The Chemical Brothers
The Chemical Brothers are an English electronic music duo, comprising Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons. Initially they called themselves "The Dust Brothers", after the noted US production duo of the same name, but their burgeoning popularity and the threat of legal action from the originals led them to change their name in 1995. Along with The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, The Crystal Method and a few other lesser-known acts they were pioneers of the big beat electronic dance genre, and are known for high-quality live sets. They famously met at the University of Manchester.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Background
- 1.2 Font
- 1.3 Ariel
- 1.4 Naked Under Leather
- 1.5 The Dust Brothers
- 1.6 The Heavenly Social
- 1.7 From Dust To Chemical
- 1.8 Exit Planet Dust
- 1.9 "Setting Sun"
- 1.10 Dig Your Own Hole
- 1.11 More mixing
- 1.12 Surrender
- 1.13 "It Began in Afrika"
- 1.14 Come With Us
- 1.15 Ten Years of The Chemical Brothers
- 1.16 Push the Button
- 2 Discography
- 3 See also
- 4 External links
Emma Jaeger was born in Herne Hill, South London, England in 1970, to a barrister mother and a father who was not around much when Ed was growing up. Ed's two main interests when he was young were aeroplanes and musicals. Simons went to school in Alleyn's in South London, and left with 11 O levels and 3 A-levels. Ed developed a fondness of rare groove and hip hop, having frequented a club called The Mud Club when he was 14. By the time he left school, his two main musical interests were two Manchester bands, New Order and The Smiths. Simons studied Medieval History at the University of Manchester.
Another student in Simon's class was Tom Rowlands. Rowlands was born on 11 January, 1971, in Kingston-Upon-Thames. His father was a lighting cameraman. When Rowlands was very young, his family relocated to Henley. He later went to school in Reading. Rowlands became obsessed with Scotland when he was a child, and loved the bagpipes in particular. Later, he became interested in other music. Initially, one of his favourites was the "Oh What A Lovely War" soundtrack, then 2-Tone, and in his early teens, the synth-pop of artists as Heaven 17, Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire. Later on in his teens, Rowlands progressed to The Jesus and Mary Chain. He described the first Public Enemy album as the record which probably changed his life, and says he thought "Miuzi Weighs a Ton" was one of the most amazing records he had ever heard. Rowlands started collecting a lot of hip hop records, by people like Eric B and Schoolly D, but was also a large fan of My Bloody Valentine. Rowlands left school with 9 O levels and 3 A levels. He also decided to go to Manchester for further study because of its music scene, and specifically the Hacienda.
The Font which was used to write the typical "The chemical brothers" logo is Sho, designed by Karlgeorg Hoefer in 1992. Hoefer died a few years ago. The chemical brothers original logo is only in a few details different from Sho i.e. the letters a and b. Linotype is holding the licence for this font where it is possible to buy it.
Rowlands was also in a band, called Ariel, prior to meeting up with Simons. Ariel was formed in London by Rowlands and his friends Brendan and Matt before they all moved up to Manchester. Their first single was "Sea of Beats". Other songs, mostly released on 12" included "Mustn't Grumble" and their most well-known, "Rollercoaster". Their record label, deConstruction, insisted that they get a female singer, and after some disappointing songs like "Let It Slide" (Rowlands would later describe it as "a stinker") the band fell apart. One of the last things Ariel did was the song "T Baby" which was remixed by the pair.
"Ariel symbolically ended when Deconstruction asked us for a Dust Brothers remix of an Ariel track. That was the final nail in the coffin". -- Ed Simons
"One of the blokes went a bit mad, but now he's back at college, and the other one drives our van" -- Tom Rowlands on Ariel, in 1995
Naked Under Leather
Rowlands and Simons then started to DJ at a club called "Naked Under Leather", in the back of a pub, in 1992. The pair would play hip hop, techno and house. Other DJs at Naked Under Leather were Alex Kohler and Phil South.
The Dust Brothers
Rowlands and Simons called themselves The Dust Brothers, after the US production duo famous for their work with the Beastie Boys. After a while, they began to run out of suitable instrumental hip hop tracks to use, so they started to make their own. Using a Hitachi hi-fi system, a computer, a sampler and a keyboard, they recorded "Song To The Siren", which sampled Meat Beat Manifesto. "Song To The Siren" was released on their own record label, called "Diamond Records" (after Ed's nickname). In October 1992, they pressed 500 white-label copies. and took them to various dance record shops around London, but none would play it, saying that it was too slow (The track played at 111 BPM). They sent a copy to London DJ Andrew Weatherall, who made it a permanent fixture in his DJ sets. Weatherall also signed the band to his Junior Boy's Own label. In May 1993, Junior Boy's Own released 'Song To The Siren'.
