“Jump Up is the punk of D&B” – In conversation with Sota

From his breakthrough cuts on Low Down Deep in 2019 to his runaway bangers of the day such as the Drum&BassArena Award-nominated Flappers (with Turno) and HolyMoly (with JD), Manchester-based Sota has been making all kinds of noises over the last two years.

Gradually refining his sleazy, heavyweight signature over lockdown, now bursting out of the gates with his own label and exciting plans for the future, we called up the young artist to discuss life, rural UK and how jump up is the punk of drum & bass….

Let’s start with the new label Sota Music… Tell us everything

Essentially the main reason for me… I’ve got a great relationship with Low Down Deep, Logan D has been so helpful to me and I wouldn’t be here today chatting to you if it wasn’t for his support. But now I’m so busy with shows it’s another way for me to get music out there nice and quickly. A place for the club-ready tunes that are going off and need to be out there on release. I can drop something at three weeks notice. Working with labels it can be months and months wait and you’re not sure if people will be into the tunes any more by the time they’re released.

Yeah it’s nice to have immediacy when you need it…

Totally. Filling those gaps and getting those club bangers out as soon as possible.

HOLYMOLY is the soundtrack to you coming out of lockdown and smashing the clubs, then…

Exactly that. I made it over lockdown and then coming out out of lockdown and playing it in the raves has just been amazing. I’ve got to shouts out Cygnus Music who’ve helped me put this out there and shown me what I needed to do. Being able to have a team of people who are on that shit so much is priceless.

Amen! Tell us about JD who features on the track…

Ah yes, this is a nice full circle moment. I met him at my first ever show, two or three years ago. I played a basement somewhere in Manchester to 50 odd people. He was friends with some of my friends, we hit it off and he’s been doing some amazing things in the last few years that I’ve been really impressed with. I approached him with the track and asked him what he could do with it and he sent over the first verse and smacked it straight away.

Nice. And another sick Manchester MC to look out for…

He’s actually from the Peak District, a tiny town called Barrow up in the mountains. He’s spent years honing his craft and come out of nowhere. I think it’s great when you get these little pockets in the world that are home to these incredible talents. I guess it’s because they’ve had nothing else to do but really focus on their craft.

Totally. Where are you from? I expected you to have a Manchester accent but you haven’t!

I’ve lived here for four years but I’m originally from Horsham

Oh that a little UK rural hotbed of talent with guys like Degs, Citrusfly, Pete Overview etc

Yeah actually Citrusfly was a big influence on me, and I love his super group with Detune and Degs.

You don’t have to be from a big city to make this music!

Yeah totally. It’s just about how much you love the music and how committed you are isn’t it? And I think the reason you get these amazing talents coming from these places is because there’s absolutely fuck all to do, so you choose a craft and you go in on it with everything you got.

YES. So I was going to ask…. What was the last thing that made you say ‘holy moly’?

Oh! Stepping out to a crowd of 1000 people in Belgium recently. I’ve never seen such an engaged crowd, especially in a different country. I’ve played in Belgium before, but not on that level. It was incredible and definitely made me say holy moly.

Haha. What’s Belgium saying these days? I know before they were very specific about the tunes and weren’t keen on the breaks that much…

I don’t know if it’s because of lockdown or just a new generation but it’s very free now in terms of what goes off. I played fog horns, I played older jump up tunes and it seemed to go down well. Belgium’s tastes have broadened since I last played.

Big up Belgium. Flappers made me say holy moly as it goes. How did you link with Turno?

We’d been chatting for a year or so leading up to it and eventually said ‘let’s get in the studio.’ I can’t remember who got in touch with who first but we had a back and forth and there’s a mutual appreciation for each other’s tune so we got in the studio and we were both very happy with the result.

You can hear both of you in the tune

Definitely man, I think the largest part of that for me is being in the studio making the tune physically. A lot of people like to do it over the internet, or getting on Zoom, but the best collabs for me have been done on the day and catching a vibe. They’re so much better than anything you would do remotely.

Definitely. Are you paying homage to flapper girls from the 1920s with the title? Type of girls you’d see in the club during prohibition times…

I did not know this! They did not cross around minds when we wrote the tune.

Ah I’m showing my age. I’m 130…

Ah I’m only 96, so they’re before my time. But I think the day I came down we were chatting about those days when everything goes wrong and things won’t work and everything is a nightmare. That feeling when you’re flapping like crazy. We spoke about that, and then the word flappers was lingering around all day and that bass had that flapping sound so we couldn’t call it anything else but Flappers.

Nice. So let’s go back a few years to when things really took off for you. You’ve mentioned him already but big up Logan D!

Yeah man, he’s been a legend. It was Vital who suggested getting tunes over to him. He said my tunes were ready for that level of release, so I sent them to the label and I got a reply from him at like 11pm one night when I was about on a night out. It was logan asking for my number, so I sent it over and he sent me a WhatsApp. We had a chat he said, ‘Let’s get some music out.’ He told me which tunes he liked and said, ‘Let’s get to work.’ I was very happy and still out on my night out so I got very drunk.

Oh real time vibes. Awesome. So things started to bubble for you, but I guess lockdown changed things…

I was lucky to still be in a job and I got furlough so I was blessed with timing in that way. It was a weird time wasn’t it? The first couple of months I was really motived and worked hard. But then I lost my momentum because lockdown went on for so long and it’s hard to make music without a dancefloor. Especially jump up because it’s made for the dancefloor. I struggled for a while but I came out the other side a better producer and felt I did a lot of growing during that time so I was grateful for that time.

I love how you’re not shying away from the words jump and up. Too many people avoid that phrase – even when they make it!

Yeah man I don’t understand that and never really have. Maybe some people associate jump up with a certain sound? I associate it with heavy D&B which isn’t quite neuro. Jump up isn’t a particular sound, it’s more of an idea and an energy. It’s the punk of the D&B world.

The punk of the D&B world! I love that! Very true and also jump up is youth energy. Most people come through jump up. All the new big headliners have come through jump up. Macky Gee, Turno, Bou, Kanine, K Motionz….

Without a doubt and I love how those guys have shifted their sounds and made broader things because you’re never going to make the same sound over and over. Kanine is a great example. He made really stripped back jump up and now makes this music which is a great bridge between dancefloor and jump up. No one was doing that particularly well before he was. So yeah, Kanine’s a great example and benchmark in the scene. And you’re right, pretty much everyone does comes through jump up don’t they?

Yeah but what’s coming up from you next?

I’m keeping it fairly open; I have a release with Master Error and Amplify, which has been popping off in the raves, so that’s coming imminently. I’ve also got a release coming on Onyx Records which is a deeper and darker side to my sound. And then some other exciting stuff coming after that, but this is where I have to stop talking… For now!

Sota – HolyMoly (feat JD) is out now on Sota Music

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