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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Rudimental’s road to success – how it all began with a lucky discovery

As British drum n’ bass darlings Rudimental get ready to let the party anthems ring at Dubai’s Love Music Your Way festival, we go back to the beginning with Amir Amor.
From left, Kesi Dryden, Piers Aggett, Leon Rolle and Amir Amor of Rudimental. Courtesy Ollie Grove
From left, Kesi Dryden, Piers Aggett, Leon Rolle and Amir Amor of Rudimental. Courtesy Ollie Grove

It was a chance encounter that put Rudimental on the path to radio domination. In early 2012, four young London lads were working on their next single. There was a do-or-die ethos in the air – their previous three releases had failed to chart. The track was more-or-less complete, but they needed a vocal.

At a loss, they approached the barman at their local watering hole. That barman was none other than star-to-be crooner John Newman. Their collaboration, Feel the Love, went on to become one of the year’s biggest hits, selling 600,000 copies in the United Kingdom alone, kick-starting a chain of events that would result in Rudimental and Newman being onbest-seller lists for years to come.

Establishing a cosmopolitan approach that combines drum n’ bass beats with live instruments and soul and funk influences, debut album Home clocked sales of 300,000, won Best Album at the 2013 Mobo Awards and earned nominations at the Brit Awards and Mercury Prize. The same year, Newman – who performed at Dubai’s RedFest DXB and Meet d3 – scored a huge solo hit with Love Me Again.

“It makes me feel like a sort of proud brother to see John doing so well,” says producer and multi-instrumentalist Amir Amor. “There was a tidal wave of talent that came through at the same time, and we made it a platform – through Rudimental we all kind of came up together.”

In a sense, Amor was one of the first collaborators with Rudimental. The band was originally formed by East London school-friends Piers Aggett, Kesi Dryden and Leon Rolle, who released the 2011 singles Deep in the Valley and Speeding as a trio. Working as a producer for hire, a demo of Feel the Love reportedly sat on Amor’s desk for four months before he invited the lads into his studio, Major Toms. When the song became a hit, Amor joined the band full-time.

“When we got offered the record deal, it was a package,” says Amor. He recalls the record company saying: “Rudimental isn’t just the three guys anymore, you’re really involved in this.” And that helped Amor make up his mind.

“At that point, I made the decision to sign up and join them. I don’t have any second thoughts – it’s been an incre­dible blessing.”

But that came after a far from blessed life. Born in Tehran in 1985, in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War, at the age of 7, Amor fled with his mother and sister to London, initially leaving his father and brothers behind. Those early years were marked by a lack of education or permanent home.

“It was difficult but now I look back at the struggles we had at those times – the early years of being without a home, jumping from halfway house to halfway house, actually built up a lot of influences in me, and character,” he says. “It created an openness that fed into the music, into the way I live my life now. Without that background, I definitely wouldn’t have worked as hard or appreciated what we’re doing as much as I do right now.”

After the successful, non-stop touring of Home – reworked live with a party-­starting 11-piece band, as seen at Sandance in 2013 and 2014 – a second chart-­topping album, We the Generation, was released last October.

With the Rudimental brand firmly established, this time it was not just upcoming talents supplying the vocals; Dizzee Rascal laid down ver­ses and the album’s two biggest hits, Bloodstream and Lay it all on Me, feature Ed Sheeran.

However the guest who meant the most was Bobby Womack – the album contained one of his final recorded vocal performances before his death in 2014. They met him on the set of a British TV show in 2012 – Womack stopped at Rudimental’s dressing room to offer his congratulations and went on to offer a vocal track to the band. The result was album closer New Day.

“I remember the first time I heard it on the tour bus,” says Amor. “It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was a really surreal and powerful experience to hear his voice after he passed away, knowing he’d asked us to finish what was probably his last work. The fact he bestowed that trust on us – it’s something that will stay with me for a long time.”

• Love Music Your Way is on Friday, April 29, 4pm-1am. Tickets, from Dh399, are available at www.lovemusicyourway.com

rgarratt@thenational.ae