What is you earliest memory of Drum and Bass music and how did you like it?
In 1996 I was making my first progressive house tunes and dabbling in other genres. I used to be a regular listener of local radio and DJ’s like Pete Tong, Jeff Young. I listened to an Essential Mix from LTJ Bukem and was instantly hooked. The amens annoyed me at the time but I love them now. Here I found the perfect marriage of ambient and beats and I bought the progression session CD’s as soon as I could. ‘Horizons’ by LTJ Bukem was and is one of my favourite Drum and Bass tunes.
Back then I had no internet until 2001, I had no idea how big Drum and Bass was, so I continued making Trance, like many, I had the illusion Drum and Bass was mostly jump up. I found Drum and Bass in 2007 by listening to Asc and Indigo Sync mixes, it was then I found the sound I’d been looking for and wanted to make. I took my Ambient and Trance influences to Drum and Bass and somehow made it work haha. I think it gave me a unique angle.
What makes a good Drum and Bass track?
I like many styles of Drum and Bass and I am willing to overlook production which Isn’t the highest quality, if I like the track in question. I’ve worked with artists in the past to help them clean up tracks and make them better for release. I do this because I remember being a struggling n00b with the genre, producing it, scratching my head at how artists make these twisting basslines, phat beats and insanely loud masters.
I’m instantly drawn to more melodic styles of Drum and Bass, as It’s always been what I like musically in general, so that’s something I look for in demos. You can tell a lot about a producer by listening to how much melodic content is played and arranged in a track.
I don’t know if I’m unique in this respect but I like tracks with ‘hooks’ and really nice sounds that draw you in.
Your Offworld label has been running for five years now, was starting the label something you had always hoped to do or just the next logical step to move on from your Bassdrive radio show?
I started Offworld before I started on Bassdrive as an avenue to release my tunes first and foremost, without being at the behest of another label who could take forever to release the tracks. I liked the aspect of being in control. Of course, back then I didn’t know if it would last, but it attracted some great like minded artists and snowballed from there. I’m quite proud looking back at the catalogue, I’ve had some great releases and I get emails from all over the globe saying they love the sounds. I really appreciate that, it makes it all worth while.
Offworld has taken on a life of it`s own now and I see people in photos donning Offworld tee shirts – love it!.
I had to give up the Bassdrive show as I had to undertake study along with my job and the show unfortunately was a big time sink. I would spend three days preparing a two hour show – picking tunes, working out keys, planning the build up from easy rollers to more energetic tunes, before mixing it all live.
I certainly miss doing the show and may consider a return somewhere, but once a month is quite enough for me. Running a label, producing, working and DJing is quite enough to do!
What are your top three non Offworld tracks this year and who are they by?
1) Keosz & Cruel Culture – Sorrows (Protect audio)
I think it takes a lot of talent to produce subtle Drum and Bass and this is still one of my favourites. Lots of lovely melodic elements and beautiful interplay of the basses. Class.
2) Actraiser – Cosmic Shift (Celsius)
This guy is going to be huge, he keeps making tunes that just gets better and better. Exciting melodic Drum and Bass with huge reeses and attitude. Always loved Actraiser since his début EP on Offworld.
3) S.P.Y – (feat. Diane Charlemane) – Airstrike Remix
This is currently part of a remix competition so I’ve no idea if it will get released, but this is stunning and has been stuck in my head for weeks. It sounded massive at the recent Offworld gig when I dropped it.
Mike (Airstrike) is a brilliant Offworld artist and a totally safe dude. I won’t make any predictions about him getting popular, I don’t want to be known as the Jimmy Hill of Drum and Bass fortune telling.
Do you have strict criteria to keep Offworld quality control excellent, what would go against musical policy?
It’s always at the forefront on my mind. If a track sounds poorly produced, It`s going to reflect badly on the label. All the guys I’ve released on Offworld are producers who are at a very good standard.
I’m a bit ‘Simon Cowell’ when it comes to demos and follow my instincts to quickly process whether the track in question is well produced, has all the elements sitting nice and is straight up a track I like.
New guys will often sound rough in all areas, I tell them to keep sending tunes over and wait until their sound is better. It takes a good 2-3 years before you get your sound honed I think, but many new guys are impatient and want to be on a label in 6 months. I totally respect fellas who wait until they think their sound is good enough, before approaching labels.
