Mark McCann (ABIS), Jonathan Kievit (Signal) and Lars Dingemen hold the formula to DIVIDID. Each bringing their own addition to the table providing fresh minds, modern thinking and the brains of the industry to release the ultimate fresh music in Drum & Bass.
With DIVIDID recently hitting their first year mark, and with the stunning releases over the year, especially after their most recent EP success from Buunshin, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at what happens behind the curtains.
So whilst Lars was busy watching his son fight it out at a Kung Fu Tournament, we were fortunate enough to battle it out with Jonathan and Mark, better known as Signal and Abis.
From the roots, to the current day and the future, let’s find out just exactly how it goes down…
Take us back to the start. How did DIVIDID come about?
Mark: For me, it was kind of in the progression when I stopped with June Miller about 2 years ago. I was in a phase whether I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to continue with Drum & Bass, but I finally decided I would and that I would do progress as a solo. Jon lives 20 metres away from me. I’ve known him well for a long time, so I suggested we set up a label to give us an opportunity to help friends of ours and new artists and provide them with a platform. It took us quite a long time to put a solid plan together in terms of branding, what type of music we wanted to release and all the general label stuff…
Jonathan: Yeah, we just needed a label manager.
Mark: We didn’t want to be dealing with the label all day causing us to slightly disregard our music so we thought we should find someone that we trusted. Lars was already a really good friend of ours, and he already runs a really successful night in Amsterdam called Major League.
Jonathan: He is also one of the most experienced and important people at Triple Vision, which is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Drum & Bass distribution company.
Mark: Also, it helps us out at times. As artists, both myself and Jonathan can get over-excited at something. Lars comes in as our voice of reason, to stop us from going crazy with ideas, and also to kick our arses when we aren’t getting things done in time!
So, Lars is like the Dad of the group then?
Mark: Hahah! Oh yeah!
How do you all complement each other as a team?
Jonathan: I think, every time we meet, everything goes quite smoothly. Lars is calm whereas Mark and I can get very hyped and overeager from time to time. It’s good to have that third person who’s neutral in that sense.
Mark: We’re all very different people when it comes down to personalities. I’ve worked in teams before where sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes it does work. But for this, we balance each other out and we all come with different ideas, which is nice.
You mentioned about what type of music you wanted when you first launched as a label. What type of music was that?
Jonathan: Personally, I would release anything that I like and interests me. It doesn’t matter if it is neuro, techy, deep or whatever – as long as it interests me and speaks to me. I like to give the artists freedom, I don’t want to go to them saying “Change the hi-hat” or “rework this entire section”.
Mark: When I was in June Miller, this one time we signed a tune to a label and they asked us to change a lot of stuff – so we did. And to me, it didn’t feel like our style of tune anymore. When it came towards the end, they asked us to change a couple more things, and during the last week I happened to be very busy so I didn’t get it completed. So what I did was I just amended the title name, sent them the last version I did with only a couple of changes and they said “Oh great, that’s amazing!” when in fact there weren’t any changes to it.
Mark: It’s freedom basically. Plus I think Jon and I are too scared to even tell an artist what to do, haha. But in terms of the sound, we don’t exactly have any guidelines, it’s down to the artist really. We just wanted complete freedom within the label.
Beyond the music policy, take us through the theme, the artwork and everything else.
Jonathan: There is definitely a theme in the artwork! I’m not sure if I should say it and give it away, but there definitely is a theme that nobody has noticed.
Mark: Haha! There’s a funny story about that, both me and Jon were struggling to pick a name. Jonathan is actually really into maths, so one day he mentioned that the divided sign looks really cool and simple and reworded it to DIVIDID. We took the idea of this which we were really interested in to a designer from Russia, called Uno, who Jon had worked with before. He branded the entire concept for us. If you look at the logo, you’ll see three divide signs replacing the Is. But nobody’s ever come up to us and mentioned it. So both Jon and I are scratching our heads, did we over-complicate it?
Jonathan: That’s involving the logo though, there is also another thing with the artwork which I want people to guess.
Mark: We spend a lot of time putting secret messages in our artwork, and nobody has seemed to figure any of them out… YET!
That sounds so interesting! I’m going to have to figure it out for myself! So, you’ve been running DIVIDID for a year now, any reflections?
Mark: It’s been going quite well. As we’ve said, we made quite an extensive plan, probably way over the top of what we should have done. We saw a trend where a lot of labels kick off and release a lot of music, and it gets a bit saturated. Our plan was to do around four releases for the first year, see how it all works, get a plan, and get an idea of how everything works alongside it. Now that we’re confident with that process we can provide a lot more releases.
That’s all good! But, within the year what’s been your major “YAY” moments and also your secret “NAY” moments?
