August 23, 2011 § 2 Comments
In an ever burgeoning 140 scene that draws new talent from all corners of the globe, often it seems quality control is the first thing ditched out the window. Promising producers flooding the internet with half-baked material, without giving themselves the space and time to let their skills blossom and style marinate into the music. With that in mind, when a new artist emerges with finished article beats and an instantly recognisable indelible stamp on their sound, it’s time to sit up and take notice. In this instance the artist in question is Sheffield’s Commodo who with a handful of quality releases on Untitled! and Black Box, exhibits remarkable depth and maturity in his music for a relatively young beatsmith.
With rumours of fresh faces appearing on the seminal Deep Medi imprint, it’s with no surprise to see some seriously astute A&R work from the Medi camp in snapping up a colossal 12” consisting of Uprising and Saracen, two beautifully unique tracks already doing the rounds in the who’s who of dubstep’s record bags. Commodo’s music places a heavy emphasis on percussive variation, with a range of different sounds and textures keeping the overall track dynamic exciting and fresh. Saracen is punctuated throughout with incisive percussive elements, crisp hat rolls and a sharp punchy low end; even a unique usage of eerie, hollow sounding wind chimes crops up, syncopated over a dark dread-inducing bass line.
With Saracen providing the tough, minimal dancefloor wreckage material, the flip Uprising is in fitting with the deep, meditative qualities that is synonymous with the Medi sound. Full of eastern promise and an overwhelmingly weighty bass element, the track rolls through packed with complex tribal-esque drum patterns, and draws Indian influence with delicate arrpeggiated string chords and an all-enveloping drone.This is warm and original dubstep at its best, one which we hope will mark Commodo’s arrival on the dubstep landscape as a gem in Medi’s already star studded crown.
Contributed by Oli/Murky
August 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
During the last couple of years Black Box has risen from humble beginnings to become a power house within the Dubstep circles. Pushing music from the likes of N-Type, Cyrus, TMSV, Synkro, Dj Madd, Biome and Seven, Black Box records are a Bristolian tour-de-force coming straight from the warehouse of Chemical Records.
Over the past fortnight Arktrix caught up with Diccon via email and the end result is the longest interview we’ve done to date. Enjoy.
Easy man, how are things in Bristol today?
Hi! Yeah not bad thanks, hoping to have a chilled week before I go to Free Rotation festival this weekend.
For those who live under a rock and don’t know about Black Box, can you tell the readers how long you’ve been established and why you chose to start the label?
I started working on the label around the spring of 2009 so over 2 years ago, although the first release didn’t actually hit the shops until November of that year.
My day job is as a music buyer running the dubstep section at Chemical Records in Bristol – one of the directors here suggested I start a label in-house which I could spend part of my week working on and would have the backing of Chemical. Obviously in my job I have a pretty good idea of what
works and what doesn’t, so it was a great opportunity which I was keen to take.
Before you started, was there a vision for how things would pan out in terms of the sounds you’d be putting out and the design route you’d take with the packaging and merchandise? Were their specific labels you took inspiration from before you started it up?
I definitely wanted to build something that would become what I call a ‘flagship’ label – basically up there with the Deep Medi’s and Tectonics of the dubstep world. Obviously I wouldn’t say that Black Box is on a level with those labels yet, but I do think that I’ve achieved a lot in the space of two years.
In terms of sound, I wanted to maintain a high standard of music and production, and have tried to avoid releasing obvious jump-up tracks or anything like that – I don’t have anything against that sound, but it’s just not for me. Obviously I want my records to work on the dancefloor, but not if it means releasing throwaway music.
Ultimately my main aim has been to create a reliable, ‘buy-on-sight’ brand which people can trust, and to release records that DJs can keep in their record bag and return to again & again.
Visually, I worked with Chemical’s in-house designer Jamie to create the look of Black Box – I’m no artist but I knew I wanted something sleek and minimal – Jamie quickly turned a vague brief into a striking logo and we took it from there, with him helping me to design the sleeve and he’s also
created most of the merchandise.
You say you don’t want to release throwaway music, is that something you think the scene is being flooded with at the moment then? Too many freebies, youtube remixes and the like?
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to look at this really, simply pros and cons which currently we have to live with.
Yes, the tech-based world we occupy these days means anyone can instantly create, consume and share music (and other media) for free – there aren’t the cost-based thresholds inherent in physical hardware, media and manufacturing that in the past perhaps acted as a form of quality control.
It used to cost money to cut a dubplate or release a record – nowadays it’s literally cost-free to play or release a track in digital format, so people can afford to be a lot less selective.
