Few labels can claim to have made as much of an impact on the drum and bass landscape as Souped Up have over the past five years. Initially founded by Serum and Benny V as a home or music from Serum and his associates, the label quickly expanded and has since secured releases from artists such as Teddy Killerz, T>I, Current Value, Mozey, and Rusko.
Characterised by a unique artistic style, a distinctive sonic palette which pushes the boundaries of jump up, and a free-spirited attitude, the label has carved out a new space in the genre and is certain to go down in the history books.
To mark five years of the label, Souped Up have released Can Of Whoop Ass, an 11-track Various Artists LP which spans the sonic landscape of the label’s past, present, and future. Featuring long-time label associates including Bou, Dutta, and Dr Meaker, the VA also introduces a host of fresh faces to the label, including drum and bass veteran TC, Harriet Jaxxon and Alix Perez.
We spoke with a number of artists who have made an appearance on the VA to discuss their involvement with Souped Up, the value of VA releases, and why labels occupy a special place in the drum and bass community.
Now a household name in the world of drum & bass, Bou rose to prominence in the scene following a series of incredibly well received releases on Souped Up including him and Simula’s version of Bassman’s Heavy and Dark and the breakout Habibi EP. Bou returns to the label with Alix Perez’s remix of Veteran (featuring Trigga) which firsappeared on 2019’s Scorpio EP.
It’s been a pleasure watching you grow as an artist over the years. Your ascension to the top of the drum and bass game has gone hand in hand with the success of Souped Up as a label!
Souped Up was one of the first labels which picked me up and helped me build a following in the drum and bass scene, and also introduced me to a lot of other artists. It was the first label I started to get known through. Serum saw me early on from when I made Poison and a couple of other tunes like that, and he had some interest in my style. He gave me a release on Souped Up with Habibi EP and that got some traction. Souped Up has been a vital part of my career.
Veteran is an iconic track for both you and the label. It’s very fitting that a new version of the track has made it onto a release which celebrates 5 years of Souped Up.
For sure! Veteran still is one of the biggest tracks I’ve ever created, so it made sense to produce some remixes. Serum did the first one, and I also gave the stems to Alix Perez when I was working with him when I went to see him in New Zealand. He ended up coming up with a more minimal version of the track, which was really cool to see. He’s a big fan of Trigga, too. We all are! It just made sense to release the tune.
Alix Perez isn’t a name most people would associate with Souped Up, but his contribution to the label works so well. That’s what I love so much about labels; artists from many different backgrounds collectively craft a distinctive sound.
There are a few important factors to consider if you want to release on a label. Does the sound fit you as an artist? Do you work well with the people? If you’re an artist and want to release on a label, you might want to work with or remix other artists who are already involved with a particular label. These are all reasons why artists approach labels. Being involved with a group representing a brand is also good for you. People start to relate you to other artists.
People start to relate you to the new sound of the label, too! And when this happens, you break away from following trends and start to create new ones…
I definitely agree! Keeping up with the relevance is hard. Some people might see one artist, see them getting bookings, and think that the only way they will get to that level is by doing the same thing. It doesn’t work like that! You need to come through with something new. That is missing right now. The person who does come up with something new will kill it.
Souped Up has been great at this, if you ask me.
They’ve been innovative and creative with their branding and sound. That’s what makes them different, and what makes people engage with them.
Despite having the reputation as a world-class DJ, Harriet Jaxxon has, so far, taken a controlled approach to releasing her own music. Nevertheless, the releases she has under her belt have been incredibly successful and hint at a set of production skills which match her prowess behind the decks. She joins Souped Up with her first release on the label, Find A Space (featuring the legendary MC GQ).
Your appearance on A Can of Whoop Ass is your first release on the label.
It feels nice to add some variety into the sound I typically put out. Find A Space is different from my earlier productions. Releasing on Souped Up really appealed to me because, up until this point, I had only been releasing on labels which are known for covering an incredibly wide spectrum of drum and bass. Souped Up focuses on a specific sound. With Souped Up, you know what you are going to get. They are very consistent with their quality and the tracks they put out. I think it’s really cool how they visually represent their records, too.
On a VA, there is consistent quality throughout the tracks. It must be a good feeling to know that your tracks are on the same level as veteran producers…
For sure! Big label compilations, such as those for V, Hospital, and RAM, are staples in the annual release calendar. They have a reputation for themselves! Being a fan, first and foremost, it is great to be involved so closely with the label as part of such a big release.
A label acts as a musical seal of approval. When you release on a label such as Souped Up, people know that your track is going to be a quality piece of music.
People put their trust in a label. Back in the day, if you were flicking through vinyl and saw a certain logo, you would trust the label and give it a listen! It takes years of consistency and grind to get that reputation.
Labels can be viewed as big, collaborative projects which are developed as time progresses, really.
Labels are a great way of representing a whole range of artists’ sounds, and representing them as a collective during a particular moment in time. We tend to identify certain sounds with labels from specific eras. Labels document music history. Of course, artists also document their own style, but labels act as a collage of many artists at one time. Like an archive.
Labels also give artists a musical community, and it is these communities which drive and define particular (sub)genres…
Every cultural movement happens as a result of changes in society. This drives fashion, sound, and ultimately filters through into the creation of new styles of music and genres . People need a community; we’ve lived through madness in the past few years… a lot of isolation and off the back of that, we’re now facing an economic crisis. People crave being part of something, especially those with creative outputs. As a result, the formation of crews containing artists, promoters, and labels has returned to the forefront. From what I understand, that was a big thing in the ‘90s; so, along with the resurgence of a lot of ‘90s trends, it all ties together.
