Insert the now-standard ‘loads of artists are setting up their own labels, what a time to be alive’ introduction here.
This is life… Artist-founded labels are popping up everywhere like mushroom 1Ups and each one is adding more energy into an already revitalised scene. There’s a chance in 10-15 years time we may look back at last year like previous hindsight vintages such as 96 (the year Hospital, Renegade, Playaz, CIA and Chronic all launched) 01 (Dispatch, Soul:r, Commercial Suicide, Radius) or 03 (Signature, BBK, Exit, Innerground, Viper)
If it continues, we’ll look back at 2017 in the same way. We’re getting off to a strong start, anyway… Breakage has just announced his own label – Index. The same name of the London club night he launched late last year (boasting bursting line-ups including Rockwell, Fracture, J:Kenzo, Alix Perez, Jubei, Halogenix and Dead Man’s Chest), the label kicks off next month with two classic Breakage rollers Elmhurst Dub and Anymore.
They’re the latest in a volley of tracks to come from Breakage in the last 18 months. Famously slow and steady with his release rate, he’s been putting some serious gully our way lately: Kill Dem and The Voyage EP on Digital Soundboy, a rolled-out freebie called Version and this superbad remix of Sam Binga on Critical…
The man’s clearly on a mission. So we called him up to find out more…
Index… It started as a club night. Serious line-ups.
I wanted to do a night that’s mainly producer-led. Not that we won’t get DJs who are just DJs down but the focus is on producer DJs. My own perfect line up. A whole night of people playing what I think are amazing sets. There are no times announced, too. You don’t know if they’re playing early or not, so the idea is you get down early and stay the whole night. It’s people I actively play a lot of their music and excite me. Not just drum & bass – as time goes on it will be a lot more diverse in selection.
That’s reminiscent of the original nights like Swerve, Sunday Sessions and places like that…
Definitely. A crowd who actively want to hear brand new stuff. Phonox have a policy where you can’t use your phone on the dancefloor. You can use it elsewhere in the club but not on the dancefloor which is a cool statement – the dancefloor is for dancing. There’s nothing worse than playing a half finished tune that you’re not sure about but want to test out and see what it’s saying… Only to find it on Instagram or YouTube the next day. These tunes might not come out for another year or maybe even never. So having a night where artists feel free to try new things and know they’re going to get a strong critical reaction is really special.
So how do you translate the night’s spirit into a label? Sounds like there’ll be more artists involved, like the line-ups?
No it’s just going to be for me! I hope it will grow into something bigger but for now while I work out what I’m doing and how I do it, it’s just me. It’s a bit like how the DMZ night has guests but the DMZ label is just for Coki and Mala and Loefah. The Index night and Index label share the same name and the same common goal: good music.
Feels like you’ve gone back to your roots a bit musically lately. What’s known in the industry as a ‘Breakage roller’…
I still don’t know what a Breakage roller is. I think I’m the only person who doesn’t! But whether it’s a deep thing or a dancefloor thing I just want it to be fun. These types of tracks are because I cast the net so far and wide for a while I’ve gone back to the roots a bit. It goes back to some Twitter rant I had at a festival and ended up saying ‘fuck it, I’m going to make jungle again’. Less than a month later I made Kill Dem, then the Voyage EP. Looking back it was all about these Tweets. Usually I go on a rant and don’t do anything about it but this time I did it. I’m proud of that.
What caused the rant?
I can’t remember. I was drunk!
So Index is the latest in an exciting line of new labels established by artists… SpectraSoul, Alix Perez, Lenzman. It’s a bit like when Soul:r, Creative Source and Bass Bin all launched around the same time 15 years ago.
I love it. As a music fan and consumer I really enjoy platforms like Bandcamp because you feel you know that person more. It’s something the artist likes and wants to release on his or her own terms. It’s very personal and a nice touch; knowing the artist has chosen everything – the label name, the artwork, the title, the time of release. It’s how they want it. It’s a detailed view into how the artist wants to do things. Look at Alix’s 1985 brand and how he’s done the merchandise. He’s put his all into it to make sure it’s cool to him. It’s not just a cheeky bit of merch on the side, it looks cool. He’s a very stylish guy and that’s translated in the products he’s made. That’s really exciting and I think we’ll have a lot more artists doing this. I’ve never been artistically compromised – I’ve been lucky with the labels I’ve worked with, Bassbin and Soundboy have always told me to do what I want – but not all artists have that privilege. This way you don’t have to answer to anyone and you can do things on your own terms.
What’s the release rate going to be like? You historically have quite long periods between releases…
I do. So as you can guess there’s no strict release schedule. If I make two tunes I like, I’ll put them out. If I make four, I’ll put out an EP. As and when. I don’t want to create pressure and create expectations of myself. When I’m ready to release something, it will happen. I spend a lot of time sweating the small stuff in a track and if I’m not over 85% happy with it then it’s not ready to come out. Or never will. Or if I play a tune to my mates and they’re just like ‘ah it’s alright, I suppose…’ I want tunes my mates are excited about. If I’m excited, and my mates are then someone in theory should be excited by it. In theory anyway!
Get excited: Pre-order Elmhurst Dub / Anymore