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Breakage’s Top 5 Labels

If I make two tunes I like, I’ll put them out. 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.”

These are the sentiments Breakage left us with when we last spoke to him in January. At the time he’d just set up his own Index imprint and was feeling more inspired than he had done in several years. 11 months later, he’s still in the same place; still swathing through his original jungle roots, reacquainting us with what is universally known as a Breakage roller and still true to his word as two more bassline-focused workouts dropped recently: the brilliantly titled, wobbly-bottomed Ric Flair Strut and the sub-surged minimal shakedown Sanctuary.

Both sparse and shuddering with restraint, they’re two more examples of where Breakage is at and how happy he is right now – with his own music and how he’s releasing it.

“I absolutely love being my own boss,” he beams. “I see my music in a different way now I’m the owner of it. I can control exactly what happens with it. If I want to go mental and spend six months mixing something down, I can. I don’t – even though a lot of people will tell you differently – but I can. I can put out what I want, when I want. Even with my history of working with some really inspiring and progressive labels, that’s an incredible feeling.”

Whether we’ll have to wait another 10 months for more Breakage rollers, only time will tell. But in the mean time we’ve asked him to consider his five most inspiring and progressive labels of all time. He came back with some stone cold classics…

(Picture credit: Marina Palacios)

Digital Soundboy

“An obvious choice I guess. I was involved in this from the start and it was the first time someone turned around to me and said ‘do whatever you want to do.’ I was like ‘really?’ And Shy said ‘yeah, if you want to make something, make it, flourish, do your thing’ That was really inspiring for me and crucial to how I developed as an artist.

“But it’s not just about me. Just look at that back catalogue; the way it moved and changed around and became its own thing. It reminds me of Giles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud. You could pick up any release and you never know what you’re going to get but you knew it would be good. You didn’t know if you were going to get drum & bass, dubstep or house and even if it wasn’t your complete favourite style you’d always understand why it’s on the label.

“It’s such a respectful body of work and it was so important for me to be involved in. It opened my eyes musically to all kinds of styles and opportunities that I never would have dreamt of before and, like most of us, I was sad to see it come to an end. I totally understood why Shy finished the label, though. It takes a lot to run a label, you’re looking after artists, you’re running nights, you’re nurturing the music, you’re managing merchandise, masters, distribution, so many things. As a friend I was glad Shy had closed it down because he’d have more time to work on his own music. But as an artist I was devastated. Who knows with Shy, though. It may come back. Never say never….”

 

Bassbin

“Another hugely influential label I’d love to see return. The amazing brain behind it, Rohan, is still interested in the music and I still speak to him so there’s always that small chance he could give it another go. Basically Rohan took me under his wing in the same way Shy did a few years later. I learnt so much about structure and arrangement from Rohan, he had a very strong idea of what he wanted and what would work. Everything I made for him ended up coming out which is very very rare for me. I can’t actually think of a bad release on Bassbin, no tracks I didn’t like or play.

“Even before I signed to the label the artists they had were amazing and inspiring – Zero T, Beta 2, all those guys. So many great artists passed through the label over the years; Fracture & Neptune, Digital, a huge list. Whether they were on the label for one release or were signed like me there was a proper sense of community. It was something real happening. Like a proper scene. It was also an honour to release my debut album with them. It was such a big risk to do that and I’ll be forever grateful for them investing in me like that. Such a cool label. It’s not been operational for 10 years and still people talk about it. That’s how important Bassbin was.”

 

Reinforced / Metalheadz

“You can’t have the top five labels without these, I don’t care who you are and both come together for me. The lines blur between their stories and their roots. Can I combine them? Fuck it I’m combing them and I’m shouting them both because they’ve both had such a big influence on me. When I started delving deeper into drum & bass and jungle I kept hearing these labels. And every single release was always like nothing I’d ever heard before.

“They were the cutting edge of everything. So futuristic and experimental without forcing itself into being experimental. Metalheadz, especially, has always had that balance of everything, it was so exciting when a new release came – would it be like Hidden Agenda or Photek or Dillinja? It could go in so many ways but you know it will always blow your mind. Nothing was usual or normal or conventional; it offered more than a beat, a bassline and a cool riff. I’ll never forget being bought Timeless as a kid by my sister’s boyfriend. The cover, the logo, everything. It literally changed my life. Go back over any point in either label’s history and there are so many gems.”

 

Warp

“Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada… I don’t need to say much more.  That’s just two revolutionary artists Warp have given the world. I could list more all day. Lorn is more recent Warp artist and he genuinely blew my mind. I saw a video for his tune Acid Rain before I knew anything about him and it knocked me sideways. I knew instantly it was a Warp release. Even when the music is a little too full-on for me, I appreciate it.

“Their artists are geniuses when it comes to synthesis and programming and so many of their releases are still ahead of their time 20, 25 years later. Quite often their artists will trigger or inspire a whole new sound or a little pocket of artists or a movement like Squarepusher, Autechre, Rustie, Hudson Mohawke. I love how Warp celebrate such experimental artistic music, they’ve never put out a commercial record. To be so big and so strong and never make any compromises? That’s fucking incredible.”

 

XL

“Credit where it’s due! XL have put out records by some of the biggest artists in the world and are still independent. Radiohead The White Stripes, The Prodigy… It’s amazing how this can happen. One day they could release an Adele record, the next day they release a Zomby record and they’re completely independent. That’s marvellous. And, of course, they put out SL2. If it wasn’t for XL a lot of my generation and kids slightly older than me may not have found their way into electronic music. I have massive respect for what this label has achieved.”

Honourable mentions…

“Picking five labels was stupid hard. I have to mention Mo Wax, Exit Records, Full Cycle, Moving Shadow, Parlophone and every other progressive label I’ve neglected to mention.”

Breakage – Ric Flair Strut / Sanctuary is out now on Index

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