Music changes lives. We all know this. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t.
It unites us, it creates friendships and heightens our fondest highs. It also helps us through the deepest lows. A consistent companion you know will never let you down, a message that reminds you you’re not alone, a frequency that changes your mindset and start to see a new perspective…
For musicians this polarity is amplified again; music can be a life-changing source of positive energy, helping you make sense life’s tangled and complicated highs and lows. Yet it can also be a huge source of anxiety and pressure. Especially if you’re the boss of an independent label that’s successful enough to have a real presence and influence in the scene and attract an exciting roster of talent but not quite successful enough to employ staff or even fund the boss’s own artist album.
Such is the case with BCee who recently raised over £9000 from fans to help him fund his fourth – and quite possibly best – album Northpoint. An album that showcases vast artistic breadth yet remains firmly rooted in the dance, it takes us from trembling soul to all-out gully across 14 tracks. Sonically it’s highly accomplished, but there’s much behind it than ‘just another artist album’. Or even ‘just another crowd-funding project’. Scratch the surface and Northpoint is about honesty, openness and human connections.
BCee makes great music. We all know this. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. But he’s also unwittingly changed lives. Just like his music, this one goes deep…
So it started with a crowd-fund…
I’d wanted to write another album for a while but, to be honest, Spearhead is very small operation. People think it’s this big operation but in reality it’s just me doing everything on a day to day basis. Some months are wicked, but some months aren’t. So when an artist wants to do an album I get a budget together, we set a time frame, they write the tunes and I do what the label needs to do to make it and promote it. Everyone knows what they’re doing. But when I do my own artist albums I always feel I’m using funds that could be used for my other artists. I don’t want to be one of those guys who’s the head of the label takes the funds and gigs over everyone else. So, yeah, this time I thought I’d experiment with the crowdfunding project.
How did that feel? Opening yourself up like that?
Very vulnerable! In drum & bass especially it would be too easy for people to say ‘oh piss off mate, pay for your own thing’ People assume you’re well off DJing for a living. But I stuck it up and to be honest I expected to get 25% of the money. I went out for the evening and when I came back it was over £1000 and I’d had messages of support from people.
And now those backers are your bosses. Did you feel even more pressure to make the best album you possibly could?
I did! Obviously every album you try your hardest and push yourself but this was a different sense of pressure. Some people have given crazy amounts of money, it’s humbling. I also didn’t account just how much work it would be with the incentives people pledged for. I’m finishing sample packs, I did a lot of DJ mixes and played some DJ bookings… All of them have the same level of pressure.
You’ve been out and met a lot of these backers, then? Real life connections!
I’ve met so many people though this and it’s another thing I hadn’t accounted for but really love about it. People come up at gigs and Spearhead nights and introduce themselves which has been great. Especially at my nights. I’m there from the very start of the night to close, usually at the back of the room and sometimes a little bit bored on my own… But you’re not supposed to bother the promoter are you? So yeah it’s been great that people have had a reason to come up and introduce themselves and chat. I bloody love chatting to people!
I bloody love music. Let’s talk about yours; the momentum from light to dark on Northpoint is something that really struck me. Was that the intention?
Definitely. What I’d noticed with a lot of albums lately is that it doesn’t reflect what the artist is like when you see them play or known for. For me for this album I wanted to make something where every track can be played in my DJ sets but not on a linear, monotone vibe. So a balance of vocal tracks, darker tracks, little jungle vibes
Dead Reckoning is a banger mate
Thank you. That’s actually got a sample I’ve been waiting to use for years. It’s from a record I found in Chicago with nothing but American preachers from the 50s and 60s. I grabbed a few of them and they’ve got absolute gold on them. I was really pleased when I found a way to use that sample.
How about a moment when you weren’t pleased? Give me an ultimate album low…
Oh I can give you a low no problem. It’s no secret that I suffer from depression and last year I was feeling very low. I felt a lot of pressure, I’d committed to a year working part time for someone, I had label commitments, album commitments and family commitments. The nights have been successful so it means suddenly everyone wants a piece of the action and I felt pulled in too many directions. I had to check myself in and get back on the medication because I was losing the plot.
