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Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Zero 7: Chill-out heroes
Zero 7
Hardaker and Binns met when they were teenagers
London-based producers, musicians and down-beat maestros Zero 7 seem to have appeared from the shadows to become one of the most talked-about new British bands of the year.

Their name was unfamiliar to many when it appeared on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize in July.

But their reputation had been steadily growing for several years, thanks to sold-out EPs, remixes and debut album Simple Things.

Zero 7 album cover
Simple Things was released in April 2001
In a musical era when chill-out albums filled with laid-back, late-night beats have taken over walls of record shops, Zero 7 look set to join the superstars of the genre.

Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker - who together are known as Zero 7 - both aged 29, first met as teenagers when growing up in the same area of north west London, Swiss Cottage.

Binns was a soul, jazz and classical enthusiast, while Hardaker was a "cutting edge hip-hop man" - and those are the influences that dominate their music today.

Both went on a sound engineering course, then served studio apprenticeships where they worked with a mixture of big names - including New Order and the Pet Shop Boys - and pub rock bands who were never likely to make it.

Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns
Zero 7: Radiohead remix kicked off their career
It was at college that they met fellow student and future Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who gave them one of their early breaks.

He asked the pair to remix Radiohead's Climbing Up The Walls, and the resulting mix appeared on the 1997 Karma Police single.

Their remixing skills won them attention from influential fans including BBC Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson, who then commissioned them to remix soul legend Terry Callier.

They have also remixed songs by Lenny Kravitz, Neil Finn and Doris Day.

The debut EP of original Zero 7 material created a similar buzz, and sold out in days.

Funky

Another EP followed and sold out, so it was not until the release of Simple Things in April 2001 that most people had the chance to hear Zero 7 - and that the buzz had the chance to spread.

What people discovered was a sound based on slow but funky dance beats complemented by layers of brass, strings and sultry vocals, all done with enough originality to please the musical purists but not too much to drive the band out of the mainstream.

The closest comparisons are Groove Armada, Air and Morcheeba, with Massive Attack and Moby slightly more distant cousins.

By the time the Mercury winner was due to be announced, Simple Things was hovering just outside the UK top 40 - but both their sales and their reputation look likely to grow further yet.

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