With an incredible 8 appearances on the label and yet another release scheduled for 2023, Dutta is an integral member of Souped Up’s roster. Since making his label debut in 2018 with the Dominos EP and following this shortly after with the Dominos Part 2 EP, Dutta’s infectious brand of melodic jump up has continued to be a hit with fans of the label. He makes two contributions to this VA, offering Tokyo Drift (featuring Bone Slim) up for remix treatment from Souped Up boss Serum alongside a collaboration with the label chief, Moet (aptly titled for a release which celebrates the label’s Anniversary).
You have racked up a considerable number of releases on Souped Up over the years!
I’ve been about since Serum started the label. Bou and I were making loads of music together and working on an EP at the time. As I was making some solo stuff, Serum wanted to do the Dominos EP. Things spiraled from there! I did my first tour of America (with Jayline and Bou) after that EP dropped, and then Serum asked for part two. From there, I had my bed made at Souped Up. I even have the Dominos artwork tattooed on me! I’m in this for life. I appreciate everything Serum and Souped Up has done for me. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to work with them.
Your sound and the sound which Souped Up is known for complement each other so well. Case in point – you have not one, but two appearances on A Can Of Whoop Ass…
It’s similar, but of course I’ve taken my own approach with it all. The artists on the VA are all pushing the same sound! It’s a team. A tight knit squad. It helps everyone, too! Everyone’s fans listen to the release, so you have at least ten artists’s worth of fans listening to the VA. Some of Harriet Jaxxon’s fans might listen to mine and Serum’s track, and vice versa.
Of course, having a bunch of artists working together as part of a label will make everyone encourage each other to up their game.
Serum pushes me to make my best music! He really encourages the more out-of-the-box Dutta sound. I am really thankful for that. It’s important for a label to do that so they can stand out.
Especially when a label features an artist in the early stages of their career!
Labels give newer producers an opportunity. I wanted to start my own label, Informal., to give other people the opportunity to pursue music properly.
Labels give artists a chance to emerge, and sometimes artists push labels, too. You can’t have one without the other.
Artists can sometimes struggle to reach new audiences. Some more established labels will be able to introduce new artists to a pre-existing audience… and vice-versa!
My Nu Leng
First appearing on Souped Up on the final day off last year with their remix of Voltage’s 2020 hit Space Station, My Nu Leng collaborate with Magugu on their return to the label with a heavyweight stepper titled No Fear. Recognised around the world for their genre-spanning musical output, the duo regularly incorporate drum and bass into their release schedule and DJ sets alongside house, breaks, garage, and techno.
I love how musically diverse you are and how you traverse the boundaries between genres. How come you turned to Souped Up for releasing drum and bass?
Jammo: We were touring loads and ended up bumping into all of the Kings of the Rollers personnel, as well as supporting the original Space Station religiously. Following that, Serum asked us to remix Space Station! We have released quite a bit of drum and bass, so it’s nice to carry that on. We sent early versions to this track about a year ago, off the back of the Space Station remix. The label has been doing big things and has a great mix of sounds.
Tommy: Souped Up also has a great family vibe. It’s great working with them.
Any more plans to release on Souped Up?
Tommy: We will definitely try to in the future! Because we write so many genres, it can take a while to get back into the drum and bass loop. We have quite a lot of unfinished stuff, so it all comes down to us being in the mood to write drum and bass.
Much like My Nu Leng, VA projects encompass a broad range of sounds…
Jammo: It’s great to get the family from a record label together and showcase as many different sounds and influences as they can. The majority of other artists on the VA have released on the label before.
Labels, in general, are good for similar reasons. With the help of multiple artists, they become artistic entities and collaborative projects in themselves…
Tommy: If you’re tune hunting, you can see what labels an artist you have found has released on. Some labels are goldmines. Souped Up definitely is.
Jammo: When running our own labels, we have enjoyed giving younger artists a platform. Labels really have the opportunity to bring new talent in.
And once these new artists emerge, a label becomes known for pushing a particular style of music?
Jammo: Labels craft a sound. Souped Up is known for a certain vibe and energy. Their branding is also really unique. It’s so important for a label to have an identity, and Souped Up has that nailed with the artwork. It’s spot on.
Tommy: There aren’t any other labels doing what they are doing!
Few figures in drum and bass can match Original Sin’s contribution to the development of jump up. Original Sin has continued to influence generations of artists and ravers alike since storming onto the scene with a slew of releases both as a solo artist and as part of G-Dub with fellow jump up figurehead Sub Zero on Playaz (and subsidiary label Ganja Recordings) in the mid-2000s, and has even been cited as an influence for Souped Up by founder Serum. He returns to the label with Donkey Dust (Let’s Go), a furious piece of jump up which explores the grittier side of the Souped Up sound.
You have a long history with Souped Up! Why did you choose to work with them in the first place?
Souped Up suits my vibe perfectly and reaches a demographic that is the right audience for my music. I enjoy working with Mark and Benny too. They’re easy to talk to and work with, and
that’s definitely important.
As such a pivotal figure in the history of jump up, what do you think makes Souped Up stand out as a label in this area of drum and bass?
For me Souped Up brings a totally fresh take on jump-up and rave culture, with space for elements I’ve always enjoyed incorporating in the music and that allows me to experiment and push my sound further.
The track you have forthcoming on the VA is a heavy hitter… it’s a lot more upfront than other tracks on the VA and most tracks in Souped Up’s back catalogue!
Thanks! Someone has to be that guy I suppose. I think the VA is very strong, features some big names in the scene, and represents the broad spectrum of drum and bass that the label operates within. While Donkey Dust is fairly hard, it also doesn’t take itself too seriously (the intro samples, for example) and that’s something that Souped Up is very on board with.