we thought the dust would have settled, and we could go buck to out former name. In a stroke of genius we decided to call our next album Raw As Fuck”, Cantor laughs.
The Freestylers are just about to embark on a whistlestop tour of the Eastern seaboard, which upsets this reporter greatly because I’m not located on it! “This time it’s just me and Aston,” Cantor relates. “It’s a real whistlestop tour, we’re just coming to play our new material. We haven’t been down there for about a year and a half, we’re just in and out of there in a week, doing these four big parties.” But there’s hope yet, as Cantor says there’s definitely talk of getting the whole band down for the big festivals next summer. “The band hasn’t actually toured Australia yet, and we’re very keen to get the whole band experience down there.”
“It’s funny because I don’t actually tour with the band any more,” Cantor explains. “It was just getting exhausting, and me and Aston found we were doing the same job on stage anyway. Ashton enjoys the pressures of the road, whereas I enjoy being in the studio and DJing and stuff.” He goes on to explain that he saw the band at Fabric, and says he was very impressed. “We’ve down size the band… we used to go out with break dancers and stuff,” he pauses. “I suppose you could it an attempt to be more ‘serious’. The sound has got a little heavier; the music we’re making is a little more heavy. The band no longer has Navigator and Tenor Fly; we’ve got a MC called Surreal who’s got his own style, you know. We’ve got Valerie M doing the vocal tracks still, and bass, and drums, and Ashton on his stack of samplers. It’s a much tighter but much bigger sound.”
I asked if the the Freestylers still play the old stuff, either their own or that of the other bigbeat players. “The thing is it was really fun back in the day, there were some really fun records. But if you start thinking music was better back then than it is now, it’s probably time to give up”, he states matter of factly. “We’re really excited with the what’s happening now… that’s the great thing about the breaks scene, things are always changing. We’re branching out away from the progressive stuff, and doing the more raw sounding music, big basslines and more drum and bass influence. The great thing about the nature of breaks is that it’s always changing and evolving.”
“Raw As Fuck (the Album) is looking to come out in early June,” Cantor says excitedly. “Push Up, the next single is going to be out in May. We’ve pulled all the Raw As Fuck tunes together and those tracks still sound fresh. A lot of people didn’t hear them, as they came out as an underground thing, and now people are going to get to hear them with a whole heap of new stuff.”