Why can't you make nosebleed inferno tunes like dem Skrillex manz?
Well, that's a strange question to start with, ha ha ha. I was going to say it wasn't that I can't but that why would I want to? Then I thought about it a little more and it dawned on me that maybe I actually can't make that sort of music. From my own personal perspective as a musician, I can only play what comes from the heart, what manifests as a finished piece is a reflection of my inner psyche and state of mind really. That extends to what Omni Music is all about, and what I choose to sign. A lot of the Omni Music releases have that deeper atmospheric element, but there is also the flip side of the coin, that gnarly angst and darker edge that we all suffer from at some point.
I try to reflect both in terms of my own output and the collective Omni Music output. In my own productions, I never quite know what side of the coin will face up when I start a track, I just go with the flow and let it be. Even while trying to encompass the dark and light I always look for sounds that have a thoughtful deeper atmosphere to them. Again, I think that's a reflection of myself, being someone to always try to dig that little bit further in understanding things and not simply accept at face value what someone tells me I should think.
In a way a lot of electronic music suffers from this 'structured' blueprint and as a result can often become quite shallow, which is something in terms of the label that I go out of my way to avoid, to nurture the sounds that otherwise may not be heard. Whether that always works or not, I'm not sure, I guess that's for the listeners to decide.
Do you feel Drum & Bass' potential for a more thoughtful side, got assimilated into other genres of music all too quickly, in its formative period?
Well, in some respects maybe, but there has always continued to be those that create the more thoughtful and for me more timeless music. Be it from the new producers taking the jungle blueprint into new territories, the atmospheric new blood and the drumfunk crowd. Overall I feel the music lost it's feeling and passion, but there has always still been certain producers who took the sound to a deeper level, something that worked well whether you were sitting down or standing up. Something that you can listen to again in later years and really feel that vibe the producer was conveying. There is a lot of conformity in production standards and styles which has led to a lot of watering down, and a lot of segregation with sub-genre after sub-genre, which probably hasn't helped matters.
My main concern is the image that drum & bass has now. A lot of people only know the terrible stuff that sells by the bucket load, but where is the musical elements to most of it? Where are the breaks? The roots of the music. When I say I run a drum and bass label I can see the look of embarassment on some peoples faces! Ha ha...jungle/drum and bass evolved quickly and I am grateful for being there to see it happen as it morphed from hardcore, jungle techno etc into jungle and Drum & Bass.
I think producers pre-2000 (I'm sure many will argue that it was pre 97 or 98 but anyway...) didn't sound like they were restricted as much as now, they could experiment. Whether it was just the second track on a b side or a track tucked away on an LP, they weren't afraid to be creative. Don't misunderstand me, there is still some fantastic music under the general drum and bass banner being produced, and there always has been, but it has never been as popular since the millennium, and that is the biggest upset to me really, the deeper music is pushed aside in favour of the latest dancefloor smasher that is forgotten about 2 years later. I think the thoughtful side is there, it's just not well recognised by the masses.
You say "I think the thoughtful side is there, it's just not well recognised by the masses. " What do you think we could do - things like the Autonomic movement don't come around all too often. Personally I wasn't hugely down with that style then but it has a lasting quality - the music transcends its purpose whatever and people are hence given a timeless piece of sound, relatively speaking. One thing The Wire, the print magazine that "pretty much gave up on D&B in 1998", as Statto of SC Recordings said, have done is now head their columns with transcendent themes, bypassing the brand, and getting to the nitty gritty of fine details. Do you think there's a direct correlation with D&B / Jungle's lifespan and the lifespan of sensationalist press coverage connected together?
I think there is always an element of press coverage affecting most things in life (most the time not in a good way), so it would be naive to think it would be any different with drum and bass/jungle. The music press have a strong role to play as they are often the first time people hear about styles, artists etc, other than the DJ's playing the music, so traditionally what the music press said influenced people's thoughts. I think the rise of independent music blogs, forums and other avenues of reviews/promotion has allowed a more transparent 'press' to arise though. This medium isn't free of bias or one person's opinions, far from it, but there are more of these independent opinions that I feel give more of a balance, more of a full spectrum of opinions. The downside though is of course that with there being so many of these new mediums that it's difficult to seperate the wheat from the chaff and find what you want, but I would rather have more than I need than not enough.
