The UK’s Delta Heavy – Ben Hall and Simon James – are rising stars of bass music. Hall explains to Cyclone they’ve been plotting an album for Ram Records and, besides remixing everyone from Example to Nero to Rita Ora, throwing original beats Rihanna’s way.
Search 'Delta Heavy' on dance sites and up comes guff about Sasha & Digweed's early 2000s American tour of the same name. It's no coincidence. “We got it from that tour,” a bashful Hall admits of their handle. “When I was a teenager, I was into house and progressive house and nu-skool breaks, which obviously doesn't really exist any more,” he laughs. “So about that time, around 2000, when I was 15 or 16, I was a big Sasha & Digweed fan. Then, when Simon and myself had got together, we were desperately in need of a name. I just remembered that name. I was like, 'that sounds cool' – so we took it. Sasha used to be on my old DJ agency [roster] and apparently he found out and he's cool with it – so it's all good!”
Delta Heavy, traversing drum'n'bass, dubstep and EDM, are embarking on their first proper Australian tour – and it's epic, even taking in Darwin. “Simon came over last February, and then I came over just for New Year's Eve to play Origin Festival in Perth. So it's kind of our second main tour, but it's the first time we're both going over together.” The DJs sure are busy. Hall is conducting this interview from a taxi, en route to the airport. Today he's flying to the US.
Hall met James at the University Of Nottingham. “I was studying Art History. Si was studying Sociology, I think.” On completion, Hall went travelling, while James landed a job. Delta Heavy crystallised later – six years ago. Hall had been DJing around Nottingham previously. “We both were starting to produce – and, at the same time, really starting from scratch. We thought, 'We're both at the same kinda level, let's just get in the studio and see what happens'. It all spiralled from there.” The London-based combo broke out in 2010 with their anthem Abort, issued on a Headroom EP from Liverpool's Viper Recordings. They signed to drum'n'bass mogul Andy C's Ram, home of Chase & Status and Sub Focus, establishing themselves as credible newcomers with Space Time/Take The Stairs. The Radio 1 faves have since enjoyed a cult pop video with Get By. They've also clubbed up Ms Ora's Tinie Tempah-featuring RIP for Roc Nation. However, Delta Heavy's biggest remix remains that of Nero's Must Be The Feeling – which, Hall notes, is responsible for their US profile. The track has had nearly seven million views on YouTube, and over 100,000 downloads on Soundcloud – the sort of stats “which,” Hall kids, “would get you number one in the charts if it was paid for!”
Delta Heavy have made a huge impact in a relatively short time. Yet they've faced challenges. For a spell the pair had to “balance” any music activity with day jobs, James lucky enough to work in a recording studio. “You're spending all day in an office, then coming home and having to try to write music – it's not the easiest thing,” Hall rues. “But I guess that's a process everyone has to go through to get to the level where you can do it full-time... We've been doing it full-time for about 18 months now, which is what we always wanted to do, so it's very nice to be in this position. It took a lot of hard work, so it's nice when it pays off.”
Delta Heavy, who last released Empire in January, are preparing their debut album for Ram. “We're deep into it at the moment,” Hall says. They have “about 12 tracks”, but “nothing's finished yet”. “We've been working with a lot of different vocalists.” Hall is reluctant to reveal details. Nevertheless, he assures that it will be stylistically diverse. “It's just gonna be a very big mix of BPMs and different styles and genres... I think it's gonna take some people by surprise, 'cause it's a bit of a departure from maybe the style we're known for. Everything up 'til this date has been quite heavy and just solely for the dancefloor. [But] there's gonna be a lot of stuff that isn't really dancefloor – a lot of actual songs. It's just a real progression for us artistically. But I don't wanna say too much more (laughs guiltily)... We're looking to finish it by the end of the summer – and hopefully it'll be out possibly by the end of the year.”
To some extent, the album is Delta Heavy's reaction to brostep. Hall feels that bass music has degenerated into something “quite noisy and really quite loud and in-your-face”. “We're moving towards something a bit more musical.” Not that Hall is inclined to diss brostep outright. He freely acknowledges Skrillex as an influence. The US dubstep boom has ensured that dance is now the dominant pop music – and Delta Heavy are beneficiaries. Still, Hall reckons that dubstep is “oversaturated”. “There seems to be a lot of people just trying to make what has been popular, and I don't think that's particularly healthy,” he says. “I think people have to move on a bit from that certain sound, and that's happening this year.”
Chase & Status are active in the pop sphere, contributing to three Rihanna albums (and recruiting the likes of Plan B, Cee Lo Green and White Lies for their own output). Delta Heavy, too, have (pop) stars in their eyes. Hall imagines that, if their music becomes “a bit more accessible”, that will lead to production opportunities. In fact, RiRi's camp have already contacted them. “We did actually make her a track for her last album [Unapologetic], but it wasn't used,” Hall divulges, sounding disappointed. It was an “aggressive” dubstep record. “We were quite surprised she wanted something so full-on, but maybe that's why it didn't make the album.”
Those catching Delta Heavy in Oz will hear fresh material. “We'll be dropping a few things from our album, and we've got a remix we've just done for Zomboy which is coming out in about a month – [so expect] a typical Delta Heavy set, with lots of different styles, like drum'n'bass, dubstep, trap, house, electro, hip hop, everything.”