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Rowney & Propz: The story of G13

Depending on what lifestyle you choose, G13 can mean one of a few things.

To trigger happy folk, a G13 is a type of BB gun. To snigger happy folk, it’s a famously virulent strain of high grade. To drum & bass heads, however, G13 is best known as a famously heavyweight strain of drum & bass. The type of D&B that’ll have you shooting gunfingers till your fingers are smoking.

High grade beats since 2008: Rowney & Propz’ Manchester-based label has consistently been in the centre of all the best jump-up skirmishes since launching, savagely supplying the scene with high energy riff-heavy thumpers long before the subgenre’s current return to the spotlight. Over the years G13 has been responsible for early and debut releases from some of the biggest names in the heavier side of drum & bass such as Macky Gee, Turno, the late great Dominator, Hedex, Ego Trippin and Nu Elementz (to name but a few) Right now, though, they’re celebrating a whole decade of bangers with their 10 Years Of G13 release.

A massive double-album sized 22 track selection from some of their most prized fighters and friends, 10 Years Of G13 includes cuts from the likes of Filthy Habits, Basstripper, Tyke, Slipz, Smoggy, Danee B, Alphaze, Jeopardize and loads more. It reps the label’s weight and scope to a perfect chop-slapping T, it’s a fitting celebration of G13’s consistency, character and, on occasion, pure brute sonic force in the game and it comes with a strong focus on future talent.

Currently neck deep plotting their highly-hyped Standard Procedure collective activities alongside MCs Toddlah and TNT, Shadow Demon affiliates Rowney & Propz take time to tell us how the label began and what they’re up to next.

Let’s go back to when you first met, pre-G13

Rowney: It was through a mutual mate who did radio shows

Propz: I’d moved up here with some mates who were here for uni and there wasn’t a massive jump-up scene here. Manchester was very much liquid and tech orientated. I was beginning to think there wasn’t space or room for my style of stuff and I was thinking of moving back with my mates but then happened to go out with a mate and Rowney was giving him a lift to this gig in Preston. He was playing one of his tunes he’d made that day and it was sick. I was like ‘can I have that?’ and he was like ‘I don’t know about that’. I was thinking ‘I’m gonna get that tune of you bro, you wait and see what dubs I’ve got!’

Rowney: I actually thought Propz was a tech producer cos I’d seen his name on a forum but confused him for a tech guy called Propaganda. The city was a lot cliquey back then. When Propz moved up he lived with one of Rich Reason’s mates and he hated jump-up so I think he was disillusioned by it all. But then he got involved in the radio and parties and everything else we were doing.

Propz: It’s why I didn’t move back down south to be honest mate.

So when did the label come into this?

Rowney: I’d been signed by Class A and was doing some bits for them but Propz said he had an idea to run a label. I wasn’t really sure, it sounded complicated but thought ‘okay then.’

Propz: I just had a lot of sick music from friends I’d made on the internet. I was really fucking into it and wanted to push it. So I got a ‘press and distribution’ deal with Nu Urban who were a big distro at the time. I actually sent them about 50 tunes. They umm’d and ahh’d but I showed them I knew what I was doing with networking and online and was connected with the scene so they went for it. The first tune was Rowney under an alias Bassline Terrorist because he was signed to Class A. We had it all pressed up and distributed and rang them a few days later to see about sales and they told us we had a mini hit, it was sold out.

Nice!

Propz: Yeah I was well happy with that. We repressed it and that did well too. So that was us for 11 releases on vinyl. We were just in the last bit of the vinyl culture to experience that and it made me wish we’d have set it up five years before. But we moved with the times and set things up on digital. We did that just a vinyl as dying so we weren’t pushed into digital last minute. I guess it doesn’t seem like we’ve released that much music if you consider our cat number is only 67? But we’ve never wanted to flood the market.

That’s important. It’s not just DJ fodder, you’re not just flinging things out…

Rowney: Quality control has always been a big thing for us. I’d rather a gap in the schedule than release something I’m not 100% happy with. People rush things out all the time when they’re not ready. We’ve just put out stuff we love. Stuff that represents us and G13.

Give me some moments when you could feel things lifting up

Rowney: When we were putting vinyl out it felt like that. You couldn’t just put anything out. The distro had to be convinced to press and release it.

Propz: They had a very big say in things and the guy at Nu Urban Tobie Scopes, from Serial Killaz, knew his shit. I have the deepest respect for that guy. He was a hard man to please because he knew what he was talking about.

Rowney: Yeah man. Distributors took a massive risk because they were investing in your vinyl. They only ever pressed things they believed would sell. And when they went under it was because a lot of labels owed them money. We were actually owed money but we had the digital label in place by then and that’s when the real fight began.

