What have you been up to?
Busy. Very busy. Full out…In the studio, been touring quite a lot, pretty heavily in the UK. Working on our next single and a few remixes, we’ve just done the new Sigala remix. We’ve got remix duties coming up for Craig David as well, so a lot.
What’s the Sigala tune?
It is the one with Nile Rogers, John Newman…it would be great if we knew the name…
Are all these names on the same track?!
They’re all one on track, can you believe it? He’s not giving anyone else a chance, is he…he’s like how many guys who make hits can I put on one record?
What kind of other stuff have you been working on?
The next single is probably the main thing. I think we’ve got about four or five options for that, and after single four I think it will be album time.
It’s album time.
It’s album time. The album’s been sitting there for a while so we’ve got to sit down with the team and work out what’s gonna make the cut and what’s not, which is always fun, always the bit where you disagree with everyone. But exciting times, definitely.
For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about Tough Love.
We formed in 2011, basically DJing around the London circuit. Before that we had different aliases. So me and Alex were working around east London and we spoke about getting into the studio at the time. We were playing house music at the time that not a lot of people were playing. We decided to get in the studio, work on some material together and eventually it just kind of naturally fell into place, we built tough love and it kind of started there and we're here now. I think we did our first ever Tough Love show at Egg, where we now hold our residency, so it's quite a special place to us I guess. It started with a bang and just carried on going. That was five years ago.
You collaborated with Arlissa on your new single. How did that come about?
That’s a funny one really. We had the record lined up and ready to go and we must have had about ten different people try and do that vocal on the record. They all sounded great but it just wasn’t what we wanted and we actually got sent a couple of demos from Arlissa and listened to some of her newer work coming in and we were like ‘Yeah, you know there might be something in here.’ I think someone actually got in touch with her on Facebook eventually…the power of the internet as always. Initially, the demo we had, the vocalist on there couldn’t do the vocal for us. Basically we had to get a replacement but everyone had initially loved the record as it was so we had to find a voice that was very similar to the voice that was on there and that was probably the most difficult thing. Arlissa came in and obviously she ended up delivering. She did a great job.
Are you proud of it?
Very proud of it. Hopefully she’s really happy as well, because like most artists, she’s had her ups and downs as well and from what I hear, she’s got some pretty massive stuff to come off the back of it.
You’re a west Londoner, right Stef? And you’re based in Leyton, Alex. Where do you guys hang out in London?
Alex: I normally get the short end and have to come over to his but now I’ve got a new place and I’ve built my own studio in it, hopefully Stef can actually come to mine. Normally we’re around Shepherds Bush way, but whenever there are interviews or meetings they always seem to be in east. So we do the interviews and that kind of work over this side and then obviously production work over in west London. And in terms of hanging out, we don’t really hang out, we’re usually on tour or gigging on weekends so we hang out in a hotel room.
You mostly record all your stuff in your place?
Or we studio hop, we use quite a few different studios. West London based usually. Some in Ladbrooke Grove. Relentless are really kind to us, they hook us up quite a lot, over on Tinpan alley which is always good. I like going there, it’s a bit closer for me. Big up the relentless crew.
Why do you guys make music?
Alex: Why not? Cos we love it. I think both of us were brought up on music. My dad dabbles in production and was in a band. My mum was a dance teacher and Stef’s mum is a bit of a singer.
Stef: She doesn’t mind a bit of karaoke.
Alex: I’ve been DJing since I was a kid as well, like 13, so I naturally picked up music quite early on, we’ve both been DJing for a lot longer than Tough Love has been going. We both enjoy all forms of music, not just dance music, we try and put that into our music as well so you’ll hear a lot of different stuff on our album.
I used to play the euphonium so there’s loads of brass on our album. And I play the clarinet.
How did you start off DJing then? Was it vinyl?
Stef: Yeah straight into dodgy belt driven turntables, I think they were called Omnitronics at the time. If you can DJ on them things, you can DJ on anything.
Alex: For some reason, people think we’re eighteen or nineteen years old and they’re like ‘They came out of nowhere! They’ve got no musical background’. Shut up. When you realise how old we are, then we’ll talk. Grey hairs are coming.