Going back to the original question, I do think there is a correlation, but due to the new mediums that have sprung up that lifespan has I guess been extended. Perhaps not extended in the form or manner that a lot of us expected 10 years ago, but it is still there in new guises, or the old guises who have just gone out and bought a new coat. It's a double edged sword really though, dnb/jungle needs some kind of press to get the exposure it deserves (some of it anyway ;) ), but that exposure can indirectly damage it as we have seen over the years. Of course no matter how much exposure you can get, you always have to contend with the big money led marketing campaigns and people's ingrained perceptions, but that is a completely different issue!
The Omni Music labels are prolific, releasing every month, sometimes in short, sharp bursts of two or three sets in two weeks. Have you ever been worried about claims of oversaturation of music in today's market, or do you see things as a supply and demand, the-more-the-merrier basis for consumers of the materials?
A few people have asked me in the past if I thought I would be better off releasing things at a steadier pace, but I have always said no and that is still my short answer.
The reason I have releases so often is really a commitment I made when I set the label up, and that was to make sure that an artist never gets frustrated with a track sitting around for months and not being released. I have had incredible frustration in the past when dealing with some labels where they promise the earth and nothing ever happens, so I made it my mission to ensure that I release an artists' material as quick as I possibly can for them. I know dnb is quite famous for tracks floating around for years and often never seeing the light of day officially, so I was not going to allow this to happen with Omni.
I am not worried about over-saturation of the market as the over-saturation has been there for a while now (long before Omni Music came to be), so you have to accept that it's here to stay. For me, as long as I'm not churning out copies of the latest fad or tracks that are blatantly imitating others then I don't see that as saturating the market, more adding a new choice for the listener. I know there is a demand for the music I release, but I'm also acutely aware that people aren't rich, so that's why I intersperse the release schedule with the free part of the label (Omnizero) and always price the releases through Bandcamp at a price lower than you will ever find in another digital store.
My first LP on Omni (Quantum 1: Quantization) was priced at just £2 and contained over 150 minutes of music, so that to me is incredible value for money.
The biggest hurdle in everything though is getting exposure in the over-saturated market which has taken me a long time to crack, but I think Omni is gradually getting there and gaining more and more exposure and the sales are certainly picking up over time. Which is a good thing as it takes a lot of effort and money to continue running the label, so it's nice to see the hard work pay off and most importantly to be able to give the artists something back. I don't have enough money to create huge promotional campaigns and the big name DJ's rarely play anything by Omni (most of them probably don't know of it's existence), but that's the reality of today's market. I have had promotion through radio shows, blogs, social media sites such as Facebook and from the tireless help of certain DJ's who recognise that Omni has something special to give.
The release schedule will maintain this momentum for as long as I am able to sustain it, and 2013 is shaping up nicely, with some incredible music to come, which I am personally proud to have on the label.
Are we, in your view, in a new golden era for Drum & Bass and Jungle, or do you feel that time has long since passed?
There's a rich variety of styles now that I would say have created a 'mini golden age'. I think a full golden era has long since passed though. It's not the mid-late nineties now, that's just simply not going to happen again for one very simple reason. Fragmentation. Specifically too much fragmentation. Back in the mid-late nineties we still had variations within the genre, but there was a central element that seemed to gel the differences together and everything was recognisable as this new exciting sound, whether that was the Bukem camp or the RAM Records camp.
Now there is a world of difference between a lot of popular drum and bass and the more underground styles. Some of the stuff I hear is unrecognisable to me as drum and bass as it has evolved into something I never expected 15 years ago. In some cases you can't hear any hint of the roots of what created the music, so can that still call itself what it does? I appreciate that things have to evolve, but there comes a point where a human could no longer be classed as a monkey, if you get my drift. So the true golden era I think has gone, but as a genre it is still capable of creating those moments that get recognised and acknowledged further afield.
