Originally published in OPEN Magazine
Since signing to 3 Beat in the summer of 2013, London duo Sigma are quickly establishing themselves as Drum & Bass royalty. Made up of Cameron Edwards and Joe Lenzie, the highly sought after producers and DJs have created remixes for a whole host of artists, such as; Eric Prydz, Ellie Goulding, Skepta, Clean Bandit and DJ Fresh.
Of course, it’s their smash hit, Nobody to Love that introduced them to us as artists in their own right. Originally destined to just be a website freebie, their reworking of Kanye West’s “Bound 2” saw the pair secure their first UK number one back in April. After dominating the summer’s airwaves, September’s follow up, Changing (co-written by Ella Eyre and featuring vocals from Paloma Faith), followed suit and also topped the charts. It’s safe to say that 2014 has been a pretty successful breakthrough year.
We caught up with Joe to find out just what Kanye West, a man who once humbly declared: “I am God’s vessel. But my greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live,” thinks of Sigma sampling his work (and being more successful with it).
OPEN: Hey Joe. So, first things first – how did Nobody to Love come about? Did you have to beg Kanye for permission to sample his work?
Joe: Well, the actual final version is not a sample so essentially, and legally, it’s a cover version and you don’t have to ask for permission to cover a track. The original version was a sample of the track and we did it just to play at our sets – we actually gave it away on our website to get more people to sign up to our mailing list but it started snowballing and it became a bit of a monster.
It’s obviously been a smash hit for you guys, but Kanye only got to Number 58 in the charts withBound 2. Do you know what he thinks of it all? Is he fuming that your version has been more successful?
I don’t know exactly what he thinks, but his management got in contact with us when he was in the UK, doing the Wireless festival. They asked if we were up for throwing together a quick version that we could perform on stage with him! Unfortunately we were in America, filming the Changing video, so couldn’t do it. I assume that means he likes it.
He seems like a hard man to please so that’s amazing. I envisaged upset egos and problems.
The thing with that track is that Kanye didn’t have any involvement in the writing of it – that was someone else. So essentially we sampled something that he had sampled – I think it’s a long line of samples.
Yeah, he couldn’t really get a cob on.
Yeah, and we didn’t use any of his vocals so there’s nothing he can really say, is there? Best part of a track that didn’t include him.
I’m sure he’d be pleased to hear it put like that. Now, Paloma Faith is on your latest song, how did that come about?
It was basically through our management; we had a demo track and we were trying to find someone with a bit of profile and suitable voice for it, someone who would elevate the song. Our management mentioned Paloma and we’ve always been a fan of hers and it just so happened she was interested in doing it.
That was another number one for you so you’ve set a bit of a precedent now – what’s next?
We’re basically just getting the album together; we’ve got loads of really cool vocalists that we’re working with. We’ve got options of about three or four tracks for the next single so we’re not stressing – they all sound pretty big so watch this space.
You’ve mastered both but which do you prefer – producing or performing live?
It’s a toss-up between the two. It’s a difficult one – they kinda go hand in hand. It’s enjoyable DJing but it’s much more enjoyable if you’re playing your own tracks and getting a good reaction from the music you’ve made. So yeah, both!
Speaking of performing, I noticed something from your tour schedule this year – you were listed as being in Leeds and Hollywood on the same date? How the hell did that work out?
That’s what we do – a lot of the time we DJ separately, especially with tours. With tours of America, one of us will go out there and the other will stay and do UK dates.
Ah, so you not only interview separately but tour alone too – do you guys do anything together? How do you decide who gets the short straw and stays at home?
It always depends on how things work out. For example, we usually go to Australia once or twice a year, so whoever got America, the other will get Australia. It balances out.
Did you get Leeds or Hollywood?
What was I doing? I can’t remember? I was in Leeds.
You and Cameron actually met in Leeds, didn’t you?
Yeah, we were at university there and that’s when we started this all. In the meantime, we’d run DJ workshops for kids with disabilities and do a bit of promo work on the side – we’ve definitely been through some hard times with being skint but it’s eventually worked out.
You must have had some nightmare sets along the way?
I got my first set of decks aged 11, so there’s 20 years’ worth of gigs to choose from. What’s the worst? So many. I once played in a bar, way before Sigma, and the promoter had booked the wrong act and thought we were someone else. I turned up at a bar that was playing really cheesy music and R&B – at the time I was underground dance music so I cleared the floor in three seconds.
You’re coming to Liverpool in December for Chibuku – do we get both of you or just one?
I can’t tell you off the top of my head but it’s more than likely just going to be one of us. But it doesn’t make a difference to the show. Liverpool is usually good man, looking forward to it.
Funnily enough, the label we’re signed to is actually based in Liverpool, 3 Beat. Originally, the guy who owns the label used to also own the record shop. He then sold the shop and moved onto the label but it all stems from Liverpool.
So there’s some Liverpool gossip for you.
See also: Interview: Paul Oakenfold