Other than that, it`s strictly Drum and Bass I release (apart from Antibreak’s amazing LP ‘Advent Star’). I do like dark DnB as well, but no clownstep!
Tell us about up and coming producers on your label and their styles.
I have a Nelver LP coming up next in December (out now!) on Offworld which is going to be on CD and digital with some wicked art by Mike Kenny. I’m really excited about it as I think this guy has talent in excess for making melodic and exciting club music. My mind is boggled he hasn’t been picked up by bigger, mainstream labels. I’d much rather listen to his music than some of the crap I’ve heard from big labels.
After the year I’m excited to say, It’s a return to roots for the Offworld sound. It’s leaning back towards the melodic, atmospheric sounds of yesteryear with a contemporary feel. This is why I started the label really.
If I’d had my way, Offworld would be all this type of sound, but I don’t get enough quality tunes of this sort sent over. It’s no surprise I guess as you have to really love this sound to produce it, instead of say, making liquid rollers.
I’ve signed up a fellow Scot Patience for an atmospheric and contemporary sounding EP, and Deskai for a great EP along the same lines as the Parhelia I released earlier this year. I’ll also release another EP from the amazing Silence Groove. Everything this guy makes turns to gold. I’m currently harassing him regularly to make me an LP.
There’s been a few moments where I wasn’t sure I’d even have enough of the music I like to continue to run Offworld, but music finds its way to me at the right time. It’s been tough competing with the likes of triple vision who run three labels, but I like to think Offworld is more unique and doesn’t release so often it becomes less about the music.
With the current resurgence in ‘vinyl chic’ happening on the high streets and Drum and Bass vinyl facing a tough time of late with distribution issues, have you noticed any change in the popularity of vinyl and is there much demand for it in today’s Drum and Bass music?
I’m sure you’ve read of a ‘resurgence’ in vinyl online, but this is more to do with band music and is not equating to Drum and Bass. Many distros have gone down, record stores have closed up, prices have gone up for limited runs and postage has put many djs off buying them in the first place.
I’m sure bigger labels will continue with smaller runs, but I’m not certain about smaller indies. I’ve considered vinyl releases many times over the years for Offworld and despite people asking for it, you have to consider the type of music I release. The typical way to start vinyl was to get a well known artist to front the A side and get away with something else on the B.
I wouldn’t for one thing, pay a fortune for a ‘well known’ artist to release on vinyl if I didn’t even like the music. If I did, it would be Drum and Bass music I love, quite possibly from an unknown artist. It’s all about the music for me.
It’s well known you’re lucky to make costs back on vinyl runs, my fear is to be left with a big amount unsold with the type of music I release. Look at Glr, they shut up shop recently. I might do a special one off in the future to test the waters. I used to be a vinyl junkie back in the days. I played in clubs and would forgo eating to get that latest record but times have changed. You have Traktor and Serato which allow you to play vinyl without the massive expense. The one thing that pisses me off, is not being able to buy MP3s of a tune if it’s a vinyl only release. There’s many tunes I would buy from the past if it was a good quality WAV.
The more worrying thing these days is people understandably are moving to streaming rather than buying music and the cut is much less than actual digital sales. Artists get little enough money without this new model. Since I’m paying for mastering now, I may have to run the label at a loss to pay artists and keep it going. Offworld is my baby though so I will keep on.
When can we expect the full artwork boxed made from bare recycled card five plate 12” LP from LM1?
Haha, you know I was thinking, It’s about time for LP number 2 for me. I’ve been writing sporadically the past year. I had three vinyl releases this year which was great and a few EPs are getting attention. I have a bunch of collabs on the go and five tracks already done, so i’m hoping to gather more than enough for an album and pick the best ones. Again it will be Drum and Bass focused, with no minimal DnB.
It’s a shame ‘minimal’ has dropped out of focus in Drum and Bass, I loved the sound, but it was more a listening music than club material. I wish more Drum and Bass producers didn’t go off tangent with albums ie vocalists and different genres as this often doesn’t work in a style you know them for.
Do you have any upcoming releases or tour dates, club nights?
The last Offworld night in Redditch with Sublime DnB (Scenic & Advisory) was a blast, there’s going to be another hopefully in summer 2015. I’m making enquiries into starting an Offworld night in Edinburgh so fingers crossed! I also need to get a new passport lol I’ve had to turn down some gigs for this reason. Thanks for the interview Andy, peace!