Austria’s reputation for drum & bass is well established. We all know this. But delve deep into the country’s D&B history and you’ll find one particularly consistent force of energy: Mainframe.
Founded and run by Daniel Fürst Zoffel (the man we know best as Disaszt), Mainframe began as a party 16 years ago then developed as a label 10 years ago. Celebrating their 100th release earlier this year, the label has been responsible for early tracks from many now established acts over the years such as Camo & Krooked, The Prototypes, A.M.C, Fourward, Dossa & Locuzzed, Phentix and many more.
Now about to launch a new label residency concept with a growing family of next-gen talent, including the likes of Dubape, Akov, TR Tactics, Phentix, Alibi and many more, there’s a feeling Mainframe have regrouped, revised their strategy and have a whole new next level game plan. We called up Disaszt to find out more…
Take us back to the first Mainframe event…
The very first one was in July 2002. We had only national and local DJs and the headliner was Dkay. I continued with local artists for a year. Then in 2003 I had the first international booking which was Technique with Simon Bassline Smith and his crew. Then we switched to a new venue Arena, which is the venue we are still at now. Our first international act there was Shimon from Ram Records.
You’ve had a strong connection with Shimon and Audioporn for years. I guess it goes back to that booking?
Yeah we have a very similar taste and love for drum & bass and we became brothers over the years. I had my own nightclub from 2006 to 2009, which was also the time I started working with Camo. We chatted all the time about what we wanted to do and what sound we wanted to develop. Around that time I would come over to London for a week every month and make beats. Audioporn was already up by then and Camo & Krooked did a few tunes with both our labels. We did lots of tracks together and our sounds complement each other. I was more neurofunk, he was more on the melodic side but it worked.
Tell us about your club owning days. Stressful job, right?
It was called The Zoo and yes it was pretty stressful. We ran it for three years and had 10 to 15 employees at any one time. Around that time Camo & Krooked came together so we were travelling around the world a lot. We were running the venue, doing the bookings and doing our Mainframe events once a month at Arena. I slept about three hours a day maximum and the phone rang constantly. I was also married at that time so it was a lot of pressure and was a massive pain in the ass. We built the club with our own hands, we developed our own soundsystem and took real care of it. We had lots of different nights from the country’s first dubstep events and bookings like Boy Better Know.
And during all this at some point you felt you had time to launch a label!?
Yes we had to. Camo had such a strong output and such an influence on me we decided to launch a label. I had a few tracks of my own, too. We wanted to make an Austrian mark on drum & bass. But yeah we just didn’t stop. My feelings at the time were that I could sleep when I’m dead. But now I know this isn’t the way. You need rest when you get older and I need to be careful with time management.
How did the club close down?
It was not our decision, I have to say. The owners sold the last two floors in the building and we were told we needed our own lawyer so we stopped it before they signed the contract to the other people buying the other floors. The last night was May 2009. I tried one more but it wasn’t going to happening… In Austria, when you do an event you have to tell the police you’re doing one. I told the police and they told me they’d revoked the licence and they had more than 100 indictments that basically said if I wanted to run an event there I had to pay 100,000 Euro. I had to show them every paper to show they’d closed the club before they started to write letters. I couldn’t do any events at that time which was a shame.
Then you focused on the label, right? Looking back over the label history there’s a lot of now very well established acts who enjoyed their early releases with you. Also a strong balance of local and international acts. That’s important for you isn’t it?
If you don’t have your own acts how can people relate to your events? It’s good to have international acts but you need to grow your own scene. We don’t have an industry like you do in the UK so we kept things local and developed the producer scene here. It worked out well; we’ve got Mefjus, especially Camo & Krooked of course, Dossa & Locuzzed are popping up right now. Phentix, Fourward. So many people have blown up. We’re keeping this tradition and in September I’m launching a new residency to give more local people a platform with Dossa & Locuzzed, Phentix, Akov, who I’m also managing, and a few more guys. I want to give producers another platform here and for us all to help and inspire and push each other and develop our sound.
