We Need To Talk About MODUS

Thomas Unterberger

MODUS, launched just over a year ago, has been a labour of love for Camo, Krooked & Mefjus. More than just a label, it’s a platform that nurtures and supports artists while maintaining a family-like atmosphere. MODUS has been a constant balancing act for the friends, as they manage their own careers while investing time, energy, and passion into the label’s growth. But it’s all been worth it, they’ve created a pure and compelling platform that resonates with artists and fans alike.Having a clear vision for the label has led to stunning tracks like ‘Break Away’, nestling seamlessly alongside floor ready beats like ‘No Way Out’. 

The trio has recently embarked on a thrilling collaboration with the iconic Let It Roll festival, bringing their signature sound to the forefront of the drum and bass spectacle. Discover the inception of this groundbreaking partnership and the electrifying energy they’re infusing into the festival’s opening ceremony. 

Join us as we venture into a cavern of creativity, innovation, and passion as we interview Camo, Krooked & Mefjus.

Hey everyone, what have you been up to recently?

Camo: I think it’s a good time, being busy as Martin said with shows, but as well as having some spare time and, finally some time to write new music because last year was just super hectic. During the post-covid year, everything was buzzing, so we have been on the road constantly. Now it feels like we’re finally getting some time to get back into the studio and rinse it out. Proper.

The last time we spoke to you was just after Covid- how has it been adjusting to going from nothing to a million gigs as we all left lockdown, and then finally going back to normal again?

Camo: When you play so many shows you think, “Man, I would wish I would have fewer shows so we can finally get back into making music properly.” And then when you have a little bit less shows you think “We need to go back on the road.” It’s balancing out really nicely at the moment because we have enough time to invest into making music and I think we all are very happy about it. 

Mefjus: The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it?

How is festival season going for you?

Krooked: Festival season always starts a bit earlier in the UK than anywhere else. We played one of the first festivals in the UK as well- Bang Face Weekender which was quite early. But there are all the festivals which are happening in Europe as well, but as Camo said, it’s a nice balance for us, not playing every weekend means you sometimes have a spare weekend, where you can finally write music and get your head out of that whole festival and clubs spectrum. So you get influenced by different things again as well.

Let’s talk about Let It Roll and the Ambassador Programme…

Mefjus: Camo & Krooked and I both have had individual relationships with Let It Roll for over 10 years now, which is great. With starting the label last year, we thought that instead of only making it a Camo & Krooked and Mefjus collaboration let’s make it a MODUS collaboration that way we bring on board some of our friends and people who worked with us on the label and include them, we could showcase our vision for MODUS.  

The ambassadorship includes creating the music for the opening ceremony and working closely with them on merchandise as well as some other things. As far as I can tell, so far, I’m really happy with how it has come together. It feels very natural.

Can you tell us anything about the story of the opening ceremony? 

Krooked: This time they wanted to do something a little different to the typical robot. They actually sent us a little story of the direction the whole thing is going to go, which gave us an idea of where to take the music. The most important thing is that all the visual side fits together nicely with the music for the opening ceremony. That was a few months ago and we just started writing from what was basically a few sentences then we decided which sections of the opening ceremony and its story we would send to each artist. For example, the ethereal, smoother side of things would go to Kimyan Law, and the more climatic part would go to Synergy, and we really nailed it, to be honest. We’re really happy about the team that we chose because you never really know what to expect. 

It sounds like you’ve got some pretty amazing artists on there. How does the relationship work when someone’s quite established and you have to give them feedback on your vision for the sound?

Camo: I think so far, everybody has been really happy to receive feedback and it’s not feedback from us talking down or whatever. It’s just a conversation, a couple of pointers and normally, when you give the people feedback they reflect on it and will agree, or maybe even disagree, but it’s just communication.

In this case, of course, we are curating, we have a little bit more to say about what we want and what we maybe don’t want. There was a version of one of the tracks that we just didn’t feel fitting, and then the artist came up with a totally different tune which smashed it, so it works out for them as well. They had been really happy to give it another go and come up with something unique.

Amazing. Let It Roll is like a pilgrimage for drum and bass fans across Europe. Why do you think the festival resonates with so many people?

