How AC Slater created his own movement

AC Slater couldn’t have set up Night Bass at a stranger time in American electronic music. Founded as an LA event in late 2014 and upgraded into a full label six months later in mid-2015; Night Bass was launched in the grubby eye of the peak EDM storm… At a time when he felt there were fewer opportunities to play in his own country than ever before.

Too deep for dubstep line-ups. To heavy for house line-ups. Way too real for big garish EDM histrionics; Night Bass was AC’s way of making his own space… A space that rattles, jacks and slaps with underground low end fusion and a hefty helping of UK influence.

The message was clear from the very first EP: Featuring UK bassmongers DJ Q, Taiki Nulight and Jack Beats, AC’s US/UK bass interchange was open for business and it was to accelerate from nought-to-riot in 60 seconds: Within six months the label was already 10 releases and several US tours deep. Within a year the name Night Bass was being used to describe much more than an event or a label but a sound and an attitude that encompassed bass house, bassline, garage, breaks, house and everything in between.

In less than three years Night Bass has become something of a household name and is home to some of the most exciting and subversive acts in the ever-sprawling, morphing and mutating world of bass music. It’s also about to release its first artist album: AC Slater’s Outsiders.

Locked with collaborations with the likes of Sinden, Shift K3Y, Chris Lorenzo, Herve, Tchami, Bassboy and loaded with more song-based tracks than Slater’s ever revealed before, the album acts as a perfect milestone for both Night Bass’s and Aaron’s vision and success in recent years.

It drops September 29 and we’re celebrating its release live with a UKF on Air x Night Bass event on Wednesday September 28. Aaron will be joined by Chris Lorenzo, Shift K3Y, Jack Beats, Cause & Effect, Taiki Nulight and Riddim Commission. Guestlist is free (but limited) and we’ll be streaming it live on UKF Facebook from 8pm – midnight. Attendance is pretty much mandatory.

In the meantime, we caught up with AC Slater to find out more about the album, his influences and the rise of Night Bass. Get to know:

Your debut album! How long has it been in the making?

I guess the idea started year and a half ago. I had some tunes sitting around half finished. I went through them and it all started to feel right. Everything did; the timing felt right, the vibe felt right. So I started reaching out for features and it just came together. So much more smoothly than I imagined.

I like how the features flex through your whole career….

Yeah to have guys like Sinden and Herve on there and to call them as friends is cool – they were a huge inspiration to me back in the day with tracks like Beeper. And yeah, to also have new friends and very talented newer generation artists like Shift K3Y and Chris Lorenzo is really cool. There’s also this balance of friends from the US and the UK, which I really like. Having that balance of my influences too is really important.

I always UK influences in your music but I feel I can hear more US influence on this album. The smoother, soulful, song-based tracks such as Come Back and Taking Off. Quite a different sound to the AC Slater most people know and love.

Yeah an album is the ideal chance to stretch beyond the bangers and flex my song muscles I guess. I wanted to make something that’s not just for the DJ sets and something that you can chill to at home. I’ve not felt I’ve had the chance to explore the more vocal and soulful side of what I want to do until now.

It’s such a fine line and tricky balance between giving people they bangers they know they love and showing them a new side and development isn’t it?

Yeah it is. I wanted to represent my sound and take it one step further – show a new dimension but retain the dancefloor feel. I didn’t want to go full leftfield and leave people behind or alienate them but just almost to trick people into hearing a different side to my music. Hopefully they’ll like it.

So The Outsiders as a concept… That’s you and Night Bass, right?

That’s the main core of it. I’ve always been into music that was on the outside of where I’m at. I was always into UK music and I’m from America so I was on the outside of that. And when I started Night Bass it was the peak of the EDM rush and we weren’t doing anything like anyone else over here. I wanted to make my own lane.

It was such a critical thing to do during the EDM explosion. You provided a vital contrast

For a while there was no place for me to fit in as a DJ. I’d get booked for a festival and there was no stage for me to fit in. I wasn’t dubstep, I wasn’t trap, I wasn’t EDM, the house stage was too deep. There was no place for me so I carved out our own space. And when I started the Night Bass events I realised just how many people were interested in something different. There was an energy about it and more artists and fans were joining us. I still feel we’re on the outside to this day; we’re doing our own thing with our own little movement and I love it. We can do what we want. That’s important to me – to bring in people to influence me and how I DJ past and present. I brought out Taiki, Lorenzo, Shift k3Y, even EZ. Guys who a lot of people over here hadn’t heard of. I wanted to expose these guys to American fans.

