Copyright are Sam Holt and Gavin ‘Face’ Mills, the UK production duo that have emerged from the shadowy streets beneath the grey skies of London to beam rays of 4/4 happiness directly into the gratefully exultant faces of clubbers around the globe. And through this musical transition from rags to relative riches, there’s one thing at least that has remained consistent. “What do we love?” asks Sam “We love songs”. Early releases on Joey Negro’s Z Records (‘We Get Up’) and the legendary Soulfuric imprint (‘Good For You’) set the tone stylistically, but could not predict the tidal waves of success that would wash over the duo and all who followed in their wake in the years to come.
Introduced to one another by a mutual friend in the mid-90’s and united by a desire to make the kind of music they both love. They were not completely unskilled in the ways of the beat however; Gav was in possession of a modestly glittering career in house and UK garage production, while Sam had already sampled the addictively sweet taste of success, having been a well-travelled DJ for some years.
Their success – at least in part – is due to the carefully nurtured and complimentary relationship their share within the studio. “Sam is very good at seeing the final goal of where you’re going for” say Gav of his production partner. Sometimes when I’m working by myself I end up messing around for ages, asking myself “do I really like this?” Sam’s very good at focusing on the final project.”
And like an oceanic battle cruiser, slowly eating up the miles between its start point and its destination; while Sam is busy steering in the right direction Gav is checking every conceivable scenario to make sure that all the bombs are really to drop and exactly the right time. “Gav will go down all the alleys; he’ll leave no stone unturned, you know?” returns Sam. “In terms of when he’s playing a keyboard part; he doesn’t just go with the first riff or even one of the first hundred if he doesn’t feel it’s quite right. He’ll take everything to its final point before he’s happy. It’s that single mindedness to get the quality that we’re looking for that he just excels at.” Copyright recording sessions can be intense, but that very intensity and ethos of never settling for something that’s almost exactly right is ever-apparent in the quality of the finished products.
In 2008 Copyright’s debut artist album ‘Voices and Visions’ was released on the duo’s long-term label Defected Records. The album was a shining beacon for ‘proper’ house music and came a time when most people in dance music were experimenting with deeper, more minimal sounds. Sublimely blending their trademark soulful sound with a host of other influences, ‘Voices and Visions’ reflected their varied and universally-appealing DJ sets, and featured an array of contributions from the likes of K.C. Flightt, Mr V, Miss Patty, Jazzie B and longtime cohorts Shovell, Imaani and Tasita D’mour. Spawning singles ‘Free’, ‘I Pray’, ‘In Da Club (Shake Sh*t Up), We Can Rise, Deeper and the anthemic ‘Wizeman’, it is the last on this list for which they are probably best known.
At Defected’s 10th birthday celebrations a live band performed some of the greatest hits from the label’s long and illustrious history; Kings of Tomorrow’s ‘Finally’, South St. Players’ ‘(Who) Keeps Changing You Mind’ and so on. The track that the thronging crowd were signing whenever there was a break in the music? Copyright’s ‘Wizeman’. “At the time we made it I was listening to a lot of The Police and Rolling Stones” explains Sam. “I realised that every one of their records had an “ooo yeah!” or “yeaaah” part to it and it sounds really powerful because it’s not actually part of the song, but it’s another hook that sits beside the song. We just tried to do something like that”. Cited by the duo as one of their most requested tracks, it is a shining example of when a vocal hook captures the imagination of club-goers the world over, and perfectly sums up much of what the group are all about.
Many producers – as comfortable as they are holed up in grimy studios drinking endless cups of tea – fail rather spectacular when it comes to playing the records they have so painstakingly created in front of anyone besides their closest mates, let alone to crowds of several thousand knowledgeable clubbers excepting to be entertained. Sam and Gav however have steadily built up an army of loyal with their energetic and expertly produced DJ sets, and can now count themselves among the most well-travelled and respected acts on the circuit. From being Defected In The House residents at Pacha Ibiza for the 2010 season to playing to tens of thousands of people at festivals like ZoukOut, Singapore– they’ve come an exceptionally long way in a relatively short space of time. In 2010 alone they’ve rocked the house in Portugal, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, China, Singapore, India, Thailand, Germany, Brazil and Angola to name just a few. And the extra special icing on this internationally jet-setting cake? In July 2010, Copyright were one of the headline acts at the Defected In The House-curated night for the iTunes Festival at London’s legendary Roundhouse venue. As one of the only house acts to perform in a month of free parties hosted by the download juggernaught – alongside musical titans such as Underworld and the XX – Copyright more than held their own, delivering a ferociously enthusiastic set that will be fondly remembered by the thousands in attendance for years to come.
What makes Copyright stand out from so many of the vocally-minded house crew, is that where many might add a vocal for the sake of it, Sam and Gav are always aware of the meaning behind things. “We try not to write empty songs” explains Gav. When we write lyrics there is always something behind them. We don’t just write “put your hands in the air”, or “music takes me higher” or “the bass is pumping”; those songs have been written so many times and we just try and write a song that does have something behind it, one that makes a difference.”
So what’s the game plan for the future then? “We’ve worked with Simon [Dunmore] for a long time” concludes Sam “so he’s part of the team in the sense of a vision and I always feel like we’re trying to work towards a goal. I’d love nothing more than to repay Simon with a massive international hit. So hopefully in a few years we’ll all be sitting on our massive yachts in Ibiza saying, “Well wasn’t that a good idea!””
And with the way they’re going at the moment it’s definitely more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’.