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Sam Yates

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Submorphics Launches Rosebay Music

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Submorphics Launches Rosebay Music

Drum & bass is a UK sound. It wouldn’t exist without the people and context of Britain. But its roots can be attributed heavily to a concoction of imported US genres – among other sources. Submorphics’ take on drum & bass is unique in that it takes that 174 BPM British breakthrough, and re-injects (or re-discovers) some of those very same foundational US styles, alongside some additional, modern US genres for good measure.

He grabs from many corners of his home country – from Chicago and Detroit’s rich offerings of house, techno, ghettotech, and footwork, through to West Coast funk, rare groove, and anything else under the soulful or underground categories. 

On top of this US-UK blend, Submorphics has a thing for nostalgia and imagination. You’ll find this present in almost every tune, as well as in the supporting artwork and collateral. So what do we call this pensive, American-enriched D&B style? With his brand new imprint, Submorphics offers Rosebay Music

Release 001 is a single from the man himself, showcasing the range of his unique production approach. On side A is ‘Blastoff’ – leaning into the more modern sides of his influence, we get a footwork-jungle hybrid. On the other side is Cinerama – a more musical number with a focus on strings and rolling breaks. 

With releases since 2006, across top labels in Shogun Audio, V Recordings, and of course The North Quarter, there’s a wealth of experience and networks to tap into. But with confidence in his sound and excitement to embark on A&R, branding, and other label-business – Rosebay should forge a new, prominent path in the ever-expanding D&B ecosystem.

After getting wind of the new label, we reached out to Greg to hear all about the motivations, and what to expect from Rosebay Music. 

Hey Greg! I see on Instagram that you’re over in the US at the moment, enjoying the local delicacies… 

Yes, so I just spent about four weeks in California. My cousin took me on a taco stand tour. I used to just be satisfied with a humble taco truck, but now I’m going to all the elite stands and trying all the latest trends in LA Mexican food. I wish there was good Mexican food in the Netherlands or UK, but these flavours don’t translate! Also had plenty of In-N-Out, as you do in California. 

And you’re on tour, right?

Yeah I just did four shows, and I had a family reunion beforehand. This time around, I tried to spend more time with my family. I’ve been living in the Netherlands for three or four years now, and every time I come back to the US I don’t really get enough time to visit them – so I came three weeks early this time. Which made me feel balanced – not all partying and bass music. 

I’ve also got a lot of work in with the new label. I’m having to get up in the morning like a normal person and have all sorts of Zoom meetings with distributors. It’s all a learning process for me, and I know I’m going to be making mistakes as I go, so I’m just trying not to beat myself up if I do make them. 

Thankfully, I’ve watched Lenzman work on The North Quarter (TNQ) for the last five years, and before that I was part of Shogun, Hospital and V. Every label has their own style and there’s no one correct way to do things with running a label it seems, so I don’t want to imitate anyone completely, because I have my own brand and product to offer. So I’m taking influence from all these labels and experiences, rather than trying to copy anyone. 

What made you want to start your own label? 

Well, I wanted to have an additional outlet to TNQ just to release music all-year round. And at the moment, singles are doing a lot better than EPs and albums. Personally I love the longer album format – growing up in the 90’s it really speaks to me. But releasing singles is doing better in today’s market. 

Also with TNQ, I’ve been releasing these really conceptual longer projects. But I do also make music that I want to release which doesn’t fall under these concepts, and so by starting a label I can just drop singles all year round if I want to. 

I’ll be working up to longer projects (on Rosebay Music) eventually, but I didn’t think there’d be anything overwhelming or intimidating to me about just starting with a few singles I was happy with. Especially since I feel that I have developed my own sound over the last few years – a sound that doesn’t really fall under a category that anyone else is doing. There’s overlap with me and my TNQ colleagues and similar labels, but I have been told I have my own sound, and there’s nobody doing exactly what I do. So starting a label with my own music feels like the natural evolution of my career. 

How would you describe that sound? 

Well I have done a lot of these epic filtered string tunes – and that’s been done throughout the history of D&B – but I feel that I do it in my own voice and in a modern way. I don’t hear a lot of other people doing it. And on the A side of this first release, ‘Blastoff’, I’m using blends of Chicago and Detroit footwork, ghettotech, west coast funk, UK jungle – an amalgamation of all these things. 

