What a year it’s been for Flux Pavilion and Doctor P’s Circus imprint. Booting down the doors of 2016 way back in January with their annual Circus Reloaded series and wrapping it up with the recent punch-packing 30-piece Circus 3 album, the label has consistently dented the bass coal face month on month with old names and fresh faces alike.
With sounds ranging from bulbous boogie of Dr Meaker to the beastmode bass of Cookie Monsta via unique melting pots of newcomers Cyran, Standard&Push and Frankie Nuts, it’s been a pivotal year for the label sonically. Still rooted in rasping low-end and halftime swagger keynotes, there’s a tangible energy and refreshed free-for-all attitude between the artists. No idea too far out, no fusion too weird; Circus’s output reflects bass music’s currently healthy status when in the right hands… And done, as we learn from the proceeding interview, with the right no-fucks-given mindset.
We caught Doctor P and Flux Pavilion just days after Circus 3 – an album over two years in the making – hit the stores. They were in a reflective, philosophical mood. Read on to learn how the earliest Circus releases came about, what it takes to release on the label and why not caring is the new sharing…
You’re both together in a studio. Surely this means more collabo business?
Doctor P: Not right now, but we have talked about it. Even though we’re closely associated we haven’t done that much together!
Flux Pavilion: Air Raid was the first, I think. It was written in a few hours. I’d done a remix of one of Shaun’s drum & bass tracks and we really wanted to release it but we couldn’t have a remix as the A-side so we had to make another track which was Air Raid.
Doctor P: It was the first dubstep track I’d ever made. I didn’t even know what dubstep was at that point. Not sure I do now!
History! This is where Circus began…
Flux Pavilion: It was the same with Superbad. I made Jump Back with SKisM and we needed a b-side so I called Shaun and asked him about this weird funky track we’d been working on one time when we missed a flight to Australia. We forgot about it then dusted it off and it ended up getting signed by a major and getting Radio1 play. When I met Liam Howlett I asked if he knew any of us our stuff the first track he mentioned was Superbad and how he plays it in the car. Still unbelievable!
The best stuff can come about through tight time pressure though can’t it? You don’t have time to overthink things…
Flux Pavilion: No I disagree. I think the best stuff is when you just don’t care about the outcome or expectations. With Superbad we had time to kill. We had no main plan, we were just messing around in the studio until our next flight.
Doctor P: It ended up being one of our biggest tracks at the time.
Flux Pavilion: It’s kind of why we’re doing the two track releases. Having the main A-side you want to push then having a track with no pressure for the B-side. It can be as experimental or as far out as you like. That’s what b-sides are for. I Can’t Stop was a C-side. I had no idea if it was going to connect with people but we threw it on the Circus One album. So yeah, doing things with no pressure is one of the most important things an artist can have in music.
I stand corrected. I’ve interviewed you both over the years and the whole ‘zero fucks’ vibe has been strong in all chats. Have you held on to that spirit?
Flux Pavilion: I do care about certain things – like if my music will connect with people. But what I don’t give a fuck about is the stuff you’re told to give a fuck about. You’re told you’re meant to be getting radio play, be on all the hot blogs and all the cool kids need to be into you. These are things you’re told you should be or do, in order to be a success. Every now and again you get whisked away by it all but then you remember why it was you got into it and get back on track.
Doctor P: Everyone goes through it. Some never figure it out but the best come out the other side as better artists.
Who tells you this is what you need? Like management or publicists?
Flux Pavilion: It’s just the way things are. Like you’re expected in life to get married, have kids, have a house and a car. You’re meant to have all these things to be a normal, functioning member of society. These rules of normality are in place in every sector and those are the expectations of the music industry. In defence of management, a lot of these guys aren’t creative in a music writing sense but they’re creative in a different way with different skills. Good managers, like ours, will identify things happening in the future, they’ll see the wider picture and know where to position you.
That’s something that artists aren’t particularly good at. Of course there are people who don’t have that scope. They’ll see a success and consider it a model for their own artist. So the zero-fuck attitude isn’t just me or Shaun (Doctor P) – it’s the team, our management and everyone else involved. They don’t give a fuck about what everyone else in the industry is doing because we’re all doing our thing.
Doctor P: It’s a philosophy really. Having a good idea of what you want to do is all part of that. If you have an aim then you don’t flip flop around between lots of different things and get nothing done. I forgot that for a while.
