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"We wanted to go down the garage route": How Rudimental made 'Ground Control'

The drum 'n' bass foursome give us a play-by-play on their new 16-track album

  • Rudimental's Piers Aggett and Kesi Dryden
  • 4 September 2021

Rudimental are back. And not just with a whimpering announcement — the four-piece made an explosive return on Friday with their brand new 16-track album, ‘Ground Control’. It’s been a long two years since the drum ’n’ bass accomplices released their last record. Featuring D Double E, MJ Cole, Skream, and more prestigious names, ‘Ground Control’ hones in on Rudimental's classic blend of R&B, UK garage and all-out festival-ready anthems.

The collective's penchant for studio-centric production is never more present in 'Ground Control', Side A features soulful, mid-tempo bangers while Side B ramps up the octane — a love letter to sweaty clubs; the duality of being able to create from both sides is what makes Rudimental so unique, and has placed them in the position of one of the UK's most successful electronic outfits.

Read this next: "We own the ball now": How UK producers set a new standard for drill

We caught up with band members Piers Aggett and Kesi Dryden for a play-by-play of 'Ground Control', as they go through exactly how they created each track from the album.

DISC 1

'Come Over (ft. Anne-Marie & Tion Wayne)'

Piers: ‘Come Over’ was originally an R&B idea that we wrote with Anne-Marie and L Devine, but then Kesi sped it up a bit and moved it into the garage lane. It kinda set the tone for the rest of the album in a way, both ‘Come Over’ and ‘Krazy’ put us firmly on that garage-y path.

Kesi: During the album process, we went back to a lot of demos and re-worked them. ‘Come Over’ was the first one we went back to, changed the tempo and switched it up. Anne-Marie came in after we’d got the original ideas down, loved it, added some verses and took the song where it needed to go. We sat on it as this R&B, kinda soul vibe for a while but weren’t sure how it’d live in our world, so it was only natural to give it that dance flavour. It felt like it needed a feature from a rapper too and we’re big fans of Tion, so we sent it over to him and he was happy to jump on.

'Jumper (ft. Kareen Lomax)'

Piers: ‘Jumper’ came from a writing trip to LA in 2018. It was one of the songs we wrote with John Ryan who we also wrote ‘These Days’ with. Again, it was at a slower tempo but during lockdown, we revisited it and thought about giving it this bouncy, future garage feel. We’d heard Kareen Lomax on the Diplo record and loved her vocal so we reached out to her about the song. It was one of those typical pandemic link-ups over Zoom, so John Ryan had to record her out in Atlanta and there was a bit of back and forth, but it ended up as one of our favourite tracks on the album.

'Straight From The Heart (ft. Nørskov)'

Piers: We’d always wanted to rework a garage classic and funnily enough, Amir actually worked with Doolally back in 2000 and something at Tribal Tree in Camden, which was a youth centre. Doolally kinda mentored Amir for a bit in the end, so it felt like the right choice and generally, it’s just a proper classic record that all of us loved from the garage days.

Kesi: This was right at the start of the first lockdown as well, and we were thinking about what we could do without sessions. With Amir’s previous with Doolally and us loving that song, it felt like the right one to go for.

Piers: We actually discovered through Nørskov through Anne-Marie on The Voice – Anne-Marie was her mentor on the show. She’s got an amazing energy about her, she still loves busking even now, and we just loved her voice. We brought her in and she delivered this amazing vocal, which we’re all really happy with.

'Ghost (ft. Hardy Caprio)'

Piers: ‘Ghost’ was another pandemic link-up. We’d actually remixed our own song, lifted from that same LA writing trip in 2018. We got the original demo vocal, put into this garage realm of ‘Ground Control’ and worked on it with one of the producers from Slim Typical, who are signed to our Major Toms Publishing company. We’d actually booked Hardy for Ibiza Rocks in the past and had developed a relationship already and he was in the studio with us a lot, so we got him to drop some verses. I think it’s actually another of my favourites from the album.

'Remember Their Names (ft. MJ Cole, Josh Barry)'

Kesi: We’ve been working with Josh Barry for a while now, we’ve written quite a bit with him. We wrote the initial idea for this song early last summer, not too long after George Floyd was murdered and there were the BLM protests going on. Lyrically, it felt like a moment for us to say something meaningful on this album.

Piers: It was a merging of that song and a production session we did with MJ Cole... t’s him playing the piano on the track. We started singing the Josh Barry over MJ Cole’s beat and it just worked, so we pulled the vocal, layered it over and it was in the same key. It’s basically the merging of two songs from two different sessions essentially, but it works!

'Be Somebody (ft. James Vincent)'

Piers: ‘Be Somebody’ was another early pandemic idea that James sent over from Ireland and asked if we’d like to work on it. We loved his voice and what the song was about, so we produced it during the first lockdown and put it together. We really wanted to give it that classic Rudimental feel, you know. It’s almost like ‘Not Giving In’ part two this tune and James’ voice is wonderful.

'Be The One (ft. MORGAN, Digga D & TIKE)'

Kesi: This track started with us, TIKE and MORGAN. TIKE is singed to our Major Toms Publishing company and MORGAN is signed to Major Toms Records, so it felt like a nice moment for us as a label. When we got in the studio with them, the song came together very naturally because obviously we’ve written with them quite a lot. It sounded very different after the first day because it was originally more afrobeat leaning, but then the pandemic struck and we decided to switch it up. We reached out to Digga D’s team to see if he’d want to feature on it, he loved it, came down to our studio and he really clicked with us. I think it was the first time he’d recorded melodies too, so it was nice to be able to showcase him in a new light. There we have it, a little garage summer banger that came out last Christmas!