There’s a lot of footwork-jungle that’s been done over the last 10 years. But in terms of really musically strong footwork in D&B, at 174 bpm, I don’t really hear a lot of that. It’s something I did on my Verona Highway EP with a track called Lucinda – and that did really well for me. So I thought I would continue with this sound. And if I’m doing something that I think nobody else is doing, I owe it to myself and the market to continue to put something out that isn’t already out there. 

It’s definitely a unique cross-section. 

Yeah, they all blend together nicely though! With my music, I just focus on what I consider to be really strong topline melodies and chords, and interesting unique vocals. I come from Michigan and Chicago, so I’ve got a different set of influences than say, someone from the UK or Europe. So, maybe in earlier parts of my career I would beat myself up about coming at it from a different angle. But now that I’m older and further along in my career, I see it as a strength. 

So strong musical chords and strings, and US influence will make up the ‘sound’ for Rosebay Music?

That’s definitely where it’s starting from. I also want to do sort of genre-hybrids that maybe haven’t been done as much, and also get some remixes from outside of the drum & bass scene. 

Something that’s always bugged me is that the drum & bass scene has always been put in the corner, or sort of separated from the dance music industry as a whole. So I’m going to attempt to draw the line between genres that I love outside of D&B with the soulful D&B world. Like a really good house remix or a Detroit techno remix, or some classic US hip-hop. Some of these might not always go over well with the D&B community, but I want to connect the dots between our community and all the other communities that I love. Because I love so much music, and I don’t intend to make this just a 100% D&B Label – though it will be majority D&B.

What do you have lined up in the release schedule?

I have the first two ready to go. We’ve got a collaboration between me and Lenzman on the second release. It’s a classic soulful, 70’s rare groove vibe, with a bit of a skanked-out guitar. So that’ll be coming out. No one’s heard it yet! 

And I’m going to be leaning on some of the collaborators that I’ve always loved working with, such as Satl, T.R.A.C., and Christina Tamayo. I’ve also been working with a young gentleman called Styke, and like me, he’s in the Hague in the Netherlands – we’ve been working on some darker liquid stuff. So I’d like to potentially release some of that. 

But the plan is to release five singles right off the bat, before I get into some longer projects and some unexpected remixes. And there’s not going to be any half-measures – it’s all going to be stuff that I would normally do on TNQ or any other label like that, but I’m saving them for my own label so that I’m off to a good start from the beginning. 

Some exciting names in the mix there. Where does the label name come from? 

It’s sort of a combination of some themes that have come up in my discography in the last fifteen years. It’s a name that I came up with that I think is a warm place, that invokes warm imagery. The words ‘rose’ and ‘bay’ keep coming up in my track names and it’s just something that stuck with me. I felt I had to go with it.

Yeah, last time we spoke about your Verona Highway EP, there were a lot of themes about nostalgia and rose-tinted memories of these fabricated locations.

For sure. And I hired a Brooklyn-based artist, Molly Brooks, who’s very active in the bass-music world in the US – and she created the whole visual identity for me. Once I saw the logo I thought: ‘that needs to be on every record’. It would look wicked just spinning around on a platter. So every side is going to have that Rosebay logo on it. 

I love classic D&B logos that are iconic and that can be reinterpreted, like Metalheadz, V Recordings and all that. So I wanted a really simple logo to use over years and years and it could translate into different styles, colours, formats – so Molly smashed it on that. 

Totally agree. First thing I thought when I saw that logo was that it belongs on a piece of vinyl – looks instantly classic! 

Thanks. And I did want to start with vinyl on the first release. I know it’s sort of a waning market, and with Unearthed closing there’s a lot of fears around vinyl. But for me, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting a label if it wasn’t with a physical medium. Something you can touch and hold in your hand, that will endure over the years…

Obviously digital will be the main focus for most people, but I’m adamant to still do vinyl, and maybe some tapes even… I’m a nostalgic guy. 

Will you be getting involved in the release artwork and visuals beyond the logo?  

I’m letting Molly do it all. I trust her vision – when I first started working with her on this project I had the most loose notes for her, I just gave her the keys really. 

She’s been making tour posters for me for the past five or six years, and she always just smashes it, she’s so versatile. Big up to her, she’s tolerated me and my lack of knowledge about the art direction world, and just taken over for me on all fronts. 

Sounds like a winning partnership. 

