Growing up with parents in the travelling and free party scene Born On Road co-founder Kelvin 373 really was born on road. Years later he now has thousands of loyal listeners every month and appears on line-ups all across the U.K. and Europe, proving that love and dedication to the music can take you anywhere.
Kelvin burst his way on to the scene as not only an exciting DJ and producer, but the co-owner of popular label Born on Road, which specialises in scouting the best emerging young talent in drum and bass.
A proud junglist through and through, Born On Road reflects Kelvin’s energy and faith in the new generation. Over the last seven years the label he runs with friend and co-owner Aries has created high levels of hype with an ever-growing repotoire of jungle and rollers breaking new artists such as AC13, Gray and Ben Snow.
Ahead of the release of his and Selecta J-Man’s dub pack we got chatting to Kelvin to find out more about his inspiring journey in drum and bass, and what’s next for both him and Born On Road.
How have you been over the last few months in lockdown?
Yeah…it’s been a long one haha! My lockdown has been a mixture of emotions to be honest, but the best thing by far is getting so much time to spend with my family. I am normally on the road Thursday to Sunday every week plus studio time, so I wasn’t getting much time at home. It’s been great to get the balance back a bit.
That’s good! There’s always a positive to every negative. So, how did you get in to drum and bass?
Both of my parents were involved in the travelling / free party scene so I grew up attending lots of festivals and free parties throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, so I was always hearing a melting pot of rave sounds; from acid house and hardcore through to ragga, jungle and D&B. There were always loads of rave tapes and stacks of reggae records around my house, so I had access to the music from when I was young.
I attended my first club night in 2002, Legends Of The Dark Black in Plymouth – I think it was Bad Company, Dillinja, Die and Brockie on the bill and I remember leaving the rave just totally encapsulated by the sound and the vibe. That was when the passion really started for me.
Sounds like a pretty cool childhood – I’m not surprised you’ve ended up with a career in music! What has happened up until now to get you to where you are?
Lots and lots of hard work. I guess I came through as a DJ, so it’s been a different journey for me. I originally cut my teeth in the underground by playing free parties and festivals across the UK and Europe. I lived in Spain for a while and started building a name for myself. That’s where I made the transition from the rave to the club circuit. From there I got involved promoting a monthly dubstep and D&B event in Granada in the south of Spain and was playing my part in pushing that sound over there. We were bringing over so many huge acts for the first time and it gave me the opportunity to get a real insight into the scene.
I moved back to Bristol in 2010 and really worked on pushing myself to the UK scene; just taking any bookings I could, playing for free or for whatever was available. This time was just about working hard on my skills as a DJ until people started to notice me and eventually pay me for my craft. I linked up with Aries and Stivs and started working on production and learning to make tunes. It was really from there that the idea of starting a record label came together, so in 2013 we formed Born On Road. Seven years later here we are! It’s been a great journey that has involved loads of amazing people, and I have had lots of support and guidance from everyone around me. I feel very lucky to be where I am now.
With such a musically and culturally varied journey, how would you now explain your style/vision to someone who hasn’t heard of you before?
I’m a junglist!
It’s as simple as that! Jungle clearly plays a huge part in your music, but also your projects with other artists. What are your thoughts on the surge, in recent years, of darker roller/jungle style tunes?
I mean, the sound has always been popular, way back from early Dread days, but I guess it has been at the forefront in recent months. There is a huge number of producers, young and old, backing the sound which is giving it life. I have a feeling we will be hearing this dark jungle roller style for many more years to come.
I can believe that. Born On Road encapsulates this sound and a lot of the fresh and exciting artists carrying it – so how did the label form?
It was originally formed by myself and Aries in 2013, when we were looking for labels to release our tunes on and decided to start our own label! We had a meeting with Cygnus Music and it all kind of went from there. We have always been inspired by Jungle music and, more specifically Ragga-Jungle, so our sound has always been heavily influenced by that as well as the vocal element. But the main ethos behind the label is just to release good music. It doesn’t matter what sub-genre or style it is.
