If you have a penchant for the darker, starker rollers or enjoy a fine glass of intoxicating halftime, then you will already be well acquainted with London-based underground imprint Flexout Audio.
Home to early/debut cuts from the likes of Philth, Ed.It, Hyroglifics, Arkaik, Mystic State, Taelimb and many more, Flexout is basically your favourite label’s favourite label… A place where new talent is nurtured, encouraged, supported… Then consequently signed by the bigger boys.
Or not, as the case may be these days.
At almost six years old with a developed sound and signature, and a clear track record of identifying new talent right at the start of their journey, Flexout is teetering on the precipice of being one of the bigger boys themselves.
Their releases this year so far alone are proof: the Noisia-endorsed Bloodclart Jungle Techno by Taelimb, breath-taking mystic steppers from ex-Need For Mirrors man HLZ and the obese g-funk from Balatron are just a few. There’s also the new sub-label series Onyx, for brand new talent, and the not-so-small matter of Fearful’s epic Collective Conscience EP, a release that comprises some of the labels nearest and dearest including Hyroglifics, Amoss and Arkaik,
The label – headed up by Tom Bassi (pictured) – also has a strong party presence. With Flexout takeovers popping up around Europe at a similar proliferation to Flexout releases, the label is in a really healthy position and has a good five year lead on the many new labels we’re seeing emerge lately.
But things could have been incredibly different for the label. Founded in commemoration of late friend whose wish was to run a label, and even suffering a murder investigation at their first event, Flexout have risen to some serious challenges.
Here’s their story…
Flexout: Almost six years deep and counting…
Yeah! We’ve had some crazy ups and downs along the way. It actually started nine years ago at Lincoln university. There was no drum & bass scene there whatsoever so I managed to blag a £5000 loan from the University to start my own business: Flexout club nights in the universities student union. Unfortunately it didn’t go exactly to plan. A guy came along who had taken drugs, he started kicking off and the bouncers restrained him… But while they did he had a heart attack and died. There was a murder investigation and everything.
Yeah. Not the best way to start. It was a sold out event, too, which was special to me because Lincoln really isn’t known for its underground drum & bass. It got worse – all the students boycotted the venue because they decided the bouncers were murderers. I’d invested all the rest of the money in booking the next night and hardly anyone came. That was my introduction into putting on events.
Probably best to learn promotion the hard way?
I guess so. And then my mate who I set up the night with died and that put everything in perspective for a bit.
That was DJ Apocalypse, right?
Yeah, John. My best mate. He had a heart condition that no one knew about. We were walking up a hill one afternoon and he said he had pains, the next day I get a phone call saying he’d died in his sleep. John’s dream was to start up a label for our mates so I set up Flexout with his DJ partner (Kronic) in his honour. He’d have been the boss but him leaving spurred us on. It’s been an obsession ever since and now we’re developing a core group of guys who release on the label.
You’ve had a lot of people pass through the Flexout doors over the years
Yeah we’ve signed music we love from anyone and it’s great when they go on to do even bigger things, which many of them have. But I feel we’re at a stage where people know we’re treating them well and developing and want to stay so we’ve got more of a crew like the larger labels do.
There are historic labels who excel in debuting artists. SS’s Formation always springs to mind.
Only time will tell if we reach that level of influence or age! But yeah we’ve had Philth’s earliest tracks, he’s been the most regular artist on the label and he’s now doing great things with Dispatch. We had early stuff from Ed:It who’s killing it on Shogun, Hyroglifics who is smashing it on Critical now. Those guys were behind some of our earliest releases, and it’s amazing that we played a role in their careers.
There’s a lot of great new labels popping up right now, too. The game is changing once again
I think it’s really interesting to see established guys like SpectraSoul and Alix Perez setting up labels. Why wouldn’t they? They’ve got an audience and the tools to run a label are all out there. What can a label do that they can’t do for themselves? But more independent labels like us, like all these new ones popping up, the healthier the scene is and the more opportunities there are few new artists.
Represent the new Flexout family…
A couple of guys from Switzerland called QBIG & Zenith B, they’re great guys who will be doing a lot more with us. There’s a couple of guys from Berlin called Survey. Bredren, a trio from Belgium, are working closely with us. Arkaik is killing it, Monty, PRTCL, Amoss, Taelimb & Conscience. These are the guys who are our core and you’ll most likely see when we do our Flexout takeovers.
I’ve started a new series called Onyx which will feature music that’s not from the core artists but new artists we want to work with and support. Doing this helps us highlight and value our core artists more so than continuing to release everything on the main label.
Fearful’s EP brought a lot of the core guys together recently didn’t it?
Yeah we all used to live together – Amoss, Fearful and myself. Arkaik would come over regularly and hop on tunes before he moved to China. So they all got on that lead track Collective Conscience and ended up using samples of an elk. It’s a mental track that’s been killing it for us for a while. It’s been a long time in the make, the whole EP is special because it’s got so many of us all together on the label, with Hyroglifics returning and things like that. It’s got the community or family feel but it’s also really consolidating the sound of the label. I didn’t know I was chasing a particular sound when we started but looking back there’s a thread that runs through many of our releases which is basically stipped back, understated rollers.
There’s some serious halftime in that thread these days too…
Yeah that’s definitely in our make up. I’ve set up the Waves series to celebrate and represent that sound. That’s what I love about drum & bass full stop – everyone is always looking for a new groove and how to progress and develop things and we’ve ended up in a cool situation in the genre where there is literally drum & bass for every occasion. I think while people are constantly experimenting and labels are able to keep people on their toes and are confident enough to take risks then that will continue. That’s really important. But at the end of the day it’s about releasing music you believe in and not being afraid to release music that people might not get straight away.
It’s easy to say but harder to do and it’s getting harder. For almost six years I’ve never felt any pressure before. Now because we’re establishing ourselves and we’re getting more interaction from fans and there are more people at our shows. I think about the next releases so much more carefully now because I can see there are actually people listening and playing and getting into what we do and I don’t want to let them down.
How do you think John would feel if he could see Flexout now?
I think about that a lot. I think he’d be quite impressed and gutted he’s not involved. He was a massive character and would have had a huge influence on Flexout. I hope he’d be proud of us.