Obviously it’s a positive thing that nowadays everyone is able to get involved and be creative if they want, but I think as a whole we’re lacking some new in-built quality control mechanism that helps to filter out the mediocrity than can sometimes crowd out the real creativity. Perhaps that will come about in the future, but right now it’s difficult to envisage what form it will take.
Is there a process to go through if producers would like to submit demo’s, or is the label at the point now where who you sign is based on the recommendations of who you already have on the roster?
I’m pretty pro-active in terms of searching out new artists – people like Lurka, TMSV and Kahn were on my radar and I knew I wanted to work with them if the right tunes came along. Also, yes I’ve been linked to new artists either by friends, people on the labels, or peeps on my mailing list.
I’m also lucky now that Black Box is becoming better known, as more established artists are up for releasing on the label. Still, the label has built from nowhere and this has been very much down to choosing to work with artists who had early potential – DJ Madd is a great example of this, in the last 18 months he’s really come into his own as an artist, his sound has matured and he’s getting major recognition as a result.
As a label, I think that your core artists define your sound and the musical directions you move in, and I’m really happy with the way the progress we’ve made to date.
To answer the specific question about demo’s – I am asked (like every label no doubt) to accept demo’s every single day. I don’t think there has been a single one to date that has come unsolicited from a complete unknown and has been any good at all.
Considering what I said above about the ease with which people can make music, and the lack of quality control, I wish with all my heart that amateur musicians would spend a LOT more time developing their skills before they inflict their productions on the outside world.
This kind of discipline is the kind of quality control I wish for. There may be talented artists I overlook in the future because they sent me terrible demo’s in the past when they weren’t ready. The impact you can make by waiting until your music is truly great far outweighs the pitiful results of sending out underdeveloped crap!
Bristol is a city that is steeped in bass culture history, from the days of jungle to the blissed out trip hop and electronica. Do you think this has helped shape the wildly varying Dubstep sounds coming from the area?
I might be wrong, but I don’t think anyone has consciously gone about writing music whilst channelling the Wild Bunch or Reprazent! I do think, though, that Bristol as a city has always attracted and nurtured musicians that are happy to experiment.
A lot is said of the close-knit music community that exists in Bristol – not only does that engender a lot of collaboration and mutual support, but also perhaps it introduces an element of friendly competition which forces people to try new & different things?
Obviously a label requires a great deal of planning, but if you could share some tips for someone starting up in what are quite turbulent times for the industry, what would they be?
I know it sounds a bit hypocritical from a label that’s only two years young, but I’d say with complete honesty that now is not the time to be starting a vinyl label, UNLESS you have a major selling point – i.e. you’re an established artist yourself, or have some genuinely big tracks ready to release. Vinyl sales are getting worse every year, and it only takes poor numbers on 1 or 2 releases to bury a label.
If someone is dead set on releasing a label then I’d give the following advice:
Ask yourself why you’re doing it! Do you genuinely have something new to bring to the table? You’ve got to really believe you’re going to compete with the best labels out there, otherwise maybe you’re just cluttering up the market with mediocre content.
Get some feedback from objective, experienced heads. Don’t just believe your mates who tell you that their/your tunes are heavy and should get a release!
DIY at first: try and get the funds together for 1 or maybe 2 releases upfront, although be completely prepared to lose ALL that money if it goes wrong! Also DIY in terms of pressing the records yourself – it might be tempting to ask for a P&D (pressing & distribution) deal from a distributor, but you’ll learn a lot more if you have to take care of every stage yourself, and you might feel more motivated too!
Knock on lots of doors and ask people with experience for help/advice. I’m definitely not the most knowledgeable person around, but if someone asks me a question and I’ve got the time, I’ll try to answer it.
It’s difficult to give general advice, but at the end of the day, if you’ve got a great product and people have the opportunity to buy it, your record will sell. Enough said!
Why have you chosen to release vinyl when so many others are content with forever being in the digital realm?
Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I think that to be taken seriously you still have to release vinyl. I’ve said earlier that the cost of manufacturing a physical product is in itself a threshold of quality control, so the record-buying public can have confidence in my label – I’ve got enough faith in track X or Y to invest money in releasing it, so in turn the public can have faith in my label as one with high standards.
As I said above, vinyl sales are a shadow of their former selves, but for now vinyl is still a viable option provided you can sell out your pressing. There are enough vinyl enthusiasts that like the physical product, and also the collectability – I’ve tried to put some emphasis on the latter, with nice sleeves, interesting/limited pressings etc. Vinyl has become a ’boutique’ product in some ways, and I think this area of the market will survive for some time yet.
I’m sure that eventually we’ll see the death of vinyl as an economically viable format, but until that day Black Box will continue to release records as often as possible!