The duo completed university with good results, each obtaining upper-second class degrees. Around June 1993, the Dust Brothers did their first remixes. The first was "Packet Of Peace" for Robertson's Lionrock outfit, followed by tracks for Leftfield, Republica and The Sandals. Late in 1993, The Dust Brothers completed work on their "14th Century Sky" EP, released in January 1994. It contained the ground-breaking "Chemical Beats", which epitomized the duo's genre defining big beat sound, later taken up by Fatboy Slim and many more. The EP also contained "One Too Many Mornings", which for the first time showed the less intense, more chilled-out side of The Dust Brothers. Both "One Too Many Mornings" and "Chemical Beats" would later appear on their debut album. "14th Century Sky" was followed later in 1993 by the "My Mercury Mouth" EP. "Chemical Beats" was also part of the soundtrack for the first edition of the famous WipEout games series, having been featured in WipEout for the PlayStation in 1995.
The Heavenly Social
In October 1994, The Dust Brothers became resident DJs at the small, but hugely-influential, Heavenly Sunday Social Club at the Albany pub in London's Great Portland Street. The likes of Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, James Dean Bradfield and Tim Burgess were regular visitors. The Dust Brothers were subsequently asked to remix tracks by Manic Street Preachers and The Charlatans, plus Primal Scream's "Jailbird" and The Prodigy's "Voodoo People". These two remixes received television exposure, being playlisted MTV Europe's "The Party Zone" in 1995. Early in 1994 however, The Dust Brothers were approached in the club one Sunday by Noel Gallagher, from Oasis, who at the time were becoming one of the most prominent guitar bands in Britain. Gallagher told the duo that he had a Balearic inspired track which he had written, which he would like the Dust Brothers to remix. However, over time, Gallagher changed his mind, and in the end the Brothers did not remix it. The track was called "Wonderwall".
From Dust To Chemical
In March 1995 The Dust Brothers began their first international tour, which included the US - where they played with Orbital and Underworld - then a series of European festivals. Also around this time, the original Dust Brothers threatened legal action over the use of their name, and so Rowlands and Simons had to decide on a new name quickly. They decided to then call themselves "The Chemical Brothers" after "Chemical Beats" (Simons' grandmother had suggested they call themselves "The Grit Brothers").
In June 1995 they released their fourth single, the first under their new identity. "Leave Home" was released on Junior Boy's Own, as a preview of the imminent debut album and became the band's first chart hit, peaking at No. 17.
"The Chemical Brothers go for big hip-hop beats, howling sirens and persistent vocals reciting 'The Brothers gonna work it out'" -- NME.
Exit Planet Dust
In July 1995 The Chemical Brothers released their debut album Exit Planet Dust (the title inspired by their name change) on Freestyle Dust/Junior Boy's Own. It entered the UK charts at #9 and featured guest vocalist Beth Orton on the song "Alive Alone". It eventually went on to sell over a million copies worldwide. Shortly after its release, The Chemical Brothers signed to Virgin Records, to which they took their own offshoot label, Freestyle Dust. For their next single, in September 1995, they again used a guest vocalist, for the release of "Life Is Sweet", featuring their friend Tim Burgess, singer with The Charlatans. It reached #25 in the singles charts. The single was also Select Magazine's Single Of The Month for October. The release included a Daft Punk remix of "Life Is Sweet".
"The Brothers are in absolutely inspired, jackhammering, Underworld-fondling form. Crunchy on the outside. And crunchy on the inside too." -- NME, awarding it Single Of The Week
In August 1995, the Chemical Brothers DJed for Oasis at a Sheffield gig. The gig began to backfire when it became apparent that Liam Gallagher didn't seem to like any of the tracks they were spinning. The closest that they could come to pleasing him was the Happy Mondays' "Wrote For Luck". Gallagher proceeded to kick the Chemical Brothers off the turntables and procured a friend from The Verve to continue to DJ. He subsequently favoured obscure psychedelic material to the displeasure of the crowd. Some viewed it as a "one person dancing" night, the "one person" being Jarvis Cocker, from Pulp. Later, Simons put on Leftfield's "Inspection: Check One", which removed Cocker from the floor.
