2017 According To… Serum

He enjoys a crumpet with his cooked breakfast. He takes cricket bats to his DJ gigs. He’s got dubs for days and when he’s not running his label, or being one third of Kings Of The Rollers, or eating a kebab, he’s actually a professional lumberjack*

He really wants to give you the finger and he’d like you to give it right back… It’s Serum, the man who’s characterised ever DJ’s sets across the board with an insane amount of music covering the entire spectrum.

From deep rumbling smoulderers like Burning with Paul T and Edward Oberon (the follow up to last year’s killer Take My Breath Away) to buzzy Bristolian slap-abouts like the intoxicating riff romp Hunchback or Earth Rot (both on his own Souped Up) From skank-packed rollers such as Cyber-Funkin (with Voltage on Philly Blunt) to space race romps like the Charge style Mission Control (also with Voltage), Serum’s policy has been (and has always been since he emerged almost 15 years ago) to “just make good drum & bass” with no care of subgenre or perceived rules.

And if the 11 Official releases and features and 5 Remixes he’s bequeathed to the world this year aren’t quite enough, he’s packing some serious dubs that have become the biggest moments in his set such as Lumberjack and Cricket Bat. And he gave us the heads up last month that he’s packing a whole load more…

More pummelling will commence on Boxing Day as he and Voltage drop Serum & Voltage Strike Back, their debut co-lab album on Low Down Deep. Presented with his own illustrated artwork and packed with more stinkers than should be humanly possible, it sets us up nicely for a new year where more pummelling isn’t expected but guaranteed… And it will come in the form of the first productions from his, Voltage and Bladerunner’s Kings Of The Rollers project.

But before all that, we’ve got his own unique take of 2017. One of his highest profile and musically exciting years so far. Fingers at the ready…

*He’s not actually a lumberjack

“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed the most about this year is that there’s more stuff I want to play spread across all the styles; the deeper stuff, the techy stuff, liquid, jump-up. I’ve found great music in all of these styles and I’m not sure if that’s happened for a long time. It’s really refreshing. For a few years the sounds seemed very separate; things would be too deep or too pounding. That doesn’t suit me, I want to play it all and it feels like everyone’s come together more.

“For me it’s about making good drum & bass. Not sitting down to make a subgenre but just good drum & bass. This year’s been great for that, I’ve never had such a nice mixed bag to take to gigs and the last time I felt all the styles coming together in this type of way was 2001. They’re the best times, especially from a DJ point of view, you can really build things up and explore every corner and have the tracks to crossover between the styles. Artists that have really impressed me in that way have ranged from Benny L and Bou to Skeptical and Dawn Wall, also labels like Neosignal, 1985 and Bio Beats. I need to give Noisia and Doc Scott a nod, too. Their podcasts have represented a really wide cross section of drum & bass with absolutely zero snobbery. That’s a good reflection of where we’re at. Everyone is breaking out of their subgenres. No one’s hiding in their corners and I think the We Love D&B project is also a good example of this.

“The significance of that playlist is bigger than some people think. It’s opened up this whole new platform for artists to be heard. Look at this way; most of our customers are DJs. I never knew anyone to go out and buy drum & bass vinyl back in the day who wasn’t a DJ. So this is about getting our music out to a whole new audience. I find Spotify a strange business model; I used to spend five times the subscription every week on music and still not have enough to buy just in one genre! But Spotify is what people use and we should be on it. So to have a reputable playlist where people can find out about it real drum & bass and not just hear any old crap is really important. It’s hard for everyone right now; there are so many releases every week it’s hard for artists to be heard and it’s hard for new drum & bass fans to find the good stuff and what’s worth listening to. For that reason alone the playlist is really important. Plus the fact I’ve got a new label – I’d be mad not to support it and get involved.

“Souped Up has definitely been a highlight for me this year. I’ve wanted to do a label for ages and I knew I wanted to have a strong idea behind it, a sound and a unique graphic look to it. But I needed to get it all into place. And I have to shout Benny V who co-owns the label as he helped me find designers and generally badger me into making decisions I needed to make. There’s so much going on all the time I’ve always found it easy to justify putting off launching the label. But I had the right music and the right look so the timing was perfect for me.

“I do feel I’ve found my sound in the last few years. I’ve tried to take the ethos of jungle which I always felt was a template into which you could pull almost any influence. I’ve been on a real quest for samples people simply haven’t got and that’s taken me in directions I never thought I’d go. It’s hard to find jazz or hip-hop or funk samples people haven’t already used. So I went down some mad rabbit holes; prog rock, ambient music, avant garde, anything unusual. There’s some amazing music out there and all of it gives me ideas about sounds, arrangements or production techniques. I’ve even bought equipment off the back of it to try to recreate those styles. It’s important to me to have that feeling that the sound is alive. Like it’s breathing and there’s moving parts. It’s real and it’s a living thing. I don’t want things sounding too polished or smooth or perfect. I like a little ugliness and hearing things that aren’t exact and there’s spikes sticking out all over the place. That’s like real life. Things aren’t down to a number are they?

“What would I like to see more of in 2018? More mixing between the styles! People on different sides getting together and combining sounds. Put it this way… When I’m mixing I’m looking for two records that do the opposite to each other so they kick off in the mix. Different combinations are what make drum & bass really interesting and all producers have something to learn from each other. The scene’s coming together again nicely, so more diverse collaborations could potentially develop this even more. I know I’d like to do a few more collaborations like this…

“What would I like to see less of in 2018? Negativity! Whether it’s people arguing about what sorts make a particular genre or what styles are the best, it’s not necessary. I try not to dwell on styles I don’t like. I just don’t listen to them. I won’t tell someone to stop making a style because I don’t like it. Nor can I tell the people who like it not to like it. You’ve just got to do what you do and try to add something personal to the scene that other artists aren’t doing. If you get good enough at that people will have to take note. That’s all you can do”

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