WORDS

Music Squad: The rise of bass music’s largest new-generation collective

Many hands make light work. Talent wins the game, teamwork wins the championship. One person can’t whistle a symphony, it takes a whole orchestra. You get the picture… There’s been a welcome return to collective mindsets in bass music recently and the scene is a healthier place for it.

Recently we spoke to the freshly launched Rotations collective in Bristol, we’ve also touched based with the KCDC crew, now our focus is on Music Squad, a 20-strong collective comprising a whole battalion of new-gen firestarters. Hailing from South London to South Africa and sonically ranging from beats to D&B, the roll call is as follows…

Aenak, Buunshin, Canopy, Chee, Clockvice, Corrupted, Dayle, DMR, EiZO, Ekcle, Enkk, Euph, Ewol, Grey Code, GROUND, Muju, Nosfer, Ordure, Signal, Skylark, Tidewarp, Think Twice, Vorso, Wingz.

Reading like a who’s who in new bass artists-to-watch, the collective first took root on the NeuroHopForum, a once thriving community celebrating and exploring the unique style of production that was emerging at the time from the likes of Koan Sound, Opiuo, Joe Ford, Kursa and Culprate (to name a few) When the forum sadly shut down in 2015 many of the group’s community remained in touch through a messenger group of 50 members.

“The chat was, in all honesty, mainly used for memes,” laughs Jelle, one half of Ordure. “Every now and then people would post their music and receive feedback, share production tips and tricks, samples or repost each other’s music. Some people quit music production and left, others were added to the group later on. Back then barely anyone had released music on a label. Right now they are releasing on Metalheadz, Critical, Division, Invisible, UKF, Blackout, Inspected, Dispatch, Methlab, Flexout and many more.”

Becoming more and more focused as each member progressed to bigger things, the tightly knit group we know Music Squad today is now firmly established. Not just as a collective of fast-rising individuals but also as a label; since launching in April 2018 the Music Squad label has dropped two hefty V/A EPs and on June 21 they’ll drop their third dispatch. Their most explorative release to date, it’s the first Music Squad EP to delve into different tempos and show the collective on an even broader vista.

It lands just days after their first label night, too. June 15 in PIP Den Haag, hosted by Dutch promoters Bassment, it’s another level up for Music Squad… And will be the first time some of them meet each other in real life.

All actively pushing and supporting one another, providing feedback and helping each other get their tracks over the line in the best way they can, the sense of community and collectiveness is evident in all Squad operations: they all vote democratically to decide whose tracks will be included on each EP and even this interview is the result of 20 of them answering the questions and presenting themselves in one unanimous voice.

There’s no I in team but this is a sick in Music Squad (kinda) Read on to find out more about their event, future releases and how they’ve already won loads of awards courtesy of Noisia.  Squad up!

 

Congratulations on ‘worst name for a label so far’ award from Nik Noisia. That must be a great feeling?

*turns around video tape*

Absolutely! Proudly defending this title. To us it sounds so normal by now though. Our group chat has been called Music Squad for years, hence the name. Of course we know it sounds stupid, but it’s such a simple description of what we are; a group of people who’ve met (online) through music production.

It’s not the first time we’ve been awarded by Noisia Radio either! Euph won the ‘hardest-to-pronounce artist name’, Skylark won the ‘smallest snare award’ and Aenak (a project between DMR & RefraQ) have had their build-up questioned. The words “Why is this build-up here!?” still echo around in our chat.

We’re very grateful for all the support Noisia have given us, they’re the best at what they do and it’s a big motivation for all of us to keep at it.

I love the new surge of collectivism happening right now. This is kinda business as a usual for all of you lot really though, right? The support goes back to the old NHF days doesn’t it? 

The core bit of the group is indeed a spin-off of the Neurohop Forum group but it quickly grew beyond that. We’re just a few like-minded people helping each other through the madness that is music production and life in general. We feel like we grew up together in a way, nobody had releases on their name when we started talking to each other, sharing tips, tricks and crappy memes. Seeing your friends do so well is so motivating, especially when you started out together. “If he can do it, maybe I can too if I try a little harder..”

 

I’m keen to know what you all made of each other when you first met online. Give us some first impressions you had of certain people. Who stood out as the most talented one, for example? Or who came across as the biggest dick?

You want us to break out in a fight and split already? We’ve only just begun!

We’re constantly being dicks to each other but we fight, we break up, we kiss, we make up.
The most talented one changes all the time. Every now and then there’s a breakthrough for someone, like when Signal got picked up and won a drum & bass award, when Chee made his move to the USA and released an album on DIVISION, Vorso collabing with Opiuo and lately Grey Code being picked up by none other than Goldie and Buunshin making his debut with support all over the scene.

