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Rogue Traders - Thinking outside the square

Author: Chloe Burke
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
"See the way it shimmers when it's right." Right now everything must be shining brightly for Rogue Traders James Ash and Steve Davis, with two hugely successful singles and the release of their uniquely fresh album 'We know what you're up to', these rascally rogues are making everyone stand up and take notice.

Not quite in the same league as the corporate broker who's bringing down of an international bank led to losses of $1.3 billion, the name Rogue Trader does reflect the boldness with which British ex-pats Steve and James approached their debut album.

'We know what you're up to' was worked over and over for the best part of two years and underwent many changes. The final result is a clever combination of eighties glam rock, pop, reggae, house, acid jazz and new wave. Designed to give music across the board a decent shake up, Steve explains that it is something that music today desperately needs.

"When 'Give in to me' was all over the radio it did ok in the clubs but didn't quite cross over. We were three quarters of the way through the album at this point when we realised that straight up house music just wasn't doing it for anyone anymore, so it gave us a very good opportunity to do something new and be a bit more creative."

This creativity stemmed from the inventiveness of Basement Jaxx's 'Where's your head at', a track that left people uncertain as to where it should be categorised but overall was enjoyed across the board so for Steve and James taking up the challenge to embark on new sounds was especially easy.

"I think we were really waiting for the chance to try different styles and it was good to sink our teeth into it and it didn't actually take that long in a sense because we were so fired up about making a change."

Whilst the general population grows tired of pigeon holing and the high level of sameness that is around dance music continues to find itself. I ask Steve if he is hoping that others will follow the 'Rogue Traders' mindset and start producing music purely for music's sake.

"I think to a certain degree it's already happening. Producers have felt this for quite some time and I think now we have more options to mix it up and do stuff that we really want to do, rather than being so confined."

Of course this mindset isn't just limited to producers', record companies and fans of dance music could all benefit from opening their minds a little. Appearing on the album is the quirky eighties-esque 'Overload' which crossed over into the more discerning club scene whilst still being enjoyed by a more mainstream audience.

"The funny thing with 'Overload' is that we didn't really write it for the clubs but we are quite happy that what you would class as pop still has a slightly cool edge to it and when we play it in the clubs people get right into it. So it's working both ways with the quirkiness crossing over into commercialism, and vice versa."

"As far as record companies go I can only speak for myself, but 'One of my kind' uses guitar and they were kind of scared about that at first, but when they saw it really take off they realised there was something in this. I think that record companies are starting to see success in tracks that are left of centre so they are becoming a little more open to it. The thing is, is that you have to be different and even though it's up to the labels as to whether they take it in board or not you have to keep aiming for that point of difference."

Moving onto 'One of my kind' the track that pays homage to Australian icons INXS. The song sky rocketed up the charts but interestingly it was the video that went to number one on the Channel V and MTV charts. I asked Steve if he realised the power a video clip could have.

"It was definitely a stand out clip and the video absolutely hammered the track home, it created the buzz and excitement it needed but when we first saw the prop we wondered if it was going to work but needless to say we are more tha