Still buzzing from the success of his hard-hitting Nil by Mouth EP for Ram Records, the drum & bass powerhouse known as Audio is a formidable presence both in and outside the studio. Covered from head to toe with an intense assortment of tattoos, Audio’s physical presence seems to reflect his no-holds-barred approach to the genre, as well as the anti-establishment ethos that drum & bass has come to represent.
Having earned his stripes on major imprints ranging from Freak to Virus and now Ram Records, the South Londoner seems to revel in conjuring up deadly dancefloor-killers that reflect the equally dark and twisted ink he is known for rocking. The past two years in particular have seen Audio gaining momentum in the studio—most notably when his monstrous “Headroom” knocked Avicii off the Beatport top spot in late 2012, going on to dominate the chart for the next three months.
We zeroed in for a chat about the intersection of ink and music, and how the two have become intertwined in both the private and public personae of one of the most exciting drum & bass artists around.
Let’s step back to your very first tattoo. Tell us the story behind it.
My very first tattoo was pretty shit, if I’m honest. I was 17 and working at a flooring company. One Friday, after getting my wages, I decided on the way to the pub to stop and get a tattoo—which of course the older guys I worked with were well up for! So 10 minutes later, I'm getting a British bulldog tattooed on my arm.
Was your interest in music connected in any way to your decision to get that first tattoo?
No, music wasn't linked at that point—even though music was all I did outside of working.
You may not be proud of it now, but admit it: At the time, you were showing it off every chance you could get!
Yeah, of course! I rocked the sleeveless T-shirts for a while, showing off this tiny picture of a dog!
Was it all downhill from there, or did it take some time to start adding more ink? Any tattoos in particular that stand out for you or signify an important moment in your life or career?
It still kind of took me some time. I was slowly getting tattoos periodically, but then I got the Virus Recordings symbol on my wrist just after [Ed Rush & Optical’s] Wormhole LP dropped. That's probably the tattoo with the most meaning for me, if I’m honest. That LP changed my life and pointed me in the direction that I still go in today.
The ink on your knuckles reads “drum” and “bass” respectively. When did you get these? Was there a particular release you were celebrating?
I just wanted my knuckles done real bad, so I spent ages trying to think of two four-letter words that I would be happy to rock. I feel stupid now, but my wife was the one to point out the fact that “drum” and “bass” are two four-letter words… I've had them touched up three times; they just didn't want to stay on my fingers, but my regular tattooist smashed them in the last time I had them retouched… They’re good now.
Speaking of which, your tats are very public; there's no hiding the hand and throat ones, no matter what you wear. Is this a way of committing full-bore to music and living what some might consider an “alternative lifestyle”? In other words, there’s no chance of you settling down and becoming a banker or schoolteacher anytime soon, is there?
There's definitely some sort of anti-establishment sentiment to my tattoos. It’s a way of reminding me that I never want to work for anyone in this world, and now I have no choice but to go even harder at keeping that musical lifestyle. Tattoos are something that I will continue to get until I can't get to the shop.
What sort of advice would you give to anyone out there who may be considering getting some ink? At what point should they commit to a neck piece?
I'd say, do what you want to do! That’s a philosophy I’ve lived by my entire life… As long as you’re willing to work hard, you will be successful at whatever path you choose to take. I do think that a lot of kids maybe think that if they get covered in ink or live that lifestyle, things will happen for them. But I say, put the work in first—then enjoy the rewards.
As you've matured and the tattoos have become part of your visual identity, do you see them reflecting who you are as an artist? When I think of your music, I think of massive percussion and sort of a powerhouse of raw energy. Is that reflected in your body ink? Do the two go hand-in-hand?
My ink is definitely part of me as an artist. People recognize me in clubs and want photos with my knuckle tattoos, and it absolutely matches the type of drum & bass I produce: loud, in your face, and coming in full-throttle. I kind of like being known for it, if I'm honest.
Hard D&B was getting a bad rap for a while, but it seems to be on the upswing. Now that you’re getting asked to play festivals, do you find yourself having to tone it down a bit, or can they take it as hard as you can dish it out?
The festivals I've played seem to get the style OK, but for me, the music suits dark, loud clubs—so that's where I prefer to play. Festivals are great, don't get me wrong, but it's hard to get a real vibe going, as you’re so far from the crowd. Having said that, the amount of people you can perform to at festivals outweighs clubs hands-down, and that makes for some exciting energy.
With your looks, you can fit right in on a proper action flick. Do you have any aspirations in that arena? We’ve seen you in the “Heads Up” video, and you’re a natural!
I'd love to do films, so if there are any directors reading, it's definitely something I’d love to get involved with if the opportunity came up. Filming the video for “Heads up” was a great laugh. The SWAT team with me are my best mates, so filming was amazing from start to finish. Plus, the guys filming had come up with a great story and great props, so it was a lot of fun. One thing that wasn’t fun was hitting a deer on the motorway at 90 mph on the way home… very scary!
Before we go, hit us with your favorite ink shop or artist you'd like to shout out, and let us know what and where you’re considering your next tat to be.
My favorite ink shop is Kids Love Ink on Brick Lane in East London. A very good friend—Charlie Shazer, who has done a lot of my work—runs it. The next tattoo for me is my chest piece, which we’re planning at the moment.
By Chris Muniz
This article originally appeared on Insomniac.com.