At what point in your music is it most evident that you were in that place?
Doctor P: The point I didn’t write any music. It was never evident because all those tracks I wrote during those times I didn’t put out. So around two or three years ago when I didn’t release much because I didn’t know what I wanted to sound like.
Flux Pavilion: We came from a background where there was no scene. We weren’t friends with promoters or in with anyone big. We just made music we liked making whether people listened or not. That’s the golden period and mindset you want in the studio: when it didn’t matter what you wrote so you might as well write what you like. It’s about remembering to forget.
Doctor P: At one point in every artist’s life it goes from being a hobby to a job. And from that point you do have to think about things differently because you make a living from it. You have to learn not to give a fuck.
How do you do that when your income relies on this?
Flux Pavilion: One way I’ve found is by banning Flux Pavilion from the studio. When I’m in the studio I’m Josh, a person writing music. When I walk out the door I can start thinking about more business-like ideas. There are two very different roles any artist plays and it helps to separate the two.
Is this something you pass on to the new artists you’re bringing onto the label?
Doctor P: I try not to talk too much like that to artists. Whenever I have done it’s confused them!
Flux Pavilion: I’m the opposite. I ramble on and on to people and get really deep. When I’m chatting to artists this type of shit is on my mind so I talk about it – but not like imparting wisdom or any shit like that, it’s just chatting about creative stuff and sharing ideas. Everyone is wise in their own way. There’s never any hierarchy. The whole idea is try and help people on their paths to being bigger than us.
What’s in your own path now Circus 3 is out there?
Doctor P: Circus 3 is still in the middle of our path. It’s been a huge project and we’ll spend a long time making sure we’ve done that justice. It’s been our lives! It’s been the whole team’s lives for ages. We’re lucky to have a team who can do that side of it actually…
There was a time when you guys were doing all the label management stuff, right?
Doctor P: It was us two, Swan-E and Earl Falconer. Josh would send stuff to other DJs and do marketing, I’d do the artwork, Swan-E would talk to distributors. It all takes so much time and thought and energy to do all that.
Flux Pavilion: It’s like we’re an actual label now. We always were a label ethos and attitude-wise but now it’s a proper company but we’ve still retained the spirit we started this on. The albums are like beacons on our path. This is a snapshot that collates all the madness and ideas into one place.
Doctor P: It’s a summary bringing everyone up to speed with additional fresh stuff from new artists.
Flux Pavilion: Or like closing a chapter but hinting at the future. It happened with Circus 2 – we spent three years on it, released it and said ‘right, let’s write loads of music for Circus 3 and make sure it’s as good’.
Let’s talk about the new talent on the label…
Doctor P: One guy we’ve been talking about a lot lately is Franky Nuts.
Flux Pavilion: I’ve been playing his stuff for a while since SKisM passed some on to me.
Doctor P: It’s refreshing and rare to have an artist who just sends over track after track and you love them all.
Boa was a real highlight for me this year… A real curveball track.
Doctor P: Totally. People often ask me what it takes to be on the label and I think they expect us to say we want the sickest basslines in the world and all the punchy drums but we come at them with some abstract shit like it’s got to have soul or it’s got to be honest.
Flux P: Even if it’s only got one note in it and it’s really aggressive, you can still hear the soul. You can still hear if the artists really wants the track to exist.
Doctor P: You definitely get that with Standard&Push’s tracks. They’re ridiculously creative, which is what we want from a label perspective… People with their own ideas and sounds.
You don’t want another Funtcase or Cookie Monsta…
Flux Pavilion: Exactly. It’s like when someone tries too hard to impress – you can hear that. It’s an instant turn off. We want the guys who would be making music anyway without any hype, any internet, any social media, any bullshit… The music is there in their heads waiting to come out.
Great way to end the interview. Just one more thing: When the f**k are Outrun going to release more music?!
Doctor P: I ask this question every day!
Flux Pavilion: They’re very close friends of mine since before all this. They make this incredible music, get a whole bunch of it together then have this discovery which makes them scrap everything and write a whole new load of things. But they’ve got a new track on Circus 3 and more will come, we promise. They’re in a really good space now actually and a lot of that is because they’ve gone through the very process we’ve talked about in this interview. So when you haven’t heard from your favourite artists for a while that’s usually good thing – they’ve remembered not to give a fuck and are working on something you’re going to want to hear.
Circus 3 is out now: Support