Chase & Status - from Jew-do to Glastonbury
In-demand DJ Saul Milton reveals the moment he discovered music
Saul "Chase" Milton (right) and Will "Status" Kennard
Chase & Status are undeniably the dance production duo of the moment. Their debut album, More than Alot rocketed into the UK chart at number 2, they have had two top 10 singles, and praise from r'n'b and hip-hop royalty such as Rihanna and Jay-Z. Not many artists have their pick of rappers and vocalists, but Saul "Chase" Milton and Will "Status" Kennard did for No More Idols, their latest album which blends hip-hop, dubstep and drum'n'bass.
And this weekend they will be joining the likes of U2, Coldplay and Paul Simon at Glastonbury.
For one half of the duo, the 29-year-old Milton, musical life began at a Jew-do when he was aged 13. Standing around with his friends, deciding which girl to ask to dance, a jungle tune started blasting from the speakers.
"The whole night suddenly changed to not being concerned about this ball we were at, but what the hell was this music being played," Milton recalls. "It was amazingly exciting. It was a defining moment for me, it changed what I was into." The next day he could not wait to get to Black Market Records in Soho to search out the music that had inspired him.
It was about this time that Milton discovered his elder sister's forgotten guitar in a cupboard at his London home. He picked it up and "fell in love with it". When a friend introduced him to grunge band Nirvana, he was hooked.
His playing was a hit with fellow pupils at Carmel College ("At Carmel I was always seen with a guitar"), the now-closed Jewish boarding school in Oxfordshire where his concerned mother had sent the unruly 12-year-old in preparation for his barmitzvah. "I kept bunking Sunday school and she thought it was better to send me to Carmel where I'd learn to read Hebrew hopefully and, as well as getting an education, get out of her hair. At 13 years old I was just starting to be concerned with my hairstyle and wearing certain clothes, but it was essential I had a barmitzvah and I wasn't reading it from phonetics like an idiot."
He did have his barmitzvah, at Marble Arch Synagogue, to his mother and grandfather's delight. "I knew it would mean the world to my grandpa," he says of the most important male figure in his life, having grown up in a single parent family with his mother and sister.
Milton, who says: "I'm quite Jewish I guess, I have a lot of traits, even my sense of humour, I look Jewish, my name's Saul…", admits to being kicked out of not one, but two schools - Westminster and then Carmel, just before his GCSEs, "for being a naughty boy". It is why it took his sister a while to believe in his commitment to music, but she praised him years later, when Chase & Status were played on Radio 1 and first made the front cover of a magazine. His sister and mother frequently attend his shows, where Milton gets to live his dream as a guitarist and DJ.
"I always wanted to do music," he says. "The minute I started getting into jungle there was be nothing else." Music was the number one goal even when he went to university in Manchester, where his friend Kennard was also studying. The pair would DJ at parties and in their bedrooms. The next four years they spent in the studio, honing their DJ-ing and production skills as they tried to emulate their heroes The Prodigy, Goldie and Roni Size.
Since making their name on the underground scene, they have emerged as in-demand producers, hired by Rihanna for her 2009 Rated R album, and signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation label.
"It's been great," Milton says of No More Idols' success. "It's nice to feel that people like what we've been spending all this time making. It's rewarding. We had quite a cult following, but then obviously you do stuff for longer and you improve. It's the best way to be, otherwise you get complacent."
Next they plan to team up with the vocalists who contributed to No More Idols, including the hotly-tipped Claire Maguire, and to collaborate further with chart-topping star Plan B. They are also focusing on MTA Records, the label they founded to champion new artists.
"It's exciting to work with new raw talent and potentially see them progress to massive heights themselves," he says.