I think we can call it a day there, is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Yes! Firstly, everyone that’s supported the labels in any way. Our fan base is growing and it’s genuinely heart-warming seeing people get enjoyment out of what we put in. Also, people like your good self who spend their free time documenting and promoting good music do an invaluable job.
Secondly, all the artists that have worked on or supported the labels. Lots of people have put their faith in me, and in some cases have put their careers in my hands – hopefully I’ve been doing a good job! I’m very lucky to work with some great musicians, long may that continue!
August 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
It’s with great pleasure that we bring you the latest selection of sub bass flavours in our mix series from Dutch badman TMSV. A firm favourite at 45hz with his unique style of beats that ooze great musicality, Tomas has a handful of serious releases and his dubs are supported by none other than scene luminaries Mala & Youngsta. We managed to catch up with him for a few words…
Name – Tomas aka TMSV
Age – 22
Location – Utrecht, the Netherlands
Years Producing – 5 or 6
Years Mixing – About 2
Easy Tomas, how are things with you out in Utrecht?
Pretty good, thanks. I’m thoroughly enjoying my break from Uni right now.
How do you manage to balance the pressures of your Uni course, and finding time to make beats?
I have no idea how. It’s a bit difficult to be honest, because music and studying law are both important to me. When making music I face less deadlines and things like that, though, so I just try to make music when I’m not studying. Weirdly, some of my best tunes were made while I was supposed to be reading books.
I first discovered your music early last year when Distance listed you in an interview, along with Commodo and Science as producers to look out for. Since then your reputation has been growing steadily – was there one particular milestone that you think has helped you make the breakthrough into the UK scene?
I’m not sure. I think dubstepforum.com and the internet in general have been most important publicity-wise. I think people are getting to know my music mostly by hearing DJs playing my latest tunes on the radio or in mixes which are available to download.
Your second release on Box Clever has just been released and has had a great reception. How did the link up with Box Clever come about?
I think I sent DJ ThinKing a couple of tunes a while back. If I remember correctly, I almost immediately got an email back about the idea to form the Box Clever label alongside Black Box and releasing my tunes Cold and Signal.
I really like the way Box Clever is run; everything happens very quickly and very professionally!
We have been really feeling the track you produced with DJ Madd (Difference), and with June Miller (Ghost Ship), both getting airtime on Youngsta’s Rinse show. Do you enjoy collaborating on tracks? Is there anyone out there you would especially like to work with?
I absolutely enjoy collaborating, as long as the combination works. Working with June Miller is (or should be) quite convenient because both of them live in Utrecht. The way they work is very interesting too, because the two of them talk a lot of things through; something I usually don’t even think about while making music.
Working with Madd was a pleasure as well because we both like getting tunes done quickly. I think we made Difference in no more than a day, maybe two!
You came from listening to Drum and Bass before you started to get involved in dubstep. With a resurgence in quality minimal DnB with people like Jubei, Rockwell and Icicle making some great stuff, and with Youngsta supporting the sound, does making any DnB interest you?
I occasionally have a go at making some DnB, but to be honest I don’t really like doing it at the moment. The reason I quit making DnB was that I got very bored while making tunes, mostly because I get hung up on the technical aspect of Drum & Bass instead of just making music.
Don’t be surprised if I do make a proper DnB tune in the future though, you never know!
We have read previously that Mala is someone you think of highly in the dubstep scene. Is it especially sweet to have your music supported by him?
Absolutely. Mala has always been the one DJ and producer I’m consistently excited about. Hearing a new Mala tune is a special thing to me, probably because he’s one of the few people who got me into this kind of music and who are still making great music.
I’ve been getting messages from all over the world (UK, Holland, Australia, USA, etc) saying they heard Mala play my tune there. Being featured in a set of his is something I couldn’t have imagined a couple of years ago.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
With a Youngsta favourite “Myth” being included in Dj Thinking’s recent Black Box/ Box Clever mix, keep your eyes peeled for more TMSV releases soon.
You can also catch TMSV playing at Radical in Amsterdam on October 29th
Download the mix HERE
Contributed by Oli/Murky
August 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Compa first popped up on our radars around eight months ago now. Since then he’s played on the extremely influential GetDarkerTV, became a resident for Manchester based promoters JustSkank and he’s played alongside the likes of Joe Nice, Synkro, The Steppahs, Biome and many others.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
A few weeks ago he launched his WE ARE WAX website, which is an offshoot from the night he runs in Blackburn, Lancashire. (Yes, Dubstep has even penetrated the foothills of the Pennines). Similar to the
This mix is the second in his series of podcasts. Featuring dubs from the likes of Biome, Lurka, Commodo and others, it is a percussive, sub heavy tour-de-force of everything good within the halfstep circles at the moment.
The rest of the mixes and his site can be found by clickingHERE