Pendulum formed in their home-town of Perth (Western Australia) in 2002, when producers Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen teamed up with acclaimed local DJ Paul ‘Elhornet’ Harding. While their individual formative roots ranged from producing drum & bass, breakbeat and hardcore, to playing in metal and punk bands, their comparable talents proved an unstoppable force when they managed to single-handedly conquer the world of drum & bass in their first 12 months together.
I read that Pendulum formed when yourself and Rob were meant to play a DJ set at Paul’s club, but fatefully, Rob’s hard drive failed. Paul stepped in and played some of your tunes, and a relationship was formed. Is that right?
That’s right, that’s exactly how it happened, and Rob and I sort of formed together – well, Pendulum was actually going to be the name of a record label; we were going to call it Pendulum Recordings or something like that. We weren’t sure how the Drum ‘n’ Bass thing worked, but we just wanted to make songs. I’d made some songs, Rob had made some songs, so we were gonna them on that record label, but it just suddenly became the name of the group for the three of us. Then we made ‘Vault’ and the rest of it is history really.
So, if Rob’s hard drive hadn’t failed – if that fateful occurrence hadn’t happened, then what direction might you have gone in?
I think everything happens for a reason, so I don’t even know what the outcome would be if that hadn’t happened, but if it hadn’t, I think quite possibly Paul might not have got involved, and we might not have, I don’t know, risen so quickly. Because of that happening, Rob had to start again on his computer, and I guess all those sounds and samples that he had to build from scratch were kind of the beginnings of the song ‘Vault’, and that song is what really catapulted us into the limelight. Maybe then if that hadn’t happened, ‘Vault’ wouldn’t have been made and then we wouldn’t have got so much attention so quickly. But I think deep down, we were all on a mission to make it, so we were gonna try our best; I think we would have either way, but how quickly we became popular was due to the sequence of events, I guess.
Like a butterfly flapping its wings in Texas?
Just like that movie…
Obviously, the original 3 members, including yourself, hail from Australia – what scene did you emerge from, or did you go against what was popular at the time?
Er, it was Drum ‘n’ Bass music, yeah. I mean, electronic music was on the side, because both Rob and I were in rock bands, but Rob had always produced electronic music; he got me into it. I mean, he’d started producing it at high school and had always been a massive fan of electronica. I guess, in Australia, where the rave scene and the dance scene was at its peak in the UK, in Australia, it was kinda uncool to be into it. Everyone was really into surfing and Nirvana and Pearl Jam and stuff like that – Soundgarden. So, we were into all that, but kind of kept the dance thing a secret. Then eventually it became really massive and the DnB thing caught on the cusp of that, then we moved to the UK.
So, I read in an early interview that Paul said he was happy in Australia, but that it’d be cool to go somewhere else for a while; what was it that brought you to Britain?
Well, I mean, the UK is in a lot of ways, especially in Europe, the musical capital of the world; a lot goes on from London, and it’s kind of the place to be in the music industry. But, for us, it was literally just DnB – it was the home of DnB and we needed to be here for the gigs and for the fans, really. I mean, in Perth, in Western Australia, it’s paradise, but it’s so far from anywhere; the pace is really slow. London’s like a harsh mistress, you can’t really rest on your laurels while you’re there – it’s hard, whereas in Perth, you can be lazy, you know, getting up late and stuff.
The featuring of your debut single, Vault, on several British compilations, is cited as the breakthrough for your music – would you agree?
Definitely, and I mean, all the singles that we did after that were attempts to do better than ‘Vault’ and become bigger than that. I think songs like ‘Another Planet’ did that, and ‘Tarantula’ did that, then ‘Slam’ did that. At each step, we just tried to do better than the last thing we did, and I guess that’s what’s caused everything; you know, we weren’t ever trying to make a particular sort of track, we were just trying to do better than the last thing and make something more popular than what we’d done previously.
You’ve been featured on some of the Fabric Live mix CDs – I was surprised that you haven’t done one yourself yet considering your strong relationship with the club – is it on the cards?
