Rising from the ashes from the phenomenon of Bad Company UK, Vegas’s Bad Taste Recordings has always fired with a heavy, uncompromised agenda and an eagle eye for new talent.
They’ve done so since day one; the second ever release on the label was The Upbeats debut album Nobody’s Out There. Teddy Killerz, Billain, Royalston, Joe Ford, Filip Motovunski, Urbandawn, Gydra, Redpill and many more artists have followed The Upbeats with debut or formative releases on the label. And while they’ve maintained the distinctly dark and technical roots of the label, there’s always been scope and pedigree for sudden switches, diversions and explorations into the wider D&B sphere.
Sometimes these 180 flips are brazen (see Urbandawn’s 2014 release Words To Say), other times they’re tucked away, waiting to be stumbled on unsuspectingly (see Royalston’s Sound Of The Rain on 2013’s Black Box 2 compilation) Either way, these diversions are never on the label by mistake; everything on Bad Taste from Billain’s wildest new soundscape blueprint to B Complex’s deepest b-side has been signed, sealed and delivered because it represents Vegas’s widest taste and his predilection for surprises and what he describes as sharp left turns.
Chill Out Zone is perhaps the sharpest Bad Taste turn since Filip Motovunski’s Lion King banger. Not a phrase you’d usually associate with the imprint, Chill Out Zone is a deep dive into the label’s more experimental corners with a selection of back cat gems and brand new cuts specifically requested from the label’s broadest collective. Vegas’s only brief: To send him something they’d never normally submit to the label, something different, something ‘other’. The end result is a 30 track stack of newness and curveballs such as Invadhertz slinky dark soul growler Mercury Rising, Filip Motovunski’s snaking technoid Whisper and the springy emotional keys of Wresker & Kilobite’s Something To Say.
They’re just three of many examples. You can check them all buried deep in this mix that’s been a labour of love for Vegas throughout the summer. Created in between regular BCUK festival tear-ups, Vegas explains how the project has given him a different perspective and experience from music. Not just mixed by Vegas, the Chill Out Zone comes in a series of mixes including selections from Ephyum, Invadhertz and Surreal. Chill Out Zone is a reminder that Bad Taste’s uncompromised agenda isn’t exclusively heavy… And an eagle eye isn’t just on new talent. We caught up with Vegas for more details.
Chill out and Bad Taste… These aren’t words people associate together are they?
That’s why we did it. I keep hearing people saying ‘this person’s only into jump up’ or ‘that label is strictly neuro’ and personally I’m into music as a whole, drum & bass very much and all styles of it. One week there’s a great jump up tune, the next week there’s a great liquid tune. When a tune’s good, a tune’s good. Regardless of subgenre. I’ve always supported that on Bad Taste. Go back over the back catalogue there’s a lot of deeper, thoughtful synthetic soundscapes hidden away than people might think.
It’s like the old B side culture in a way, finding those little gems
It totally is. They’re the tunes the stand the test of time the most. You have your big club bangers but it’s those deeper, more experimental tracks on the releases that usually stay with you. It was nice to dig back into these tunes and put the mix together. It’s a very different mix to what I’d usually do.
A nice contrast to the BCUK tear ups all summer, I guess?
It was. What was interesting was that when I’m about to do one of those sets I’m selecting and listening to music very differently. I’ll be looking for the bangers and DJ tools that will work in the club or festival context. But the Chill Out Zone mix was what I kept come back to every week. It was my summer soundtrack and I really enjoyed properly soaking up the music and considering the flow of the mix. I don’t get to do that very often.
Nice. Let’s go back to the start of the label. You pretty much kicked off with The Upbeats. What a way to launch a label!
Yeah! They’d done a release on BC Recordings before. I actually found them when I was in Puerto Rico, someone had given me a CD of theirs. We linked up and they were sending me some incredible music. We started putting it out and pretty soon we had their debut album Nobody’s Is Out There which was the second release on Bad Taste. I was in love with what they were doing; they could absolutely tear you apart, but they had a lot of deeper, soundscape and really emotional atmospheres in there too. That had a huge effect on how the label developed.
Most labels will build up a bit before letting rip with a full album.
We weren’t considering anything like that though. Dylan and Jeremy were so buzzing about their music, we loved it, there was a lot of it so we had to do the album. We didn’t pay any attention to the structure of the industry or what other people say how you should do things. I never watch anyone and have always maintained that we don’t even look at what other labels are doing. That’s why we do things differently and make pretty drastic moves and do sharp left turns. That’s how I am personally and that’s expressed in the label. I like taking risks and investing in new artists and giving them that opportunity.
Like the Teddy Killerz a few years back…
That was funny. They were doing bits as Paimon and Place 2B. They came to me with the idea of the name Teddy Killerz but they didn’t know if people would appreciate it just laugh. It was such a ridiculous name I said they had to do it. I got my mate Cristoph to design the first bear and I designed their logo. I took the face and made it like a kinda Converse badge. Then we put out their tracks and the rest is history. It’s been amazing to watch them come from nothing in Russia to being one of the biggest acts in their field.
That’s got to be the holy grail for running a label, to help establish careers like that?
