When it comes to MC/vocalist link-ups in 2021, MC SAS, DRS, Fox and Patch Edison is certainly up there as one of the biggest.
This veritable vocal dream team link up on Black Mirror. Produced by Kusp, it foretells the fakeries and f*ckeries of social media as each vocalist weaves in and out of each other, laying their own unique stamp on the track. Fox’s skin-rippling croons, DRS’s dark drawls, Patch’s sweet soul finale and Liverpool’s MC SAS sparking up the track, setting the tone and flavour of a concept he and Kusp started over three years ago.
Following collaborations with the likes of Wingz and Sequential, Black Mirror is SAS’s biggest release date and part of a long journey that’s led him to the studio. More is expected to drop soon – on his own label Sleep Less and beyond – as he builds up a body of work that he’s spent over 20 years preparing for as a live MC both in the UK and in Austria where he’s been one of the most prominent MCs since some of the country’s earliest D&B nights. We tapped him up on social media to find out more.
Black Mirror… Tell us everything
I suppose the concept for me came through the anxieties that come about through social media and the difference in how restrictive it’s become. When I started it was MySpace and you had a lot more interaction with your audience and could build tours off it and everything. But then it went on to Facebook and became so restrictive. I started thinking, ‘How do I get this interaction? And do I really want it? What am I posting for anyway? Is it for the music or just for the likes?’ You can get a lot of likes for posting nothing that’s about music but when post your music, it gets nowhere. Then on top of that you have the added layer of feeling you have to have these numbers because that’s what brands and labels and agencies are looking for. This got me looking into the effect on people’s mental health that social media has and it’s grim. It’s a very toxic way of marketing yourself, especially because it feels like it’s the only way.
Totally. So you take the lead in the track vocally, how did you get the rest of the acts on it? Some big old names on this release. Please say you linked with them on social media!
Haha, yeah I think me and Kusp did link up online. I’ve been loving his music for years and got in touch with him about four years ago social media. I sent over a rough voice sketch and he sent me back this idea that sounded amazing. The way he’d treated my voice was unlike the way any other producer had done it before. So we started brainstorming and I knew DRS from a 1Xtra thing with Sappo and L Double. It was a bit of a northern showcase. So I knew Del from then and seen him around so thought I’d ask. He was down. Then with Fox I was a fan of him already of course but didn’t’ know him. Then I bumped into him in an airport in Austria so thought I’d ask him if he was up for it and he agreed there and then. It was piece after piece from there, getting things done when I could around my own life. Their lives. I was going to release it on Sleep Less but Patch suggested Overview who took it to the next level with the video and everything. I guess it took over three and a half years for it come together.
Best things are worth waiting for. Especially with so many moving parts.
Yeah and the work-rate of the guys is a testament to that. It was an honour for them to say yes. I’d done a lot of live things but not got in the studio as much as I should have. So when they said yes that gave me a bit more confidence to hit other people up to collaborate, which I’ll be picking up now Black Mirror is out.
Building a body of work! Take me to your first MCing moment… Or the moment you knew it was going to be a big part of your life.
The first time I realised it was what I wanted to do was a very long time ago. I was 14/15 and I’d go to Roast, Telepathy, One Nation. Any rave I could get to, I would. I even went to Blue Note a couple of times.
Going down from Liverpool?
Yeah we’d get the coach down and get it back first thing in the morning or stay over my dad’s. We were on a mission and those vibes and that feeling I’d get from those raves stays with me to this day. MC-wise the main inspiration was of course Stevie Hyper D. Watching him and meeting guys like Foxy and Nicky Blackmarket was the catalyst and was a massive inspiration as they took me under their wing. Then the first gig I did was in Liverpool, which was pretty much the emergence of the scene up here around 97 or something like that.
I’ve spoken to Futurebound about drum & bass in Liverpool. It’s a house and techno city isn’t it? D&B has hard to fight hard to be heard.
Yeah it’s never been a big sound up here but there’s always been something going on regularly. The first gig was weirdly enough with Kemistry and Storm at an Event called Bladerunners. I’d been going to see them play and hearing GQ over their sets. So to do that in my home town was crazy. Brendan’s always been fighting the cause. The first record I ever bought was off him in a record shop on Bold St in Liverpool. I was about 12 or 13. That’s how we met and we’d always see each other round after that. Years later he was doing his night called X which I’d come and play at and we worked together quite a bit then.
The first night I ever knew about that had D&B in Liverpool was Chibuku Shake Shake which had music from across the board from techno to jungle to hip-hop. We came up to a few of them!
That was a big night and I was resident with them for four years. You had lots of underground nights before then. You had Sophonic, X, Metropolis, Sleep Less Records and loads of others that paved the way for Chibuku who were originally just a house night. Powering the scene at that time was a website called nwdnb.co.uk which was a online community – long before the days of social media – where we’d all promote each other nights and it really got the scene going across Liverpool, Manchester and the north west. But I did enjoy the Chibuku nights. Thing was, though. Back then I wanted to be one of those guys to come and play and enjoy the vibe and get a bit of pocket change. Just being part of the rave was enough for me. I never got into the business side of things until a lot later on.
