Two LA based DJs transplanted from Manchester have been taking Hollywood nightclubs and surrounding venues by storm for the last couple years. Not too long ago it seemed like any show an Angeleno might find themselves at included the EC Twins on the bill, occasionally playing shows where they didn’t appear on the bill just for kicks, as well as any spot that looked like it could use a little high energy house music (and really, when are spontaneous dance parties a bad idea?) The two brothers not only produce and DJ brilliant variations of house music, but they have an equally amazing story of their uphill struggle to popularity that has exploited-Hollywood-movie written all over it. (I’d watch it!)
During the last weekend in June, officially declared “Electric Daisy Carnival Week” by Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, hundreds of thousands of music fans from all countries, ages, and backgrounds converge on Sin City for the infamous 3 day music festival, EDC. While the show runs from dusk until dawn, the overload of quality music flows out into neighboring hotels during the daytime. At Tao Beach, Beatport throws one such pool party where beautiful people beat the heat by pounding down tropical shots and chasing them with margaritas. The best way to not let the heat get to you, though, is to dance to the incredible music only a Vegas pool party could provide.
Scheduled to play are trance legends Above & Beyond as well as masters of the house music arts, the EC Twins. Being able to stand just arms length from the artists in the DJ booth is definitely a better feeling than having a sea of people packed in the front row elbow to elbow, followed by several steel partitions and large, unruly bouncers between the fans and the musicians like at the actual EDC performances.
While technical difficulties put the set time back 30 minutes, each artist played for a good length of time (although at the end, you always end up wanting more). The EC Twins started with the fist pumping club bangers to kick the party off, then transitioning to a solid block of dance music with subtle differing styles. Their leads and drops never failed to put smiles on anybody poolside. The only problem during their set was when the music stopped for a brief moment before picking back up again, which the EC Twins explained what had ahppened to me later during out interview. Brand new original remixes made a premier this weekend for the EC Twins, such as Paul Oakenfold’s “Mesmerized”, “Is It Me” with Remy Le Duc, Dirty Vegas’ “Electric Love”, Swedish House Mafia’s “Save the World”, and a rendition of Wheat’s “Little White Doves” which got everyone singing along. A quick look around the pool and cabanas and it was obvious that everyone loved this set.
Ryan Esteban Stabile here with the EC Twins, Allister and Marc, at Tao Beach in Las Vegas. Are you identical twins?
ALLISTER: We don’t know. I asked me mum once and she says, “Yes, you are identical twins.” And I ask her, “Well how do you know that?” and she says, “Because you look alike.” So we are not really sure.
You guys are from LA, correct?
MARC: Well, we’re from Manchester, but we live in LA now, yes.
Tell me briefly about coming from Manchester to LA and the rise of the EC Twins.
ALLISTER: We are from originally a counsel estate, what you guys would call the projects. We moved to Scotland as soon as we left school and started a club called Eye Candy, which became one of the most popular nightclubs in Britain. It won a lot of awards, and then we decided to come to America where we found out there wasn’t much of a house scene and lost everything: our house, our business, our money.
What year was that?
MARC: it was on and off. We ended up in LA about 2007 and were living on the street for about two years.
ALLISTER: We were very lucky to have friends until they all got pissed off and wondered, “What’s wrong with these bums?”
MARC: Once we lost everything and had nothing else to lose we stuck with what we loved and believed inL, which was house music.
ALISTAIR: No one would book us so we had to throw our own parties.
Like house parties?
ALLISTER: Well, one of the first parties we throw had over 2,000 RSVPs.
MARC: That’s a bit big for a house, yeah? So, we went to these hot Hollywood clubs which were on their last legs and about to close down. We told them we could bring them a demographic of people who haven’t been in their club before; the underground house people. Before they only had the rich guys and hot girls. That worked pretty well.
ALLISTER: The irony of it was that we earned more money [for the club] there than when the club opened. Next thing you know, you have every club in LA calling us. But that is a very long story cut short.
