There’s no denying Bristol has always been a heartbeat of the UK’s drum and bass scene in the south west, but in recent years we’ve seen the emergence of a new force just over the bridge, with the South Wales D&B scene rapidly growing. A label at the heart of this rise is Incurzion Audio, and they’ve just released their first various artists album – We Are Incurzion Vol.1.
It’s an album representing a huge moment for the label. Not only is it the biggest project they’ve released, featuring artists including Hexa, Spectral, KL, Rantik and No Patterns, it’s also a milestone signifying just how far the label has come since its inception in 2018.
Starting life as a collective with a focus on promoting DJs in South Wales by reposting videos on social media, Incurzion has since developed into one of the most exciting labels in D&B with a reputation for supporting up-and-coming talent. You’d never have guessed they operate from the small seaside town of Penarth…
But they’re not just any music label, they’re very much in their own lane. As purveyors of weird, experimental sonics, Incurzion have carved out a unique identity as a label offering a home to unorthodox sounds. It’s one of the reasons why they’ve been voted for Best Newcomer Label in the DrumandBassArena Awards two years on the trot.
UKF caught up with Incurzion founders Zak and TJ to learn more about the rise of a label at the forefront of South Wales’ burgeoning D&B scene.
Incurzion Audio were the first label I got involved with and they’ve given me endless support since. Not only are they constantly pushing the boundaries of dark-minimal dnb, they’re hell bent on introducing exciting new talent from all corners of the world. They build genuine relationships with all of their artists, and push to ensure equal representation for men and womxn on the label which is so refreshing. Big up Zak for all his efforts, he’s created something special for sure!! Spectral (Kaitlin Bissett, Incurzion Artist and Critical Music EQ50 mentee)
Obviously 2020 was a miserable year, but rounding it off with the release of Incurzion’s first V/A album must have been a huge positive.
Zak: Definitely. This is our first official V/A and the title is a statement – we are Incurzion and this is our diverse music.
TJ: As a label we don’t really fall under one bracket of music. We always branch out into different styles. On the album we have a bit of halftime, liquid and deeper minimal D&B.
Zak: And styles like the KL tune, which is this Fuegian-infused drum and bass. Despite being different, all the tracks fall into the Incurzion bracket. We hope people listen to the album and recognise this.
That’s something I noticed. You’ve got a wicked variation of tunes on the album but they’re still cohesive in their sound.
Zak: We pride ourselves on our sound. We want people to listen to our music and say – this is a bit different, isn’t it?
TJ: If people listen to the V/A then they will see that our music doesn’t fit into the ordinary. Those weird, unique sonics are what we’re all about. The first thing we listen for when we receive submissions is weirdness. How outside of the box is this song? We don’t want them to fall into the same categories as other labels, we want to have our own identity.
Zak: Everything is so saturated at the moment. A lot of the tunes coming out fit the same brackets – whether it’s jump up, rollers or foghorns. A lot of people are doing it – and doing it well – but we want to be completely different.
It’s important to stick to your vision for the label. There is a temptation to follow what others are doing if you know it will get reactions. You’re laying your own path though.
Zak: That’s spot on! We’re laying our own path and are hopefully inspiring other up-and-coming labels to take a similar approach.
TJ: And the up-and-coming producers. In the last year we’ve featured quite a few names we wouldn’t have found a year or two before. With the way the label has developed, we’ve now got reach. We recently acquired Miaszma from Florida who is a real talent. He’s down for anything we want to do, and he’s got his part on the V/A.
You’ve certainly built a reputation as a label who supports rising talent – whether it’s Spectral, Hexa, Division, Miaszma. These artists need labels like yours who can introduce them into the scene.
TJ: Exactly. It’s a hard scene to crack without any direction. When Spectral first came through with The Dungeon free download we thought it was a really hard tune, and we told her that. Producers need self-belief gained from labels saying their music is good, as it helps push them to develop their sound further.
Zak: With the new names coming through, we’ve never been concerned who they are or what they’ve done previously. If the music is good and it’s got potential, then we will take the artist under our wings and support them.
Incurzion Audio have helped my music career massively. From giving me my first paid release, to connecting me with artists and labels that I idolise. Incurzion strive to ensure their artists are doing the best they possibly can. Whether it’s with them or any other label! Rantik (Jake Blackburn, Incurzion Artist)
Going through the list of producers on the V/A, there are a lot artists people might not be familiar with. clÜ is one that stuck out to me in particular.
Zak: Along with Caaza, clÜ is the only South Wales producer on the V/A. Caaza is originally from Caerphilly, but he lives in Penarth now – where the label is based. He has been with us from the start. But clÜ is a liquid producer from Cardiff who has been doing his own thing for years. No label releases or anything.
He’s got such a unique sound!
TJ: He’s a very talented producer who has found his niche. He has such smooth pads in his liquid. The tune on the V/A is a bit different to what he usually puts out on his Soundcloud, as he usually uses a lot more percussion. We love the vibe of it though.
The vibe is everything. It was amazing to see the V/A album went straight into the top #10 on Juno.
Zak: We’re overwhelmed by it as we were up against Ram Trilogy, Born On Road Remixed and some other mad labels. We always wanted to get top 10, but we never thought it would happen because the release is so niche. We also released a bonus track alongside the V/A that is a 140 bit from Screamarts, which is sick.