Stef: I’m eighteen.
What was your first thought this morning?
Alex: Shit, why is it raining, probably.
Stef: Mine was would the kids please shush.
What’s your dream gig?
Alex: I want to play in Warung. Back in earlier Tough Love we were doing really cool nu disco and deep house, that would fit perfectly there. I’d love to go on a South America tour.
What is the craziest gig you’ve ever played?
Has to be Amsterdam. Escape. We did Spring Break and they hired in £15000 worth of inflatables so we were just trying to start our set and we were getting hit by massive whales and lobsters and crabs. It was great but you couldn’t actually DJ 'cos your hands were getting knocked.
So you guys DJ at Kiss FM. When can people tune into that and what can they expect?
It’s every Thursday night at midnight and we're known for our – what we call – ‘big, bumping house’, anything with a big drive to it and lots of vocals. For us it’s a chance for us to play music we don’t get to play in our live sets and support a lot of artists, especially British, which is really important and a skill that a lot of guys have forgotten. We play good music that needs time on the air. It’s really hard to break through if you don’t have a voice on radio, especially with the ‘on air, on sale’ rule, so we ty to be that vehicle for them.
What is your favourite Tough Love track?
Alex: There’s a catalogue of about 100 records here so it’s not that easy. I’m going to go with ‘Cold Blood’, just because it was one of the first tracks that got us noticed. It came out in 2011 and got really good rotation early on.
Stef: We have a track called ‘the night is calling’ but I don’t want to give promotion to someone who bootlegged the record and made a hit out of it, so it’s my favourite one but it’s a bittersweet record for me.
What music did you grow up on?
Alex: I don’t think there’s been a genre I haven’t listened to but my biggest influences probably would be house, RnB, hip hop and garage. I had a big garage period in the 90s and 2000s.
Stef: For me it was a lot of RnB and soul but my dad was a rocker. I think I first went clubbing when I was fourteen and that’s when I slowly started falling into dance music.
What are the top three old school garage tracks?
MJ Cole – Be Sincere. Todd Edwards – Never Far From You. Roy David Jr - Gabriel.
What’s a song that changed your life?
So Freakin’ Tight.
What’s the worst trouble you’ve ever been in?
Stef: I grew up in Shepherds Bush, it wasn’t as glamorous as it is now. This is gonna sound really stupid. There was a boys’ prison where I grew up but that got changed and the building was derelict. There was a park we used to go to and this prison backed onto the park. We used to break into the prison to use their facilities, weird as that sounds, 'cos it had a wicked gym, they had everything, and we used to play football in there. One day my mum followed me to the park and she saw me getting up to no good and she grabbed me and took me to the police station. I was pooing my pants.
Stef, your first rave was at 14. Explain?
I was partying with my mum. We used to go to Ibiza every summer for 6 weeks and at that age, Ibiza is a bit like ‘woah’. Roger Sanchez used to do these 8 hour extended sets at El Divino, which doesn’t exist any more, by the marina. We went and had dinner outside near there and he was playing a warm up set and I was like ‘let’s go’ and she was like ‘alright’ so she took me clubbing at 14 to see Roger Sanchez and we went back every year after.
If you could eradicate one song from the history of music, what would it be?
Barbie Girl can go in the bin.
What has been your proudest moment?
As Tough Love, probably the So Freakin’ Tight success. When we first got signed to Island, the deal with Colombia. They’re all moments I treasure.
Which three people would you take to a dessert island?
Alex: My missus, Bear Grylls and someone entertaining.
Stef: My missus and my kids.
If you had to start a new life in any country, which one would it be?
Stef: It has to be hot. Thailand.
What does the future hold for tough love?
No idea. Mystic Meg, tell us. We’ll just keep pushing as Tough Love, keep pushing the label and its associated acts. We’ve got a management arm as well so we're looking after a few guys who have real potential. One of the things we said this year is just get back to enjoying it. When you’re on the road that much and churning out so much music, sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and be like ‘I do this cos I love it, so let’s make music that we love and play the shows we really want to play.’ Take a holiday or just a day not looking at emails.