Originally a production duo comprising Evan Short and Matt Harvey, Short left in 2008 to focus on other studio and band commitments while Harvey continues producing and DJing under the Concord Dawn moniker.
Where the precursor of drum and bass, jungle, was born of UK rave culture and Jamaican dub and dancehall influences – a sound owing more to King Tubby than Kreator – Concord Dawn exemplifies the harder, darker, more technically precise music drum and bass evolved into.
The frenetic ‘Morning Light’ encapsulates that sound, and I distinctly remember the first time I heard it played, by British DJ and production duo Bad Company at a gig in Melbourne. The buzzsaw bassline shook the venue so hard it blurred my vision. It was the tune that put them on the map globally in 2003, after UK DJ Digital was handed a copy while watching the cricket at their Auckland flat after a New Year’s Eve gig. He would later sign it to his label Timeless Recordings.
That year, prior to the release of their most successful album Uprising, Concord Dawn had already sold over 50,000 records, making them one of New Zealand’s highest selling musical exports of 2003 outside of The D4, Hayley Westenra and The Datsuns. The success of ‘Morning Light’ was followed by third album Uprising, which reached platinum sales in New Zealand.
Darryl McGown, aka Bass Frontiers promoter and DJ D-Dog, observes “Concord Dawn pretty much took drum and bass mainstream in New Zealand. They were the first local drum and bass artists to do proper music videos on C4, Juice etc, and they regularly played big festival stages. They went on to get signed to Metalheadz, Hospital, and Ram Records, which are the biggest labels in the drum and bass game, and this was seen as a massive achievement at the time. Before that drum and bass had been seen as London centred, but it was around the same time Marky [Brazillian DJ and producer] and Pendulum [former Australian band and now DJ duo] blew up, so drum and bass was developing into a massive global scene producer-wise, rather than just crowd-wise as it had been."
After first meeting while at intermediate school, Short and Harvey’s love of hair-metal bands led both to pick up instruments.They lost touch, reuniting later at MAINZ audio engineering school in Auckland. Discovering outdoor raves and warehouse parties, they got their first taste of going out and hearing loud bass music.
Both followed a long line of local metallers turned bass heads.
Though Short continued to play in metal band Day One until late 2002, both followed a long line of local metallers turned bass heads, including Geoff Wright (DJ Presha), Dylan C (Base FM), Simon Swain (Obscure/LRS) to name but a few, and they began producing electronic music.
FuZen Entertainment owner and former Subtronix promoter Dave Roper remembers, “Pre-Concord Dawn blowing up internationally, Matt and Evan would volunteer to help EQ the in-house sound system at The Ministry nightclub on Albert St and they’d get that somewhat substandard sound system sounding better than anyone else could. I knew then that they had the best ears in the country to get drum and bass sounding like it is meant to."
"It was not long after that their tunes were making waves overseas. Before Concord Dawn, New Zealand was known for its passionate and knowledgeable gig attendees, rather than producers. Concord Dawn made the global drum and bass heads realise that New Zealand was a place to find quality drum and bass producers, and soon after more local producers were picked up by overseas labels. They paved the way for NZ producers to gain success internationally.”
They embarked on a seemingly never-ending world tour, though surprisingly Concord Dawn has never toured as a "live" show, preferring a DJ set. Perhaps even more surprising, while still a duo, Concord Dawn only toured once as a pair (an Australasian Big Day Out tour in 2006), preferring “the one man DJ mission”. In an interview on the Broken Beats website Harvey stated “Anyway, I don’t really consider an act to be live unless the drums are live. Are you going to tell me someone is playing all the drums in real time on a keyboard? Don’t make me laugh... so, yeah, the way Shapeshifter do it is pretty cool.”
The “one man DJ mission” became even more entrenched in 2008, when Short left Concord Dawn. Based in Auckland he now plays in death/post-thrash metal band Subtract, as well as five-piece Cobra Khan, with Harvey having set up Concord Dawn HQ in Vienna, Austria. Speaking to him from there, I ask how the pair came to such a democratic arrangement when Short left the duo. Harvey replies “We’re both reasonable men, and have been friends for a very long time.” When I ask how what he produces now differs from when Concord Dawn was a duo, he remains similarly tight-lipped, stating “It’s evolved, but it would have regardless I guess.” Harvey makes the fair statement that “it’s hard to compare what is, to what might have been”. In the scene opinion is divided on Concord Dawn’s newer one-man productions, though consensus is that Harvey as a DJ is as consistent as ever.
I ask Harvey what he misses of New Zealand, now he is based in Austria. “I miss the beaches and the people, and also the fact it’s socially acceptable to be really, really drunk in New Zealand, which is always something I take advantage of when I get home. I also like Cheezels and Perky Nanas.” I also ask what he is most proud of with Concord Dawn. “Not dying or getting lost, only missing one flight so far, and never having to write music I don’t like.”