Rudimental are flying high right now. And we don’t just mean in the figurative sense.
Granted, with a Mercury Prize nomination and a Brit Award just one jazzy piece of glassware filling the mantlepiece, this slickly soulful drum & bass pop quartet who exploded onto the scene with last year’s hit album Home, are well within rights to blow their own trumpets - which, if we speak literally once more, they're very good at.
But the reason they're flying high is that when ShortList meets them aboard Virgin Atlantic’s new 787 Dreamliner, on its inaugural flight to Atlanta, the band are minutes from playing a set at over 30,000ft, running down the aisles with trumpet (we told you) and getting people raving around the upper class bar with a DJ set.
Seriously, you haven’t lived until you have witnessed hundreds of people jumping up and down to one of the finest dance acts in the world inside a jumbo jet hurtling through the clouds at speeds of 700mph. All of which just goes to show how far this band has come in such a short space of time.
With this in mind, and hoping to glean some of the band’s formative influences behind this success, we sat down with Amir Amor (writer, producer, guitarist) and Leon Rolle (DJ Locksmith) and asked them to compile their Ultimate Playlist...
Rudimental were playing as part of Virgin Atlantic’s #flightdecks concert, beamed around the world to mark the new 787 Dreamliner which is now flying passengers between London Heathrow and Boston
Favourite song no one else has heard of
Amir: I know lots of those. I could give you some obscure jazz but I’m not sure everyone would like it.
Leon: [laughs] I knew you were good at this stuff.
Amir: But to hell with it, yeah, I’m going for Sun Ra – Where There Is No Sun, which, is also known as The Sky Is A Sea Of Darkness. It’s just really spaced out, abstract jazz music. He’s a songwriter who believes he came down from space to make wicked music - he’s a bit of a nut-job, basically, I think he was on acid.
Leon: And what a title…
Amir: …The skies are a sea of darkness, such a happy song! But when he’s playing it on the piano with double bass, it’s the most fucked up tune you can imagine. Still brilliant.
Favourite movie soundtrack song
Leon: The one that I love is Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and it’s from the film Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. The piano work is excellent. Here’s the thing, I haven’t even seen the movie! I saw the trailer to it on YouTube, and I was hooked, I was like ‘this song is bad’, so I took it to [bandmate] Kesi Dryden and he enjoyed it, too. It's a tough song to copy, it's the rhythm of it all, the gentle touch around the notes and then he goes off on one.
Amir: You didn't take a second to answer that, so I’ll have to go along with it!
Favourite sad song
Amir: I guess you could call Marvin Gaye’s best work sad, although it’s actually positive in a way because he’s looking at parts of the world and deliving into issues that need to be looked at, that no one else was exploring at the time. So on one level his stuff is happy. But take What’s Going On, there’s tons of heartache there. You could choose any track from that and it would get people emotional in one way or another.
Leon: We actually enjoy crying to that together. I joke but I bet many grown men have heard those lyrics and got teary.
Amir: I'm probably one of them, such a classic album.
Favourite song to hear at a wedding
Leon: You know what’s funny, I’ve never actually been to a wedding - I've either been to busy or forgot about it. So I’ll leave this to you.
Amir: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. I'm no stranger to a wedding and this just gets girls on the dance floor. Believe it or not, it's actually a cover, check out the original, it’s written and performed by a guy [Robert Hazard]. So if you think of the lyrics from a man’s perspective, it makes that bit more interesting, but fair play: she flipped the genders around and made it a dance floor anthem.
Favourite song from your childhood
Amir: Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio. I actually worked with Coolio a few years ago, which was a bit random. Not sure what he was on but let’s just say he seemed to be having a good time…
Leon:…a natural high [laughs].
Amir: He was nice but I kept thinking of how I grew up to one or two tracks from his music.
Leon: My track would be Earth, Wind And Fire – September. Definitely before my time but when I was younger my mum had that on vinyl, and I didn’t have my decks at that point so Id' really scratch her vinyl, I’d mess them up on the record player. I’d have this one on loop, playing it fully rather than mixing it, then getting up again to put the needle back on; that’s what made me want to be a DJ, the feel of having a record in my hand, the sound it produced, and how good it felt when the needle touched.
Favourite current song
Amir: The first song on Subtract’s new album, Wonder Where We Land.
Leon: I haven’t heard it yet but knowing what’s gone before I can imagine it’s a great record. We travel a lot and we often swap music between the guys in the band but no one’s given me that yet.
Amir: I've been listening to this track everywhere. We were in Germany the other day, then before we knew it we were at the MOBO awards, and I'd be listening to this track whenever I got the chance. I’ll listen on my headphones and then when I get to my hotel room I set some speakers up and play it again, it’s the first thing I’ll put on. Trust me, when it comes out you'll love it.
Favourite one-hit wonder
Amir: Milli Vanilli, those jackets, that one song?
Leon: Or how about proper one-hit wonders like Mr Blobby?
Amir: [laughing] Yes, and what about Zig & Zag? Even as a kid there’s a degree of irony listening to those songs. I think Mr Blobby was Simon Cowell, too. What a genius.
Leon: One lyric that will stay with me from my childhood, where I remember my mum getting angry with me saying it all the time, No Diggity.
Amir: Blackstreet, oh yes.
Leon: [singing] I like the way you work it, no Diggity, I got to bag it up.
Amir: We need to bring those guys back. It was too good, too infectious a lyric.
Favourite song from our own music
Amir: There are a good few songs that mean a lot to us, but, for me, Not Giving In is still one of my favourites because of the emotional message is so powerful. We all wrote it with different meanings in mind, and I think we all relate to it in different ways.
Leon: Yeah, it’s definitely one of my favourite songs. When we first started touring it got me through some really hard times.
Amir: That song was sort of written to get people through hard times. It's rewarding just playing it.
Leon: It’s one of the best songs to play live, make no mistake. When we play that it’s almost like that’s when the show starts. There’s a lot of emotion.
Amir: When we first did that song it was called Giving In, the exact opposite! But then it took on a positive vibe and we haven’t looked back. Though speaking of live concerts, this one in mid-air is probably the most interesting yet.