Around this period, The Stone Roses asked the Chemical Brothers to remix "Begging You", from their "Second Coming" album. After beginning work on a remix which they viewed as having potential, the Stone Roses changed their minds and the project was cancelled.
In October 1995 the duo returned to the Heavenly Sunday Social for a second and final run of DJ dates. They then become residents at the Heavenly Social on Saturdays at Turnmills. In November, The Chemical Brothers played the Astoria Theatre in London. At this time the Chems usually used a fusion of "Chemical Beats" and The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" as their encore. During the encore, however, Keith Flint from The Prodigy jumped up on stage to dance, wearing a t-shirt sporting the slogan "Occupation: mad bastard". A few from the crowd subsequently joined in. This resulted in a power cable being kicked loose, bringing the show to a temporary close. The Chemical Brothers confessed to not being too bothered; "because he's Keith from the Prodigy, and he can do whatever the fuck he likes" Rowlands said later. Just before Christmas, 1995, they played their biggest gig to date, with The Prodigy, at the Brixton Academy.
In January 1996 Exit Planet Dust went gold. The Chemical Brothers released their first new material in 6 months on Virgin, the "Loops Of Fury" EP. The four track release was limited to 20,000 copies. It entered the UK charts at #13. NME described the lead track as "splashing waves of synths across hard-hitting beats". The EP also contained a Dave Clarke remix of "Chemical Beats", and two other new tracks "Get Up On It Like This" and "(The Best Part Of) Breaking Up".
In February 1996, Select Magazine published a list of the 100 best albums of the 1990s thus far. "Exit Planet Dust" was listed at Number 39. In August 1996, The Chemical Brothers supported Oasis at Knebworth, where 125,000 people attend each of the two shows.
During the 1995 Glastonbury Festival, Rowlands and Simons had had another conversation with Noel Gallagher. Gallagher told them how much he liked Exit Planet Dust, and asked if he could sing on a future track, similar to the way Tim Burgess had worked on "Life Is Sweet". They didn't think much of the offer at the time, given how busy Gallagher would be with the release of Oasis' "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?", plus the complexities of dealing with each others record companies. However, the duo did later on have a track which they thought would benefit from having a vocal on it. They sent Gallagher a tape of what they had done so far. He worked on it overnight, and left a message with them early the next morning that he was ready to record it. The track was called "Setting Sun" and was finally released in October 1996. It entered the UK charts at the top, giving the duo their first ever Number One single. "Setting Sun" was backed by a longer instrumental version, and also a new track "Buzz Tracks", which was not much more than a DJ tool. The three remaining Beatles' lawyers later wrote to the Chemical Brothers, mistakenly claiming that they had sampled "Tomorrow Never Knows". Virgin Records hired a musicologist to prove that they did not sample the classic 1960s psychedelic song.
In March 1997, the Brothers released the second track from their forthcoming album, to give the world a further taster of what to expect. "Block Rockin' Beats" goes straight to #1 in the UK, thanks, this time, to its Schoolly D vocal sample. The NME named it Single Of The Week and said "It throbs like your head might if you had just done a length underwater in a swimming pool full of amyl." It later won a Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental.
Things were quite promising for the Brothers in the US at this time, "Setting Sun" was sitting at Number 80 in the Billboard Top 100, after selling around 80,000 copies, an excellent achievement for a European "dance" act. Sales from Exit Planet Dust were also around 150,000.
Dig Your Own Hole
On April 7, 1997 the Chemical Brothers released their second album, Dig Your Own Hole. It was recorded at the band's own south London studio, with the title taken from graffiti on the wall outside. The album was well received in most circles. Mixmag rated it 10/10 and gave it the "Album of the Month" label, calling it "mad enough to be thrilling, slick enough for not even remotely coffee tables".
During the Summer of 1997, the Brothers toured extensively, particularly in the States. They also became residents at Tokyo's Liquid Rooms. In August, the Chemical Brothers achieved rapprochement with the US Dust Brothers, and asked them to remix forthcoming single "Elektrobank". They themselves also became highly sought-after for remixes for other artists. Metallica asked the Brothers several times to remix "Enter Sandman", but were repeatedly turned down. In September, the next single from Dig Your Own Hole, "Elektrobank" was released. In November, the pair played at Dublin's Point Theatre, with support from Carl Cox. They also begin a US tour in Detroit.