Yeah. And I’ll play her the music in advance and ask her: ‘what do you visualise when you hear this music’. So what you see on the first release is her interpretation of ‘Blastoff’ and ‘Cinerama’, and if you zoom-in there’s so many finer little details that she does, that’s sort of her signature. So thank you Molly if you’re reading this!  

Which parts of running a label will be most challenging? 

Just consistently putting out music that is strong. I’ve been putting out music since 2006 and I’ve only saved the best music for the labels that I completely want to work with. I’ve been very picky choosing who I release with, and I need to take that mentality to my own label, and be very picky about what I put out.

Also, there might be music I want to sign, but it would be more fitting on Halogenix’s label or 1985 or TNQ. I need to remember that I have my own lane, and that I should not try and imitate anyone else like I said earlier. There’s certainly a Calibre influence in my music, like all my colleagues – but I do think I’m interpreting it in my own way and I should be proud of that, and focus on it for the future. 

In terms of signing music from other people, I want it to be something that sounds unique and not like another label. That’s something that I’ll develop over time, but with this first release I think I’m doing exactly that. 

I’m sure you’ll be getting a load of people sending stuff in…

I hope so – and I’ll be setting up an email for demos. So keep an eye on my socials for that, I’m always happy to listen to anyone’s music. I’m totally open to listening to people I’ve never heard of, and if something’s ticking the right box, I’m gonna sign it!

What lessons have you taken from guys like Teije with TNQ, and Julien with Five Alley?

Music-wise, I’ve learned to be a lot more detail-oriented than I used to be. 

My music is focused on the chords and melodies, a strong bassline, some crisp rolling breaks – but in the last few years I’ve really honed in on little details that you hear maybe not on the first listen, but they keep the song relevant to you as you listen five, six, ten times. 

Before TNQ existed I wasn’t getting a lot of A&R notes from the label heads I was working with, you know, Bryan Gee, Friction… they were just satisfied with what I was giving them. With Lenzman, there’s a lot more back and forth, and so now with this new label, the back and forth is just with myself, like this inner-dialogue. So with these two tunes on the first single, there were about 20 versions of each track, keeping with what I’ve been doing with TNQ. Really focusing on details, working through lots of versions. 

And with A&Ring other artists, is that going to be a focus of yours, to push those artists?

I will, but I won’t go quite as hard as Teije does. If an artist has a very specific thing they want to do, or a style, or if they’re really fussy about their snare or breaks, I’m going to trust them and their vision. 

Sometimes Teije will put his vision on people – and I love that – because it gives you another angle on your music. And also if I do disagree with him, I’ll often get my way, haha. 

But yeah, I don’t want to be too overbearing with the artists I sign, outside of some suggestions where I might see something could be improved. Hopefully I’m going to be signing tunes that are ready to go without any A&Ring at all. So it’ll be a balance of getting really involved sometimes, and other times saying you’ve got it ready to go already so let’s just release it. 

And then with artists I really respect, like Satl for example, don’t really need to tell him much as it’s already perfect. He makes like 30 tunes in one week and 20-25 of them are ready to go and releasable. So there’s not much you can really tell certain people who already have their sound and vision on-point. 

Sounds like you’ve got all the tools and tips you need to get this label going. And going back to your own music – have you been making much US-inspired music while you’ve been over there?

No, not at all while I’ve been away, but I am really inspired to get back into the studio and write some! 

I always view it as: living your life is the input, and the music you make is the output. So it will be interesting to see what I make when I get back in a couple of weeks. Plus, now that I have a label, I’ll be inspired to write all-year round. 

Sometimes I go through periods where I’m not inspired to write at all, I can get a bit lazy. I have a long discography at this point, and I think I can lean on that, but that’s not really the case. I have to be releasing all-year round if I want to stay fresh in people’s minds – especially if I want to play gigs all year-round.

So maybe that’s another reason why I started this label, maybe I didn’t mention that earlier because it feels like a superficial reason to start the label, but it is one off the primary reasons I thought I needed to get my own imprint going, so that I can release more, and stay relevant in promoter’s and punter’s minds throughout the year. 

I guess it’s a nice revenue stream too…

It is, yeah. And I have complete control over the whole vision. As much as I love working with other labels, there’s something really appealing about having complete control over the vision from the A&Ring and the art and the style and everything about it. 

Fantastic. Looking forward to hearing more, and seeing that Rosebay logo spinning!

Keep Locked To Submorphic’s bandcamp for further updates.

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