Skutta Records Interview

Madeleine Byrne: Well, in terms of the tracks you sent through for me to listen to, what really struck me was the music was quite atmospheric and slow, would you say you have a particular sound for the releases you're putting out through the label ?

Baddesley: We just try to be different to the norm, really, but you will get tracks on our label that do fit the more, what's the word for it ?

LA Johnson: Traditional form ...

Baddesley: Yeah, more the traditional stuff, Commix Sans from the Slaine ep

that was probably the most traditional drum and bass track that we've released - a bit different from what we usually do but it was so so good we had to have it! ... The other tracks I sent you, Root Defender by Future Roots and the DYL tracks

LA Johnson: They are more abstract, cinematic ...

MB: When I'm thinking about drum and bass - and yeah, this is a beginner's question, okay - one of the defining elements is the BPM, the speed of it, do you feel with your record label you're trying to push drum and bass in a new direction in the way the music is so much slower?

Baddesley: I think in recent years, there's been a lot of the sound that you call 'half-step' which mixes with 170ish stuff as it is half the tempo, you know about 85-86 bpm. I think a lot of it is influenced by the arrival of dubstep and its influence on drum and bass, so it's kind of a reaction to that. With drum and bass because it's break-beat based you can do a lot with it really. Dropping half time stuff just spices it up really.

MB: So what you're talking about is half-step, is that right ?

Baddesley: Yeah, most of what you listened to has the emphasis more on the half-beat so it's 85 BPM not the double-beat, which is 170.

MB: I was listening to Slaine, for example, and liked his music a lot - you can hear the speed of the beat, but it's actually extremely quiet and gentle, so this is interesting. I'm wondering if this is something new ...

Baddesley: It's not new, I mean we haven't ...

LA Johnson: The track is an homage to Commix who are known for a more Liquid DNB sound.

Baddesley: I'd go back a bit further, the more stripped back sound, the minimal approach, I think one of the earliest tracks was by Nasty Habits (Doc Scott) and it's called 'Shadow Boxing' -

it was released, back in 1996, I think, so we're going back 20 years now. I think in terms of what we put out, a lot of it is minimal or stripped back, but then again we also love and especially play a lot of maximum energy stuff, choppage - a lot of cut-up breakbeats that is constantly changing and morphing; so there's that side of it, but there's also the minimal, stripped back side.

MB: Would you say what you're putting out is 'minimalist' - is that it? If there were a defining quality, is that it rather than the very intense drum and bass you might hear elsewhere?

Baddesley: I wouldn't say everything we put out is, but there is definitely a lot of emphasis on the more cinematic kind of stuff.

LA Johnson: At the end of the day, we just put out music that we love. People send us a track and if we like it, we'll put it out ... Good music is good music, we're not going to be limited to one particular sound. What we are quite known for is that cinematic sound, but I think people are starting to notice we are putting or will be putting out out more of the choppage orientated stuff.

Baddesley: We're trying to find a middle-ground between the choppage sound and the minimal sound . Within a set we'll try and play as much variety as possible; you know, beginning with more subtle sounds and finishing off at the end of a set with some full on shake ya leg bangers.

MB: Let's talk about the label then, do you have in-house producers, or you're getting the drum and bass artists to do remixes, how does it work?

Baddesley: We don't exclusively sign artists, not many small labels do that these days.

LA Johnson: We like to keep our artists free. If they want to put out something with someone else, it's fine. We're all for pushing fresh sounds of drum and bass ...

Baddesley: It's especially nice when it's an artist who has had some earlier releases on our label then goes on to release music on a bigger label ... Future Roots, from Como in Italy has recently had tracks signed to Alphacut which is fantatstic.
We can always still call on them, I think we've got quite a tight-knit group of producers who have released music through our label - it's a good bunch of people, but locally we've got a lot of support as well, for instance the 'Listening Sessions' crew.

MB: Now let's talk about Birmingham, you know, it's a city with a strong atmosphere; it's an intense place in lots of different ways, do you think that the music you're putting out of local artists, do you think there is a particular Birmingham sound in terms of drum and bass ?

LA Johnson: (pauses) In recent years, the underground sound of drum and bass in Birmingham has started to move a bit more towards our kind of sound and a lot of this comes down to 'Listening Sessions' which is a really good platform for new, underground artists (not just DNB) in Birmingham to get together in a nice environment and just listen to each other's music. (It's been a) brilliant thing for us too because we've met a lot of people through it.