I guess when you started the label?
Yeah around 2011, 2012. That’s when I took it seriously.
What took you from vibesmith to more of an industry professional?
It was a track I recorded. It was called One Of Those Days. It was a kinda downtempo / trip hoppy type of track. I put it on Soundcloud and a local radio station BBC Merseyside put me forward for BBC Introducing in 2011. That was great. I went to Maida Vale and Abbey Road, did loads of workshops and learnt loads things about stuff I previously never cared about. It really opened my eyes and made realise how much time I’d lost. So I started getting in the studio, making tunes and the label took off from there. I was hearing so many good producers it would have been mad not to set up a label. Kumarachi was the first one. We actually met through BBC Introcucing.
Also Scartip, who you’ve supported since early…
Yeah man. That was a link through Kumarachi actually. He was on more of a neuro kinda vibe at the time and I was really into that sound at the time through playing at a lot of shows in Austria. I was onto his vibe and where he was going. I kept on releasing his stuff, knowing it was only a matter of time before other people picked up on him. Some of his techniques and ideas, I was like ‘Wow!’ And his early stuff was super dark wasn’t it? It had a film vibe to it and each track had a theme to it. He always stood out.
He really does. Now let’s talk about you as a producer. You do stuff as Talking Drums, right?
That’s right. I’ve only done a couple of releases just due to time it takes to learn. I don’t feel I’m fully there yet. There are steps still to go but that came about through sitting in the studio thinking, ‘Well I’ve got no one sending me tracks to spit on, if I want to put stuff out there and I got a label, I need to learn’. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve got a few collaborations coming up which I’m looking forward to revealing.
This is interesting because, as a label owner, you’re looking at things A&R-wise from both an MC and an artist perspective…
I suppose yeah. For me as an MC I’m looking for a vibe. From what you know or feel will work or what you like. A label has to be about personal taste because you’ve got to have passion about the music. But as an MC you’re not looking at arrangement and production details. I guess I’ve let people be more experimental because of that. Kumarachi has broken the mould too and Sicknote who’s gone on to do great things. So I’ve kinda proved to myself that when I go off my own personal taste, I’m on to something decent. That’s how I pick my artists.
How about you as an MC. I was listening to The Gluttony, the track you did with Sequential. It’s a heavy neuro track. Not too many MCs work over busy tracks like that. That’s a skill only a few MCs like Coppa can really smash. Props.
Nice one man. I think that’s down to my involvement in the Austrian scene. I’ve been rolling with the Morphed crew for a long time and that style is more popular over there. Hold tight Andy L, Mefjus and all the schnitzel mansdem! I’ve practiced live on stage there and worked out where I could fit in and where I need to let the music speak. I have to be strong in certain parts but then step back at others. It was proper schooling and it’s given me a wider scope in terms of writing and artists to collaborate with. I also do a lot with Mainframe, the first ever event with them was when Bad Company were touring and it was Mainframe’s debut event.
Oh wow. So you’ve been repping in Austria for a long time with some of country’s most longstanding D&B brands!
Yeah man. I’ve been MCing over there for almost as long as I’ve been MCing full stop. The first event I went to there was up in the hills. It was a guy called Hillmar. Hold tight the mans! He came to Liverpool about 22 years ago, we met and he invited me over. It was a semi folk / electronic music festival right up in the hills of Austria with sheep and lederhosen. It was quite surreal but when I was there I met this guy Andy who was the first promoter to book me and it spiralled from there. I had four residencies and was there every month for a good four or five years.
For a long time were you more well-known over there than over here!
I still am! I’ve MC’d to a few generations of D&B heads over there now. It’s different dynamics over there and a smaller scene with less history and because I was there for the inception of a lot of nights and brands, they all worked with me regularly and booked me more than I was being booked over here. I love it though, Austria’s one of the best countries in Europe for drum & bass now and I’ve watched that develop since the start.
Yeah big up Austria. What’s coming up?
I’ve been speaking to a few vocalists. I’m not naming names yet but I’m thinking of a bigger project at the moment. I’ll be working with Kusp again, we’re already lining something up. And there were a lot of people who I’d started to link with for collaborations a while back but life circumstances got in the way so hopefully I can follow them up and get some cool things together. I’m always looking for new collabs, new artists to sign and new things to release. Keeping busy, keeping up with the calendar.
Yeah. 10 years of Sleep Less coming up…
Yeah! We got a 10 year celebration in a few different locations next year, we’re going to do our first V/A in many years, we’ve got a new release from Scartip, then a release from Burntboi who’s an exciting new talent who’s got a really nice vibe and is super hungry. And then plenty more. Watch this space and thanks to everyone who’s supported Black Mirror, big up yourself and UKF and big up everyone who’s trusted me with their music. It’s been an honour and I still feel like I’m warming up.