The year of 2010 needed squarely kicking in its balls. It was the dance music scene, you see - it stank. Practically nothing of worth was out there shaking up the mainstream. All the radio was churning out was a never-ending stream of Gaga, Guetta, Pitbull, Peas, and other pap. All agreed - it was bollocks.
Thankfully, Graeme Sinden (aka Sinden) and Joshua 'Hervé' Harvey (aka The Count) were taking note. They'd already showed us the way with the smash hit club single, Beeper - its mix of bubbling underground styles feeling like a much-needed rush of fresh blood in dance music's arm. Sensing their potential, a new A&R at Domino Records signed the pair, looking to push new and edgy electronic music on the traditionally guitar-based label.
Work began on their debut album, Mega Mega Mega, in Hervé's house. The tracks came together easily, as the pair were brimming with ideas, and itching to get all their wild and wonderful inspirations in the pot.
"We were totally inspired by the sonics coming out of UK styles like drum 'n' bass and garage at the time," says Hervé. "Then we brought in some hip-hop elements, Afrobeat, and a lot of world music sounds in for the percussion."
The formula proved successful, with singles like After Dark getting mad radio play from the get go. "That was the biggest selling single off the album," says Hervé. "Which was great, as the only dance music getting anywhere near the charts at the time was big vocal pop stuff. We had a big radio hit with an Indie tropical bass record, which was pretty cool! You know a record is working when it goes against everything else that is going on."
The rest of Mega Mega Mega groans under the weight of their invention, and builds on Beeper's forward-thinking energy. A taste of carnival comes with Desert Rhythm, MC Bashy brings the grime with Addicted to You, and future star, Katy B, gets early shine on the bass-heavy roller Hold Me. This was more like it.
"You have to remember that it was all EDM with R 'n' B styles back then," says Hervé. "We just wanted to completely kick it up and go in new, exciting directions." Balls. Kicked.
Here, Joshua 'Hervé' Harvey takes us track by track through The Count & Sinden's gamechanging long player.
Do You Really Want It
"As we were making the album, I was in the studio working on beats, as well as my solo Hervé stuff. Sinden was out on the road a lot of the time, DJing all over the world. That probably slowed the album down a bit. Still, on his travels he was always meeting new friends, and Trackademicks, who guests here, was one of them. Sinden sent me an MP3 of his work and I loved it. We knew we wanted a hip-hop influence on the album, so he was a great fit.
"The track was done over the marvel of the internet, as we sent vocals back and forth. It ended up being a great opening song."
"We'd always intended to do a track with Will and Kai from the Mystery Jets, but we were all over the place with work and DJing and stuff. Then we found ourselves at the end of the album with some free time and sat down with Kai and said, 'We need to make this happen'. He played me five demos he had lying around as songs, and one had an amazing middle eight that I really liked, which became the chorus of After Dark. I took that and we built the track from there.
"Turned out he only lived two doors down from me, so we just rushed back and forth across the street until it was finished."
"This is where we started to take it into that more global bass sound. We always wanted the album to be a mix of these new tropical flavours, along with Hip-Hop and the rest of the madness we were digging at the time.
"Desert Rhythm came together really quickly. We were just sat in the studio playing around with some guitar samples and building the whole track around them. The guitar sample idea just informed the whole mood of the track and how it came together. Sometimes all you need is a good sample [laughs]."
"This has Rye Rye on vocals. She came onboard through Sinden, again. He was MIA's tour DJ at the time, and Rye Rye was on that tour.
"He phoned me up one night really excited, telling me about this girl on the tour that was amazing and that we just had to work with her. She came round to the studio to lay down some stuff. She was a real quiet girl, and real nice. But when she got on the microphone she just exploded. It was insane. Her confidence was incredible, and so was her timing.
"We ended up throwing away the first track that she recorded on, simply because we thought she was so good that we had to go away and give her something better!
"This and After Dark were the main tracks that everyone at our label, Domino, loved and really got behind. I think it was a bit ahead of its time."