Mefjus: I think it’s because it’s so pure, just drum and bass, all weekend. There are a lot of multi-genre events which are great as well. I love them. But Let It Roll is one of those few festivals where it’s purely drum and bass. All the heads come together and pretty much everyone in the drum and bass world is playing there, so it’s a very intense and compressed experience, which is very raw, which is why I think people resonate with it. 

Krooked: Yeah I agree. Drum and bass is one of the very last few music genres where there is actually kind of a community feel to it. I think a lot of friends have been made over the years at Let It Roll from when it was small until now, people tell their friends that they should come along too. I also think it really empowers the passion for the genre, not just within the crowd but also for the artists, backstage is always full of people that you probably haven’t seen since the last Let It Roll. It’s always a huge get-together and just a big family celebration.

Have you got any standout years?

Krooked: I think one of my favourites was around 2011. I believe it was our first Let It Roll experience, it was in a different venue and the stage was in the style of Baywatch. They had this lookout stand located next to a little lake. The crowd was insane and that was an amazing experience. There’s been so many more, to be honest, each and every single one stays in your head somehow.

Mefjus: That’s a cool thing about it, you can do an album showcase and tie it up to that, or you could be closing a stage, or playing one of the dedicated label stages as well. Everything has its own charm, and every experience is right to stand by itself, it’s always been a really, amazing experience.

One of our writers recently wrote an article about the Viennese drum and bass scene. I wanted to know why you think drum and bass does so well in Vienna?

Krooked: I think Vienna has always had a pretty strong scene and I think what’s more important than just the hype around the scene is that somebody has curated it over years and years. This has been happening in Vienna since the mid-90s, there’s always been at least one group of promoters that were really very passionate about the scene. They always brought in international artists and it didn’t matter if it was a strong time for drum and bass or more of a weaker time. We all know it goes up and down but these dedicated promoters kept booking artists and they kept a dedicated fan base coming to shows. 

All these groups from Treif Life back then to Mainframe now, are mostly accountable for keeping drum and bass alive, and introducing it to the next generation, spreading the word. I think there is a really strong foundation now in Austria that has been cooking up since the 90s

Camo: Definitely, some of the promoters have been there for 20 years as well, even the newer, more underground crews have been there for 10 years. So there are just good communities and it feels like they are all living in peace together. There’s one community for jump up who are doing well, then another for the deeper stuff, which is always consistent, because it has a very dedicated crowd. And then, of course, for the more dance-floor side- that always works. 

Mefjus: Yeah, I just wanted to add as well, obviously Vienna is the centre of everything in terms of Austrian drum and bass, but it doesn’t really do the whole Austrian scene justice if you just mentioned Vienna. I think there are many promoters all over Austria doing amazing things. It’s as if you want to try and say that in the UK scene only exists in London, there’s Brighton and there’s Bristol, many more…and so there are other cities in Austria as well that have some credit here. Vienna is the biggest city, so it’s the biggest scene there, but other cities have great scenes. 

Krooked: I think in terms of if you break it down to the number of people actually listening to drum and bass, I think the ratio might be higher in other cities. In Graz for example the shows always have a huge turnout. It has an amazing scene, Linz as well, so definitely have to give some credit to the promoters there putting up some insane shows and obviously the producers there too.

Let’s talk about MODUS…It’s been just over a year since you first kicked the label. How’s it all going?

Mefjus: My initial response would be- exhausting. It’s been a ride and it’s been amazing. It’s just another level of being occupied, obviously the three of us had our solo projects or collaborations as well as touring. But now with the label, there is another layer of responsibilities, you have to get back to. A&R, making decisions, merchandise, whatever. It’s creeping around your neck a little bit all the time, but it’s great and I love it. Thinking about the music that we’ve been sent from other people, it’s just amazing that they want to sign with us and give us the chance to present it on our platform. Just feels really great and exciting but it’s a lot of work.

Camo: It’s been going through phases. So in the first year, we only released our own music, it was the build-up phase and now we have started to open it up for other people which as Mefjus says comes with a lot of responsibilities and it’s a little bit more time-consuming because you want to get to know the artists, give them feedback, help them to get the tune as good as possible. Sometimes we make them some little drafts or show them tips about frequencies, the mixdown and stuff. We really try to help to get them on the best level, that’s something that we can provide, that’s something special to us. No other label provides proper feedback to take the track to its best form.