I don’t know, I think so. I mean, we have a strong relationship with that club ‘cause that’s where we used as a launch pad for the live thing. I think we’ve been so distracted lately with the live side of things that I guess we haven’t looked into doing a FabricLive mix, but I’d love to do one, definitely.
If you were to make one, would you you go back to your DnB roots, or would the CD reflect your apparent eclecticism?
Oh, without doubt. I mean, I still DJ out now, and Paul DJs full time, pretty much; I mean, obviously I have to split my time between the live band side of things, to working in the studio with Rob and DJing, so I haven’t been DJing as much recently, but I still do, and I still play the whole DnB thing, although now, I have more of a creative licence to play all the things that really mean Pendulum at the moment, because the audience are turning up to see Pendulum DJ, so I’m playing a lot of electro, house, breaks and sometimes I’m even throwing heavy metal into the mix.
You scored highly in the UK charts with your remix of The Prodigy’s Voodoo People, giving you your highest charting single until Propane Nightmares. Were you influenced by the Prodigy prior to the remix?
Definitely. Just generally influenced since we were little – I mean, when we went through our first DnB phase, I think we went to them directly ‘cause it was a slower tempo and a different style of music. I think at the core of DnB, everyone’s a bit influenced by The Prodigy, because I think what Liam did with The Prodigy, was put aggression into electronic music and they were the first people to make it really aggressive, but palatable. That’s a big thing for us – the music’s gotta be dead balls-to-the-wall aggressive, so in that respect, they were definitely an inspiration.
You mentioned the night where you debuted the six piece band in Fabric – can you describe that night for me?
Well basically the idea was that Fabric had given us our own night, and we called it Planet Pendulum, where we got all our favourite artists to come down and DJ, and as far as everyone knew, we were gonna DJ as well and just do a typical 1 or 2 hour set at the peak of the night in the main room. No media were tipped off, or anything like that, so it was a complete surprise; basically, at the end of the set, our MC said “does anyone want to hear the last few tracks played live?” and obviously, the crowd all responded in the affirmative! All of a sudden, everyone turned round and we were standing on stage and then we played ‘Slam’ and ‘Fasten Your Seatbelts’ and just like an intro at the start of that, I mean, it took 15 minutes! It was intense and basically, we didn’t want anyone to know it was gonna happen; we wanted it to be a surprise in case it didn’t work, because we were really pushing the boundaries with what we were trying to do. We were trying to use real instruments, but have them processed through computers; the idea behind the project was that it had to be 100% live, so Fabric was the guinea pig for that, and even though it was only about 15 minutes, people still talk about it today – it was just one of those crazy nights.
It’s often written about, so I don’t want to labour the point, but the journey from DnB to what some call ‘mainstream’ has raised many differing opinions – what has the expansion of your music done for you as a musician?
It’s just really exciting; we’ve never really been about keeping music underground for the sake of keeping it underground. We think anyone that wants to listen to it should be able to listen to it and if you’re using commercial avenues as a vehicle to get any type of music exposed to more listeners, then I think you’re doing a positive thing, not a negative thing… within reason; I mean, I’m not saying plaster yourself on Nike billboards – we’re never gonna be like that, we’re still underground people at the core, but our music’s just become more popular. We didn’t actually try to do it like that, like I said, we’ve always just tried to do better than our last thing. With the sound and the direction, that’s just completely natural, I mean, adding more guitars, more instruments and more vocals is just something we’ve been wanting to do since we were bands in high school. For so many years we’ve seen electronic bands live and there’d be like a metal band with a synthesizer over the top, which wouldn’t really work, or there’d be an electronic band with cheesy guitars and they just wouldn’t get the distortion sounding right – it’d sound blatantly like a dance producer trying to use guitar, you know, they wouldn’t do it right – and we’d always just wanted to hear in our heads what a complete merge of the two would sound like, so that’s what we’ve been trying to achieve.
