Let's Talk: Friend Within

UK native Friend Within prepares for the release of his forthcoming debut studio album, Hope, with a new collaboration between himself and Fool’s Gold boss A-Trak.

The single arrives on Toolroom Records, the same label that will host the release of the full 12-track Hope LP on March 12th.

Chatting to Friend Within ahead of the full release, we got to ask him what we might expect to hear on the album, his relationship with A-Trak, being a DJ during a pandemic, and more.

Let’s Talk about your forthcoming debut album, Hope, what can fans expect to hear when it drops?

Twelve tracks of house goodness! It ranges from disco influences to techy club stuff. It’s a proper reflection of the kind of music I play in my DJ sets (remember them?!) which I’m really proud of. It’s not a ‘lockdown’ album as many of the tracks were started well before the pandemic.

And it also includes a collaboration with the massively successful A-Trak, how did that come about?

I’ve known A-Trak for about twelve years as he released a track of mine on Fool’s Gold in 2009 in my electro/fidget house days. Then a couple of years ago we worked on a track together called ‘Blaze’ when he came over to the UK for a tour (remember them?!).

Since then we’ve been sending tunes back and forth. We have very similar ideas for house tracks which is always handy when doing a collab.

Did you feel any added pressure working on a track with someone that has seen so much success?

No, you should ask A-Trak.

In the past we have seen you release on Method, Positiva, Polydor and of course Toolroom, which other labels might we see added to the list in 2021?

I wanted to get the album finished, released and out for a few months before I started sending out any new demos so there isn’t anything lined up right now. I’ve been admiring Shall Not Fade and Toy Tonics though. Their output is always high quality. I’d still love a tune on Classic Music Company too. Toolroom has been and still is a very happy home for my music. They’re a lovely bunch of people behind the scenes.

Quite a lot of dance music albums see a remix EP a few months after release, have you and Toolroom got anything like this planned? If so, who might we expect to see included?

There will be some more singles to come from the album which will certainly have remixes. I do need to cash in a couple of remix swaps I did for Illyus & Barrientos and Justin Jay so they should be likely! Lately I’ve been really into Jansons, Mark Hawkins, Laurence Guy and Dance System amongst others. A Derrick Carter remix would be boss too.

The pandemic has made it pretty much impossible for DJs to work, what have you been using the extra free time for?

It’s funny because I’ve not really had much extra free time. With schools being closed I’ve been home schooling and generally occupying a 6-year old most of the time! Any free time I’ve had I’ve tried to get in the studio (which is in my house so there has been loads of distractions). I did finally manage to paint the kitchen though.

And how are you finding inspiration when clubs are off limits?

A year ago at the start of the first lockdown I couldn’t find inspiration anywhere. The idea of making new music just seemed ridiculous. I took solace in listening to old tracks, I guess to remember better times. I started a series of online mixes going through my record collection from A to Z which was a lot of fun.

Now I find inspiration in all the usual places – hunting for samples, playing with new bits of hardware or software. One of the benefits of being at home a lot is I’ve pretty much had Spotify playing the whole time so I’ve been discovering loads of great music and artists.

Have you noticed any change in your production process? Particularly when it comes to not being able to road test your tracks?

Yeah, the lack of road testing is difficult. The benefits I usually get from it are to do with arrangement rather than how the mixdown sounds. This can be overcome by just not listening to the track for a few days and going back to it with fresh ears.

Pre-lockdown I didn’t even own any CDJs so the only place I could mix in one of my tunes was in a club! I splashed out on the new CDJs (to make me feel like a real DJ again) and now I’ll mix in any new demos at home to see how they sound against other tracks that I like.

At the moment I’m experimenting with getting down an idea for a track really quickly and then leaving it for a while as I don’t have any extended periods of time in the studio. In normal times I’d be in the studio from Monday to Friday all day so lockdown has been a killer!

A massive good luck for the release of the album, before we go, what has been your guilty pleasure while in lockdown?

Aldi’s Salted Pretzel Chocolate. It’s absolutely bangin’!

Friend Within & A-Trak’s Know Each Other is out now on Toolroom Records.