There’s an elite force of labels that drum & bass wouldn’t be the same without.
Metalheadz, Ram, Moving Shadow, Full Cycle, Virus, Goodlooking, Reinforced, Renegade Hardware and V Recordings are some of those labels. Imprints that were founded on tight crews of mates, each buzzing and bouncing off one another, pushing and pulling what was a then a brand new sound.
Some labels have sadly disbanded as recently as this month (farewell Renegade) others are still smashing it. But one thing any longstanding imprint experiences when it’s had a huge influence on a genre is how it develops from its legacy… Something Bryan Gee’s V Recordings is on a serious mission to sort out.
Famed for bringing the likes of Roni, Krust, Dillinja and Marky to the fore, you could list the scene-shattering records they put out for days. Krust – Warhead, Roni Size – It’s Jazzy, Adam F – Brand New Funk, Die – Autumn. The list goes on. But we won’t… Because Bryan has asked us not to.
In the wake of V’s latest album release – the monolithic 50-track Planet V Drum & Bass Vol 2 – Bryan is keen to promote his new talent which he reckons stand up against the hundreds of classics V gave us all those years ago.
Big talk? Yes. Read on to find out more…
Put it this way; I’d rather hear Sigma on the radio than some shit factory-manufactured pop song!
50 tracks! This is silly…
I know! It wasn’t intentional! Three years ago we revisited the seminal Planet V concept. The idea is simple; bring all the best music from our four labels – V, Liquid V, Philly Blunt, Chronic – into one place. I don’t know anyone who has got every tune we’ve put out in a year. You’re always going to miss bits so this is a good time to paint a full picture and show people where we’re at. Last year we were so busy that we didn’t fit in a Planet V album. So this year we’ve got two years worth of music on the compilation. You got lucky this year!
It’s hard to keep up isn’t it? You must know this yourself as a DJ… The output is relentless
It is! I’m always finding tracks that have been around for a while and I’m like ‘how haven’t I heard this before?’ I always try and bear that in mind with our labels. Plus the scene seems too fragmented now; you got your liquid guys, you got your jungle guys, you got your tech guys.
On paper it feels like the scene is fragmented. But in the club it’s all just wicked D&B. I don’t know many DJs who ruthlessly stick to one subgenre. You certainly don’t!
True! Good music is good music but we all do it; we all have genres that we like more than others so when you’ve got so much music to choose from then you do automatically go for the ones you like. There’s quality talent in every little subgenre, but whether you have the time to find that quality talent is another thing.
Let’s talk about that talent. You’ve got a track record finding talent around the world – like Brazil, most famously – is it easier to find talent from around the world now we all live on the internet?
No it’s harder! I still get the best stuff from people I meet. I’ve very rarely found the best stuff from demos, even back in the day. I’m constantly listening to demos and new artists but I never seem to get that same level of quality that I do from people who I know and have met personally. Especially the guys from Brazil. I don’t know what it is but the guys over there put so much vibe and energy into their drum & bass. It connects with me. And the whole scene has grown and matured lately. The shit they’re sending to me now is just crazy. Their passion, their ideas, their love for the music is inspiring. Not just Brazil, though; Paul T and Edward Oberon, Command Strange, Serum. I’ve found a collection of artists who really inspire me right now.
You’ve just signed Paul and Edward exclusively haven’t you?
Yeah, I’ve been watching them grow and grow over the last few years with their releases on the label. And what’s happened is that being with a label has helped them find their sound. Before we hooked up they were making different beats to fit different labels but with us they can do their own thing. They got focus, they got direction. When you’re selling to loads of labels you’re making tracks every day and you don’t know whether people will want the tracks. But when you’re with a label you have a reason, a purpose, a direction.
Signing exclusively is a new thing for you isn’t it? It’s a growing trend in drum & bass.
It is. Before now all we had was gentlemen’s agreements. Back in the day it was different but now you have to sign your artists and make sure they’re confident in you as much as you’re confident in them. It’s a whole new learning curve for me. I’m building up the team again; people who carry the sound of V into the future while building on the original V vibe. It’s beautiful, I haven’t felt like this for a long time.
Let’s go back to that original V time. Give me some crowning moments from the past…
Too many! Everything was so new and exciting; we were doing what we loved and put it out. Everything just grew and grew. I had no idea what would happen when discovered Roni. I had no idea how big things would get for Marky when I first saw him play in Brazil and thought ‘who the fuck is this guy? The UK needs to hear this man!’ Things just happen!
