Copyright: A Decade On and Still Going Strong

Dynamic house duo Copyright are on the cusp of releasing new EP ‘Be Together’. It is the outfit’s first release for Defected in 2015; a release signifying 10 years of original, soulfully inspired Copyright productions with the London label. The relationship goes further back then that even, remixes of Defected signings Jay-J, Miguel Migs and DJ Gregory appearing in 2003. Copyright gents Gavin ‘Face’ Mills and Sam Holt first started working together in 2000, of course.

It was the girlfriend of Brit garage grandee Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont who introduced the pair. Both had significant DJ and studio experience under their belt and quickly clicked over a shared love of house with heft and heart. Taking the name of their exclusive party with percussionist friend Shovell, Copyright was destined for big things.

A reflective glance at their career to date confirms numerous hit singles including ‘We Get Up’, ‘He Is’, ‘Bulo’ and ‘Wizeman’. The latter, alongside similarly anthemic outings ‘Free’, ‘In Da Club (Shake Sh*t Up)’ and ‘Deeper’, resulting from 2008’s buoyantly received artist album Voices And Visions. Since then, lauded releases such as ‘Nobody’, ‘My Desire’, ‘Say My Name’, ‘Cross My Heart’, ‘Submarine’ and ‘Move Over’ have more than maintained the artistic pressure.

Aside from production, Mills and Holt can point towards their own label Copyright Recordings, dozens of virtuoso club remixes and edits, and an ongoing procession of raved-about (raved at) gigs at the world’s finest clubs and festivals as proof of a massively successful career in house music. And it ain’t about to end there either. The boys are dads these days but far from impeding their work as Copyright, family life is intensifying their creativity and output. New two-track EP ‘Be Together’ drops on 7 September, followed by an appearance at We Are Whse Presents Defected In The House in London (17 October); not to mention a new EP on Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez’ venerable Dopewax imprint.

Here’s Mills and Holt on their latest leases of life….

So how did ‘Be Together’ come about?

Gav Mills: I was moving house not so long ago, which involved moving my record collection. I had a classic soul album playing in the background at the time and one particular track just stuck with me. I kept thinking that its chorus line would make a nice loop. The track spread from there. I built up a seven minute arrangement and we brought in Andre [Espeut] for the vocals – he has this classic Gil Scott Heron kinda vibe which suited the music perfectly.

Sam Holt: It has a nice looped sample vibe over a slower tempo. For me there’s just so much tech-house out there and this feels like an antidote. We’ve intentionally taken our foot off the pedal; the track’s soulful disco vibe from the past has a lot of impact. The flipside track, ‘Miss My Love’, is a brand new song with that trademark soulful Copyright bite for the club.

This is your 10th year of tracks for Defected….

Gav Mills: We feel we’re really flying at the moment. Two years ago Sam started managing in his own right [with artist management company Colluded Management] whilst I was expanding my work as a photographer. We also had families to think about. But that helped prioritise our work as Copyright. It had a good effect on us. It gave us more space and time to work on music collaboratively. I would send an idea to Sam, and then he’d have time to develop his own ideas, rather than being on top of each other in the studio. We worked on the music when we had time to and there wasn’t any pressure. Don’t get me wrong, we still work closely together but our lives today mean operating more flexibly and it works so, so well.

Sam Holt: Absolutely. Our relationship with Defected is longer than 10 years but ‘Be Together’ is a big milestone and we’re honoured. We’re still all about making relevant music…great music. We’ve been on a journey since day one. We tour a little less what with having families but spend more time properly hanging out. Besides, it’s easier to make a record now, be that on a plane, train, in the office or just after you’ve put the kids to bed! The dynamic is great. We have a fresh focus. It feels like we’re back to the original Copyright vibes in fact, and that’s reflected in the music we’re making.

Copyright ‘back in the day’

Tell us about your impending shows for the label?

Sam Holt: We’ll work four CDJs but with one playing whilst the other works the accapella’s. We make the absolute most of having two people to mix records. Both of us have different DJing approaches and that keeps us on our toes.

Gav Mills: Yes, we’re still DJing like crazy and pushing things forward. We’ve had some great milestones already but we’re not done yet. People can expect us to prepare well before gigs. We’ll bring special edits, plenty of songs and a totally unique experience. For all the planning, we don’t do programming of sets beforehand. None of our performances are the same, because every club and dancefloor is different. You need to read the situation at the time.

Many dance artists today talk about the financial necessity of touring – how crucial is DJing to Copyright?

