Arkley: ‘This project is much more let’s go with the flow’

Arkley is the latest incarnation of dance music producer, DJ and songwriter Pete Bott, once of Leeds trios Deuce & Charger and Heads We Dance.

Arkley.

Six years on from moving to London where they established themselves in the drum and bass scene, Bott and his wife Becky have returned to West Yorkshire with their young daughter. Now he is seeking to establish himself as a solo artist.

“I had a lot of fun and lot of great experiences doing (Deuce & Charger), and I think made some really cool music,” he says. “We had some pretty decent success. I think we had tracks on most of the main underground labels and we played at this amazing festival over in the Czech Republic.

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“Around 2017 I started moving into DJing as well as producing, and I think it was about my fifth gig ever at this drum and bass festival called Let It Roll. It’s at this disused air force base, it’s 25,000 to 30,000 tickets a day, it’s huge.

“We enjoyed that scene socially but it was never 100 per cent what any of us had wanted to do, then Yoni (Collier) moved to the Netherlands and he became less involved, although I still speak to him all the time.

“Becky was always a drummer and never really a vocalist, she just fell into that role. I think we put out about 25 tracks in three years and most of those are standalone singles, it averaged out a track every two or three months, so it was a lot of music, but I think (the end of Deuce & Charger) kind of coincided with the pandemic.

“I played a DJ drum and bass gig in Brixton on March 8, 2020 then the country went into lockdown. By then we thought we’d seen it through, we were moving away from London and Becky was less interested, and I always wanted to do the music I guess I probably should have done 10 or 15 years ago.”

Hence the Arkley project was born – inspired, says Bott, by the likes of Daft Punk, Cassius, Ed Banger Records and the Chemical Brothers. He explains: “I thought ‘Right, if I take a step back and start with a completely blank canvas, what is the music I always loved and always wanted to do?’ Doing it on my own, there’s no expectations, I’m not trying to please anybody else and that was the starting point.”

Music (Over and Over), his first single under his new alias, has just been released by Tileyard Music, the publishing, label and management offshoot from North London’s highly successful Tileyard Studios. “Tileyard manage Joel Corry, Sigala, Ella Eyre and loads of other people, a lot of writer-producers and emerging artists, and I’ve know those guys for about three years now and always played them bits and pieces of music,” Bott says. “I was talking about this new project and I played them some stuff without really thinking much more about it at the time, but they came back to me saying, ‘This is amazing, we want to do something with it’. That led to that conversation progressing.

“Initially we talked about taking it to some other labels and them helping with that. We actually weirdly had some interest from one of the majors on doing something with it, but I’m pretty cynical of all of that. With that major machine behind you, you can achieve some pretty incredible things on a global basis but also I think with that comes a lot of frustrations. You’ve seen the stuff about Raye in the press recently and I think it’s very easy for that type of thing to happen.

“I was just saying it’s all very well and good but if you have your own vision and you pursue it, people will involved at the right time. You’ve just got to keep things moving forward otherwise you can end up waiting for things to happen. With this new project, the kind of sound I’m going for is not really something that people have explored for a long time. When I first played demos to people, they said, ‘This reminds us of the Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx’, which is weird because those are the influences but not deliberately. For all those reasons, that’s how it’s come about, that’s why the debut single is with Tileyard Music.”

As for longer term goals, Bott is taking things as they come. “First of all, I want to enjoy it, that was the primary motivation for doing it,” he says. “I think a lot of people particularly when you’ve got a streaming fanbase you get sucked onto this treadmill of trying to feed algorithms and being on social media and having tracks out every six to eight weeks. This is what happened with Deuce & Charger, to the point where you feel like you’re just churning stuff out and not being in the moment, you’re just thinking about is this keeping the whole machine moving? Is this leading to some unknown destination?

“I stood back for the first time in years and thought, what is it I would really like to do and how would I like this to roll out, and what I came back to was stuff that I’ve always loved like Soulwax 2Many DJs and The Avalanches, all these older things. To me there’s a lot of cynicism in dance music right now, it’s all about which featured vocalist can we get on this track and then how can we play the algorithms to get the most amount of interest. It’s quite contrived, I think, a lot of it. This project is much more let’s go with the flow of the music. I’ve spontaneously got loads of tracks now and none of it’s been overthought, there is no blueprint or game plan with it, and this relationship with Tileyard Music has come about really naturally.”

Music (Over and Over) is out now. www.arkleymusic.com