One new label isn’t enough for PAV4N…
Already at the helm of the most prolific and explorative labels in bass music right now – 4NC¥ – Foreign Beggar PAV4N is now set to launch another new imprint this week: //DarkMode.
Weekly dispatches dropping every Wednesday (140) and Thursday (drum & bass), the label kicks off this week with releases from Abstrakt Sonance and MC-du-jour Duskee with Disrupta on the boards for his first solo single. In the near future you can expect releases from the likes of Fork N Knife, Zero T, Alix Perez, Black Barrel under his Leo Cap alias, Shapes, Kromestar and many more.
For a taste of what’s to come, a deep dive into the mother label 4NC¥ (pronounced foreign currency) is highly recommended. A voracious beat dealing operation serving up multiple drops a week, since the label launched in March 2020 there have been over 80 releases, many of which highlighting artists from underground scenes dotted far away from the typical rave and industry map such the incredible, brain-melting beatwork of Indian artists Yung Raj, Kartik, Oceantied and J Mist. Elsewhere the label has featured a huge range of unclassifiable melting pot magic from the likes of Don Piper to Sukh Knight to rising Australian talent Confusious, who joins PAV4N on //DarkMode as A&R.
Both part of a strongarm crew of nine, //DarkMode and 4NCY are both very new names to the label game but, as PAV4N explains, the model, mindset and mission is as ambitious, creative and fired up as everything else the MC has thrown his soul into: Bringing light to the furthest corners of the bass culture world, connecting and boosting, transcending geographical boundaries with music… As the blue-faced maverick explains:
I’ve just been listening to Kartik’s album and it made me think that 4NC¥ is kinda the Stones Throw of our musical world.
That’s a beautiful compliment, man. For me, especially when we started our early labels like Dented and Par Excellence, the reference points for me were definitely labels like that – Stones Throw, Rawkus, Ninja Tune, Def Jux, Warp too. But that’s great to hear. For me the main influence, in terms of business models, is actually the big EDM platforms who are so prolific with their output. I’d include UKF in that, too, with the amount of uploads and how you’ve built up the channel’s content. And also Monstercat, where they release upwards of three singles a week which has allowed them to grow very quickly. Also Mad Decent with how prolific they are and how broad they are. So business-wise it’s a combination of these new age labels but stylistically we’re a cross section of what I’m about and what I’m into.
Business model-wise that’s a lot of releases! There’s a duty of care to the artists when you’re dealing with that amount of volume isn’t there?
Definitely. I’ve got to shout out Never Say Die with this. The way they treated me as an artist, the way they worked each release and how they’re so hands-on with the A&R, the branding, the marketing. They’re so on point. So I take their cues on that. It’s quite a broad range of artists we’re dealing with, too, from well-established names to young artists on their first release. With those guys it’s like a pseudo management situation where we’re teaching people how it works and helping them develop over a series of releases. There’s also a duty of care with how we service the industry, too. Making sure all the information is where it needs to be and the right DJs get the right promos. But I’d say the biggest duty of care is for the listeners and supporters, making sure they get the best music, delivered in the best way.
Totally! Take me back to the start of this project
What really kicked it into position was when I started my PAV4N project. I’ve been seeing so many artists in India come through over the last 8 – 10 years. We were booking for festivals over there, we had the drum & bass stage at Supersonic Goa where we’d book everyone from Goldie to Mala to Die to Icicle. I’ve seen and got to know crews and collectives over there like Krunk, Third Culture, Wild City and Magnetic Fields festival. They’ve established themselves and have developed scenes around them who have now inspired a new generation who are all 20 years younger than me and making some outstanding music. The scene out there is world class, but they’re too niche or underground for the Indian market so I want to bring their sound to people. I’m in a situation where I can get an MC or a remix or production from people across the scene and that’s really inspiring. So that was the initial idea. To create a platform to expose Indian talent to the world and my favourite sounds from around the world to these new artists. It’s grown into much more of an international vision now.
I’d wanted to do my own label before, but I was waiting for my solo career to pick up a bit before I did it. But when the pandemic kicked off and everyone was stuck in their yards with no money I had an idea. I had a whole load of projects all on the go with a lot of these artists and I thought, ‘Hang on – let’s see what people think if we put this out on a new label?’ From there I started cross-pollinating and developing things and that’s where it took off.
With so many releases coming out, that must compromise your creative time?