Movement too… That was a religious thing for a lot of people in London.
Mid week things was very important when the scene was developing. Not just Movement but also Swerve and Blue Note, too. Artists, DJs, promoters, managers, press could socialise and share ideas without the weekend’s usual commitments. Soul In Motion is one of the only place where that happens in London now. I think those gatherings are really important. More now than ever because of the internet – it’s all about meeting people face to face, that’s how the strongest connections are made.
We keep coming back to the personal touch. That’s important to you isn’t it?
Completely. The same with signing artists; I take my time with people. I want them to take time with me too. A couple of years ago we were releasing a lot of music from people around the world and it got chaotic so we’ve stripped back to our solid crew so we can invest more time in developing them and building our connection and understanding of each other. L Side and Alibi are two acts I’ve really felt that connection with recently. Alibi, in case people don’t know, is Level 2 and DJ Chap. Both great artists in their own right but the work together is phenomenal. Oh my god! The shit I’m sitting on right now is mental. Everyone will be talking about Alibi by the end of the year. They scare me with their quality. Serious ting!
How does that compare to when you first heard Roni and Krust?
Exactly the same feeling! It’s really similar; little camps of creative people competing and inspiring each other. It was like Roni would do a tune then boom; next week Die would send a tune that’s been inspired by it but takes it another level again. They’d all bounce off each other. Those little crews just purely having fun. That’s the best time to make music. All the best times in drum & bass have been about crews; Ram with the Trilogy stuff, Headz doing their thing, Virus doing their thing.
I think the internet took that crew mentality away for a while but we’re getting back to that again…
Definitely. It’s taken years but we are seeing more little pockets of people, little collectives. It’s what we’re doing now. From our own crew’s perspective Serum is another man who’s killing it. He’s just finishing off his work on the first compilation album we’ve ever dropped on Philly Blunt – it’s got him, Firefox, Bladerunner, L-Side, Critycal Dub, David Boomah, Voltage, Heist and more. It’s on a proper jungle vibe and is amazing.
Serum’s been smashing it for years…
Yeah but in the last year he’s taken it another level. He’s got it going on. He’s not the only one; we’ve got big projects from an American guy called MC T.R.A.C who’s a rapper but does proper D&B. He brings that true hip-hop vibe to jungle. It sounds like Biggie on D&B.
There’s definitely a growing interest in D&B in America again isn’t there?
There always has been but it’s been very underground. I remember the first time we all went over back in the mid 90s; Goldie had taken Headz on some tours, Roni did his first Full Cycle over there, we went over and held down a residency in Twilo, New York. It was an exciting time; drum & bass went through its first big explosion over there like it did over here with lots of major labels throwing money it at. But, like over here, the genre has its ups and downs. Dubstep really moved D&B into the backrooms over there but things are changing. The whole EDM thing has led to a renewed interest in the whole of electronic music and that means kids in America are picking up on drum & bass through that. It’s had it down, how it’s back on an up!
Drum & bass has experienced that whole up/down cycle so many times it’s impervious; those who love it and make it and play it just do what they do regardless…
That’s always been the way! There’s been chart hits and accusations of selling out for over 20 years now. You’re right; we do what we do, purists do what they do and the poppy guys do what they do and we all meet in the middle sometimes. Put it this way; I’d rather hear Sigma on the radio than some shit factory-manufactured pop song!
I’ve heard the future and it’s sick!
Amen. Back to V stuff, anything else we can expect in coming months?
Shit loads! We’ve got the Philly Blunt album I mentioned earlier dropping soon, expect lots of jungle flavours on that! We’ve got a new Liquid V Club Session in the works, and also I’ve been working with DJ Patife on the second instalment of our Viva Brazil album series, and over on Chronic a new Chronic Rollers collection is coming. Then on the artist front there’s Alibi and Paul T and Edward working on album projects as well as two other artists – but we’re keeping their identities under wraps for now! It’s a big year for us!
It feels like a new chapter…
Yeah it really is. I love my history but it’s time to show people a new face and a new sound. I love the old stuff and the legacy of men like Roni and Krust and Marky and Dillinja but I want the new people to get the support because I feel they can stand up in terms of quality and musicality.
I know this is big talk; I know those guys made V what it is but I’m putting my neck on the line – this is how much I believe what they have to offer. I’ve already heard the music… I’ve heard the future and it’s sick!