And how did you come up with the name Born On Road?
It was an accident actually! I think one of us suggested it to a promoter for our first show and before we knew it, it was on the flyer and printed. The actual logic behind the name though is because we are always on road.
With how well received the label has been, is it right to assume that you did not expect the things to take off as they have?
To be honest, we started with just the idea of having a home for our own music and for a few close friends around us that were making the jungle sound at the time, but the aspiration to grow it into a household name has always been there, deep down. It has been great to see the progression over the years and there is still so far to go with it. We have a lot more planned and tonnes of ideas of how we want to grow the label, ourselves and the artists we work with.
Speaking of the artists, what’s your trick to finding new talent? Is there a list of criteria or is it just that gut feeling?
The scene is super strong right now! Proven by the amount of amazing new producers out there currently; so we go through a lot of demos and have to be really picky as the levels are really high. The main criteria for us? Good music and good vibes.
Good vibes are definitely something we have been missing in recent months – how has the lockdown affected the way you are working with the label and/or recruiting new talent in the absence of raves?
It is definitely weird not hearing the music through big stacks of speakers – you always know you’ve got a banger when you get a good crowd reaction – but I don’t think any of that changes whether you like a tune or whether it’s good or not. Really, the main way people consume music is through the internet via streaming so, in terms of the label and our releases, everything is full steam ahead for us now. It’s been all hands on deck to get our releases scheduled and on road for the rest of the year.
On a more personal level, have you managed to keep the creative juices flowing?
It has been hard to find motivation at times. I have used the time to listen to music and discover lots of new artists from other genres that I might not have had time to listen to before – that’s been something I’ve really enjoyed and has helped my ‘creative juices’ to flow. I have also recently had the chance to link up with the lads and spend more time in the studio! I’m definitely coming out of this with a stack of new material.
Nice – we all look forward to hearing it. I’m sure streaming and social media have helped the scene in many ways, especially in recent times. How have you found moving your sets online with live streams?
Yeah. Social media has been a big help throughout my career – now more than ever. Being able to live stream and engage with the ravers has been a big help in getting me through the last few months. Every set has been emotional haha! I have to big up and say thank you to everyone that’s locked into any of the sets I’ve done. We also hosted an online festival for the first time which is definitely something we wouldn’t have done under normal circumstances. It was a great experience and really nice to bring the crew together online to showcase the depth of the label’s artists and affiliates. We also managed to raise donations for some fantastic causes as well.
Your online activities have not gone unnoticed! It’s great to use the music for good in times of need. Do you think that the lockdown might actually help the scene in some ways, like a fresh start?
Sure, there has to be some positives from all this! Maybe not a fresh start, but certainly I think there will be lots of great new music about and, when we eventually get back to the rave, everyone is going to be buzzing for those first few dances! Imagine the atmosphere!
Just picturing it is goosebump material! It’s hard to know what to do in such difficult times, but what do you think we can all do to support promoters and others in the scene to bring back the raves better than ever?
I think we were in such a strong place as a scene before this happened; I am very worried about how the core of our scene (the promoters and artists) will have been coping both financially and mentally over this period. I think one thing this has taught us all is to take nothing for granted and now more than ever we need to show support for our scene. It’s hard to know what to do, but shopping locally is a good way of helping in the short term, buying merchandise from your favourite brands/labels/events, and purchasing tickets for events and festivals in 2021.
This is definitely a time for unity. Let’s hope that we can all make 2021 a better year! What’s next from you personally and the label?
So personally, I have a few things lined up. I am working on an EP for the label with Selecta J-Man. I also have a few collabs in the bag with L-Side; hopefully, we’ll be doing something with them. Aries and I have been working on a few remixes due to come out on a couple of my favourite labels, which is exciting!
Label wise, we’ve just lined up the next six months of releases and you can expect some great new music from DJ Gaw, Selecta J-Man, DJ Hybrid, Alcemist, Zoro, AC13, Crossy and Ben Snow, plus many more. We have also been working on some full vocal EPs with A Little Sound and Carasel. Keep your eyes peeled!