At the end of the year, Dig Your Own Hole's final track, the nine minute-long "The Private Psychedelic Reel" gave rise to a limited-edition mini-EP of the same name. The b-side consisted of a live version of "Setting Sun", recorded at the Lowlands Festival, Netherlands on August 24, 1997. Also in December, following four sold-out US shows, The Chemical Brothers toured the UK, finishing with a sold-out gig at London's Brixton Academy.
In 1998, they concentrated more on DJing, although some remixes did see the light of day, including "I Think Im In Love" from Spiritualized. Both a vocal remix and an instrumental remix were included in the single release. Each came in at over seven-and-a-half minutes. Another remix completed by the Brothers was "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp", from Mercury Rev. This was another extension in the association between the two bands, since Mercury Rev's Jonathon Donahue contributed to "The Private Psychedelic Reel" on Dig Your Own Hole.
In September 1998 the Chemical Brothers release their second mix album Brother's Gonna Work It Out. It contains some of their own tracks and remixes, as well as songs from artists who have influenced their sound, such as Renegade Soundwave, Meat Beat Manifesto and Kenny 'Dope' Gonzales.
In May 1999 The Chemical Brothers played three UK dates in Manchester, Sheffield and Brighton, their first since December 1997. Also that month, they released their first new original material in two years, a track called "Hey Boy, Hey Girl". This was more house influenced than hip-hop. In interviews at the time, Rowlands and Simons indicated that the track was inspired by nights out at Sheffield club "Gatecrasher". The track was also one of their more commercially accessible tracks and went to number 3 in the UK charts.
The third album Surrender was released in June 1999. It featured vocals from Noel Gallagher, Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue and Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. As "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" had suggested, the album was more house-oriented than the previous two. On one of the album's stand out tracks, "Out Of Control", Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and New Order's Bernard Sumner provided vocals. It reached Number 1 in the UK album charts, and was widely praised in the print media. The Michel Gondry-directed music video for "Let Forever Be", which utilized ground-breaking video and film effects in its depiction of a young woman's nightmares, also received a lot of attention.
Later that summer, The Brothers headlined the Glastonbury dance tent on the Friday night, followed by a UK tour which ended in December and included Homelands Scotland on September 4. In November, "Out Of Control", featuring Sumner and Gillespie on vocals, was released as single. The release also contained the much anticipated Sasha remix. The final single from Surrender, in February 2000, was the five track "Music: Response" EP, containing the title track and two remixes, plus a new track, "Freak of the Week", and a track called "Enjoyed", which was essentially a remix of "Out Of Control" by the Brothers themselves.
"It Began in Afrika"
In August 2000 they played to a large crowd at the main stage at Creamfields festival, Ireland. Highlights of their live set included "Out Of Control" and "Hey Boy, Hey Girl". Shortly after Creamfields, Tom and Ed played the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival. In December 2000, The Chemical Brothers aired one of their new tracks, "It Began in Afrika" at their New York DJ gigs, supporting U2. According to Rowlands, the new track was described as having:
"quite a lot of percussion, big, sweeping sort of stuff. Live conga playing, quite spaced out. It's like Body & Soul, but really, really hard and twisted, it's like high-impact, full-on, but with more organic sounds, and quite intense, without the good vibe."
In 2001, they were quite active with releases and live performances. Early in the year, they began working on a fourth album, provisionally titled "Chemical Four". The first track which fans got a taste of was "It Began In Afrika", as previously played in their DJ set in New York. The track would make its live debut in California in April 2001, at the Coachella Festival, to much acclaim. Another new track also got its public debut at Coachella, "Galaxy Bounce". As has become customary for their releases and experiments, "It Began In Afrika" was first pressed as a promo, as part of the "Electronic Battle Weapon" series. It received much airplay on dance music radio shows in the UK, and became more and more popular in clubs over the course of the summer. It also became one of the "anthems" in Ibiza as the summer progressed. It was given a full commercial single release in September, reaching #8 in the UK singles chart, even though no promotional video was made for the track.
Rowlands and Simons also remixed a track from Fatboy Slim's "Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars", entitled "Song For Shelter."
Come With Us
The Chemical Brothers finished work on another album, Come With Us, in October 2001 . It featured collaborations with Richard Ashcroft ("The Test"), formerly of The Verve, and long-time collaborator Beth Orton ("The State We're In"). The album was released in January 2002, preceded by a single, "Star Guitar", a melodic, Balearic number, with a promotional video by Michel Gondry. It featured the view from a train window at the passing scenery, with everything outside the train moving to the time of the music and sounds in the track. "Star Guitar" was also released as a DVD single, the pair's first time.
