HART & NEENAN
Q & A WITH hart & neenan
⤑ In 2018 you guys released your debut track “Zanzibar” on Max Chapman’s Resonance Records Sampler. What has your journey as artists been like since that release?
John: Things have really picked up since then. We’ve been lucky enough to have follow up releases on some amazing dream labels of ours and had the privilege of playing out pretty regularly - including gigs across London, Ibiza and even as far as Dubai. We’ve also been picked up by a great management team who have opened up a lot of doors for us, for sure.
Dale: It’s been a big learning journey, as a lot of our earlier productions were on the Tech House spectrum, but we were still trying to truly find our sound and establish our identity. I always had a strong minimal background in terms of DJ sets and production and used it to influence the direction we wanted to go down a few years back. We used this as an opportunity to craft our own sound taking influences from both our backgrounds, John being more driving bassline & garage and me being more influenced with the early naughties minimal sound. In parallel, we launched our own brand 'Metafloor' to use this as a platform to showcase our deeper sound and own productions which has exceeded our expectations already.
⤑ You guys have only been producing together as a duo for a few years. Did you guys start as a duo or did you have separate careers before joining forces?
John: I’ve been producing for around 10 years under various solo projects before Hart & Neenan. And I’m currently still working a corporate job on the side!
Dale: This is an interesting question and one we've been asked a few times. We were always close friends back in our University days, where we studied at the University of Southampton. John was part of a duo before, formerly known as 'South Royston' with another close mate back in the heavy bass house days, the boys actually had some really early success but unfortunately called it a day shortly after we all graduated. At this time, I had been DJ'ing solo for a few years and started to establish myself in the London scene. Then we first began producing together around three years ago, we started bouncing ideas to and from one another and then really enjoyed vibing in the studio together. After our first release came out on Resonance, we decided to work together on a more regular basis, the rest is history.
⤑ Can you tell us about some pros and cons that come with being a duo?
John: The positives are being able to bounce ideas off each other and it’s good when one person has writers block as there is always another person there to pick things up and generate new ideas. It can also be great for quality checking each other’s work and providing constructive criticism. It’s fair to say we both have our strengths and weaknesses too. For example, I am the more production-focused of the two of us, Dale is (by far) the better DJ so, as a duo, you get the best of both worlds. The negatives come more when we disagree over things. Usually it happens when we are in the studio where we may disagree over the direction we want to take a track. But it’s all part of the process and usually we find we work through it in the end. Usually haha.
Dale: Yes, definitely – the main benefit of being in a duo especially with me and John, is we both have different personalities, we play on each other strengths and weaknesses and bring something different to the table. Coming from different backgrounds musically, this can help with the creative process for sure. However, we are both sensitive over quality control and this sometimes can slow down our output in the studio. But, we always make sure we are both satisfied with the end result.
⤑ You have had a huge year in 2020 releasing on labels like META, Do Not Sleep, Metafloor, and elrow Limited. Does your creative process differ when working on releases for specific labels? What are some of your most essential pieces in your studio?
John: I’m fairly limited in terms of proper hardware. I have an NI Machine which I use about once every two years (haha). I also have a midi keyboard controller which I use a lot more frequently - I think it’s important to be able to play some elements of a track in rather than being glued to a screen and clicking a mouse trying to form a bassline. I’m mostly an ‘in-the-box’ producer - so in terms of plug-ins I couldn’t live without the Waves bundle, as well as the usual classic synths such as Diva and Sylenth. There are a few other lesser known gems which we use too but that would be giving all of our secrets away.
Dale: This is interesting, as previously when writing an EP for a specific label we wanted to target we would try and incorporate similar elements from their back catalogue. Now we have learnt more and we have developed a deeper level of understanding of how we work as a duo, our music is just what we feel, with no expected outcome as this for us brings out the most authentic and original work possible. As a result, right now we're making some of the best music we have made to date. Most of our label signings to date have ended up taking tracks we didn’t expect – now when we start an idea or track as long as we both are vibing from it and would see us both playing it in our set then we are onto a winner! Studio wise, we both use Ableton as a DAW, so its great to bounce ideas back and forth, there are certain plug-ins we can't live without such as the Waves bundle, Tantra & that’s about all we’re giving away for now! I also have an Elektron Digitakt and Korg Electribe and I am in the process of building a nice collection of hardware – which is great to jam on and create quick grooves!
⤑ Although you have been having a spectacular release schedule for 2020, this year has put a big pause on touring and gigs. How has the pandemic affected you both? Were you able to take any positives from the situation, thinking on the optimistic side of things?
John: I want to go out and party. I hope soon, I can go out and party again. That’s me being positive. Convincing??
Dale: In a strange way we’ve actually really had a positive experience and used a lot of time to continue to develop our sound in the studio and write lots of new ideas. We’ve also really pushed on the launch of our label 'Metafloor Records' which has a healthy schedule until June 2021 – so super productive!
⤑ What are 3 cities that you have yet to play in, but are at the top of your list?
John: Berlin, Barcelona and Miami.
Dale: Berlin is up there for sure – after visiting and raving there for many years, it’s such a special place to me. Amsterdam would be on the list for sure as the culture and quality of music over there is just complete fire. Miami would also be on the list, Space Miami is a bucket list venue. No explanation needed ha!
⤑ Can you name a show that you’ve played that have really stood out from the rest? What made this one in particular so special?
John: We played a boat party in the middle of the sea in Ibiza - that was pretty amazing.
Dale: I think our debut at E1 in London last summer for the Mas Vida// We Are FSTVL after-party where we had a two hour warm-up set to a room of 600 people. The atmosphere was pretty special, we really interacted with the crowd and it’s up there with one of our favourite sets to date.
⤑ Tell us about some of your biggest influences in music, electronic or not. Where does most of your inspiration come from?
John: Bit of a strange one but mine is Burt Bacharach. for those who don’t know, he was a pianist and songwriter who was a prominent figure in pop music in the 60s and 70s and wrote a lot of the household name songs and ballads that you and I would know today. As a pianist growing up, he was a big inspiration for me. That’s where it all started for me!
Dale: For me, I was always inspired by Artful Dodger and the UK garage scene growing up – my parents had a pretty big collection of vinyls, I would spend hours listening to them. This eventually gave me the bug for buying vinyl and I started to create my own collection. The great European minimal scene inspired me to first start DJing and the early FUSE and Zoo Project days in Ibiza in early 2000s. Particular artists such as Cab Drivers, Ricardo Villalobos, Michael James, Brawther, Enzo Siragusa really influence my sound and productions today. These guys first got me into the minimal scene and are pioneers in my eyes.
⤑ Can you share any exciting news for the future from Hart & Neenan? Any projects in the works or things to look out for that you would like to share with everyone reading this?
Yes sure, we’ve got a few more releases lined up, we're excited to share our track 'Elevation' will be released on Parisian label HedZup in November and we’ll be returning to Resonance Records for our first EP with them. It’s a collab with our friend Marcellus and is deeper then their usual catalogue – so looking forward to them coming out. Whilst lots of other music we have been working on during the pandemic can be expected in 2021 and going into 2022, so yes a lot!