Krooked: You can basically compare the label now to a small child, it just needs to be taken care of for it to grow to nourish it. 

Camo: And when it turns 15, it’s just cheeky and you want to f*** off.

Krooked: We’ve been super happy. Big shout out to our label manager, Bene because he’s been doing great stuff, especially on the whole bigger picture of the label, and how it should be presented to the outside. And also to Jascha, the guy that does all the visuals and the artwork. We’ve got a really close relationship with those guys. Everyone’s got the same kind of vision, that was the most important thing for us to have people on board who are in line with exactly what we want. That was a reason we started the label in the first place, we felt like there was a bit of a void in the scene for something that shows some class.

Camo: We are building a family. We invest in artists so we can hold those people and so they want to come back and release more music with us. That’s an important thing keeping your family happy. So they want to stay with you, without any contracts or whatever. It’s just, hopefully, all the guys that released with us will come back because they had a good time. Because we have been artists. So we know what other labels do and what we didn’t like and we try to do it better.

Krooked: Without handcuffing contracts, that’s the big difference.

Mefjus: Exactly that. And offering percentages that are fair, there’s no bullying into any deals or whatever. We wanted to provide the platform that we would have wished to get. We’ve learnt from our careers and we want to provide a platform that we think is fair throughout.

Camo: We ask the artist after the release, “Have you been happy with the release? What could have been better?” Because we still have to learn, it’s new to us as well. We are just a small team trying to learn and do the best we can. 

You’ve already mentioned why after releasing on some huge labels, why you wanted to start your own, it seems like a combination of the artistry, vision and learning how other labels could tweak their processes… 

Mefjus: One of the motivations for me personally was I always felt like it would be nicer to really channel the message of a release and really have a ramp up towards the release where you tease and you tell the story of what the music will be about. Maybe introduce the vocalist a little bit as well. Give them the time to shine, then have the release date where you really communicate what the song is about in every aspect, And then have a decay phase, where the release can stand by itself a little bit and people can digest it. That to me, was the main motivation to give each release a place and a time and a channel with the whole focus on it. Because sometimes, when you’re releasing with bigger labels, you’re just the label ‘number 218’ and then you’ve got this one slot and a week later, the next product is being presented and that feels a bit hurried. Even though it’s a fast living time, music deserves its spot. 

Krooked: Other labels obviously have their campaign that they go through for every single release and they might know what works for them as a label because of the following they have. But sometimes that means that you as an artist, don’t really have a say in how your music gets presented online. Maybe the artwork is not really what you expected it to be because it has to fit into their style. It’s the same with how stuff is being promoted on social media. We take our music quite seriously, we try to get a certain class, some elegance into it. 

When you actually want to release music that is also really important. I don’t want to wait a year for a track after it’s done, to stand in a queue of releases and the next release is out three days later, so you’ve waited a year for these seven days and then the label has moved on. That’s always how it felt for us because, in the digital age, there’s a push to rush out as much music as possible. 

Camo: Which is fair though because the money is limited, and they are learning as well. Maybe in a year, we will tell you something else. We’re still super perfectionists and we’re investing in the label because we want it to be strong rather than needing to make a certain kind of money to keep itself going. It’s definitely a project that comes from the heart and it’s not made for profit.

Amazing to hear. You mentioned the artwork earlier. It’s quite distinctive even though your covers are very different from each other they’ve all got the same feeling. Tell me about the visual branding. 

Mefjus: So basically Camo & Krooked were already working with a designer they liked. And when we started working together closely a couple years ago in our collabs we always used the same guy, it’s nice to have your vision channelled musically, but also visually, so we always wanted to have one guy to touch all our artwork. So that guy specifically did ‘Sientelo’, ‘No Tomorrow’ and ‘U’.