Seems like you’ve got a super tight crew right now…
Yeah back in the day there weren’t many of us producing, the rest were local DJs. It’s taken its time to develop. And it’s also taken time for me to work out how to develop the sound of the label. It’s good to have DJs but when you have a label night you want to have people who are making the sound. Like Dubape, for example. He’s killing it now, he’s moved over from dubstep and has his own sound. But on the other side there are also many producers popping up and expecting to release a track once they have only finished one track. I keep telling people they need to finish 100 tracks before they’re ready to show a label their work. They think 1000 hits on Soundclud will make them big but they need to work on their sounds.
Slow and steady wins the race every time….
It really does. But it’s not easy saying ‘mate you’ve done three tracks in your lifetime maybe you should add another 97 to that then call me?’
Mainframe is proof that technique works; 10 years of the label, 16 years of the brand. Can you pin point moments where you thought ‘okay we’re in this for the long haul?’
I’ve never had that feeling! Now we have a good pool of producers but at some point it feels like at the moment Mainframe is a step up towards bigger labels. It’s hard for me to hold onto people when they get big.
Step up labels are the most important! They start of careers and tastemake make new talent and sounds…
Yeah totally and I do understand that. Artists need to develop and they move on. But the dream is for Mainframe to be that label who people want to come and do that with. We had the opportunity to do that when Camo & Krooked’s first album came out. We were one of the top three labels in terms of sales around that time. That was 2010; Camo & Krooked did an album, Body & Soul did an album and things were popping. We thought ‘okay let’s do an agency, we don’t need the UK, they’re coming to us.’ Grooverider was championing our sound and calling it euro drum & bass and we had our own thing. We hosted a stage at a festival called Beat Patrol and all the big labels came over and suddenly a lot of guys here were being signed. That was frustrating.
Yeah I bet.
I’m never going to stop artists moving up. Krooked especially had a dream to be on Hospital and who am I to stop him? We only had handshake deals and I wanted to see everyone develop as much as possible anyway.
And during all this you’re developing as an artist, too.
Yeah I try to! I did my first album in 2011, Shadow & Lightning. It took a long time and at one point it was 40 tracks long. 20 mellow tunes, 20 dark tunes. Everyone said 40 tracks were too messy and I should cut it down. I’m glad I did. Around this I also also released one of my favourite EPs on the label; the Outcast EP. It had Fred V & Grafix, The Prototypes, Heist & Haddow, BTK and Resound. It still look back fondly over that EP, the artists we had on it and how it sounded.
There’s definitely been a consistency and development of the Mainframe sound, would you agree?
To begin with Camo & Krooked were the sound. When they left there was a bit of a hole but Fourward jumped in the took the lead. Then High Maintenance, Task Horizon, A.M.C… It was always hard for me to say what the Mainframe sound was. Right now I try not to give artists any influence on a sound and just want to emphasise how it’s all about the vibe. If it has a vibe, is solid and a good mixdown then we will release it. I’m always trying to find new sounds as well like Kutlo who is doing exciting things right now. I don’t’ want to tread over all old ground and repeat the sounds we’ve done before. That also reflects me as an artist; it depends on the mood and I often switch from dancefloor vibe to the more liquid tunes. For me it’s all drum & bass at the end. I hate feeling trapped to a pigeonhole as an artist or a label.
You’ve shown that more this year than previous years with your own personal productions. You’ve been busy…
I started three years ago to go back into the studio again and always thought ‘should I develop my own sound? Or should I sound or what I like an I’m feeling at the time?’ I can’t stick to a certain kind of sound; that bores me so that’s why I sound so diverse. When I’m angry, I’ll do a neuro thing. When I’m happy I do a liquid thing.
So what’s next?
Kutlo’s single is out now. Then in August we have the remix EP of TR Tactics with Disphonia, Sub Zero, Dubape and Zombie Cats. Mainframe 103 will be a liquid thing with myself and Phentix then after that there will be a Dorian and Score release and then a new Dubape EP. That’s up to October. The rest is written in the stars….
Sounds like you’re writing a new Mainframe chapter
Yes definitely. We are always changing and adapting. Never change a running system but you have to do an update sometimes, right?