After a few collab-heavy years working with the likes of BCee, Mcleod, Digital, Phase and Mako, Villem returns to his solo operations this month. And he does so with a brand-new label: MURKT.
Designed for the darker, rawer side to the Villem sound, and the tracks he makes that don’t quite fit his main sonic stomping ground Spearhead, MUKRT launches with two deliciously flabby rollers: All Day E’ry Day and Shake Weight.
Out June 28, the release nods to the late 90s bassline-led sounds of Bristol, V, Philly Blunt while remaining fully contemporary in their production. They sound a bit like this…
Here’s how it came about and what we can expect to follow…
This has come off the back of a busy few years of collaborations. When did you start planning it?
It’s always been in the back of my mind to have a label. Sam (Mcleod) and I released our album, toured it and did the festivals last year, had a bit of a break and I took that opportunity to write some music on my own. I hadn’t written any solo stuff for quite some time, so it was nice to sit down on my own and see what I come up with.
What were the first fruits of those sessions?
I wrote four tunes and two of them have become this MUKRT release. At first I was going to release all four as an EP on Spearhead. Steve’s a good mate and loves the music but we agreed two of the tracks didn’t have the Spearhead sound. Round about the same time I’d been chatting to Mat at the distribution company Unearthed. We’d been talking about a white label idea I had for a tune which had a very hot sample. Mat was enthusiastic about my music, I suggested running a label to him and he was super keen. I felt All Day E’ry Day and Shake Weight had a vibe to them that complemented each other and would work well as a first release and it went from there. I’ve got to big up Mat at Unearthed for giving me that boost.
Will this be a self-releasing thing or a bigger support-new-artists proper label thing?
There’s no big masterplan. With these two tunes I thought I’d dip my toe in the water – if it does well, we’ll do another one. If that one does well, we’ll do another. There’s no big ambition, I’m just trying it out and seeing what I can do. I’ve been doing a bit of that lately – I’ve also launched a mixing and mastering service for other people and seeing how that goes. I’m putting the feelers out and seeing what I like and what other people like.
Seeing what happens…
Definitely. I’m very much affiliated with the Spearhead label which I love but it has a particular sound and vision and sometimes I want to get a bit darker and heavier. It’s nice to have a label as a second outlet and have complete control. I think a lot of producers start labels because of that; they can do the artwork, organise things how they want and organise their own promo and do interviews like this. It’s hard work but it’s a different fulfilment than releasing on other labels.
I think it helps you appreciate how much work labels do
Totally. You appreciate the bigger picture. I’m enjoying all the fiddly behind the scenes bits, which I’m sure will drive me crazy eventually. It’s just great to learn stuff and do different things.
Amen. So it sounds like for now that MURKT is effectively Villem’s dirty bit on the side
I like that. Yeah man, the naughty side of Villem. I think if you go back to my solo stuff there’s always been a darker edge. When I’ve written with Mcleod we’ve always had that liquid rolling side because he brings so many amazing samples. Me and Bcee are somewhere in between.
The Vanguard Project covers the spectrum! I remember Steve telling me how your sessions had been really inspiring to his creative process
Definitely. It’s the same for me too. I’d hit a big writers block and started collaborating with a lot of friends like Phase, Digital, BCee and of course McLeod. Me and McLeod have always collaborated since day one anyway but the other collaborations were me working my way out of the block too. Working with people is great for those moments when you can no longer hear the tune for what it is. When you’re beavering away in the studio you can spend hours on a loop and lose direction and all you need is someone to say ‘no this is a good idea worth pursuing’. So the feeling was mutual in terms of working with Steve.
Who’s been supporting these new solo tracks?
I was playing both of them last summer in our sets and All Day E’ry Day kept getting the ‘reload’ call. Shake Weight, every time I dropped it Mcleod was loving it. When we drop tunes on each other and the other asks what it is its usually a good sign.
Danny Byrd and Rene La Vice have played both tracks on their respective Radio 1 shows, other DJ support has been from Zero T, Skeptical, GLXY, Kyrist, Bladerunner, and more.
These tracks are indebted to that mid 90s jump up jungle sound which was one of the sounds I first got into drum & bass through. Serum was bringing that sound back a few years ago and that really inspired me; it was a very influential time for me in D&B.
Yeah man, the V and Bristol sound basically!
That’s totally it. So many of us came through that sound and it is really inspiring; it’s party music, it’s fun but it’s not in your face. You’ve got the funky breaks and the samples, it wasn’t too hard or sterile. So this is a hark back to them days but with a 2019 mixdown.
Villem – All Day E’ry Day / Shake Weight is out via MURKT on June 28: Pre-order