I think that 'central' element has come down to a basis for general communication that creates the big, unique ideas, losing out. For instance, communication's lack has shown in nights like Technicality losing punter quotas, less swapping of ideas between producers on SC, less collaborations on and off the networking platforms most producers now use besides old hangouts like Music House. Even though, for example, there are split releases for labels like Organic and Offshore in recent times, the functionality, tied down to the very roots of language, is still in the main to "split" - to separate rather than integrate...
So if I've understood you correctly, you're suggesting that people over time (Let's call them the general punters) have gradually siphoned away the stuff on the sidelines to create what is now generally understood by them to be Drum & Bass. They have essentially cut away the fringe stuff and concentrated on what is perceived as an unambiguous set of elements that define what they feel that music is. Which is a vicious circle, as the musicians have to please the general punters and the cycle continues. If that is what you're talking about then I can fully understand that point of view and it fits my view quite neatly.
That's what I'm talking about.
As you have pointed out, it even goes further whereby those little idea swaps become eradicated, maybe not consciously but the result is the same. The point about separation rather than integration is a clear sign of the times, and something I like Omni to ignore personally, but it still happens, and there are sometimes where sensibly, it has to happen. I can't see it being the norm like it was in 1991 to mix a range of styles (all being the same bpm then helped of course). Most of my old radio and DJ tapes had a huge variety of different tracks in one mix, Italian piano anthems, Belgian techno, bleeps and bass and so on.
What do you think about the idea, taking your observation of plenty of terrible 'dnb' today, to call it Pop Music to lesser knowing punters at every given opportunity? So to give back some credence to the roots of the "real" music that we support...
I think that's a great idea! I'm not sure how it would work in practice though, but I'm certainly up for that idea. I suppose if you think about it, when you get a certain artist appear on the music channels (without mentioning any names) that has reached the top 40, there is little difference to that and a lot of other Pop Music. It's easily accessible to that audience. It may be slightly more upbeat, but it has that same 'poppy' simple catchy structure that seems to dominate the current charts (don’t get me started on the state of chart music!). You can easily see how that side of dnb can surface in the top 40 as it doesn't appear that drastically different from all the other watered down chart shite, I mean 'music'.
What I would like to see is something by, I don’t know, Fanu, ASC, Fracture or someone like that, breach that environment for one brief moment to shake music on it's head for a short while. I'm thinking of when I was sitting there in 1991 watching Top Of The Pops and Altern-8 came on and most the audience had no idea what the fuck was going on and what this music was. This is something I would love to see. There was a spate of oldskool classics that surfaced back then, but they never altered their sound, they stuck to their guns. Maybe some in retrospect may sound a bit cheesy compared to the real lo-fi dirty underground Hardcore, but it was more that this sound was being made for the underground clubs and not for any commercial method, and even though it wasn't raw and rugged it had it's purpose in DJ sets.
The fact that it transcended the underground to appear in the public domain wasn't, I don’t think, down to any specific agenda to make that happen, but it's just that people heard it and enjoyed this 'new' sound. What new sound is there now? The sounds that break through aren't inspired by the same methods the underground producers back in 1988-1998 were, they still had a feel of an underground tune that was created with a knowledge of where it came from that just happened to make it big. I think now everyone wants to be big without any decent ideas to make them sound worthwhile or really stand out in history (which mirrors the way society is and it's worship of z-list nobody's).
Despite wishes for punters looking harder, where else do you promote Omni Music besides Subvert Central? If I were a subvert looking to broaden my horizons, where else could I find you on the web?
Well, as well as the obvious forums such as Dogs On Acid etc, I find the most useful places to promote are actually on the sales stores, where I try my best to get a feature or article from time to time. Omni music releases are available on Beatport, itunes, spotify, Amazon, Digital tunes, trackitdown, Juno etc. We also look to get releases featured as much as possible in Bandcamp articles as that draws in punters from far and wide who may not necessarily be looking for Drum & Bass (and in some cases aren't looking for drum and bass at all but stumble across it). There is of course the addition of a Facebook page to keep people updated, the www.omnimusic.org website and Twitter.