But to be honest everyone is madly talented and smashing it in their own way and we feel like it’s only a matter of time before everyone within the squad has their breakthrough moment. It’s amazing to be around such an inspiring bunch of people.

Who’s the biggest dick and why is it Signal? No we’re kidding, we all are dicks from time to time. Can’t always be nice, need a fair bit of banter to keep things lively. But yeah, definitely Signal… 

You’ve touched on this already but it must be amazing to see each other release on the biggest and most respected labels in the game. Just a massive collective buzz with every release?

Yeah man it’s always hype when someone puts some tunes out or makes the next big step in their career, everyone is being very supportive and we try to all make it together.

With the label we try to give each other that extra push, and get that collective buzz when we’ve created something together that makes waves across the scene. 

The label has such a diplomatic way of picking the tracks for the releases doesn’t it? That seems to be the fairest way of working in such a big collective. 

Yeah, so far it’s panned out perfectly. Everybody submits their tunes for the VAs in a Google Form and we take it to a vote. We think this will cause the least friction in the selection process; if just a couple of people would decide on what gets released that would eventually cause friction on a personal level, and we’ve managed to avoid that so far.

Until recently we didn’t really have a division of roles within the group. That’s changed now, we’ve dividid it into rolls that fit people’s skills. Tim (Canopy) is in charge of mastering, Youniss (Corrupted) & Guillaume (EiZO aka squad daddy, he’s very old) do the animations, Jelle (Ordure) does overall label management and we’ve had Peter from Overview help us out with social media. This brings more structure to the label, and will hopefully result in more output. We still take all decision making to a vote though!

Are there other potential problems being such a large collective with so many talents that you’ve had to creatively work your way around?

There’s only one thing, as most producers from the team are drum & bass focused, it is often represented more than the other genres of music produced by our group. However, we’re aiming to showcase a wide variety of styles and show that we can do more.

With our next VA we’ve noticed how difficult this was. We wanted to showcase the diversity of the squad, and make this VA fully non-dnb, but we barely had enough submissions to take it to a vote. We’re not gonna force it like that anymore.

Another problem is taking a group photo together. It needs to happen someday, but HOW!? We’re located all over the world, Euph and Ewol in Australia, Matt McWaters in Canada, Wingz in Austria, Muju in Sweden… 

Tell me about the feedback and support for the releases so far…

We have been supported really well across the drum & bass scene so far.

It’s actually really mad that you can just put out an EP like that, with names that really work but no one saw coming and just instantly nail it. We’re in a blessed position with not really having to do 50 releases per year on this but still having it work, it keeps it special. 

What else can you tell us about the next Music Squad EP?

SQD003 will be something different, showing the variety of what we have to offer from other squad members and the label in general. This will be represented in the artwork, which is again by Sander van der Bij, an amazing photographer from Groningen.

Can we spoil who’s on it? Ok fuck it, in alphabetical order it’s Corrupted, EiZO, Enkk, Euph and Tidewarp. Don’t expect a drum & bass release this time around, keep an open mind and mark June 21 on your calendar… 

Let’s chat about your first label night. That must have been tricky sorting a line-up with so many of you in the collective? 

Luckily we weren’t the ones who put together this line-up, the Bassment crew in The Hague, who are hosting our first label night, assembled it. We’ll have to think of a clever way to sort future line-ups tho, this could end up in our first squad fight. 

This is the first time some of you will have met after being online mates for years. That’s quite mad.  

It is indeed, finally! Although many of us have met before under a range of circumstances, Corrupted once rescued Signal’s life when he had just turned 18 (we’ll let you work out the rest) Some of us met at events we’re playing, last year for example Grey Code & Wingz played b2b at the Overview launch party, and a spontaneous b2b happened recently in Bristol between GROUND, Grey Code and Skylark. It’s so exciting to finally meet with so many though, the biggest squad meet to date was a giant seminal Bristol BBQ meet at Grey Code’s house. To date that’s been the biggest squad meet yet featuring Vorso, Clockvice, Corrupted, Chimera, Vellum, DMR & Refraq.

 

This isn’t a one off either, right? There’ll be more nights in the pipeline?

Definitely, this is only the beginning! Any promoter can hit us up for a squad takeover, we’re eager to play our music to new crowds, fight rival squads, get to meet each other and other like minded people and discuss relevant themes like food or snare transients.

 What else is in the Music Squad pipeline?

We’re gonna branch out to solo releases as well this year, putting the focus on individuals within the squad. We also have something special planned for SQD005, keep your eyes open!

Follow Music Squad: Soundcloud / Facebook / Bandcamp / Instagram