A&E » Arts

Return of the Warriors

One half of the Stanton Warriors duo talks sushi, beats, and the evolution of their industry



Who : Stanton Warriors

When : Monday, Jan. 10, 9:30 p.m.

Where : Garfinkel's

Cost : First 100 tickets $15; next 100 $20; more at the door

The breakbeat duo of Dominic Butler and Mark Yardley - aka the Stanton Warriors - are already well on their way into their winter tour, having played a series of shows in the UK and most recently, the Swiss Alps, before moving onto North America for the next few weeks. Apparently, they spend their fair share of time on the road, playing shows.

"We're actually sort of always on tour, it's just a continuous tour. But we had a gig last night in a place called Laax in Switzerland, which - funny enough - reminds me of Whistler, a lot!" Butler said during an interview Tuesday morning, "It was a very nice sort of up-markety place where it's still cool, a ski and snowboard resort."

The pair had just returned to London and was getting ready to head to LA. They then plan to roll into Whistler to win over the local crowd, which is sure to be jammed into Garf's to hear the popular and distinctive dance DJ, production and remix duo perform later this week. They've certainly managed to pack local dance floors before, and were here last year doing just that.

"I think with the Whistler crowd, you've got obviously a lot of snowboarders and skiers there who, by their very nature, are probably a bit more outgoing than your average city clubber, so you've definitely got people going for it!" said Butler.

The Whistler crowd likes to ski hard and play hard, which is why the Warriors almost always include a stop in Whistler on their North American tour.

"It always goes off and we all get really drunk and end up at some chalet somewhere," he laughed.

Apparently, quaint ski towns like Whistler offer up some, well, not-so-quaint crowds, which can definitely compete with music lovers in big rooms like London's Fabric nightclub.

"We love it! And you know what? Whistler's got amazing food!" said Butler, adding that they plan to return to one of their favourite spots, Sushi Village, to fill up on some rolls while they're in town.

Yardley and Butler both grew up in the West Country of the UK, attending impromptu open-air parties that were so necessary to the illicit underground scene in the '90s.

"It was amazing. I used to watch a crew called the Wild Bunch Crew DJ (who later became Massive Attack)," he recalled, "... Back then, in a sense, dance music was kind of illegal in a way, in the sense that you couldn't hear it on the radio, the radio was one of the last to air to the public, you know? There were no clubs."

"So the scene I grew up in or looked up to when I was younger was a very illegal scene, which made it super cool stuff!"

But it also made it pretty challenging to move their music forward: record labels weren't overly supportive of the grassroots genre. That resistance from the mainstream industry, in turn, created a cohesive sense of camaraderie.

"One good thing about (the Wild Bunch Crew) is that they would literally mix up sounds and not be restricted - they'd mix a soul tune over top of a hip hop beat - which at the time, was unheard of! Then they'd put an acid line underneath on the third deck!" Butler recalled.

This renowned "Bristol Scene," which was a jumping-off point for deep house, laced with breaks, funk, hip hop and much more, was formative in shaping the Stanton Warriors future production and overall sound. The Stanton Warriors similarly tap into and borrow beats from almost any genre - they don't discriminate. House, hip-hop, electro and funk: it's all fair game for them.

"That's how you create new genres," Butler reflected.

It also makes labeling their sound a virtually impossible task.

"To break it down, we like good beats. And a good beat could be funky drum or James Brown, it could be a dubstep beat or a hip-hop beat or a drum 'n' bass beat. We like good bass sounds, we like good vocals and good rap: we like sound!" Butler explained.

Butler was working at a local record shop and promoting parties, while Yardley was busy mastering a pretty impressive range of instruments. They managed to meet up in London to join musical forces, creating the Stanton Warriors. Their "breaking point," the moment they emerged from the underground and onto the mainstream, came in when they headed into their studio to create an "ideal DJ mix" to help define their own sound. That "ideal DJ mix" got them signed to a label and was transformed into a compilation album, "The Stanton Session," which blew up, landing them awards and international gigs.

Their popularity has only continued to escalate, with their most recent coup being airplay on the popular BBC Radio 1 breakfast show they very same day that Butler caught up with the Pique .

"Which is pretty, and pretty massive," he laughed.

"...I would never have thought Radio 1 would be aware of our music."

Based out of London today, the duo now mans the helms of their own indie label, Punks, which they release all of their own content on. While they haven't yet signed any other artists, they're always on the lookout for new talent that will jive with their own distinctive sound.

And they've also got their hands full, for the moment, getting ready to release their latest album, "The Warriors," which features samples of everything from Mongolian bells to African tribal music, all layered over fat beats, of course!

From the sound of one of their newest tracks, "Turn Me Up Some," which is posted on their website to offer a taste in the lead-up to their album release next month, the Warriors are still on the right track, bringing fresh ideas and influences to the deep house scene.