The album, "Come With Us" was less well received than their previous albums, but nonetheless went straight in at #1 in the UK album charts in the first week of its release, selling 100,000 copies. In April the title track from the album was released as a single, with remixes by Fatboy Slim, as part of a double-A sided release, with "The Test".
During the Summer of 2002, they travelled the festival circuit, to promote the album. Later in 2002, they released two EPs, one specifically aimed at Japan and the other the US (entitled "American EP"). Both contained remixes, live versions and B-sides.
Ten Years of The Chemical Brothers
Late 2002 and early 2003 saw Rowlands and Simons back in the studio, working on new material, including "The Golden Path", a collaboration with Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of The Flaming Lips. This was released in September 2003, at the same time as a "best of" album, entitled Singles 93-03, marking ten years of The Chemical Brothers' releases. Singles 93-03 included most, but not all, of their singles. A second new track, in addition to "The Golden Path", was included on the album, called "Get Yourself High". Singles 93-03 was also released on DVD, whose extra features included selected live performances and interviews with Rowlands, Simons and many of their collaborators from throughout the period. "Get Yourself High", which featured Canadian rapper k-os on vocals, was released as a single in November 2003.
In late 2003 and 2004 The Chemical Brothers continued to work in the studio, on new material and a remix of "Slow" by Kylie Minogue. After being released on rare white label vinyl, it was subsequently given a commercial release in March on CD (on her next single "Red Blooded Woman") and on exclusive 12" vinyl picture disc (containing two other Kylie remixes). In Summer 2004 they returned to the festival circuit, including appearances at the Glastonbury Festival, Tokyo, Scotland and Ireland. It was during these sets that they played new material, including "Acid Children", which proved to be one of the most popular new tracks.
In September 2004 The Chemical Brothers released the seventh Electronic Battle Weapon. "Electronic Battle Weapon 7" was being released as a one-sided promo-only 12", containing "Acid Children". It featured a distinctive vocal sample "You Are All My Children Now!", which is lifted from an old horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge. The Electronic Battle Weapon series of promo releases have typically been newly recorded Chemical Brothers tracks, released on promo to allow DJs to test them in a club environment, and to gauge their popularity.
Push the Button
In 2004, The Chemical Brothers began work on Push the Button, their fifth studio album, which features collaborations with Tim Burgess, Kele Okereke and Anwar Superstar, amongst others. The album was released on January 24, 2005.
"Galvanize", which features Q-Tip on vocals, was the first single to be taken from Push the Button, and premiered exclusively on iTunes. The single was released on January 17, 2005, and entered the UK chart at #3. The second single "Believe" (featuring Kele Okereke from Bloc Party) failed to crack top 10, but still made it into the top 20, peaking at #18. "The Boxer", featuring Tim Burgess, became the duo's first single to fail cracking top 40.
- Exit Planet Dust (1995) #9 UK
- Dig Your Own Hole (1997) #1 UK, #14 US
- Surrender (1999) #1 UK, #32 US
- American (2002) (US only)
- Come With Us (2002) #1 UK, #32 US
- Push the Button (2005) #1 UK, #59 US
- Live at the Social Volume 1 (1996)
- Brother's Gonna Work It Out (1998) #7 UK (In The Compilations Chart), #95 US
- Singles 93-03 (2003) #9 UK
From Exit Planet Dust:
- 1995 "Leave Home" #17 UK
- 1995 "Life is Sweet" #25 UK
- 1996 "Loops of Fury EP" #13 UK
From Dig Your Own Hole:
- 1996 "Setting Sun" #1 UK, #80 US (1997 release)
- 1997 "Block Rockin' Beats" #1 UK
- 1997 "Elektrobank" #17 UK
- 1997 "The Private Psychedelic Reel" (chart ineligible EP)
- 1999 "Hey Boy Hey Girl" #3 UK
- 1999 "Let Forever Be" #9 UK
- 1999 "Out of Control" #21 UK
- 2000 "Music:Response" (chart ineligible EP)
From Come With Us:
- 2001 "It Began in Afrika" #8 UK
- 2002 "Star Guitar" #8 UK
- 2002 "Come with Us/The Test" #14 UK
From Singles 93-03:
- 2003 "The Golden Path" (with The Flaming Lips) #17 UK
- 2003 "Get Yourself High" (chart ineligible EP)
From Push the Button:
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart