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The Rise Of Korsakov Music

The tradition of label nights in drum & bass goes as deep as the genre itself. Right back to legendary monthlies like Ram, Playaz and Renegade Hardware at The End; label nights have been a driving force for imprints to share their collective voice and sound. 

But labels that have come from nights? That’s not quite so typical, but it’s an exciting concept when they do occur. Just look at both of Fabric’s famous mix series (RIP) for an example of how high the benchmark can be set. Or, much more recently, D*Minds’ RUN label. Even more recently, there’s Korsakov Music. 

Spawned from the Rotterdam rave behemoth that launched just four years ago, Korsakov Music launched late 2018 with a remarkable V/A album that had a rollcall as hench as their event line-ups: High Maintenance, Agressor Bunx, The Clamps, L 33, Levela, Gridlok, Rido, the list went on. 

A clear statement at the label’s ambitious intention and direction, Korsakov Compilations Vol 1 was followed by a series of EPs before the label dropped another huge level-up release in the form of Droptek’s debut album Symbiosis in April. Now comes another huge release: The Korsakov Compilations Vol 2. Drenched in some of the biggest names in the genre, it features sonic scud missiles from the likes of Teddy Killerz, Raiser, Smooth, Dub Elements, Current Value, Gydra, James Marvel, Erb N Dub and many, many more. 

Released just days before Korsakov’s biggest event to date – their first two day rave with over 80 acts playing – it’s another significant milestone for the young Dutch brand. Baromar, the man behind both the brand’s label and DJ agency, explains more as you listen to the album here…

The weight of this collection! This is basically the sound and energy and vibe of a Korsakov night, right? 

Definitely. It’s either the guys we book the most or mates from Holland. Just mates I’ve messaged with a ‘yo, got any tunes?’ It was the same with the first compilation. Maztek was the first person. I messaged him and said ‘why don’t you give me your next tune?’ He said yes and that was enough for me to start making an album… 

From an artist point of view, there has to be trust that you’ll do their music justice… 

Totally. There has to be. But that’s the same with everything we do and the artists know that.  

Korsakov kinda feels like came out of the blue with these massive raves. Take me back to early party roots…

Credit where it’s due – Sami and Sacha are the dons behind the night. I do the label and the agency, they’re the promoters and they started in 2015. There wasn’t a Halloween night on so they decided to hold one. It was a pretty normal night in a normal venue with Pythius and June Miller headlining. But because it was the only Halloween event it sold out. So they did a poll and asked who people want to see for the next one and they ended up with The Prototypes, DC Breaks, Black Sun Empire… It just exploded. That was when I first met them. I was writing for DrumandBass.NL and came over to review it. Now we’re best mates. 

Wow so nought-to-sixty super quick then…

Yeah then the next night sold out even quicker with guys like Mefjus, Calyx & Teebee and loads more. Then the next year was the anniversary where the boys put on some crazy b2bs like Icicle and Teddy Killerz. Just crazy shit. Then we went to the Maassilo, which is where we still are now and the rest is history. During this I got involved with the label and the Korsakov agency. 

And the label…

Yeah that actually became an official label on my birthday in February 2018. Then I started messaging people asking about tunes. Because we have these parties we’ve developed some great friendships and connections. 

Labels that come from nights are interesting. Like D*Minds’ RUN label. Label nights happen all the time but you’re a night label! 

Yeah man, totally. And we put everything we like on it. We like every drum & bass that’s why the boys hold different stages. Mainstream, neuro, jump-up, liquid. But that’s also hard because you need sound and cohesion running throughout a label. That’s why I’m glad we signed Droptek. He’s so versatile and talented. His album represents us. 

That’s quite mad for both you as a label and him as an artist… Quite a lot of trust from both perspectives. It must have been quite scary, daunting, thrilling?

It was definitely a challenge. I was about to quit music at one point! That album is such a massive, massive piece of art. It was such a specific and diverse thing, that I don’t think many other labels would have taken it on without A&Ring it heavily. I knew it was big step but I said ‘this is what I can do. I can back it up every step of the way, I know we’re a small label, but I have full commitment on this’. There is a lot of trust, but he’s happy and now we’ve got a 24-track remix album coming… 

Nice!

We can’t mention much about it yet of course. But it’s going to be the biggest thing we release in the foreseeable future. Joe Ford, Optiv&CZA, Dub Elements, Maztek… Loads and loads more. I don’t know where to begin. Let’s just say it’ll be like a Vision Recordings style remix album. We want it to be our benchmark for the next ten years. 

Awesome. It must be like Christmas when you do an album like the new V/A one. When a new tune lands in your inbox it must be a good day? 

Oh it feels so good. Like the day Cause4Concern sent me More Complex. That was a big thing. They soldiered through a 24 hour grind and made me this massive roller that outshines the neuro! There are so many big tunes on there. Like Current Value’s End Game. I’m a big fan of those tunes he did on Blackout when he first went really neuro. His manager sent me that and I was like (pulls orgasm face)

Ha! Do you ever have to do much A&R? Label owners who aren’t primarily producers often listen differently… 

That’s a good point. Like, I don’t know 10% of the shit Akov does, but I wouldn’t say I am a complete noob. I’m part of the Ancient Radius project with Mr Multiplex and Akov, which is a halftime project. Akov does most the work, but obviously we have a lot input. I’m also working on collabs with High Maintenance. So yeah, I can hear when something is shit but I’m lucky to have friends like Maztek and Droptek to do mastering. If I send something to them and they say it’s good, I know it’s good. So I’ve got good ears with me. 

Sounds like you’ve got freedom from the Korsakov promoters with the label and agency. You came to their event as a journalist and now represent the brand in two key ways! 

Yeah totally and it means a lot to me that I can do this. I’m constantly in touch with the artists as artist liaison for the brand so it made sense. People think I run the main events but I don’t, it’s because I’m so active with these things and represent the brand in the way I do. Sami and Sacha hear the songs before I sign them but they have a lot of trust in me. 

You’ve developed a striking visual theme for a lot of the releases, too… 

The very first one was by a friend of Sami’s. He’s a designer for Spinnin so that was cool. But in general we wanted cartoony, colourful stuff. So much drum & bass artwork is either angry or beaches. Obviously it all relates to the music, so Droptek’s stuff has a different designer because the AI theme is strong and personal to him. We also work with an artist called Felix who works a lot with Methlab who always smashes it. We just want to represent the Korsakov brand and what we do. Which is have fun and love the music, basically. 

Speaking of fun… You have a big event coming up. 

Oh it’s insane. The biggest one the boys have ever done. Two days. Four stages on both days. 40 artists every day. We’ve got the exclusive debut of Audio b2b Mefjus. Calxy & Teebee b2b Break. Chase & Status. Just everybody. It’s huge. As if the album wasn’t big enough! 

Then then UK…

Yeah that’s our most important market. That’s where everyone loves drum & bass more than anywhere else in the world. We’re coming over on December 20 at The Egg in London with Audio, Teddy Killerz, Maztek, Droptek and many more. We’re developing our UK presence over the coming years so this is hopefully the first of many UK adventures… Hopefully see you at some of them. 

Korsakov Compilations Vol 2 is out now 

Follow Korsakov Music: Facebook / Soundcloud