By this logic, we wanted someone who does the same thing for the label so that it all feels very linear. We found Jascha and he’s an amazing graphics guy but also a videographer, an animator, everything, it’s insane. In the beginning, we had this little feedback round with our label manager and we just created this look and feel for the label. And at this point now Yasha only gets a couple of words of input for the artwork and he just creates them and it’s amazing. He’s so talented and he always comes up with this amazing feeling that’s just right.

How does A&R work between the three of you? How do you find who you want to release on the label and then how do you give them the feedback? Do all three of you do everything or do you each have jobs?

Krooked: That is still a learning process to be honest because it’s really tough for us. Even just yesterday we figured out that it would be better if we have a schedule where every week or every two weeks, we go through all those demos that still need some work. We will have to be more efficient about it because we have a vision of how the music should sound that we want to follow. It takes way more time but the good thing is there are three of us and we kind of have the same ideas and sonically we kind of know where the music should go. There’s a bit of trust going on between all of us.

Camo: If one of us says no then, it’s probably a no.

Mefjus: Maybe that’s something we learned with the first various artist EP, signing those four acts we learned that our feedback is often two levels. One is more of the technical side, do we think the mixdown will be on a level that we feel is the standard we want? But also, the other thing is the creative, musical side. Those two sides have to fit and both of them have to be promising enough for us to sign a track. It was very interesting to figure out how the A&R process would work, is it just one of us or all of us and how the dismissal process was going to go. But I think we’ve found a nice way to do it, and can’t wait to hear music from new people. 

A Various Artist EP sounds interesting, how many tracks is it going to be?

Mefjus: Four songs.

Krooked: We will do more in the future too. These various artist EPs will always be a collection of four 

tracks by different artists from all over the world.

Established artists? 

Krooked: From hardly having released on any labels to being established. It’s a mixture. Really, we don’t want to have a bias towards people that have had releases over a long period of time. 

Mefjus: It also depends on the individual song. We’ve been sent some music by more established acts as well where we felt that it is a great tune but for a one-off single.There’s been some tunes by more established artists which are great, but we think the track represents them as an artist, but won’t work as a single. So we’re gonna put those together on EPs for people who want to be associated with us or the MODUS brand and it makes sense as a bundle rather than the individual song.

What’s been your favourite moment over the last year with MODUS?

Mefjus: Personally I would have to say, when we did our first vinyl, this year on the first anniversary. I was just super nervous about the whole thing because I’ve had bad experiences with labels where you have to produce the music so far ahead of time and then still the deadline wasn’t helped by the presses and our label manager pulled it off so props to him. I was really stressed out by that, I was asking every other week, “Dude, have you heard from the presses yet? Is it going to be on time?” The whole heading to vinyl for the first time was a really proud moment. I was like “Fuck yeah”, That’s actually quite something, having a physical representation of your work.

Krooked: My favourite moment was probably the label nights that we had because it all came together so nicely, there was a huge anticipation for the night and it is one of the venues that is probably the hardest to sell in Vienna because it’s kind of known for not having the greatest sound. So we put basically all the money we had into replacing the sound system that was in there with the better sound system and the venue sold out. We put on an amazing light show that we planned with Yash and it all worked out perfectly. The show was sold out, it looked amazing, and it sounded amazing. We played a three-hour set and it felt so short, we could have gone on for another hour. None of us made any money. But it was absolutely worth it. It’s way more important that it stays in your head and you enjoy it. Even if you did it again it would probably not be as good because all the stars just aligned. It was great. 

That sounds really good. That’s very dedicated, putting in a whole new sound system. Well done.

When you last spoke to UKF, you mentioned that you had to always try and do something new with every tune. Years have passed, and where are you still pulling these influences from?

Krooked: It’s really different every single time, sometimes you just listen to some random artists on the Internet and you’re like, “Wow, this groove is interesting or he’s using some ethnic vocals in a way that I’ve never heard before.” Sometimes it’s just boredom that sparks inspiration, to be honest. And honestly, I think that’s the most important thing that you actually have the time to be able to be bored. Because if you don’t have that, you won’t be inspired by anything.

The cool thing with the three of us is that if it’s something that’s really technically so out there and complex and insanely well produced that, for example, Mefjus could provide that we would never be able to do, it could spark something inspirational for us. Mefjus would probably have left it lying around on his hard drive for years and we’ve touched and brought it back to life. It could be the other way around, we have those song ideas that don’t go anywhere. 