Sam Holt: Obviously we love to do it and a lot of people know us for our sets. It feels like a natural calling but it’s not a necessity. We want to do it…that’s the difference. We’ve been on a 15 year global tour and loved every single minute. The fact we have our other business interests, too, strengthens our position on so many levels.

Define the relationship between you both.

Sam Holt: Gav is a real creative force. He’s the experimenter. He has a lot of analogue kit and toys in the studio. I’m interested in all that as well but am probably more of the galvaniser. I always been able to get things finished and try and guide us in the right directions.

Gav Mills: I’m probably more of the programmer, yes, but we’ve always worked so well because we share learning, advice and ideas. We interchange organically. That’s more the case now with everything else going on in our lives. Take ‘Submarine’, for example – that was an idea that Sam started on his laptop and I helped finish. Half of our most recent tracks have originated with Sam.

How significantly has the dance scene changed over the years you’ve been rocking it?

Sam Holt: Its huge now but there’s room for everyone today, so many different artists and groups. There’s a lot of different ways now that people can be converted to dance music. However, it’s more difficult to cut through. You need to do what you do really, really well but the quirkier and braver you can be about it the better. I could make a generic, decent quality tech-house track in around 25 minutes but its juts one of a thousand made this week. You need bigger ideas. It’s harder to do but really important.

Gav Mills: There is, of course, a bit of house renaissance at the moment. That said it’s not only about classic records but new music with a classic spirit. Someone said to me the other day that a lot of new house music is ‘beige’ and it’s a fair point. The current renaissance is good, but some deep house sounds great in the club but you’d switch off if you heard it at home or in the car. Is it classic therefore? I see fewer records like those by Nu Yorican Soul for example. We need more songs. But even some of the grooves released during the previous decade, from artists like Julien Jabre and DJ Gregory, had something more to say. They were instrumental house records but a real journey at the same time. We need more music like this.

So what is Copyright planning in the longer-term?

Gav Mills: After ‘Be Together’ we have a four-track EP lined up for Dopewax, Kenny’s [‘Dope’ Gonzalez] label. One of the tracks will be called ‘Light It Up’ but that’s all I’m saying for now. Expect some real grooves; we’ve also worked with one of Kenny’s vocalists, Neysa. Personally, I’m working on a solo project with something of a Balearic, beach-y-house vibe. It may yet evolve into a Copyright thing. Beyond that I’ve been hooking up with [Tribe Records founder] Zepherin Saint. We go back a long way and the thought of fusing his afro-organic sound with a swinging Copyright-style one is incredibly exciting.

Sam Holt: Our plan is to keep releasing fantastic new Copyright records with friends and family. We had a quieter period last year what with the studio move [within London] and there were fewer releases. Weve got lots of new material planned for 2016, and a couple of remixes were working on at the moment.

And what of your other solo pursuits?

Sam Holt: The artist management company I’m involved with Colluded management continues to grow. It was a natural progression for me and is something of a two-way street. My experience with Copyright helps the business, whilst the business allows me to learn new things.

Gav Mills: I’m actually speaking to you now from the set of a movie I’m currently working on – I’m the Unit Stills Photographer. It’s a Taiwanese-set thing, based on illegal massage parlours during the Nineties. I’m currently surrounded by dozens of half-naked girls so things must be going well! Seriously though, to think how far my love of photography has come…it’s amazing.

This photo of Gavin’s was selected for Leica Fotografie International

When did it start?

Gav Mills: I played a great party at the National Hotel during the Miami Conference 12 years ago. Off the cuff, I decided to buy a camera on my way home so that I could start capturing memorable moments from Copyright’s future gigs and adventures. The early pictures were fairly good and it spiralled from there. 12 years later and I’m working on everything from artist press shots and album sleeve covers [including those for Noir and Copyright] to feature films. I love it. I do very little to the images I take – I’m not in front of a computer that much, so I avoid any cabin fever. And the creative process benefits Copyright massively I think.

Sam Holt: It’s like we’ve been saying. We can both wok so flexibly now and have the best of both worlds. Everything we do supports everything else. We couldn’t be happier.

So here’s to plenty more photos, supreme A&R and, of course, Copyright….

Gav Mills: Absolutely. There’s so much more we want to do, individually and together.

Sam Holt: Our journey is very much an ongoing one. I can think of many times with Copyright where everything seemed effortless but others, too, where we were banging our heads against the wall again and again – that could last for a year! But things are looking good today. As far as Copyright is concerned we’re not pretending to be the next hot thing. We simply want to make the kind of music we’d play in our sets and that’s that.

Words: Ben Lovett

• ‘Copyright: A decade on & still going strong’ feature sourced from