I read that Rob wasn’t as pleased with Hold Your Colour as In Silico. He described ‘In Silico’ as “an audio snapshot of 3 years of bitterness, frustration, fear, anger and excitement”. In your words, how do you feel about the new album?
I mean obviously it was a very, very difficult album and Rob immersed himself in it lot more than any other person, so I completely understand what he’s saying there. I think in retrospect we can look back and look at it for what it was and what it’s done; it definitely did the job – it did better than we thought it would do. It does what it says on the tin and it did better than the last one. It’s a representation of where we were at for those 3 years, but it shouldn’t have taken 3 years, I mean, they say if you’re an artist and your first album does well, your second album will be the hardest album you’ve ever done, and if you can actually get through the second album syndrome, then the third album’s always really, really good. We’re just really looking forward to album three now and getting it underway.
Have you started coming up with material for it?
Yeah, a little bit, I mean, we’ve got a bit of a makeshift studio in our tour bus, so when we’re not wasting so much time playing Playstation, we’re gonna start working!
Looking at the single, Propane Nightmares, you released remixes to go with it – one more DnB sounding, one a little Breakbeat – was this to placate fans of differing ends of the spectrum, or do you enjoy making the remixes?
Erm, yeah, I guess it was also a statement to how much we were still immersed in the dance music side of things – I mean, you’ve gotta have remixes! It’s one of the fun parts about having a song, hearing a different representation of it. I mean, the rock community doesn’t get that; at the most, they get a band doing a cover of their song and that’s it. In the electronic world we get to completely twist and remix it and people love that, hearing a song that they know, but twisted and messed up. I’m all about that.
You went from recording and DJing, to performing live – how much of a leap of faith was that for you, or were you always confident?
I mean, as you read, the very first thing we tried to do was live, it was Rob and I with our computers and we were gonna try and basically, just build the tracks live and mix between each others tracks. I don’t even know how we were gonna pull it off, but we were attempting it! So yeah, I guess it’s always been our thing to perform live, but the DnB and DJing thing was, I wouldn’t say a detour, but it was a stepping stone in the direction of what we were destined to do. I love DJing as well, but nothing can compare to the energy of having a crowd in front of you and having instruments. I mean, what we really feed off is that if we make a mistake, or if I fall over and smash into Ben, then the bass stops, or if Kodish falls off him drum ride, then the drums stop; we actually love the fact there can be mistakes, we love it that it’s completely raw.
I’ve been listening to your version of Coldplay’s ‘Violet Hill’ – are you trying to garner mass appeal with this release, or is it still just fun to monkey around with a variety of tracks?
We weren’t particularly keen to do that, but we couldn’t really resist the opportunity. We didn’t think it was gonna do so well, and we didn’t think it would come out so well, but the idea behind it was that Radio 1 had approached us to do one of their Live Lounge sessions and we wanted to do it to support our new single, ‘Other Side’, which is doing really well. So, we played ‘Other Side’ live, then everyone that does the Live Lounge has to do a cover of one of the songs on the current playlist rotation at Radio 1; there’s not really a huge choice to choose from and there were some that we woulda been like “yeah, it’s kind of obvious that Pendulum chose that”, so we decided to pick the one that no-one was gonna expect us to choose, and so we started working on it and we thought, “wow, a DnB and metal version of Coldplay’s ‘Violet Hill’ would be funny. We never expected it to do so well. Chris Martin’s apparently a fan of ours anyway – apparently he likes ‘Propane Nightmares’, so hopefully he’ll like our remix as well. Even I’M calling it a remix – it’s a cover!
Are there any tracks that you’d like to get your hands on for remixing purposes, maybe some that aren’t so obvious?
Erm, we really want to do a Led Zeppelin remix, I mean, that’d be amazing. God, there’s just so many… and so little time.
You’ve been here a few times really – do you have any memories of Norwich?
Just that night really, at first, it was really bewildering, but then really fun – love it.
What’s your killer track?
There’s a bootleg of Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ floating around, but I can’t tell you who do it, but that’s absolutely killer – that’s bringing the world down wherever we play.