"Me and Sinden just had this crazy beat going, but we were sat on the fence a bit with it. We didn't know if it would be too wild because it was quite uptempo - it needed a vocalist to anchor it. Then Sinden suggested that we get 77klash on the mic. Sinden met him and gelled with him - he was one of those. He loved the track and sent us some acapellas back and forth, and we put it on this crazy beat we'd had rolling around that was full of ideas.
"It was pretty much done. It was just a matter of getting the vocals in and sorting the arrangement out. It then came together real easy."
"This was one of the tracks that helped us balance the album. We knew we wanted the vocal tracks to be balanced with more club records. Elephant 1234 was definitely one of the more clubby ones.
"Tunes like this would be getting road-testing from me and Sinden all the time. We liked to test the tracks on the album when we played out - then it's a case of getting back in the studio to tweak it. Tracks like Elephant 1234 would go through several permutations before everyone felt they were where they should be."
"Katy B here - or Baby Katy, as she was known at the time. The track she'd released before we met her that really hooked me into her voice was called Tell Me. You know how you first hear some people and you immediately notice something about them? That was her.
"We made this beat in the same kind of vein as the After Dark track, with that Afrobeat, tropical kind of vibe to it. Katy then came over and just nailed it.
"We only had to tweak a few of the lyrics and the chorus. She had the song done, with the structure and everything - we just pushed for a bit more recognition in the chorus so it would really stand out. That gave it more of a stamp.
"Again, she was like Rye Rye - confident and amazing in the studio. We were blown away. Then a year or two later she went on to a bigger and bigger scale. Everyone knew she was destined for greatness."
"We just felt that we needed a theme tune for the album, if you like. As we were thinking about it, all I could hear in my head was the robot voice bit from Iron Man by Black Sabbath. I just imagined it saying 'mega', so I did an impression of that [laughs].
"That's how that whole idea assembled. Then it took on an Afrobeat mash-up vibe. The original beat was more on a bass house tip, but it didn't have any magic about it. It just sounded like the stuff we'd been doing a lot of previously.
"So we went at it and shook it up, and when the Afrobeat vibe took over it just became this really powerful, unique sort of thing. It was a really exciting track to make."
Addicted To You
"I was always really choosy about voices on our tracks. But as soon as I heard Bashy, who features here, I knew he needed to be on the album - I was drawn to his voice.
"We were big into grime. Our record collection was full of some really great and rare stuff that we were drawing inspiration from, and you can see that here.
"We made him this kind of house/grime track with some type of Egyptian percussion mash-up thing on it. We brought in some euphoric chords, and I wrote the big hook, which it was based around.
"We played around with the drums for ages, as I remember. We were bursting with ideas at the time, so nothing took that long to come together in the studio.
"Bashy came in and we sat around working on ideas for the chorus, then he started singing [laughs]. I didn't know he could sing! Then he bashed it out [laughs]."
"It was my idea to stick the accordion on a track. There was this song by The Good Men called Give It Up that had this accordion thing in it. I just thought it was a really funny sound so I wanted to make a cool, weird, global house record with something like that in.
"Sinden just loved it, so we jumped on the idea. I just made sure I had the riff and then we built around that.
"There are some random noises recorded from the jungle in there, too - it's supposed to sound like a panther, hence the title. I'm reliably told it was a panther. If I was to find out it was a recording of a tiger, I think I'd be pretty miffed [laughs]."
"This features a friend of mine who went under the name Coolio Iglesias. We really wanted to bring a South American feel to proceedings so we put this track together for him to jump on. I knew he could sing and write so we got together and spent the day putting ideas down for it.
"We were inspired by a lot of the Columbian sounds that were around at the time, and we knew he could bring that through for us. It was a really fun track to make."
You Make Me Feel So Good
"We ended on this track because we knew we needed a kind of 'come down' vibe at the end. It helped polish the album off.
"I had a few little sketches I'd been working on, so me and Sinden sat down and listened through them, picking out what we thought would work. We picked this one out and developed it. It was just a case of tweaking it, and then adding a vocal.
"This might sound quite weird, but the music was inspired by My Bloody Valentine. I loved their albums. Just in the way they layered stuff. We brought in some Aphex Twin-inspired analogue drumming in, too. Perfect to end on."