So no one really discovered you, but you guys pretty much did everything for yourselves?
ALLISTER: Yeah, we would grab your business card, grab the doorman’s business card, and we had a lot of friends, so our friends really backed us up. And we did it in reverse, really, because once we had the clubs busy then the hot Hollywood crowd and celebrities would all become curious.
MARC: Once we were in there our friends from the east side and from south central were a bit more energetic than the Hollywood crowd. When the Hollywood crowd got wind of this they started spraying up the bottles of champagne and soon after that we decided to start making ventures into Las Vegas because we thought that would be a great platform. The big cultural movement that is happening in Las Vegas, which before was people like Celine Dion and fucking Barry Manilow, and now it is Swedish House Mafia.
Yeah, there is a lot more EDM here in Vegas now… I’ve noticed at EDC that a lot of other artists are branching out of their realm of music and into new territory.
MARC: Yeah, I’ve noticed that too.
What do you think that is attributed to?
ALLISTER: The thing about EDM is that it isn’t a fad. It feels fresh in America because it’s had a bit of a resurgence, but it’s always evolving. People have taken influences from rock, from hip-hop, from punk, even classical, and of course it helps to throw in a bit of nostalgia.
MARC: I think also what everyone is now realizing is that the worst thing you can do in EDM is to sub-genre yourself. Calling yourself a deep house guy or a dubstep guy, because when that fad passes on you go with it and everyone is now realizing that. So I think everyone is just trying to play good electronic dance music and stay open to the change.
ALLISTER: Basically you evolve or die.
And that is what’s happening at EDC here in the desert. Tell me, what new content do you have coming out?
ALLISTER: On July 5th we have the remix Little White Doves” coming out as an exclusive on Beatport. Two weeks later it comes out on iTunes. That is a remix of a Grammy winning Dirty Vegas song. After that is an LMFAO remix, “Champagne Showers”. After that is “Resurrection” coming out on Paul Oakenfold’s label. We have one called, “Is it Me” which we only just played yesterday and it sounds amazing. We didn’t even announce that tune. We sort of just dropped it in our set last night.
Your set in the Dome last night was brilliant. Don’t you love the ceiling projections and air conditioning blasting through there at 50 MPH?
MARC: I prefer the main stage.
ALLISTER: I can’t say I chose the Dome for artistic integrity.
It’s different; like another dimension in there. The air conditioning certainly is nice. Would you say the main stage is your favorite?
ALLISTER: it was like there were six main stages yesterday wasn’t it?
All stages are massive.
MARC: You know the thing about the second largest stage? It’s a bit more edgy and you can push the envelope artistically. Everyone wants to be one the main stage in the headline slot and we’re no difference.
ALLISTER: I don’t think David Guetta would have switched with us.
MARC: He has fireworks and pyrotechnics but we have air conditioning.
[Everyone erupts in laughter]
That’s a fair trade. What shows do you have coming up?
ALLISTER: Ask our manager. We just wake up in the morning and say, “Where are we?”
I can’t believe that it was only 2007 when you guys were off the street and began to snowball.
ALLISTER: It wasn’t much of a snowball. It was very incremental hard work.
MARC: We would do sets at clubs and literally have our friends bring their brothers, sisters, cousins, mothers, fathers. That’s why we had 2,000 RSVPs.
ALLISTER: And you never struggle to have hot, scantily clad woman at a club playing house music but that wasn’t the only thing we thought was worth something. We wanted something more. We wanted to add a bit of heart. We like gays, straights, rich, poor, whites, blacks, Hispanics, we wanted to let everyone in, but for awhile we had horrible conflicts with the club personnel.
MARC: The clubs didn’t want to let our friends in because they weren’t rich enough or good looking enough.
ALLISTER: No, it wasn’t a fashion thing. People in Hollywood like to dress up and I get that and that’s okay but they were blaming people for genetics.
