Sultans of swing - Pendulum Interview
This article is from 2008.
Hardcore drum & bass fans may have objected to the rockier feel of Pendulum’s new sound, but Richie Meldrum finds original member Rob Swire in no mood to apologise
As wise monk John Lydgate once said, ‘You can please some of the people some of time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’ It’s not perhaps immediately obvious, but the link between 15th century proverbs and 21st century drum & bass/rock crossover bands is worth looking into. Five hundred or so years after those words were first spoken, Pendulum released their second album, InSilico, and found themselves torn between two genres, praise and scorn heaped upon them in equal measure from opposing camps. It’s a bold move to turn your back on the music that made you but when I caught up with original member Rob Swire, it was clear that sentiments don’t bring success; he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Perth, Australia is where the founding fathers of modern day Pendulum first started out. In this laid-back, west coast outpost, three lads hooked up, plugged in and began to produce drum & bass records, eventually packing up camp for the inevitable move to Europe. Already well respected in the underground scene with a crop of quality releases, 2002’s debut album Hold Your Colour rocked the mainstream Richter with some substantial aftershocks rippling through thanks to a gut-busting remix of The Prodigy’s ‘Voodoo People’.
Indie, rock and punk fans found themselves partial to a bit of Pendulum and their fanbase grew faster than a bubonic bean sprout. However, for many hard-core d&b heads, Pendulum’s commercial success was paramount to artistic suicide. Call them bitter, call them twisted, but the underground was quick to turn and Pendulum-bashing became a common pastime for those scenesters terrified of mainstream exposure. While the debate surrounding Pendulum raged on, the boys concentrated on getting back to business in the studio. ‘We began working on InSilico as soon as we finished Hold Your Colour and the “Voodoo People” remix,’ Swire explains. ‘I think the fourth track, “Visions”, was literally started the week after.’
While many struggle with direction after a successful first album, Pendulum plotted out a distinctive new route for their music. ‘Hold Your Colour came about under much less pressure,’ recalls Swire. ‘No one outside of drum & bass really knew or cared who we were, so to an extent it was much easier to record and put together. However, I wasn’t as pleased with the results as I am with our new record. Without sounding too emo, it literally feels like we’ve managed to take an audio snapshot of three years of bitterness, frustration, fear, anger, and excitement.’
Swire’s self-analysis is accurate; fervent songs, charged with familiar messages of angst and pain, connect well with modern day rock fans. ‘Some of our shows can now be 50% rockers. More often than not with the dance crowd on the side looking at the mosh pits like, “What the hell is all that about?”’. The Pendulum of old is preserved in the programmed drum & bass backing but everything else is out and out rock, including the make-up of the band itself. Pendulum now operates in a traditional band format with guitars, vocals, drummers and MCs recreating each track in a live environment. The new model was first unveiled at Fabric in London. ‘It was completely unannounced and the crowd went nuts. That set was only 15 minutes where now it’s more like an hour and 15 minutes. We like to think that people get the full Pendulum experience if they come and see one of our shows these days.’
Like a post-op transsexual, the final phase of Pendulum’s transformation took place behind the scenes. Having released their debut album on independent UK label Breakbeat Kaos, the group decided on a move to the majors, putting pen to paper in a deal with Warner/Atlantic. They also enlisted the publishing services of Chrysalis Music who make all the necessary calls for Leftfield, Gnarls Barkley and David Bowie. Almost certainly career decisions intended to facilitate an entrance into new markets outside the UK, Pendulum seem to be making all the right moves on their ascension from underground knob twiddlers to uberground rock stars. Just don’t expect everyone to be pleased for them.
Pendulum, Corn Exchange, Newmarket Road, 0844 499 9990, 21 Aug, 7.30pm, £17.50.