Yeah that era when vinyl gasped its last breaths and digital was still very new was a tough time for any label!

Rowney: Totally. But we carried on doing our thing and pushing the music we believed in. And in terms of turning points, our five-year album was a big moment. It was like ‘okay we’ve been doing this for a bit, it’s not a passing thing it’s real like you know?’ Hedex, Saxxon, Macky Gee, Harvest, Nu Elementz and so many more people were on the album and it was sick. We had some massive names on that album. There were bigger names on that album but the quality control, I’d say, is better on this new one.

A good balance of long time label friends and new artists

Propz: Yeah, some mates who’ve been with us for years like Filthy Habits and loads of new guys we’re working closely with.

That’s kinda been the G13 signature; finding and encouraging new talent, right?

Rowney: That’s been a big thing for us. There are so many exciting talents around right now.

Propz: Basstripper, J Dub, Danee B, Smoggy, Lyfie, Jeopardize, Shadre & Salvage…

Rowney: We’ve got about 10 new artists who are killing it at the moment and it’s hard to juggle the releases; they’re all doing wicked things and want to get things out straight away but we have to hold things back a bit.

The age-old dubplate tradition

Rowney: Yeah man, we might only be 10 years old but we’ve got the classic mentality. The dub mentality. Keep things on dub for a while before you put them out. Sometimes you see tunes coming out after a month but it’s all about timing.

Who was the first big DJ to support G13 dubs?

Propz: Andy C started playing a tune on G13 by a guy called Cue, a German artist we were working with which was wicked. He plays loads of our releases now. Grooverider, Nicky Blackmarket, Hype, Hazard. Loads of legends have supported G13 releases.

How about your first international exposure?

Rowney: Around 2010, we were starting to play in Belgium a lot. The line-ups were mad back then. It was the sound you think about when you think of Belgium. We were on line-ups with Bukem, Marky, dBridge.

Propz: There was a point when we were playing in Belgium two or three times a week. We’ve played in boats, museums, castles, garages. Some mad experiences and they loved the G13 sound.

Rowney: We introduced them to Macky, Blackley, Hedex. The promoters (City Flow) were asking us who the best guys to book were and gave us a residency and we brought our mates out with us. But it was like the label, we were giving them a platform to get the music out there. We loved playing their music, we could see it was popping on the dancefloor and were feeding that back to them and getting them over to play. It’s amazing seeing what they’re all doing now and pursuing their own sounds.

I was thinking about the G13 sound. It’s hard to put your finger on it but it’s definitely there. It’s like you said earlier Propz; it’s predominantly jump-up but there’s always variety

Propz: I’d say if it boils down to anything it’s energy. Stuff that makes people fucking dance.

Rowney: Or a memorable hook.

Propz: I remember DJ Alpha said ‘when you listen to music and you sign a tune you need something that’s catchy so people remember it when they’ve stopped listening to it.’ He was spot on. You have to be able to hum it without even thinking. Not every tune we release is like that but it’s always something I’ve stuck by. On the flip side it’s nice to release some proper dirty grotty bass too.

Ha! Yes. Reckon you’ll be around for another 10 years then?

Propz: Definitely. We want to take Standard Procedure to the top level too.

That seems to be coming together nicely

Propz: Yeah, we’ve been doing it for years with Toddlah anyway. We saw him at Innovation once and it had been a while since we’d seen him MC and he blew us away. He smashed it so we got him on board as a G13 MC and we were doing gigs together for a few years.

Rowney: That set was just mental. He was bouncing off Trigga so well.

Propz: The same happened with TNT. He set himself at the same high benchmark so we thought we’d set up Standard Procedure with him.

Rowney: With Standard Procedure we wanted something with our own personal identity. Something to build ourselves. The G13 showcase is wicked but it doesn’t identify us, it’s about the label.

Do you feel you’ve spent too much time on the label and neglected yourselves as artists a bit, then?

Propz: We’ve always pushed ourselves but we’ve pushed G13 first and with that we’ve pushed so many people that we do get lost in the amount of artists. We want to push both and have two strong brands.

Rowney: We only officially started it in February and we got 20 gigs in the bag already. We’re all established as our own entities and now everything is working together.

Exciting!

Rowney: Definitely. It’s a case of levelling up. I’ve come to realise that image is everything. You need to look the bollocks as well as sound the bollocks. Turno set the benchmark there in that way, especially in terms of branding. You’ve got to be in people’s faces and get your shit out there. No other way to do it.

10 Years Of G13 Part One is out now

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