MARC: “He’s not good looking enough!” What the fuck is that? “She’s too old!” Come on! “He’s too fat!” What the fuck?
ALLISTER: We hate all of that shit. I still don’t feel the snowball effect, though.
MARC: I’ve always hoped to go to bed one Friday night and wake up on the main stage with a million people in front of me.
[We all burst into laughter]
What are your favorite venues to play at?
ALLISTER: What, like, around the world?
MARC: We like playing Copenhagen.
ALLISTER: Ironically, Los Angeles, which is the place that we despise more than anywhere in the beginning because everything we assumed about Hollywood turned out to be true, but that turned into a real home for us now. We have a lot of support there, but that support follows us anywhere we go now.
The thing about the Hollywood scene in LA is that it is completely different than the underground music community.
ALLISTER: That is one of the things that annoyed us, though, because it’s like, why? Why is one over here and one over here and why aren’t they merging?
Because they are different people!
MARC: We’ve played in the underground music scene for a very long time and we ended up doing a separate underground music night where we would get weird with it once a week, and the real music fans would love that, and then offset that to make sure house music is legitimately respected by doing a hot Hollywood night. I think now we’ve started to merge the two, haven’t we?
ALLISTER: Yeah, I think what had happened was that we did the underground music night to cater towards those guys, and then these hot Hollywood people would approach us and want us to do their club and we have this weird polarization where there are half naked woman in the first five rows of both show, but especially at the underground ones where they soon started to ask for the bigger artists that we didn’t expect to play, like Deadmau5, when we are trying to play more underground artists. What I’m trying to say is that I guess it’s merged together now. You’re quite right in what you’re saying about it being two different types of people, but mainly we would hang out in the dive bars in Silverlake and Downtown from 4 in the morning until 10 in the morning.
MARC: We would play late night shows on Skid Row, and that’s when we realized that all of these hot girls would get out of their taxis and pop their heads out to see who is playing this dance music on Skid Row. They all have their nightclub short skirts and stiletto heels on around these homeless people and one of them says, “Oh my god, it looks so scary here, but we really like the music you guys are playing!”
“There is a possibility of you getting murdered here, by the way.”
[Marc and Allister laugh]
I love that you guys would do that, by the way. Just playing on a street corner on Skid Row? Awesome.
ALLISTER: Yeah, playing Skid Row at 4 in the morning. There was a lot of alcohol involved.
MARC: The cops were there, though, so I don’t know how it was happening.
What sort of software are you using for your production and DJing respectively?
MARC: For a long time it was Pro-tools and Cubase, and then Allister and I started to use Ableton, which is really only for sound sequencing.
So Pro-tools and Cubase you were using pre-2005?
MARC: Yeah, well, we still use a little bit of Pro-tools.
More like Slow-tools.
MARC: Slow tools, is that what they’re saying? That’s a good one.
Jillian Ann told me that one.
ALLISTER: Everyone has something different now. One of our studios uses Pro-tools HD. When the big laptop movement came around and everyone was using Ableton I got sweat on the roof of my computer and I swore I would never use a laptop again.
MARC: Plus when you are just staring at a laptop instead of looking at the crowd it looks like you are just checking your fucking facebook.
[Allister and I chuckle]
MARC: It’s just too much concentration and energy on a laptop.
ALLISTER: But when you’re mixing with your ears you’re looking at the crowd.
MARC: All of that mixed in key crap… to be honest we don’t give a toss so long as everybody is dancing.
ALLISTER: If we had it our way we would still be using turntables.
MARC: But now we use Ableton for more things because it’s quicker.
ALLISTER: Vinyl will always be number one, though.
Vinyl is great if you’re using something like analogue turntable where you don’t have to deal with the problem of some drunk motherfucker spilling his drink all of your electronics.
ALLISTER: We love vinyl but it’s very expensive and hard to find and difficult to travel with. Just the touch of it. The feeling is great.
MARC: Actually, if I went to vinyl right now I might even be a bit rusty.
