Search for talent. Find talent. Sign them before competitors can get a sniff of them. Develop them. Make some money (hopefully).
The standard business plan for any label since the birth of the gramophone, it’s one that has really come to the fore in recent times… Especially in D&B*
While most of this technique focuses on exciting young, brand new talent (fine examples would be Emperor on Critical, Bensley on Ram or Joe Ford on Shogun) there’s a lot to be said for the slightly older guard. The artists who’ve been chiselling and grafting at the sonic coal face for several years. The artists who’ve seen trends come and go. The artists who’ve worked with numerous labels and know exactly what they want to achieve… And how they’re going to do it.
Case in point: Ram signing Calyx & TeeBee a few years back.
More recent case in point: Hospital signing Lynx last summer.
We should probably point out now that Lynx is far from old (he’s probably in his early 30s), but he’s certainly been around the block. In fact he’s been battering the block since 2002 dishing out stark designs, razor sharp beats and barbed wire soul on every label worth shaking a dubplate at.
Rising to universal fame in 2007 with the still-powerful Disco Dodo, a track that sang to every selector from Hype to High Contrast, his discography is peppered with co-signs (Playaz, Ram, Bingo Beats, 31, Digital Soundboy, Blackout, Fokuz, Warm Comms, Soulr). It boasts two deep and daring albums (2009’s The Raw Truth and 2011’s Devil’s In The Details) and a whole wealth of material on his own label Detail.
Devils In The Detail was, looking back, a bit self-absorbed. It was me hiding away from labels and taking pleasure in doing everything myself.
Blatantly, Lynx’s accomplishments sing for themselves… Often with tight rolling drums and purring subs. Now Hospital plan on taking him up another level. And they’re doing it with his third album I Am Lynx. Without question his most versatile collection to date, I Am Lynx represents every aspect of the Portsmouth-based producer. His past, his present and his future.
“One of the things they say they saw in me was that no one knows who I am or what I’m about other than the songs that are out there,” says Lynx of the Hospital deal. “They wanted to present me as a person and as an artist so people know more about me.”
One important thing to know about Lynx is that he wrote almost all his album on an ancient near-10 year-old PC with a 2005 version of Cubase. Some of them haven’t been touched since 2008. But you’d never tell… His tenure has led to something of a timeless charm.
“Both Ghost Train and Born Game were written around seven years ago. It was such a long time ago!” he laughs. “Hospital accepted Born Game as you hear it on the record – I couldn’t open or work on the elements of the track as the project was corrupted. Ghost Train is maybe a year younger. It was my track initially then Marcus got his hands on it and added the vocals. We sat on it for years and years. When I signed to Hospital I gave them my whole catalogue and they loved it.”
As we continue to wade our way through the loudness war, all of us getting progressively deafer and deafer, few productions from even as recently as the last decade still stand up against today’s ruthless mixdown techniques. Lynx’s older material does. And, in the context of the album, it stands against brand new designs. Bigger, funkier and more mischievous than the sinewy sounds we previously knew him for, tracks like Chords Time and the spectacularly funky Satisfaction.
“Satisfaction is one of my favourites,” he grins. “It almost feels like if Fatboy Slim did a D&B tune. It’s really bizarre to write that type of song. I had the instrumental down in a few hours. I was unsure if Hospital would like it or not because it’s so different for me but I was happy how it went down.”
On the flip side, there’s the militant kicks and Sense’s pummelling lyricism on Lights Out. Or the half time Perezian wonk and future funk of Drop That.
“Drop That is one tune I feel I’ve progressed my sound with,” Lynx explains. “It’s a different sound. I love experimenting with sounds and I love that half tempo/wonky beat vibe. Helping Master X develop with his vocals was fulfilling as well. He’s an MC’s MC but it was a great process of going through his development and helping him.”
Crucially, the album is unlike anything Lynx has done so far. While his previous longers were pretty deep and conceptual, this chapter sees him showcasing a much broader palette… And he’s done so without so much as a whiff of a radio track or crudely positioned featured vocalist.
“It’s not going in one direction too heavily,” he concurs. “It’s almost like a compilation of me. Both previous albums had a really distinct theme. Devils In The Detail was, looking back, a bit self-absorbed. It was me hiding away from labels and taking pleasure in doing everything myself. Now with this one I’ve got Hospital and their A&R opinions so it’s a different level again and much more of an overview of my sound, how it’s developed and what’s in store for the future.”
Battering the block since 2002 and working on his best material to date… We can’t wait to hear what comes next.
*Recommend reading: Thijs Noisia’s interview