That’s an incredible amount of pressure for anyone to deal with.
The worse thing is you feel you’re letting everyone down. If I sit down to write music I’m thinking I should be working on label stuff to support my artists. When I was at my day job I felt I was letting myself down as an artist. When I’m doing the nights I worry too much about the DJ who’s going to do the graveyard shift or the guy I can’t book because there’s not enough hours in the night. And whatever I do I feel I’m letting my family down because I’m so busy. It got to the point where couldn’t bring myself to even answer a phone.
Wow man, we need a high to balance this out. You must have been working on Vanguard Project stuff and working Dexcell’s album during all this, too?
I was. Actually working with Villem has been really helpful to get me out of that spiral because we work on a specific day of the week that fits around our family lives. Pretty much every week we get a track done. We did over 50 tracks last year. We’re on EP 5 now, we’ve got a third on Fokuz, 15/16 remixes and half an album ready.
A Vanguard Project album?! Cool! Got any release plans?
We’ve got a sketch folder with six tracks that are worthy of being album material but would double that for an album really. Maybe more. But it’s not going to be miles away. Probably next year.
Awesome. We’re supposed to be talking about your own album though. What’s the concept or meaning behind the term Northpoint?
This could be your high actually…. It’s no secret I’m a Christian and my part time job has been working for a local church who I went out to America with for a conference in a place called Northpoint, Atlanta. A week after I get back I get an email from these guys saying my music saved their marriage.
Yeah that’s what I thought. So I asked them how. Turns out they’d hit a low and didn’t think they could get back from it so sat down to discuss splitting up. Suddenly my tune Keep The Faith comes on shuffle. They saw it as a sign and persevered with their challenges and are very much a happy couple.
This is the high we need!
It gets deeper than that… It turns out they lived in Northpoint literally two minutes away from where I’d just been! I said to them ‘look you can ignore me on this, I never want to be pushy about religion or anything but I know a local church to you and I think you should go.’ They’re saying my music changed their life and I was there in the same place in the world at the same time? That’s too much of a coincidence. Anyway, I didn’t hear from them for ages so thought they weren’t interested but then suddenly they got in touch to say they’d taken up my suggestion, been working on their relationship and that it was stronger than ever, thank you for the help.
I love stuff like this. What happened next?
To cut a very long and coincidence-filled story short, I end up back at Northpoint with the church so I asked this couple if they’d be up for me playing a gig. They couldn’t’ pay me or bill me because I didn’t have a Visa but they picked me up, we had a flipping good night and it was amazing to see how they were as a couple and how their lives had improved. This was so touching and pretty mindblowing that I’d played a role in that. I’ve invited them over to visit us here now. There were too many coincidences for this not to develop into a friendship. So yeah, that’s why the album is called Northpoint.
What a great story!
I don’t usually go that deep to be honest. One, because people don’t really like religion. And two it makes me sound mental. Take it or leave it but it’s how things were.
I didn’t know about your faith. We spoke to SS about this in the past. I don’t think artists with faith should shy away from it or feel that can’t talk about it.
I’ve never really been one to hammer out a lot of words about my faith. I just choose to live my life in a way that I believe Jesus would have… If he were a drum & bass DJ living in 2017, a very different context I know.
I think that too often people use a lot of words about things when they should actually be doing something. The two worlds are very different and I don’t fit in with either world completely. I like that; I am a Christian and I believe in all of those values but I also believe many Christians are absolute idiots who do and say stupid things. Like a lot of people in every walk of life. To really put it on the line, I want to bring a Christian value, a true value, into the Spearhead nights: Everybody is accepted into a community and if someone is in need we get round them and help them. Musically or socially or compassionately in any way, this is what I want… I want us all to have each others backs.