ALLISTER: I remember playing gay pride in Berlin and our vinyl was lost during the flight so we had to learn how to use CDJs on the spot. We wrecked the first three or four mixes…
How do you find that transition from, say, vinyl to CDJs or Cubase to Ableton?
MARC: We always find it difficult. We are too busy playing to sit at home and read through a thousand page manual.
ALLISTER: I look at some of the buttons on these new mixers and I think, “Shit, what the fuck does that do?” Then I start fucking about with it during a set, and that is never a good idea.
ALLISTER: Oh, what happened was, you know where the headphone jack is?
ALLISTER: Well, when this guy pulled his headphones out and the track skipped. Later, we had a problem with the external hard drive where we keep all of our songs. Because everyone is leaning over to shake our hands we suspect someone bumped it at one point.
MARC: We encourage it, so it’s our fault. With Above and Beyond, they just fucked up. they had three tracks going and stopped the wrong one.
Do those sorts of things happen often?
MARC: With us? Yeah.
ALLISTER: The problem with us is that there are two of us. For example, you bring one mix in and the other out but if your song is going out and your still looking for the next one you are in trouble.
Obviously you two are brothers and very close, but some groups have one guy playing at one time, then the other, then the other, and yet you two do it simultaneously. How is that?
[The two pause, leaning back in their seats to consider the question.]
MARC: We talk when we’re on the turntables
ALLISTER: Like when he says push them with something new, or if you’re dropping something that doesn’t work then you trying something else that works.
MARC: Sometimes, especially in Vegas when you’re playing to a more touristy crowd, you try going one for one. One for them and one for you. One that they know and one that is brand new.
ALLISTER: Like the other day, Marc played something new and I played something the crowd knew, then he played something new and I played something for the tourists, then he played something new and I played something new and he says to me, “Play something the crowd knows.” And I’m like “Fuck you! You play something familiar.” So, that’s how it works.
What are your favorite sets at EDC thus far? Did you guys get to walk around and enjoy the music?
MARC: Yeah, we were walking around.
ALLISTER: Probably Paul Oakenfold just because he is our friend.
The line-up it just ridiculous. So much good music!
ALLISTER: It’s all so subjective.
MARC: We’re really just into the music.
Specifically house music?
MARC: Electronic music. We’re into music in general. We love music in general. Of course, electronic music is our life, it is our passion, it is our job. So we wanted to check out as many stages as possible.
ALLISTER: Another thing about us is that our sound is juts big energy. We might watch Paul Oakenfold to see what he’s playing, then we might go see Dada Life or Chuckiebecause they’re playing driving electro, and then we might see some of the dubstep guys and take that in.
MARC: We might even go check out the drum and bass guys.
The DnB room is my second home.
ALLISTER: A lot of guys come over from Britain and the MCs we know, so we like to watch them. We just like to wander around and see everything.
MARC: The other DJs have got to do the same job as us. You go and see David Guetta and you know he has to play the shit he is bored of and then he has to try and imagine himself as an artist. The big guys all have that dynamic down, so it’s important for us to go and see what tracks they are laying down.
ALLISTER: We’re not particularly interested in any one specific DJ. We are more interested in the specific tracks everyone is playing.
That’s great. Everyone does seem to have their own remixes of the same songs cached, but remixes are always tricky because since it belongs to someone else you can’t really release it, can you?
ALLISTER: We have to do original tracks but we love to do remixes.
MARC: Sometimes we’ll put originals from other producers in [a DJ set] but we always enjoy our remixes more.
What do you think the appeal of house music is when people are at a music festival playing all of these different types of electronic dance music?
ALLISTER: Because it casts such a side net. If you like rock music then you can find a particular type of EDM that will turn you on. If you like soul music then you will find certain EDM that suits you.
MARC: Or even disco. It appeals to everybody. You see a lot of goth kids and punk kids out there.