It’s one of the best things about having a label full stop. People look back and say ‘wow you’ve this guy on your label and this guy and this guy’ but back when they did those releases people hadn’t heard of them. The feeling of watching them rise is a weird one, it’s like a motherly instinct thing. You feel you’ve had something to do with their career when really you haven’t… It was them who wrote the tracks!
Giving them a platform and a boost up is so important though. Without labels taking risks with new artists the scene wouldn’t move at all.
You’re absolutely right but it’s hard to run a label when you do that because you’re never going to get the attention that the bigger labels with bigger names attract. This is going to sound like a martyr, and it’s not meant that way, but this is the thing; basically this scene has been so good to me since day one, I wanted to help people. I see young acts coming through who have the same amount of hunger for the scene I did back then and I want to help them. They’re really trying, they’re really into it and they make the better tunes. When they get to the social media icon level DJ they’ve lost the pathway. They lose the hunger and there’s something magical about those early years and they’re throwing ideas around and there’s so much energy.
Going back to what you said about giving something back, it’s no coincidence that you all went on to launch labels that have given countless artists a platform to become well known names
I can vouch for them as well; they’re into it. That’s what it’s about. We want to push it forward and develop it and give people opportunities and encourage creativity. We love it. There’s a lot of people out there who say they love it but they’re full of shit. They’re into Facebook likes and viral videos. But Dan, Darren, Jason… We’ve put our souls into this scene. I’m really proud of that.
Amen. I was gonna ask about the balance of how you personally shape the Bad Taste sound and what influence the artists have had on it?
It’s entirely in their hands. I A&R stuff, but it’s their skills that influence my ears. They have a huge influence on me. If someone comes along with something completely unlike anything Bad Taste have released before but I love it? I’m signing it mate. Then that person helps to shape the sound. It’s down to the artist. It’s good for them to try and be as original as possible and not sound like each other. I want Billain to sound like Billain. I want Filip Motovunski to sound like Filip Motovunski, you know what I mean?
It’s hard for new artists though; you get caught in a trap when you’re sending demos to a label because you want your music sound different but also want to make sure it has some relevance to what the label’s done
Or you could just say ‘bollocks to that mate’ and send the maddest, most far out shit you’ve got. Coming back to the Chill Out Zone mix, I asked the guys for their weird ‘other’ shit. Chilled out stuff they wouldn’t send me. The album is a result of me doing that. Every artist suffers from that trap you talk about but trust me; when you take a sudden turn left and everyone is going right then you’ll get recognised and stand out. That’s what I’ve always wanted Bad Taste to be about since day one.
Day one for Bad Taste was quite a turbulent year; 2007 was around the time digital sales and piracy hammered physical sales, a lot of distributors went bust and labels went down…
I guess. Again, I wasn’t watching what people were doing. We’d already done the Bad Taste compilation on BC and I knew my label would be called that. I didn’t watch the climate, I just did it. People who’d followed Bad Company went with it so I was blessed with having more attention than a lot of other new labels because of that. But it’s never been easy. It’s been a battle all the way through and turbulent all the time!
Any times you thought of calling it a day?
Totally. One memory that pops into my head is a release with Gydra. It had an amen on it and people called it out to be a copy of a Limewax tune, which it totally wasn’t. That was really frustrating and the tune actually ended up at Beatport number 1 but I hated that because it was off very negative hype. I was thinking ‘what is the fucking point in this? It’s not a money thing, it’s not a financial thing. I spend a lot of my DJ money on it, why am I doing this?’ It’s funny though; people think you’re making millions off it and it’s like ‘dude come on, you come and run this and moan after that’. But none of that compares to the buzz you get working on a label and that’s why we carry on and on and on. The artists are buzzing, the artwork is great, I love bringing it together.
Give us a label high for balance…
This summer Hybrid Minds sending over their remix of Urbandawn. We played it in the office and everyone was dancing. That was a lovely high recently. I’m proud of what we do. The feeling of doing something right and people enjoying it is fantastic.
We’ve hinted at the artists who’ve come through Bad Taste in the past but how about the current troops and new breed? Who’s joining the likes of Billain in the Bad Taste ranks?
I’m really proud of Filip [Motovunski]. He’s a gentle giant. His whole package is sick. He’s into some really deep stuff and it shines though his work ethics, he’s got no ego, he keeps it real. Invadhertz is another artist I’m excited about, he’s got a tune on the mix called Mercury Rising which has attracted a lot of attention. There’s a few guys from Germany like Wresker & Kilobyte and a few others coming through with different sounds. They’re on the album but beyond that you’ve got Akov, Vowel, Transforma, Bl4ck Owlz, The Prophecy, B Complex, Full Kontakt. I know I’ve missed some out but you get the idea; we’re constantly working with really exciting and forward thinking artists whether they’re brand new, breaking through or established names…
Nice. Sign out with some hype about the next releases…
After Chill Out Zone we’ve got a Black Owlz EP, then a Transforma release called The Darkest Void which is just sick as fuck. Humanon has got an EP called Grotesque, there’s a new Black Box compilation, there’s a Manta release after that then a Skynet remix of DJ Delta which is just out of this world. It’s disgusting actually. The original came out on another label but Delta was just like ‘dude Skynet’s just remixed my tune’. I heard it and had to sign it, regardless of where else it’s been released.
This is kinda what we’ve been talking about, right?
Absolutely. If the music is good, then I want to support it and get it out to as many people as possible. It really is that that simple.