Apart from that there is the occasional blog related articles for the label as well as guest radio shows which always go down well. I've also started a new DJ mix series called the Omni Sessions that by and large mainly feature forthcoming demos due out on the label in the future. They are hosted on MixCloud etc and just give that extra bit of exposure on a slightly different medium. I've also set up a YouTube page where as time goes on I can feature videos of releases on the label. There is also the ever faithful SoundCloud that helps generate a lot of interest and get the label noticed. So there are plenty of places around the net that you can find us. The big challenge is getting the right features in the right place at the right time, which is generally pot luck!
But I keep on pushing as often as I can. One thing that is in the pipeline is a joined up newsletter with the Advection Music label, as they have a very large global fanbase. The idea is to promote regularly what is happening on each label and any nights taking place. That's still in the fairly early stages, but I'm hoping to get that up and running some time soon, possibly to tie in with my LP on Advection that should be out later this year.
Are you more of a single, EP or LP man in terms of releasing music - your own or other people's - and do you feel there's any crossover and correlation with being more into singles, EPs or LPs in your everyday listening experiences?
I think as a general rule I am more of an LP man because it allows the musician to express themselves in a much more diverse and personal manner. I think it creates more in the way of what someone would distinguish as ‘art’. It allows the sounds and structure to develop over a much longer time period. Looking at what I have released so far, one of the first releases I did was my Quantum 1 LP where the very idea behind it was to have a long mesmerising voyage into the music, where each track wasn’t rushed so that it would fit all the ‘best bits’ into the time span a DJ felt like mixing, where the tracks themselves morphed together in between brief interludes. I think if I had released any of those tracks individually on EP’s then they simply wouldn’t have worked. I guess the main reason for that is that when purposely creating an LP, that you approach it from that all-encompassing direction, knowing that it will sit between other pieces as a whole instead of having to change up here or think ‘well, it’s about a minute in, maybe I should add the bassline now’. Things don’t matter, the tracks can evolve differently, however you feel. You see the same thing happening with the recent Jiva release, my Drum and Space Volume 1 and the forthcoming LP from Infest. They’re pieces that evolved over time and really only evolved that way because of the freedom of not having to be tied to 2 tracks, or 4 tracks, or a certain length.
However on the flip side of the coin, Omni releases lots of EP’s (more than LP’s obviously), as at the end of the day, artists generally create individual tunes and that is the norm. I’m not taking anything away from the individual tune thing at all, it’s just a different approach I feel than producing an LP. An EP for me is a good platform for having 3 to 4 tracks in a certain mood or style that can exist independently of each other. An LP for me is the sum of it’s parts, it’s the whole experience combined. It doesn’t mean I like tracks on EP’s any less than LP’s though, I like them the same, but they have a different purpose (maybe not always, but certainly as an artist and thinking of my own work they personally do).
When I think of my favourite Drum & Bass/Jungle/Hardcore etc tracks I tend to gravitate towards tunes from an EP though, whereas I have to be asked for my favourite LP’s to actually ignore the individual ‘tracks’ and focus on the ‘whole’, so I tend to split them in retrospect without judging one better than the other. Not sure why I compartmentalise them in such a way. I wonder if I’m the only one who does that.
There’s definitely a cross over as I do things subconsciously, as I have just discovered when answering this! I tend to prefer listening to an LP in full rather than continually changing records etc, not just because I don’t have to keep changing the record, but because I get more absorbed in it. Although I can get easily absorbed in a simple pad/chord/string change in any track. Some of my favourite tracks have that, a small flood of emotion caused by one simple key change. To me that is the essence, the simplicity and beauty of music. Which is why a lot of my stuff is so pad and string led itself and I concentrate on giving them as much time, in some cases, as the beats and bass. They are the elements to me that make the spirit soar. I suppose it’s the same way that in film and TV, a lot of soundtracks are classical string based as they obviously stir up the emotions effectively. This is certainly an interesting question, as it’s not necessarily something I have had to think about and articulate before. It just happens subconsciously. So as an artist, and then subsequently as a label owner, it has become my preference to listen to LP’s while appreciating all of it the same really.