Was that one of EZ’s first US tours? I bet that was sick…

It was his first ever north American booking. It was a pretty special booking. And yeah, he killed it! We don’t have the same musical history – he’s not a household name here like he is in the UK. But we have an open minded crowd and everyone ate it up. He was really into it and I heard he brings it up to people. It’s cool to see kids accept that. It was around the Boiler Room so people had heard of him but in general it was brand new. It was a beautiful thing – everyone was happy. He was playing old shit, new shit and I felt he tailored things to the US crowd with little snippets and cuts of hip-hop in there. Throwing in the odd bit of Kanye, stuff like that. Such a very nice mix and super cool vibe – I love nights like that.

We’ve moved on now, since you launched the nights three years ago, right? Barriers are down, line-ups are a lot more varied and we’re not getting so hung up on genres now, right?

Things have changed a lot now. Musically all the genres have changed a bit and there’s a mixture and things are melting together a bit. It’s exciting. Everyone I was booking three years ago are playing festivals now. That’s beautiful. We’ve taken something that wasn’t even on the radar and given it that platform. I think people want to put labels on things – they want to know what to expect. That was the idea behind Night Bass – I wanted it to be a general painting of what you want to hear. It could be garage or house or bassline or whatever. A bigger umbrella of the related sounds.

Speaking of bassline – cool to see Bassboy on the album!

Oh yeah bassline is a big part of my influences. I was into the original bassline movement over 10 years ago and have followed it ever since. I’d come over and dig in the record shops. There weren’t many downloads back then but I’d rip it from vinyl. It’s always a lot faster than what I play, but it just works. Kids are super into it aren’t they? It’s super hype. That track with Bassboy is way faster than I’d usually work at but I wanted to keep his style. It’s a bit more tear-out than my normal productions but that’s the whole idea and it goes crazy in my sets, too.

So how do you juggle your roles at Night Bass as a label boss, a DJ and an artist. You wear a lot of hats!  

I definitely wear a lot of hats! When I started Night Bass I wanted it to be something people really wanted to be proud of, get paid and be treated right. I’ve been on the other side when labels haven’t been able to do that. Not always in a bad way – they just don’t know what they’re doing and can’t pay if they want to. So I used what I’ve learnt through my experiences in the past and I wanted people to feel welcome, a proper crew for people to feel part of. My goal is to make everyone happy. It’s hard work and a constant juggle but it’s working; we’re almost at release 50 now.

That’s one every three weeks!

Yeah ever fortnight with little breaks from time to time. There’s so much good music to release! The guys we have on the label are so talented so it’s like this amazing revolving door of great music as we cycle through the crew. The balance is wanting to get it out but letting it breathe… You want people to have the time to find it but you need that momentum and activity because things move so fast.

How about an album, though? Does that speed and attention-turnaround worry you?

I grew up with albums so it’s almost a selfish thing for me to do this. I don’t know if it’s even relevant to release an album any more but the idea or goal for me was to explore what I can do musically. Plus it’s a much bigger talking point. People still pay attention to albums, even if they don’t listen to them as much. It’s something to talk about promote in different ways.

Like hosting a live stream with UKF on Air… Right?

Exactly! I’m doing some cool things while I’m over here in the UK. A little tour, lots of a radio stuff, the live stream with you guys and all my friends and just generally talking to as many people as possible about the album.

I kinda feel it’s significant you’re launching the album in the UK

It just worked out this way. It’s like I’m returning to the origins of my influence – this is my version of your music, so let’s party!

How did the UK influence hit you in the first place?

I was originally into hip-hop and got into DJ culture then UK music kinda hit me with hardcore. I would order tape packs from the back of magazines and even started the first American happy hardcore label. Then I got into a lot of other UK sounds through Drop The Lime and Trouble & Bass. I always loved the more extreme stuff – in the States it was house and techno which was very long and boring. You’d always catch me in the drum & bass room or hardcore room with the breakdowns and build ups and quick changes. It fit my mindset than just one loop for two hours.

So I guess the album promo continues when you return to the US?

Yeah I got a whole Outsiders tour of America. It’s funny we finished the major cities with our Night Bass tour so now the cities I’m playing for this tour are the outsider cities that don’t get so many big touring acts. Smaller cities – it fits the vibe of the album. It’s an outiders tour in every aspect.

I love those cool little underground pockets. Those parties are often the wildest.

Yeah imagine not getting something you want forever… When it arrives you go all out and really enjoy it, right? I love playing the smaller shows and places – people are super into it and have been dying to go.  I can’t wait man.

 Join AC Slater, Chris Lorenzo, Shift K3Y, Jack Beats, Casue & Effect, Taiki Nulight and Riddim Commission for UKF on Air x Night Bass on Wednesday September 28

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