'Handle My Own (ft. Ella Henderson)'

Piers: The song came from us sampling one of favourite records by The Jones Girls called ‘Life Goes On’. We took a bit of music from that and wrote a whole new song with Ella over this new beat we’d made. Ella’s obviously a big part of the Major Toms family and we wanted to add a kinda disco, soulful element to the album and ‘Handle My Own’ fits that brief.

DISC 2

'So Sorry (ft. Skream)'

Piers: We’ve known Skream for years and played on tours with him for years, too. We actually met him on an Annie Mac Presents tour back in 2012 and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve always wanted to write music together and he ended up sending this bare bones idea of a track over. It was basically a demo version of the ‘So Sorry’ beat that he’d got together. We loved it, got Anne-Marie to vocal the top line and started finishing it here at Major Toms together with Skream. It’s a real journey this tune, and a testament to an amazing vocal by Anne-Marie and the sweet of synth sounds of the Prophet-6.

'Distance (ft. Maverick Sabre & Kojey Radical)'

Piers: ‘Distance’ was a song written during album three (‘Toast To Our Differences’) period with Maverick Sabre. It was an old idea we hadn’t finished or put out yet basically. We had it there and we were looking for a rapper, so we called Kojey last summer and asked if he wanted to drop some bars. I feel like Maverick Sabre’s such an amazing writer, a weaver of words, and I actually remember him watching the Inner City Life video on mute while he wrote, which I think gave him the inspiration. Kojey too, delivered such a poignant array of bars. He’s a great artist.

'Instajets (ft. The Game, D Double E & Backroad Gee)'

Piers: This was an idea lifted from a session in 2013, maybe 2014. We did a session with Ed Sheeran in LA and The Game had called Ed about making some tunes. He came down, we wrote about six tunes together and ended up taking a little verse from one of the songs we made and built a while new tune around it, in the realm of ‘Ground Control’. We managed to get D Double E and Backroad Gee to jump on it, so it basically became a mash-up of a rap legend, an old grime scene legend and a newer rap legend all on the same track. We got back in touch with The Game to see if we could get his blessing, which felt like part of the journey of this record too. For us, it’s probably the grimiest record that we’ve ever written, but we love it.

Kesi: It takes us back to growing up in East London, too. Piers’ house was like the local community studio back then and he’d always have like 15 people outside his house waiting to go in. It was like a barber shop, honestly.

Piers: We grew up listening to Rinse FM and Déjà Vu and we even deejayed on Deja for a bit actually, so it’s nice for us to put something like ‘Instajets’ out.

Kesi: Backroad Gee as well, he’s got that old school grime energy. Seeing his progression on the records he’s put out so far … it feels like he can stand up against some of the grime legends in a clash, so he felt like a perfect fit.

'Krazy (ft. Afronaut Zu)'

Piers: ‘Krazy’ is one of the first records we made on the album. It was from a session with Afronaut Zu, who you might know from our live shows. He’s an amazing artist. We put it together inspired by a lot of the jazzy, soulful, house we were feeling. We had Renell Shaw and Mark Brown, our trumpeter, in the room when we wrote it and it was a really fun tune to make. Again, it was another track that helped get us on the garage path for the album.

'Make Your Move (ft. Nørskov & Keeya Keys)'

Kesi: This was another song lifted from that LA writing trip in 2018. We actually wrote it with Tove Lo at a slower tempo, on more of a house vibe really. It felt really bright and summery and we all loved the demo, and I think this was another that helped us form the idea of the album. We knew exactly the lane it could take, so we gave it the garage refix it needed and started to make sense as a song pretty quickly. Keeya Keys had recently released a garage track at the time, so we wanted him to feature on it. He’s got great energy, he was dancing away in the studio and laid down some amazing bars. It really felt like it synced with the old school flavour, but his lyrics and vibe had a very current feel to them as well. We got Nørskov back in on the vocals again too. We actually used her demo vocal because there was something about it that felt like a proper rough and ready garage vocal. And we loved that.

'Hostess (ft. MORGAN)'

Piers: MORGAN is part of the Major Toms family and we worked on this tune together. We wanted to put something more on the jungle side of things into the mix. It reminds me a bit of the Missy Elliot era, so we felt like this was a good platform to showcase what MORGAN’s about, but in the context of ‘Ground Control’. It’s definitely one of the songs we love to play in our DJ sets at the moment.

'C’est Fini (ft. RV & Lowkey)'

Kesi: RV’s been in the Major Toms studio working with Slim Typical quite a bit, so it was natural for us to try and work with him on a Rudimental track. Both he and Lowkey are from the drill world so it was good to get them out of their comfort zones and hear them over a different genre. We wrote the top line with Anne-Marie and left some space for rappers. RV came in, smashed it but there was space for one more vocal so Lowkey, who’d again been working with Slim Typical, came in and did his thing. It’s one that’s really been going off in the studio parties we’ve had and we’re really looking to playing it out.

'Keep Your Head Up (ft. 2fox, Hamzaa & House Gospel Choir)'

Piers: It’s a song we started at the beginning of this year and we wanted to end the album with a positive vibe. We’ve been big fans of Hamzaa, she’s from Hackney like us and she’s a big talent, and also House Gospel Choir. We’d actually written the track first, with both the choir and a singer like Hamzaa in mind, so once it was down we got them in the studio. It really does uplift you when you hear it. We played it recently at Wilderness Festival and it got a huge reaction. With all the instrumentation, musicality, the choir... it’s a great way to sign off the album.

Ground Control is out now, you can stream it here.

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