It’s nice you mix it up. I feel like your label’s USP is that you’re not afraid to experiment with the music you release.
TJ: If it’s weird and good, then it fits. End of. D&B is hard to categorise in itself, so why not be a label offering a home to the majority of it?
Very true! So looking at the rise of Incurzion, has it been a steady growth since its inception?
TJ: Yeah it has. When we started we were like a collective. We wanted to represent local Cardiff DJs and producers. After building a network, we decided to start a label putting out free downloads. Then our following grew and it attracted more producers. That’s when we reflected on things and the sound we wanted to push, rather than just being a label releasing anything. It was all about developing our niche. It may not be the popular sound of D&B, but it’s the sound we like and the one we want to put out.
Zak: In the first year we were just an Instagram and Facebook page reposting videos of Cardiff DJs. In the second year we put out our first paid release and got nominated for Best Newcomer Label in the DrumandBassArena Awards. Getting into the top 10 newcomer labels was mental. We thought it was a mistake!
TJ: We were literally like – is that really our name? Then getting nominated for the award again last year was as much of a surprise!
Incurzion Audio gave me my first opportunity as an artist to express my self. Letting me take the reigns to fully push and develop a sound that felt true to my own, as well as suiting the multi styled sound the label goes for! Hexa (Harry Ellwood, Incurzion Artist)
Considering you’re based in South Wales, it helps you to stand out as a D&B label. There aren’t many of you…
Zak: It’s crazy because we’re based in Penarth and it has somehow become the D&B capital of Wales… It’s just a small seaside town! Concrete Junglists, High Contrast and Something Something are all based around here. Riddim Records are close too. Penarth is literally popping for D&B, haha.
TJ: You’d think Cardiff or Swansea would be the hub, but it’s these small posh towns outside of them that are the main places.
It’s the most unlikely of homes for drum and bass…
Zak: Funnily enough, we don’t get that much Welsh support. Our main support is Austria, Germany and Russia. Our sound is more applicable to those places, but we’re trying to make it the home sound of South Wales. We’ve been taking our Welsh sound all over the world, so it would be nice to get more local support going forward.
It’s interesting because in the past most people in South Wales wanting a D&B rave would go to Bristol, but more ravers are now looking closer to home with the growth of the Cardiff scene.
TJ: Absolutely. There has always been a Cardiff scene, but the main problem we have is venues and the lack of them. We don’t have the same clubs Bristol does. We’d be lucky to get a 500 cap venue here. So we’re fighting against the Cardiff government alongside Covid because they’re stealing our venues!
Zak: It’s a nightmare, but we do have events planned. We’ve been doing a lot of work alongside Empire, who is Bristol-based, but lives in Porthcawl. He ran the 1985 show in Cardiff, which was an eye-opener in regards to bringing minimal D&B to the city. I was on the door doing tickets and recognised people from Bristol and further.
TJ: It’s all flipping around! It was always the Welsh people going to Bristol, but now we’ve got the English coming to Wales. It’s great to see. We want to keep pushing for this.
Zak: We’ve made sure people know we’re part of the South Wales scene because we feel proud to be representing Wales. We want to make drum and bass history. At least weird D&B history…
Before starting the label didn’t you try to push Incurzion as an events brand?
Zak: Yeah we were originally called Incurzion Presents, but we were getting denied by the venues in Cardiff. We couldn’t even get a 150 cap venue. It was shit, but it led us to what we’re currently doing. Even now it’s a struggle to get into certain venues, despite being one of the biggest D&B labels in South Wales…
TJ: The scene used to just be jump up around here with promoters pushing solely that. As a result, that’s where the punters were. But things are changing. I’ve never seen a crowd in Cardiff go off to minimal like the 1985 event. In the past people would turn their noses up at minimal D&B. Hopefully we can play our part in helping to turn the tide.
It must motivate you seeing the success of that 1985 night, thinking what you can do to build on it.
TJ: Exactly. Corona needs to buggar off so that we can start running events and see what we can do in Cardiff. There are so many independent artists who have had their incomes cut in the past year, so we want to support them by booking them at our events. We’re gagging for a rave…
Zak: Incurzion has become our life. The flame is still very strong – even though it’s hard work right now. We haven’t put this much time into it to let it fade out!
Being a part of Incurzion Audio has been an absolute pleasure. It’s enabled me to progress and develop my own style of drum and bass and meet like minded individuals within the scene. Incurzion has given me and my music a platform to release on that feels like home, and I’m very excited to experiment further. Shouts to the entire family for doing their bit to make the label what it is. No Patterns (Callum Burman, Incurzion Artist)
Corona aside, what can we expect from Incurzion in 2021?
Zak: The same and more! We will keep doing what we’re doing but in bigger volumes. New names, new formats. Just expect weird shit and you won’t be disappointed…
TJ: In 2021 we are going to dive into 140 and industrial halftime a lot more, but the releases will still fit the Incurzion sound.
For the people who want to sample the true essence of the Incurzion sound, what release would you show them?
Zak: I’m gonna say Mofes’ Geiger EP.
TJ: KL’s first minimal EP release with us, Mortal.