INDIVIDUALLY, DJs Majistrate and Logan D, alongside MCs Evil B and Eksman, have won almost every award going in the drum and bass scene.
Having carved out incredibly successful careers for themselves over the years, 2018 saw them join forces and pour their experience into a new project that sets out to turn the scene on its head. The result is Problem Central. Not even a year in and they’ve already ticked off events like SW4, Pier Jam, Bass Fest and a show at the iconic Brixton Academy, before releasing their much anticipated debut mixtape just before Christmas which has ramped up the hype even more. With a new live show to tour over the coming months, we caught up with Evil B and Eksman to talk all things Problem Central.
Let’s start with the mixtape… It’s only been out a few weeks but there’s a lot of hype around it online – it feels a bit like a statement of intent for Problem Central?
Evil B: It is 100% a statement of our intentions. We could have watered things down and perhaps gone about things more softly, but I think the product would have been massively diluted. We are here for a reason and that is to light a fire under the scene and also to open the ravers up to a new way of seeing and hearing things. No half measures, no playing the game, just straight up raw energy and honesty!
Eksman: We’ve been overwhelmed with the response on the mix; we knew people were waiting for it to land but it’s honestly been mad for us how well it’s gone down! Problem Central is still relatively new and gaining a worldwide audience can take time, so a downloadable mix is a great way for us to reach places we’ve never been heard before. It is definitely a taste of what we are going to be bringing in the future that’s for sure!
When you started working on it, did you have a clear vision of how it was going to sound?
Evil B: A vague one. We all know what we are capable of individually as we have known each other and worked together for years. The excitement was finding out how it would all blend together once chucked in the pot. As it started to cook, we could see how it was starting to take shape.
Eksman: It would of been easy for us to just all get into the studio and throw together a classic mix which is what we are guessing most people were expecting from us, but we’ve all had history with mixtapes in the past – Evil & Logan with the HBS series and Eks & Maji with the Independence Day mixes – so the bar had to be raised! The whole process of putting it together literally started in our rehearsal room going through tracks, we knew from the start what we wanted to do and even some of the concepts that were going to be in there. Then it was a case of linking and writing for me and Evil, and arranging and mixing for Logan and Maji, so the vision was always there, but you never know how it starts coming together until everything is completed.
Great mixes have always stood the test of time – are there any other mixes which you still listen to personally, or perhaps helped inspire what you’ve done on the mixtape?
Evil B: There are loads of great mixes out there, but ours hasn’t taken inspiration from anyone’s really, except maybe our own previous releases.
Eksman: I think it was most important for us to release something that wasn’t just another mixtape; it needed to be different than the usual format and there was definitely a lot of expectation, so everything needed to be 100% right. If things excel for us in the years to come, people will check back on our first mixtape and that is all we can hope for now – that it stands the test of time for us in the future.
We can tell that a lot of thought has gone into the track selection on the Problem Central Mixtape – are there any tracks which you knew were essential from the start, or ones you wanted to include but couldn’t?
Evil B: We had between 10-20 listening sessions as a unit. We were meeting every week, going through tracks, playing with ideas – it changed a good few time before we had it finalised and ready for writing and mixing.
Eksman: There’s so much good music out there right now that it was hard to include everything we wanted to – we probably went through almost 500 tracks to get down to the final playlist. We wanted to have a variation of styles as well; it’s easier to build a concept when writing when the flow suits the style of track, it’s how we wanted the final outcome to sound, it has meaning and association. For example, ‘Hugh Hardy – Nightingale’ and ‘Ego Trippin – All Night Long’ are very different tracks, but they link perfectly with the domestic abuse section. As for tracks that we couldn’t include, anything full vocal we had to avoid as a clash of vocals and bars could’ve been messy!
In terms of lyrics, it feels like you’ve really raised the bar on this one with the depth and complexity on display – what kind of feedback have you had from fans?
Evil B: Lyrics hit many people in many ways. The light-hearted energy, crowd pleasing stuff gets people hyped from the start, but it’s the depth and honesty that keeps them listening and gives the tape longevity.
Eksman: Well, Evil can’t walk down the road anymore without someone shouting out ‘Oi Tel, 2 more shots!’ What hits us more than anything is how some people have completely related to some of the points and issues we’ve raised in our writing; it’s touching to get someone actually approach you and explain how that part of the mix hit home to them and they felt a part of it. It’s important to raise awareness on particular issues and the mixtape has been a great way for us to do this. Another thing that has got us gassed is when you read through the comments like ‘it’s going off’ or ‘bank job is my favourite part’. People are not just hearing this as a mixtape, but actually like an album and picking the sections out like album tracks.
There are definitely several distinct segments to the mix – the bank robbery part is one we’ve seen people commenting on a lot, for example – will there be a conclusion to that story?
Eksman: You’ll have to wait and see! The scene is now set, so depending how things turn out maybe something much bigger than just a bank job next time, did Derick survive the whole ordeal? Watch this space!
Evil B: Not if Bad James keeps getting us arrested!
Did you find any parts harder to write than others?
Eksman: To be honest it all came naturally. Where we picked the music, it made it easier to write to the tracks individually – I guess the most difficult part was literally making the time in very busy lives to get together to write all the combination bars. We had set a deadline for the writing to be completed and we had also set the release date to the public, so there was no going back from there, the job needed to be done!
Evil B: The parts we touched on mental health were difficult to write as it takes a level of honesty and I suppose vulnerability to show those things. Other than that, we flow so well off each other it was pretty effortless.
Can we expect more original material from you guys this year?
Evil B: 100%. We are already working on an EP!
Eksman: It’s cliché to say things have only just begun, but it is actually the case with us. We definitely have a plan in place, but it’s also good to do stuff naturally and not rush things as well. Maji and Logan are both in the studio regularly getting ideas together, and we’ve started to look at planning our debut album, so 2019 will definitely see some original Problem Central releases. On top of that, we are constantly modifying and adapting our live shows, each show is different and it’s good to personalise our performances.
And finally, looking ahead – your diary is pretty stacked, any standout shows that you’re looking forward to in particular?
Evil B: We have some amazing shows coming forward, a lot of them we can’t mention yet as the promoters haven’t gone live with their line-ups. Stay locked to our socials to keep up with what we have coming!
Eksman: Yeah, looking through what we’ve got coming up we can honestly say we can’t wait for all of them! Problem Central was started in 2018, so there were quite a few festivals last year that we didn’t make that we have been booked for this year, so those ones are particularly standing out for us!
Catch Problem Central across the following dates: