London-based DJs visit Pittsbugh

Thick red, velvet curtains; a grand winding staircase leading to a classy VIP area behind a beautiful large stained-glass window; neatly arranged tables and stools; manufactured smoke; colored lasers — blues, greens, and reds — flashing lights; loud, reverberating music with harsh, tasty beats; hot, sweaty dancing bodies. The Stanton Warriors were in Altar on Friday night, and my God, did we know it.

The Stanton Warriors, composed of Dominic Butler and Mark Yardley, are London DJs and producers who have been at the forefront of breakbeat music since 1998, when they took garage and mashed it up it to produce something utterly creative and unique to the well-established London dance scene. Since then, they have only grown from strength to strength, making their music known worldwide.

Having traveled all over the world, Friday night was their first time in playing in Pittsburgh. Despite the surprisingly good live dance music from a local DJ at 10 p.m., it was clear from the ever-growing, hovering crowd that the Stanton Warriors were being eagerly anticipated.

And they certainly didn’t disappoint. Taking to the stage just before midnight, the Stantons sent broken beats and rhythms bouncing around the walls of the converted church, with remixes of “Hands Up Thumbs Down,” Justice vs. Simian’s “We are Your Friends,” and the Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc” being particularly well received, sending the crowd into a screaming, dancing fit of delight, heads bobbing frantically and arms waving ferociously in the air, as the music was not just enjoyed, but absorbed.

As far as the Stantons’ set went, the boys put on a fantastic show as they quickly moved about behind their decks, producing live mixes, Yardley with a constant look of concentration on his face, and Butler stopping from time to time to raise his arms in the air, nod his head, and smile to their audience, soaking up the atmosphere of the dancing crowd.

I caught up with Butler and Yardley after the set for a chat about making music, other DJs, and their views on illegal downloading.

The Tartan: So how do you feel about illegal downloading? Does it affect you guys much?
Dominic Butler: Well tonight, guys were coming up to us saying, “I love your new mix,” and I was like, “How can you love our mix? It’s not out til next month,” and you can see them thinking of an answer that’s not that they downloaded it for nothing off some dodgy website. On Google, there’s a thing called Google Alerts, and if you type in “Stanton Warriors” every day, Google will send you links to any new stuff about Stanton Warriors. So I tried it out and I got six things sent to me, and every single one was a download site where I could download our album for free. And it’s not even out yet.

T: Do you not think it’s totally killing music and making it really difficult for artists, especially new artists?
DB: Oh my God, yeah.
Mark Yardley: On some of these free download sites, it shows you the number of downloads songs have had, and there were like three and a half thousand downloads of one of our songs. It’s shocking.
DB: It hurts. Three people I spoke to tonight have our new mix already, and it’s not even out! I mean, if they’ve got it for free, it makes you wonder how many other people are borrowing it and making free copies of our f**ing music. It’s just ridiculous.

T: Obviously, the breakbeat scene in London is huge, and that’s where you’re best received, in clubs such as Fabric. Where else in the world would you say you’re as well received? Is there anywhere that comes remotely close?
DB: Yeah, there are countries that embrace it more, such as Australia. In Australia we’re like really famous. It’s mental! You know, like, TV, front pages of magazines and things like that. London is completely different though.