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Agnelli & Nelson interview: Going Bonkers to the Sweatbox vibe

Author: Clare Dickins
Tuesday, 30 August 2005
Chris Agnew won't lie. When you're a trance producer who's trying to come up with a credible vocal piece, it's bloody hard to get it right. Together with his Agnelli & Nelson counterpart Robbie, the Irish duo is constantly challenged with producing quality vocal trance - minus the generic pop fodder.

"It's very hard to achieve - that's why there is so much poppy shit out there, because it's so easy to do. To release something quality is so much harder. You work for ages in the studio working on songs and vibes and you build things up for two weeks and get to a certain point and then decide to get rid of it all because it's crap - then you have to start all over again. It's just this process whereby you need to keep building things up until they click," he explains.

Fortunately, Agnelli & Nelson know how to make a good vocal trance track click. In 2003 the pair delivered arguably the year's finest vocal opus with Holding on to nothing - a tune made special by Audrey Gallagher's spine-tingling vocals. "We spent years looking for vocalists - we listened to all these girls and fellas and nothing really clicked. Through a mutual friend, Audrey, sent us all the demos that she'd done. She was in a band that was signed to 48E that was touring with the Compton Twins and stuff and as soon as we put on her CD, Robbie and I just loved her voice! We got her into the studio and we all got on really well!"

"For three years before that, we had sixty to seventy vocalists in and sixty-nine of them were terrible!" he says laughing. "Some of them could sing really well in tune, but they just didn't have that performance thing about them or that extra something special. Some of them just sounded really girly or bland or just like wailing divas, so we weren't really interested in that. She comes from an indie background and has played in bands, so she brought a really refreshing background to the thing."

After the forgettable years of 2001/2, when the trance genre became soaked in tasteless Euro-pop, Agnew is confident the sound is now consistently coming up with some respectable vocal offerings. "There are a couple of really good vocal tracks coming out at the moment - Ridgewalkers feat. El Find and Ernesto and Bastian's Dark side of the moon - they're good voices and they're also really good songs if you strip them right back, rather than just 'I love you, show me your emotion' - and that's what we always like to hear," he says.

Agnew and partner-in-crime Robbie Nelson are shortly due to release their new single Shiver - not to be confused with Armin's recent offering Shivers. Unfortunately for the pair, they had named the tune before they'd received promos of AVB's tune and it was too late to change the title.

Chat to either of the A&G boys and you'll quickly realise they're no underground purists. Recently, Way out West legend Nick Warren commented to DJ Mag that he thought Tiësto's performance at last year's Olympics had taken dance music too far overground. Warren remarked, "Tiësto is a lovely bloke, but things like this are the reason dance music has been watered down to piss. Dance music should be kept in underground, late nightclubs where it's meant to be."

I don't think dance music is just strictly for underground clubs," Agnew comments. "I think if dance music has mass appeal, that means it's good dance music and I don't see anything wrong with that. If twenty thousand people want to attend an event because they love the music, then I think that's great. If you're still playing your music and you're being true to yourself, then I don't see a problem with it," he says.

"Tiësto did do the Olympics and it was huge for him, but it was also a huge thing for dance music, as it meant that we had worldwide mainstream acceptance of this form of music. It brought it into the consciousness of households all around the world - so I think going and saying dance music should be just s
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