ALLISTER: The great thing about dance music – the thing we love about dance music is that, for instance, hip-hop got a little nasty for a little while and can be very negative or even violent. With dance music we don’t talk about people’s race or how much money they have because we don’t care! Who cares if you’re black, white, gay, or straight? Who cares if you’re a hipster from Silverlake?
MARC: That’s what we’ve always liked about house.
ALLISTER: That’s the great thing [about electronic dance music]; that it’s musical centric. When we first came to EDC years ago there was only one demographic, and it was all music centric. Now you have people flying in on helicopters to be there! At the same time, though, the eco-warriors are still there. The burning man crew are still there. It’s great, and we don’t really fit anywhere else, but we fit into electronic dance music.
MARC: We’re a bit of misfits.
The reason I have so much love for the DnB room is because that is where all of my freaks are. I can go there and I know that we are all under the same banner. But as far as electronic dance music is concerned, what are the parallels between music with lyrics and just instrumental beats?
ALLISTER: we ask ourselves this question all of the time, and allegedly it comes down to…
ALLISTER: Yeah, science. Essentially it has something to do with which side of the brain operates more and that certain people will actively hear the lyrics while others do not. A lot of DJs who play strictly music without lyrics, that’s because their brains don’t work in that way.
MARC: An artist who we work closely with, we will give him a song with lyrics and he hears the lyrics as a rhythm, he doesn’t hear them as words.
ALLISTER: He is a synthesizer DJ, so he hears the harmonies. Do-Di-Da-Da. He hears the keys but he doesn’t know the lyrics. Not a single word.
MARC: I love a song with lyrics. It can be a great story. But it’s all subjective and depends on how your brain works.
ALLISTER: I think it’s always the girls who are usually more lyrically inclined.
That makes sense. Girls love to talk, don’t they? And Karaoke.
MARC: We love the bass as well. You’ve got to have the breakdown and everything.
Don Pyle told me that any song with lyrics and a message is essentially focused on the singer alone rather than being about the music. The singer in a band is always the frontman, right? It’s sad that the backbone instrumental parts are pushed behind the curtains because of that.
ALLISTER: Even as producers. Often when we finish a song and take it to a label, they love it but they will want to add lyrics to it.
MARC: Then you have a singer come in, do a half hour of work, and suddenly she thinks it’s her record. It’s like, we worked for two weeks on that!
ALLISTER: You have a song like “Resurrection”, which is coming out. It has no lyrics, but when we take it to the label they say, “Go put some lyrics in it.”
Give me an example of an EC Twins original with lyrics.
ALLISTER: Jesus, there are so many of them. For example, now we are working closely with LMFAO and we’re doing a Calvin Harris, Dutch electro song, then when it comes out on the album it says LMFAO featuring Calvin Harris. That happens all of the time.
It seems to be a divided discussion amongst DJs and producers. Some people I talk to tell me, “No! I can’t stand music with lyrics. I abhor it.” And at the same time many musicians tell me, “Yes, lyrics are a key part of any music.”
ALLISTER: it’s not even an argument. It’s like arguing over bloody religion. I like chocolate and you like vanilla. What the fuck are we arguing about? In the end, it’s just another way of looking at things.
MARC: We don’t feel strongly either way. If it’s a good track I won’t even be thinking about it.
Just make some good fucking music. Last question: what does EC stand for.
ALLISTER: Well, Eye Candy was the name of the club we were at. When we came to America we would tell people we’re DJs and they would say, “Who the fuck are you? I’ve never heard of you!” We told them to google our names and what would come up is “twins” and “Eye Candy”. A lot of people around looked at us as the Eye Candy Twins.
MARC: Like the Marquee Twins, or the Tao Beach Twins, or the EDC Twins…
ALLISTER: So we were the Eye Candy Twins, but when we came to America it was as if we were trying to say that we were good looking, so we abbreviated it.
Well, it sounds cool. You guys are so down to Earth, thank you for talking with me.