Mefjus: To add to that there’s a musical phase and a production stage that we fuse together and there’s usually this one point where we say “yes” and it usually comes with the visual ideas. This is how this track should feel, that’s always the coolest part I think when you figure out what the song should say, and really dive into that, browsing into the depths of those sonics you’re trying to create. That is the cherry on top of making the tune 

Krooked: We really love to have a theme for a song. We always think a song should not just be your basic instrumental. Even if it’s just an instrumental, it tells you something, it expresses something and then we write the theme around that expression. For example, if the theme relies on some small South African vocal. Then we’ll really dive into exploring all kinds of African instruments, something that fits the colour palette, and the sound palette, and makes you feel stepping into the world visually too. That helps you make the music as well because you are not just in front of the computer you feel like you’re actually there, in this world that you created.  

I wanted to ask you about the Prodigy remix. How did that come about?

Camo: It started as a bootleg that we just did for a small rave to have something exclusive, because when we DJ of course it’s good to put in a big tune here and there. But for us, it’s all about the exclusives, music that you can only hear when we are playing because that makes a set unique. This track was one idea that really worked. People love it.

Krooked: And then we played it on our Australia tour and when Andy C heard it he was like “Guys I need this tune. Please send it to me!” And we said “No, we just actually made it for us as an exclusive. So we could have some tunes and nobody else has.” 

We ended up giving it just to him and Jim from RAM is friends with the Prodigy’s manager and showed him a video of Andy C playing the bootleg. He said, “Dude, this goes off, you have to release it!” They got back to us and actually, The Prodigy lost it as well! We’re so super honoured to be able to release on XL.  

Mefjus: The most amazing part was that because it’s a bootleg, we ripped the stems out of the originals. But then when we released it legit, the label actually sent us the original recordings from Keith. We got goosebumps. It was so weird when they sent over the files, there were five or six web files and every file was 500 kilobytes big. We thought this can’t be right, but once we double-clicked the files we realised each one was one word, because this song was so old back then when they were recording it, that they didn’t have so much hard drive space on those discs. It was so insane to be part of this old-school journey.  Having his vocal in the DAW is just such a sick moment. I love The Prodigy, they’ve been such a huge inspiration since forever. I’m still super stoked that it actually got released legitimately.

Camo: Yeah, we only believed it when it was really out there because words are spoken a lot. But big things happening like that, especially in such a natural way, don’t come about too often. 

What should we be talking about in the scene that we’re not talking about currently?

Krooked: I do think the way labels are operating should be talked about more. There should be a bit of a change in that realm. Labels are still signing five album deals and exclusives and they will never meet the expectations of the artists that keep them, not hostage but basically, taking that artistic freedom of the artist at a very early age. The artist does not really know yet what he or she is gonna do when signing a contract like that, I think this is something that a lot of artists fall into the trap of. There should be more awareness about these kinds of contracts and the way that the music industry works in general,

Mefjus: I think what we should talk about more is the fact that raves are on really late, and I want them to stop earlier, so we can go to bed earlier. I’m 34 years old. I don’t want to stay up that long anymore. Remember New Zealand last year, curfew around 11 pm or 12, being in bed by midnight. So sick!

Mefjus: I just thought of something for real, that I wanted to mention is that the appreciation for MCS is sometimes not there and it’s really bothering me. It’s a very subjective topic, obviously, one person likes an MC the other doesn’t, but sometimes I feel like they’re not giving enough justice, and not enough credit though. Sometimes we have to actively work hard to get our choice of MC like MC Daxta and Maxim on the bill. And the work to get them on the lineup, even being printed on flyers. I think sometimes it is very disrespectful to them. Because I think they bring a lot of benefits and additional energy to the sets. 

Krooked: That’s a really good point. I think it’s been way more divided now because of all those streams and recordings where people sit at home watching something that was purposely made for the club or a rave environment and that always needs the MC, it’s just part of it

Mefjus: They don’t just need more credit and more respect but also higher fees period…

Camo: That depends if we are paying them or the promoter. Haha

Follow MODUS: Spotify/Instagram/Facebook