Concerning appreciation of music, I once asked Dave Trax in 2009 if he was down with movements like 'Straight Edge' (no drink, sex or drugs). He replied "I think that's great if it works for them but it's not for me. Life's too short I say!" What perception-based actions do you think has benefited Drum & Bass' rise from 1980s Acid House - for example, do you still see the free party scene as a good thing, or is the insular trendy club and bar more suited to today's diverse platform for the music?
Concerning the free party scene, I think that benefited drum and bass in it's early conception, but it stalled to a degree. I remember lots of illegal parties held locally round Sherwood forest back in 91 to 93 by local collectives. The atmosphere was quite eclectic and it really suited the experimentation found at the time in the sounds being played. The Criminal Justice Act obviously stopped a lot of that when it came into force, and I can remember a significant drop in the number of free parties being held. They still went on though, but to a much lesser degree. The music was changing a lot then, very quickly, and you'd hear new sounds almost weekly. It'd be interesting to know how drum and bass would have evolved if the illegal parties were still going in full swing right up to the millennium. I suspect what we call Drum & Bass would have been a slightly different beast, as by and large the people attending those early raves were a slightly different demographic to what eventually occurred in the weed-filled dark clubs. I could be wrong, but I can imagine it keeping more of an eclectic edge to it. Perhaps in a way, the loss of the free party scene made jungle/drum and bass shape it's ideas up. It was now going to be mainly played in clubs, this was a sound that had something to prove and wanted to flex it's muscles against other forms of electronic music played in clubs, and it evolved into the futuristic sound that followed. I think the direction it took was probably sensible though and it began to be taken more seriously by those who had ignored the E and speed fuelled sounds that flew out the speakers during 92 and early 93.
I remember being at a rave in Great Yarmouth (Dance Paradise) in summer 1994 when Fabio and Grooverider came on. It was quite a thrilling moment as they played a set of sounds that was new to everyone and no one knew what to expect. There was such a fascination with what this sound had become that all the people in the House and Techno rooms filtered out to stand and watch them play. You could tell they were the 'older' crowd who had turned their backs on 'Hardcore' and followed the sensible 'House' and 'Techno' sounds; the music for grown-ups. But here they were, watching two of the DJ's they had admired so much when they first got into the music, to see what they were now playing, as something had changed in the music and they were eager to see what it was.
So jungle/drum and bass matured into adulthood round then and continued for years in that environment. The insular trendy club environment you mention took over, and I think the music started to follow patterns, maybe to not scare off the clubber that was expecting a liquid 2 step night and so on. So, trendy clubs probably helped fragment the sound more I think as nights began to feature only certain types of DJ's who played a certain style of Drum & Bass. That would have been unheard of in years before that.
The biggest benefit to drum and bass (and indeed all music), is also it's biggest problem; the rise of the internet.
The way it has damaged all music through piracy etc is well known, but the benefits are still huge and actually outweigh the negatives. Now up and coming producers can network with others from the other side of the globe in a nanosecond, drum and bass has spread worldwide and the ideas that filter back into the music I think have helped it grow enormously. The worldwide fanbase has allowed fresh ideas to co-evolve and find their way into music. In a lot of countries the free party scene still seems to be strong, the very environment that made jungle put it's house in order, and that's all coming back into the music as a whole in a collective sense. Another benefit as a result of this is the appreciation of the oldskool sounds of 1993 onwards, from people who weren't originally there but are hypnotised by it. The people in the UK by and large had that era and the producers moved on. That era is being re-discovered on different continents and being played with, and new tracks coming out from that mould, but with a modern twist and a fresh pair of ears. As that resurgence in the classic breaks, bass, jungle, atmospheric styles etc continues it breeds the sounds of the future. I'm hearing that in productions now and I've been hearing it for a while now, and it's an exciting time for drum and bass to recapture that splendour and be acknowledged as grown up music again. The grown up aspect was always there, it always has been, but never I think has it managed to reach so many people in so many locations as it is capable of doing now.
