We Need To Talk About Submorphics

San Francisco’s Submorphics should not require any introduction these days…

Breaking through on Spearhead and maintaining the heat with releases on the likes of Hospital, SGN, V and Innerground over the years, Submorphics (real name Greg Axelrad) has been ardently flying the flag for America’s soulful D&B contingent for over 10 years. And right now he’s flying it on Lenzman’s The North Quarter.

Hot on the heels of tracks on T.R.A.C’s album and Integral’s 10 year compendium, Detroit Haze is set to drop January 19 and is one of his biggest releases to date. In keeping with the extensive TNQ dispatches from FD, Redeyes and Lenzman himself, the EP is 10 tracks deep, comprising seven originals and three instrumentals and ranging from hip-hop to drum & bass.

Rich in soul, warm grooves, lavish vocals and collabs with Satl, T.R.A.C, Lenzman, Steo, Big Brooklyn Red and Selfsays; all wrapped up with precision shades of contrast, once again it’s another monolithic masterblast from Lenzman’s Amsterdam HQ and another reason why Submorphics really doesn’t need introducing. We called him up to find out more…

You’ve been spent quite a lot of time over here last year!

I was over between May and October and trying it out as a trial run to see what it would be like to live there. It was such a great trip; I had some of the best gigs of my life plus I got to work with a whole tonne of people I love and really respect and just generally connected with people I never get to see. I also got to go to Sun & Bass which was a very special moment for me.

So are you moving here?

I need a Visa first but yeah that’s the plan! But first I want to get this EP out.

Yeah about this EP. Basically Lenzman is getting artists to do albums on the sly isn’t he?

Hahah. Yeah he’s taking artists who are writing that soulful music that isn’t finding a home anywhere else and convincing us to do more than we originally thought we would or maybe thought we could do. The main thing is the multi-genre vibe. Making an entire drum & bass album would very difficult – it’s hard to tell a story in one tempo. But Lenzman wants us to tell a story in different tempo all in our own voice. We given the freedom to do what the fuck we like. It’s amazing to have this opportunity.

He’s not doing things by halves, is he?

No he’s not. There are vinyl releases and videos, he’s taking it very seriously and it’s an incredible thing to be part of and watch develop. He’s one of that new breed of artists like Alix Perez, SpectraSoul, Ulterior Motive, The Prototypes all smashing it with their new labels. It’s the dawn of a new era and it’s a really exciting time in drum & bass. It feels like the early Soul:r or early Exit days. It’s inspiring. There are a lot of labels who are very established but just seem to drop digital releases every couple of weeks with little promotion or push or value.

That doesn’t really help for longevity does it?

Exactly. There’s something about a physical product too. Even though I don’t buy that many vinyl releases myself, you can tell a label is really invested into what they’re doing when they’re putting out vinyl as well.

Back to the EP: Can’t Get Over You is the most soulful thing you’ve ever done. I was wondering if you made this record because The North Quarter exists and there’s now a home for all-out soul again?

You’ve kinda hit the nail on the head! I did had a version which was a lot more home listening and chilled before the label launched and I played it to a few labels but no one picked up on it. Lenzman heard it and wanted to work on it and we turned it into what it is now. It definitely wouldn’t be anything like it is without The North Quarter’s influence. Lenzman comes from a purist soul perspective; he’s got a very classic sound and I tried to tap into that. Some of the tunes on the EP were sketches before the label existed and he helped me bring them to life. It was a very different way of working for me and I had to learn how to let go of the reins a little which was a little scary. I’ve known Lenzman for years and know him better than I know a lot of the other labels I’ve worked with like Hospital and Shogun. So it was refreshing to work with an old pal who only wants what’s best for the label, for me and for the final product. He went in on it. We spent over six months on it.

You two do go way back, right?

Yeah we both came through on Spearhead at the same time. He was sending music to me at first, trying to get feedback. Then suddenly he blew up and became entity he is now. He’s very disciplined and knows what he wants. It’s inspiring to work with someone who’s so on top of their game.

It’s a Dutch thing!

Yeah totally. Nymfo is the same, all the Triple Vision guys are. They know how to have fun but when it comes to work time they all knuckle down so hard and tightly. I mean look at Liquicity; look at how they’ve developed their shit – their festival is biting on the heels of Hospitality In The Park. They’ve got the next generation fully engaged which is amazing.

Let’s talk about T.R.A.C for a moment. You go way back and I know you’ve done some beats for his recent album

He’s in his own lane. Him, DRS and SP and are my all time favourite MCs. T.R.A.C does his own thing from a hip-hop perspective which no other MC is doing. He totally gets it and he’s bridging that gap between hip-hop and drum & bass like no one else possibly can. I only did one track for the album and my track Higher Ground got a Lenzman remix. But the title track is a Dilla inspired tripped out kinda thing. He’s very versatile, he works on a drity roller just as well as he can on a smooth soulful thing. Kudos to that guy!

Kudos to you. Sounds like 2018 could be a good year for you…

Right now is the most prolific time of my career. I’ve got the North Quarter release, a track on Integral’s 10 year album and two on T.R.A.C’s album, which is amazing. A lot of the things I have coming up can’t really be confirmed yet but I’ve been working with a lot of people because of the time I spent over in Europe. I’ve never had that luxury before – usually I come over for a month at the longest and don’t get to do many collaborations because I run out of time. Internet collaborations are all fine but it’s in real life that the cool shit happens. Just meet up, catch a vibe and keep it casual. All the best things happen when you keep it casual, right?

Submorphics – Detroit Haze is out January 19 on The North Quarter 

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