MB: Just going back to Birmingham again, it'd be nice if you could think of an artist, or a track that comes from Birmingham that has a particular resonance for you .. It doesn't have to be drum and bass, which track would you choose if you were thinking of a track to represent Birmingham for you ?

Baddesley: (laughs) I'd like to say UB40. Or what about Goldie or Doc Scott, they're not from Birmingham, but the Midlands - (Goldie) is probably one of the greats. I was at school at the time when Timeless came out. It's very underground album but was a great commercial success, which shows how great an album it was. There were other tracks, other bands .. I can't really pick just one ...

LA Johnson:  Ozzy Osbourne (laughs)

Baddesley: And now for a tenuous Black Sabbath link - my Grandma worked with Ozzy's mum at Lucas and is buried opposite Tony Iommi's mum ha ha.

MB: I mean, I was looking at all the groups that have come out of Birmingham over the years, it's an amazingly strange combination spanning Duran Duran and Napalm Death, it's quite a bizarre collection, but also including greats like The Beat. Is there a particular kind of mood in the music from Birmingham that follows through from the 70s to today?

Baddesley: I don't think there is anything specific, other than there is a massive music scene, like Manchester had the Madchester scene in the late 80s, early 90s, well Birmingham is such a melting-pot of people and different cultures, there are lots of small scenes going on all the time. I mean, there's a lot of techno and house music stuff at the moment; accessible dance music and as for drum and bass, it's always there. In the last few years it's been more jump-up, heavy drum and bass, but there always been nights like Break Thru and Prospec providing outlets for the more refined sounds.
I don't think there is any specific scene, people are very open-minded as well; if you go back ten years a lot of djs and producers were very into one certain sound and even one specific sub-genre of house or techno, or dnb and this doesn't just go for Birmingham it's nationwide, people have opened their horizons and they're more into listening to all kinds of sounds. Some of the scenes died off because they were too close-minded, but with drum and bass, as Goldie said it's like modern day jazz - there is so much you can do with it.

MB: Just practical stuff about your label, how many releases generally do you put out each year ?

Baddesley: We started in 2011 and we put out five releases and then we took an extended sabbatical and then started fresh in 2014. We've released 12 since we restarted. We try to get a release out each month, but we don't rush things; currently we're having a bit of a summer break.

MB: When you say you put something out each month, is it something you release online, or ...

Baddesley: We're only a digital label currently, but we're going to start putting out vinyl.

LA Johnson: Drum and bass has always been linked to vinyl ...

Baddesley: It's never died off. I think a lot of the big name djs don't play much vinyl these days but the fans still want it. You know, I much preferred it back in the day when I used to go record shopping to sitting at home at the computer flicking through online stores trying to find music you like. You give it a lot more attention. 

MB: Yeah, I agree; I'm a bit old school like that. When you're thinking about the future of the label, what are your next projects ?

Baddesley: We've got a release from an Australian chap called Fuj and that's nearly there and then we've also got something from a lad from Boston called Epilleptech-  he's doing quite well for himself, yeah those tracks are brilliant. He just sent me a few more tracks last night. After that we've got the 'Future Sound of Birmingham' ep which has got releases from Headgear, he's part of our label, he does all our artwork, he's like the third member.

MB: That's called the 'Future sounds of Birmingham' right, is it a compilation?

Baddesley: Various artists - four tracks from Headgear, Goosensei, Rondema and ourselves.

MB: Just to finish then, I see you put on a lot of shows/parties, especially with Rupture from London - tell me a little bit about that connection, relationship with them.

Baddesley: Well we've only done the one on the 5th June but have got another on the 5th December. I first heard of Rupture years ago from the recordings Rondema used to play to me. I first went a few years ago with Headgear and experienced Rupture firsthand, it was just amazing really. Ever since then I've been down to most oft their events at Corsica Studios in London. Headgear, ourselves and Mat & Tom from Listening Sessions had talked about having Rupture come and do a Birmingham thing for a while and we finally made it happen. It was a great night. Everyone worked hard to make it happen and it was definitely worth it.

MB: Would you say there is an essential difference between what you put out and what Rupture does? Is there a difference in terms of your 'sound'?

Baddesley: To be fair, the music is relatively similar. I suppose Rupture is a bit more orientated towards hoppage/drumfunk/whatever you want to call it! but they also have a lot of DJs from right across the DNB spectrum play such as Loxy, Doc Scott, Untouchables etc. They also have a great second room playing early 90s Jungle and Hardcore.

Next Skutta/Rupture event - feat. Digital; Double O & Mantra; Overlook; Rumbleton ... - @ PST Birmingham, 05/12/15