Jonathan: I think our yay moments come from when we release something on the label and it reaches Number 1 on Beatport, it shows that we’re doing a decent job at least.
Mark: My proudest moment so far is when Buunshin was on Number 1 on Beatport. It was his first release, and he’s also a really good friend of ours so we knew how much he was working on it.
Jonathan: When he finished his first tracks, about a year ago, I actually sent it to a label and they responded saying no, which I thought was pretty disappointing. But then I thought, why don’t we just take it? At the time I was pretty sceptical whether or not I should take it, I didn’t know what else he would be making. But when he showed me the other bits he had been working one, it made everything come together.
Mark: The thing with Buunshin was that he’s only been producing drum & bass for two years, so he’s still pretty new. He had these tunes and he didn’t know what to do with them. So we had a chat and said we would do everything possible we could do with him, sort of give him the platform he needs. It kind of seemed to flourish from that. It’s completely all credit to him for what he did. We really feel privileged to release music of people who want to work hard.
There’s some nice hype on Buunshin, what’s coming next for him?
Jonathan: All I can say is that he’s definitely not a one hit wonder!
Mark: We’re really good friends with Phace & Misanthrop from Neosignal, Camo & Krooked and the Noisia guys, so we always share music even if it’s from our own labels. We sent them the Buunshin tunes and they all jumped on it straight away. Phace invited Buunshin over to Germany to work on a collab. Also, Phace asked Buunshin to remix one of his tunes as well.
With Buunshin coming in and smashing the Top spot on the Beatport D&B Charts, you’ve sort of set a bit of a benchmark here for yourselves, how do you expect to follow that?
Mark: Jon and I are shitting ourselves. Hahah! It’s also a positive thing though, he’s made us up our game.
Jonathan: Well yes, he’s made me put in a lot more work and to be honest, I’m way more happy with the stuff that I’ve been making since. It’s a step above my previous productions in my opinion. He gave me some much-needed competition.
Word on the street is that you put in a lot of hard work with your cakes too Mark?
Mark: Haha, I do! I invited MISSIN over to do a collab, so he came to stay at my house for a few days. I thought before he came I wanted to bake him a cake as a classic welcoming gift. I was practicing this Japanese cheesecake recipe for a while. It’s kind of like a jiggling cheesecake, which I spent ages trying to make to perfection. It got to the point it was nearly spot on. So when he came over, I began making the cake which takes around 6-7 hours to cook at a really low temperature. It’s not like a cake you throw together and bang it in the oven, it’s a really long process which has to be perfect.
It is! I got the cake ready and timed it to be done for when he arrived. He arrived, made himself at home so I went to the kitchen got it out. As I was taking it through to the front room, I tripped over the rug and the cheesecake just went FLYING across the room. Djordje (MISSIN) was like ‘It’s cool bro! We can eat it from the floor!”. He grabbed a fork from my kitchen and started eating it, and complemented saying how good it tastes. That was a really cool ice breaker to our weekend, haha.
Amazing. Any other artist you’d love to make a cake for? Or maybe sign to DIVIDID?
Jonathan: Of course! Skrillex, Andy C, Diplo, Tiesto! Hahah
Mark: Hahaha, yes! Being honest, we’ve been getting loads of demos lately which is really good. But we always need to be realistic.
Jonathan: We just need to have something special that other labels can’t offer. Otherwise, why would an artist sign their music to our label?
Mark: Because why would they when they can get better somewhere else? It may sound rude, but it’s true, especially coming from an artist’s perspective. But, it’s been really fun for us to work with new upcoming artists at the moment, so we’re going to stick with that at the moment while releasing our own music. The label is also a great opportunity to release collabs with friends we know and other big names.
What can we be expecting from DIVIDID in terms of releases?
Mark: The next release is out now; two tunes from Synergy and Signal. After that, an EP by myself and Zombie Cats.
Jonathan: We also have lots of remixes coming as well! But when it comes down to releases, we put quality over quantity. We want to make sure everything we release is 100% and we want to give releases room to breathe.
Mark: Exactly, that’s a good point. To earn profit with a label, you’re forced into a position to have release after release to earn some type of income. It’s normally a week after the EP, the PR work stops and you start again with another release. I personally don’t feel that’s fair to artists as they spend months and years putting together music then it comes out and after one week everyone’s kind of forgotten about it. So it’s nice to have breaks in between for us to do our jobs and promote the artists, to catch up and to give the releases some space.
You guys seem very music and artist focused, rather than releases and money focused!
Mark: I think as technology advances, people find out things behind the scenes a lot more easily, and obviously people are becoming more knowledgeable regarding these things. So I feel like artists feel more appreciative when they know you’re happy to give them the time they need. When you’re giving them your time, they’ll give you their time. So I think that’s really important. Not to take advantage of people, or not to trick people as silly as that sounds.