In the set-up phase it was something I had to accept. When I understood the paradigm of how things need to work now with the prolific releases I knew I needed the right team. Before, when I’ve run labels, everyone has just mucked in. But things get messy that way. To be in a situation where you’re running 10 campaigns concurrently, you need a team. If I did the metadata we’d be fucked. Same with marketing, accounting, designing. So I’ve got a team of nine and everyone has a set role.
Can a label pay a team of nine these days?
Everyone works for a small percentage of the record. Everyone is on it for the long game and invested in each release.
That seems quite revolutionary! It means people working for you are invested in it…
And if people leave then the percentage they earned from the records they worked are theirs for life. I’m really happy with it. It’s been a trial of fire with a lot of training and communication. We’ve got people all over, too, with members of the team in Dubai, India, London, New Zealand, so we have a meeting every week and everyone knows exactly what they need to do.
The last interview we did was with you as Vulgatron and was very artistic. This one is much more about you as a businessman.
There are the MC personas, which exist in their own worlds, but I’ve learnt so much over the last 20 years working with different labels and different people – I know how I want things done, I know how I want things not to be done and I know how I want to treat people. That’s so important for us; whether you’re 18 and on your first release or a veteran in the game you’re still getting the same respect from us.
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Respect. So now //DarkMode! This is a new label dedicated to drum & bass and 140. Weekly drops.
Yeah. We got to the point where we had loads of records signed. We started with one a week, then two a week to the point where we’ve got sick heads all over the world hitting us up. So we’ve got all this great 140 and D&B stacked up but records like this are a universe unto themselves in terms of how they should be serviced to the industry and how fans digest them. Being a cross-genre label, even though a lot of people into D&B would be into a lot of the releases we do on the main label, it’s not what they want as DJs. They need us to hit them up separately with the dubs.
Harry, the main A&R from the label, developed into his role and brought more and more music to the label and I’ve got loads of grime connections and know hundreds of MCs I want to work with our artists so it made sense to start //DarkMode and keep it separate to 4NC¥. Plus, if we added more releases a week to an already packed schedule, it would be too much. So //DarkMode can exist in its own universe while we keep the eclectic and experimental releases on the main label.
Like the main label, the remit is still very much global and shining lights on scenes across the world?
One of the big things for me was that these artists are so talented but aren’t in the right geographic place to be picked up or hyped or go on tour. For me, music has been my currency to the travel the world and I wanted to pass on that opportunity and help them break out the geographic location that’s been forced upon them. Music is universal. Take Kartik. He’s 19 from Ludhiana in Chandigarh in his room making Doom, Dilla and Madlib style beats. Every rapper I show them to are like, ‘Who the fuck is this?’ He whacks up beat tapes all the time but no one was hearing him so if I can link him up with different MCs to work with then that’s amazing.
That’s the irony of internet. Anyone can put something up, but whether people will hear it is another thing. It’s that duty of responsibility again isn’t it?
For real and we’re trying to guide them as much as possible which is crazy because everything is changing so much. It’s almost like you’ve got to win over your fans all over again with every release. Digital marketing is a minefield and we have to plan so far ahead. We live in this age where you have to keep banging things out all of the time so I also advise any artist who is working with us that if they get a chance to work with different labels then to go for it. I’m not into exclusivity.
Give them wings!
Even if I had a £100,000 to offer an artist I’d feel wrong to tie them into an exclusive deal. That feeling you have to deliver to something can be very compromising on creativity. I never want that on 4NC¥.
Amen. So what’s up first on //DarkMode?
So the first weeks releases are from Abstrakt Sonance on a 140 tip and then Duskee & Disrupta Sweet Vanila on a D&B tip, which is the first from his debut solo EP. Then we have releases from Fork N Knife and Johnny Clayface and underground MC and guitarist. We have a release from Killswsh, an act who are based in Dubai and Turkey and have been remixed by Zero T, then there’s a release from Black Barrel under his Leo Cap alias, then Frea4knc and Swift, then more Duskee with Disrupta, an EP from Shapes, GEAR and myself. Then, even further ahead we’ve got an Alix Perez remix of a Foreign Beggars track with Laville, there’s stuff from Illaman, Flowdan, Sukh Knight, D-code7 Psylence, Dilligent Fingers, Sister Mary. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
//DarkMode launches Wednesday August 18