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Producing Clean Bandit

Jack Patterson & Mark Ralph
Published March 2017
By Tom Doyle

Jack Patterson is the main production mastermind behind Clean Bandit.Jack Patterson is the main production mastermind behind Clean Bandit.Photo: Richard Ecclestone

Not many dance acts start life as string quartets — but Clean Bandit’s fusion of classical and electronic music has powered them to worldwide success.

Clean Bandit have become one of the UK’s biggest acts of recent times. Their six top-five singles included two number ones in ‘Rather Be’ and ‘Rockabye’, while their 2014 debut album New Eyes reached number three, and they have sold 13 million singles and more than a million-and-a-half albums worldwide.

They’ve come a long way since forming back in 2008 as a Cambridge-based musical experiment meshing classical music with dance music. Originally a four-piece comprising keyboardist/programmer Jack Patterson, cellist Grace Chatto, drummer Luke Patterson and violinist Neil Amin-Smith (who quit the band in 2016), Clean Bandit first bonded at university as a result of Jack Patterson dabbling in recording Chatto and Amin-Smith’s string quartet.

“I’d been using Ableton for a while,” says Patterson. “I was helping out with Grace’s string quartet and making recordings of their concerts. Sometimes in Ableton or sometimes just on a field recorder, but bringing it into Ableton to edit it, just to help them with their web site and stuff like that. Then suddenly I had all this string quartet stuff in Ableton and I was just dicking about basically and started adding drums and bass.

“I played it to another friend who was a singer, this guy Love Ssega, and he had some ideas as well. We basically decided to make a band and try and do a performance. It was all really quick. It was in the space of a few weeks. We just got a load of material together really quickly and put on this club night.”

Clean Cut

And so Clean Bandit were born, initially performing at their National Rail Disco club night at the Fez Club in Cambridge. Patterson and Ssega’s ideas for the band included mounting piezo pickups onto the string players’ instruments that could be fed directly into Ableton, meaning that their performances were manipulated live by Patterson before they reached the front-of-house PA.

“I was dubbing it up,” he says, “but doing some other mad stuff like rhythmic gates. So they’d be playing chords and I’d have a MIDI...

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Published March 2017