Have you percieved producing as a way of your own imperfections bleeding out in the past, or do you take a more active, ego-driven (in the most productive way) angle on why you are driven to pursue your craft?
It’s difficult to know sometimes what motivates you to create, and I think when people say ‘ego’ it makes you a bit defensive, but there is always an element of the ego butting in and wanting some form of recognition. I think ego links in somewhere with me, but having sat and thought about it for a while after you asked, it’s too simplistic to say that is all it is.
Having been into this music for such a long time I’ve always produced music ‘in my head’ and just thought of ideas and tracks that made me buzz, and that is probably where it stems from. I can actually vividly remember some of the tracks I created mentally but have never been able to re-create them because either a) It was something in a style that is no longer suitable or b) I just can’t quite get it to sound like I have always heard it as it whizzed round the receptors in my brain. When I finally started producing (albeit a little late in the grand scheme of my listening life) I did it really for myself, to try and create music I wanted to hear myself. When I finally got something appreciated I had made by someone else it was a tremendous moment for me and spurred me on further until I eventually reached the point I am at now.
My motivations now are generally mixed depending on the circumstances. On the one hand I have a desire to better myself and still continue to create something I want to hear, and on another I want to create something that someone else appreciates too, so that’s clearly ego-driven. Another more basic motivation though is trying to express certain moods through sounds, to connect spiritually with something deep inside of me. I have always said that if I was reincarnated as any single thing it would be as a frequency between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, the frequencies we interpret as sound. The universe and life itself is all comprised of different frequencies vibrating, from sound to X-ray light. Creating and connecting with frequencies in music puts you in touch with another part of the universe.
I guess ultimately, although I love most forms of music, I mainly produce and always come back to Drum & Bass, as it reflects the universe in it's two very basic perceivable states, yin and yang. The abrasive elements represent the darker side of nature and the universe, and the lighter side is reperesented by the soulful melodies and pads. It bundles it all together, it's a micro-reflection of reality. I've gone a bit hippy-fied there, but that's me I guess ;)
I think we've gone a bit hippy-fied throughout this entire interview! Ha ha. But not to digress - one final question to make up the 13. What three productions, including one of your own for good measure, are forthcoming that you think SubVersion readers should check out upon release?
Well, as you have already mentioned, we have quite a hectic schedule, so it's hard to pin point just 3 really but if I had to choose some that embody what Omni Music represents I'd have to go for 3 LP's that are due out in the next few months.
Firstly there is the Darkofi LP by Infest. Infest is one of my favourite producers and he has pulled out all the stops on this to create a soundscape of many dark mystical shades. The LP is a perfect mix of downtempo grooves, dark atmospheric breakbeat workouts and experimental drumfunk. It'll be available on CD with each copy having it's own unique and individual take on the artwork, as well as digitally in all the usual stores.
Next I would say the Sound and Space CDs, which are a collection of remixes from my Drum and Space CD. It will be split into two volumes with a fantastic amount of artists included such as; Voyager, Aural Imbalance, Tidal, Bassflo, Fada, Madcap, Sub, Jiva, Infest, Parallel and many many more. The collection has a great variety of styles, all in that deep vibe that Omni Music pushes. Minimal atmospheric head nodders to full on spacey amen tearouts, and I'm really happy at the way it has all turned out.
Lastly, to include one of my own, I have my Drum and Space Volume 2 that I have just finished that is due out shortly. This will be digital only this time though, but that gave me a bit more freedom to extend the lengths of the tracks to longer than 80 minutes for a CD. It's a collection of works that has been growing for some time and has finally come together as one larger whole. Anyone who enjoyed Quantum 1 or Drum and Space 1 should enjoy this as I continue in the same vein as those.
But of course, I would recommend people check out everything we put out over the next few months as the variety means that certain releases may appeal to one person more than another, so please feel free to check out the upcoming EP's from Scale, Marvel Cinema, Tidal and Nemanoe and Madcap and Wilsh, not to mention Omni's first vinyl release due soon.
SubVersion Interview 3 With Eschaton took place through private messaging on www.subvertcentral.com, where you'll always find him under the name Euphony posting his latest musings.