Breakbeat Era Drum & Bass Comes of Age
Published Feb 01, 2000"We were introduced by a friend of a friend and, boom shaka, I went into the studio and did a session with them. I heard the bass line, wrote some words, put them down very quickly and then we sort of wandered away going 'Hey! That was very experimental.'" So speaks Leonie Laws, vocalist and front person for Breakbeat Era, perhaps the most significant drum & bass project at this point in musical history.
Alongside fellow Bristolians Roni Size and DJ Die, Laws has createdUltra Obscene , an album that is indeed experimental, in that it's filled with actual songs. The release marks a leap forward for a genre that has largely been built upon looped beats, studio-constructed bass lines and loads of effects, where seldom is heard an un-sampled word. With Size and Die, funky bass lines and original beats arede rigeur , but Laws' distinctive vocals are what make Breakbeat Era a breath of fresh air. Hell, even DJs such as Ed Rush and Grooverider, not known for playing vocal tracks, are referring to Breakbeat Era as "the massive future sound" and "the way forward."
Leonie Laws makes drum & bass sing; in fact, she makes it growl. Her intense and intelligent lyrics and powerful voice perfectly compliment the mind-blowing musical creations of Roni and Die. "It was a challenge to remain calm and focus on what I thought was right, in my head, to go with the music," she says of the songwriting process; "It was a bit like sitting on the top of a volcano, to not think about anything or imagine that anyone was going to be listening." A bit of a tough chore, that, especially given that Breakbeat Era were recording through the period when Roni Size & Reprazent's New Forms album exploded.
With her collaborators now at work on the new Reprazent album, Laws is taking drum & bass and the Breakbeat Era sound to the next level, forming and fronting a live band. Through a series of packed gigs, they've silenced naysayers with performances that have stunned audiences and gathered new converts to the d&b fold. "It's when we play live that we win over everyone, drum & bass fans or not," says a happy Laws. "People feel that they've got to watch - if they look away they'll be missing something."