NAPT: Never caught napping

NAPT have had a dream ride into the world of breaks. Their first single was pushed by the Freestylers on their Fabric 19 mix, and with it they had almost immediate support from the likes of Stanton Warriors and Deekline and Wizard, whom they beat to the top this year in the 2009 Breakspoll awards for the ‘Best Producer’ category. Being picked up by Funkatech records, Tomek Naden and Ashley Pope have gone from strength to strength in a genre considered by many to be dying, becoming one of the scene’s big players and proving there is life in the breaks genre yet.

Each letter of their name is sounded out, rather than being like “napped”, which would be an odd name for producers of music so lively. “It stands for something we can’t divulge,” Ashley says, matter of fact, whilst Tomek giggles in the background. “We like giving a different answer every interview,” Tomek says. “It’s not the most imaginative thing in the world. We always try and come up with a really elaborate story, but it’s just our names really.”

They started doing music together after attending the same secondary school, and then attended the same university. “We started doing bits and bobs when we were working in a studio complex when we were at university,” Tomek muses. “It was in the early part of this decade that we started going to Fabric. We had been aware of new school breaks as I was an avid record buyer and DJ, and we’d go to Fabric and see groups like the Plump DJs play and it just seemed like a really open genre. A bit like house in that you can have so many different styles. Breaks has so many different variations of music under the breaks umbrella template which we could work with. And I think the tempo as well – that 130 bpm tempo is really universal and it’s a good way to do what you want with music really.”

Their music is exceptional, and their list of awards and accolades is quite high for a group who’ve only been about a short while. Part of this could be put down to Ashley’s history in music. “I’ve been playing the piano since I was a baby!” He laughs. “I play clarinet too, and these skills have come in useful, although we both push the buttons on the MPC now.” Ashley admits sometimes his classical training can come into conflict with his passion for dance music. “You’re taught harmony in a certain kind of way and depending on the period of classical music there’s certain kinds of rules and certain kinds of expressions which don’t exist in dance music as such. It’s not really constricting,” he corrects himself; “I guess it gives you a different view about harmonies and how things should be made.”

They were signed to Funkatech about 3 years ago, introduced by DJ Mutiny who helped run the label back then. “We’ve stayed with them because they really let us do what we wanted,” Ashley says. “I think their label is going to be a big part of the future of breaks,” Tomek agrees “because they’ve invested quite heavily in new artists such as us, Far Too Loud, Pyramid and Specimen A, and let us grow in our own way, and I think this is a really important time for them to let us do that in breaks.”

Talking about labels and the music industry in general and how the big labels seem to be lagging behind in getting new artists out, both Tomek and Ash believe things have changed so now artists are not reliant on labels so much to give them a start in the industry. “The format has really changed in the last 7 to 8 years where you had to rely on a label to pick you up and put you out, now days it’s about creating your own sound, and one that stands on its own, so when people go looking for music the quality will stand on its own,” Tomek says. “And I think the beauty now is you can do it on your own because of the internet,” Ashley adds. “It’s like a massive, free promotional arena. If you’ve got the right track, and harness the internet correctly there’s no reason why you can’t get noticed. All the label owners are checking the blogs, myspace, facebook, youtube, checking activity and number of plays and all that kind of stuff. You can get yourself noticed if you’re savvy about the internet and have a good product.”

This has worked well for NAPT themselves, with the release of the Platinum Breaks series of mixes a number of years ago, released onto various forums. These competent mixes have been extremely popular and found in many a music lover’s collection. “It’s nice to be on there and get feedback, you know?” Ashley says of internet forums. “It’s nice to be connected in that way.”

Wondering if the boys had any tricks up their sleeves when performing, I wondered if they incorporated any live aspect into their sets. “We do lots of edits of our tracks and rearrange them live, but it’s still part of the DJ realm,” Tomek concedes. “But we don’t have any keyboards or anything like that. I think doing a live set of dance music is one of the hardest things to pull off and maintain some kind of integrity. We’re going to expand the show a bit more next year, but we’re working through how to do that at the moment.”

“What do you think?” Ashley asks “Do you think DJing with laptops should be considered “live”? We’re going to do some market research now, what do people in Australia think about that?” he laughs. “A lot of people in Europe bill themselves as live with Abelton running and adding stuff into it. We don’t think that is live, and we don’t want to do a live show like that. We think DJing on vinyl and CDJs is more exciting than a quote un-quote live show with a laptop.” “It just looks like people are checking their emails for two hours,” chuckles Tomek.

Their approaching tour sees them play a quick succession of gigs around Australia, playing New Years Eve in Brisbane, and New Years Day in Melbourne. “Not sure what time we’re playing in Melbourne, but I’m hoping it will be enough time to get there and give us an hour or two sleep before having to jump on stage!” Ash laughs, although Tomek assures me they try and be healthy when on tour. “Except me,” Ash laughs again, “I just always eat cake!” They assures me they’ll be at their best, whatever time they’re on. “When we’re DJing, it’s always easy to find that extra energy to DJ a set, because it’s something we loving doing,” Tomek says. “It’s not like we have to go into a deadend office job; the worst case scenario is you’ve got to go play for two hours jumping around and playing music you love.”

NAPT tour dates:

Fri Dec 26th – Breakfest, Perth

Thur Dec 31st – Empire, Brisbane

Fri Jan 1st NYD – Brown Alley, Melbourne

Fri Jan 8th – Destination?, Sydney

Sat Jan 9th – Ruby Tramp, Gold Coast

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