Family values run through to the very core of Czech label Hoofbeats Music, having started out as a humble yet dedicated DJ crew putting on infamously lively events in Olomouc and beyond. Whilst names like Dimension, Alix Perez and Delta Heavy have all held down the fort at Hoofbeats events, the label – founded in 2016 by Qo, Computerartist and Joshu4 – takes a more streamlined approach to the roster, focusing on local talent plus the extended Hoofbeats family.
Released earlier this month, The Hoofbeats Music Family Album celebrates a five-year milestone with a carefully selected 13 track collection of diverse, rave-ready drum and bass music. It is a wide-ranging and, at points, twisted affair that encompasses everything from robotic neuro, mind-melting 4×4, as well as soul-soothing liquid and dancefloor explorations. The original crew is in full force with the likes of Qo, Modetech and Computerartist all bringing their flavours to the LP, whilst other familiar names from the drum and bass scene such as Changing Faces and Kutlo feel perfectly settled alongside them.
Upon chatting to label owner Petr (Qo), he reveals his passion for the sound that the label represents, one that takes its seat within the wider electronic music sounds and trends of Eastern Europe, and one that travels much further. Read our full chat with him below:
Could you tell me a bit about how Hoofbeats originally came to be?
Well, I was not a member of the crew from the very beginning, but I knew about them from maybe 2007/2008. It was just a crew putting on parties in my area which were some of the biggest and best at the time. I was then lucky enough that they asked me to join them, at the same time as Let It Roll did haha! I chose Hoofbeats in the end because I wanted to work on my music and my own brand, not join something big and established already. That was the motivation. The parties run by Hoofbeats at the time were already big, and from there we set up the label to release our own music, and the other guys continued with the parties and promotion stuff, plus the clothing and merchandise.
As you might have seen with the tracklist for the LP, the artists featured are part of the crew, and that’s the main idea behind it. In the beginning, maybe 15 years back, everybody had their own bubble whether that was neurofunk, jump up, liquid etc. When I got older, I realised that the mix of all of these sounds and sub genres is the best part of it. It’s great when you go to a party and at the beginning something softer is being played, and then it goes harder and harder through the night, even into the 4×4 stuff in the morning. I’m happy that this is our crew, and that all the producers represent this mix of styles. The bubbles have connected into one big bubble. We have lots of respect for each other as well. Even if some of them aren’t making the best sound design, they are working with samples and they are making really cool stuff music wise.
You mention about the progression of styles throughout a drum and bass party. Would you say this is true for the album when listening start to finish?
Partly yeah, but the tracklist is also mixed because I don’t want to have one half super hard and one half super soft. It’s just ordered in a way that we feel would be listenable in the car or wherever you’re listening to it. You’re partly right though, it almost acts like the line-up for the night.
A lot of the producers on the album are from Czechia and Slovakia, but over the years there have been more names from other countries on the label. Was always it intentional to open this up to a wider crowd?
It was definitely a natural progression. There was no intention, it just somehow happened.
Despite the restrictions, is the club something that is in the back of your mind when putting together a project like this?
Yep, for me personally drum and bass is mostly dance music. I definitely kept it in mind. The first track from me and Holotrope Get Loud for example… I’m not a super deep person, it simply means ‘get loud’. I just felt like I really missed the loud music in the clubs and festivals, and that’s the main idea behind that track! It was the first track from the album, and we said we should do something to celebrate loud music and drum and bass music.
Did you find this lack of nightlife difficult?
Of course! For the label however, there was no change at all. In fact, we had more time because we weren’t going out and playing gigs and parties so we could spend the weekends in the studio. For me personally, I have a family so I could spend more time with my son and wife. I didn’t really notice that the parties weren’t going on every week, I guess it wasn’t a big change.
Is there a certain international sound that you think Hoofbeats represents?
Yeah, I think that Czech Republic and the Eastern Bloc like Poland and Slovakia represents the harder sounds like neurofunk and tech-step. In the last weeks when I was at the parties, I noticed that a lot of people are playing almost hardcore stuff, like straight 4×4 kicks. People really love it. I was surprised because it wasn’t like that two or three years ago, so it’s definitely getting harder here in the Czech Republic. On the flip side, Changing Faces is making more dancefloor style music with lots of synths and vocals… same with Variants and Furious Freaks who are on the album. There are lots of people who like it this way, but in general the majority of people who go to the parties here in the Czech Republic want to release some steam over the night and party to really hard stuff.
Do you think this wider sound has influenced other areas of the world? Even here in England there’s definitely a big push for that 4×4 style at the moment!
Yeah, I definitely think it’s becoming more obvious that people like it. Let’s see how it goes!
How do you think the scene is right now in the Czech Republic?
Well at the moment the parties are running again, for example last week I was at the Beats For Love festival. The clubs are open as well, and for me personally it feels like nothing happened. After ten months, everyone came into the club smiling and doing their stuff, everybody is just having fun.
From an outside perspective, when people think of the Czech Republic and drum and bass they think of Let It Roll, maybe even Storm Club etc., but there is a strong underground scene by the sounds of it.
The Czech scene in general is huge, despite the country being small. We have around 10 million people that live here and maybe 3,000 cities or villages. However, every single weekend, if you want to go to a drum and bass party, you can be sure that you’ll find something ten to fifteen kilometres from your house. It’s mainly the local DJs, the underground as you said. There are so many crews, I couldn’t pick one at the moment if I had to. I’m super happy to have this kind of scene here.
Tell me a bit about the artwork for the album!
We didn’t really know how to how represent this ‘family’ album at first. We were thinking about photos and different ideas like that, but our graphic designer is really good with illustrations, so he came up with this idea to draw everyone from the crew. We have everyone drawn in different styles, so me as some kind of mafia guy, my friend Computerartist as Terminator, etc.
I love it, it portrays how everyone has brought their own individual style to one collective piece of art.
Yeah exactly. The funny thing was that Furious Freaks is actually made up of four guys, plus they also had Anna Vaverková on the vocals, so that would have been five heads on the album just for one song… these guys are new in the crew as well. Our graphic designer decided to make them into one ‘mummy’ style head with the FF initials on. So, they didn’t get the attention like everyone else haha, but it is obvious why!
So what’s next for Hoofbeats?
The next thing is an EP from Kutlo who is also featured on the album, I’m really looking forward to that. It’s four tracks and they will be split into singles before the full EP is released. He has really good ears and musically it’s great. It’s not generic neurofunk, it’s hard to describe but he’s really stepped his game up. I really appreciate that he’s not always doing the same thing. He has one track with vocalist Anna Vaverková who I mentioned earlier from the album – this track is going to be super big, I’m sure about that. Other than that, everyone from the album including myself has something coming out on the label. The schedule is full for the next 12 months or so, lots of stuff to be released!