We Need To Talk About Sl8r

It would be hard to find a more exciting and dynamic music scene than Manchester right now. As well as a core group of veterans that have been flying the flag for decades, we’re continually seeing a fresh crop of artists coming through the ranks. Despite suffering some of the strictest local restrictions, it hasn’t stopped an unbelievable amount of top-quality music coming out of the rainy city. Some of the very best has come courtesy of Sl8r.

The Brummie-born, Manchester-based artist has already built himself a stellar reputation, with a back catalogue that boasts releases on a host of labels including Delta9 Recordings, Deep In The Jungle and Skankandbass.

His talents were soon spotted by the seminal V Recordings, where label boss Bryan Gee was quick to announce Sl8r was going to be the ‘next big thing in the scene.’ Just as comfortable tackling raucous jungle beats as he is an ethereal roller, his diverse and varied creations showcase a talent for producing right across the drum and bass spectrum.

He’s found a home on V’s Chronic imprint of late, with his most recent single dropping last month. Mimosa/Ambra sees him take inspiration from his time at Sun & Bass festival to craft two jazz-flecked rollers that embody V Recordings’ past, present and future.

Elsewhere, over the lockdown period he started crafting an exciting new jungle project with multi-genre talent Chimpo, as well as trying his hand with some garage beats; an avenue that he hopes to explore more over the coming months.

We caught up with Sl8r to chat about his recent work rate, as well as why the Manchester scene is really popping right now….

When Bryan Gee referred to you as the ‘next big thing in the scene,’ how did that make you feel? 

Yeah, wicked man, he’s a massive legend! It’s great to have the backing of someone like him, it gets my name out and really opens a lot of doors. He said I reminded him of DJ Die when he first started out which was a bit of a wow moment as I’ve always been a huge fan of Die’s work. 

How influential have V Recordings been for not just the history, but for the constant redevelopment of drum and bass? 

Absolutely massive, I think! One of the best things was how they brought the Brazilian crew over who are all now smashing it. They’re always looking to see what they can do next and are so good at uncovering the new big thing. Two days after my last release, Bryan rang me up and was like ‘what have you got next for me then?’ They’re just always looking forward! 

What have you learnt from working with pioneering figures like Bryan and Frost? 

Above anything else, it’s just work ethic really! They’ve always got so many projects on the go. If you look at Frost especially, on his social media pages you can see he’s pushing himself, not even just with music, he’s always got his fingers in loads of different pies. So yeah, just the attitude to constantly be looking to contribute and work really hard. 

V are noticeable for pushing a wide range of styles. Has working with them encouraged you to experiment or have you always been keen to push the spectrum? 

I’ve always made lots of different stuff I suppose. Being on V means I really can continue to do this, especially with all the imprints they’ve got that showcase different sounds. Bryan’s really open to pretty much anything as long as he thinks it’s got the quality. For example, they’ve got Thinktonk on the label whose sound is really influenced by bashment so they’re always looking to bring different vibes to the table. This is really good for me as I’ve always enjoyed making a variety of drum and bass. I’ve never wanted to get pigeon-holed to just the one style.

You’ve found a home on their Chronic imprint over the past year or so with your latest single Mimosa/Ambra dropping last month. You really captured that raw V sound with the jazz/funk influenced, sub-roller style…

Yeah, definitely! That Ambra track is named after the night at Sun & Bass. It was the first track I made when I got back from the festival last year. I really wanted to capture the vibe and energy from that week. I remember a Klute b2b Dom & Roland set that was just non-stop raw rollers, so I wanted to make something like what I heard then. Mimosa is a classic funky, liquid sound that was sort of like what you can hear on Liquid V, but I think it works really well on Chronic because of that bassy sub. 

We know you’re not afraid of a bootleg after last year’s Hackney Parrot refit. You’ve just put out another- Disclosure’s What’s in your Head. How’s the response been?

 It’s pretty mad to be honest! I made it really quickly and didn’t think too much of it but loads of people have been playing it and supporting it which is cool. With no clubs open I thought I’d just get it out there, it’s no good sat on my hard drive. It got to number 1 in the DnB charts on Hypeddit which was nice!

A couple of your tracks on Nuusic’s most recent compilation sees you go for some tear-out jungle. This seems to be a style you’re really comfortable with… 

Yeah man, the Nuusic guys are cool, we know each other from being in the Manchester scene. When I first started getting a bit of recognition it was for the jungle stuff I was doing on Deep In The Jungle and Nuusic, which was what Ray Keith picked up on. I’ve been doing the jungle stuff for quite a long time now. I find it really fun to make. You can just put the breaks together quickly and don’t have to muck about with the transients. You just get a vibe going and if you can capture that you don’t need to worry about the more technical stuff.

Anyone who follows you on social media would have seen you’re cooking up some more jungle flavours with Chimpo as well. 

I got hooked up with him through Bloc2Bloc as he’s always around there. We’d spoken about doing some collaborations, so we’ve recently started doing some jungle stuff. I think we’ve got six tracks sorted now. A couple will hopefully be on V and then a couple will go on his Box N Lock label on a various artists’ compilation so we’re going to start with them and see from there. He’s a great guy to make music with, he’s got such a good ear for samples and sounds. He’s got loads of old tape decks that he’s ripped samples off, so we had loads of reggae and ragga vocals that probably no one has ever used before!

You’ve also been producing some garage. Was that a lockdown experiment or more of a long-term project? 

I’ve always listened to garage, probably longer than I have drum and bass to be honest. I’ve got a mate from back home who’s a really good garage producer called Dr. Shemp who does loads of old school, New York-style garage, so I thought over lockdown I’d have a go myself. I put a clip of it up and people really liked it, so I’ve done a couple of other tracks. I’m looking to put an EP together and I’ve spoken with another drum and bass producer about starting a little garage project so hopefully I’ll be doing a bit more of it in the future.

What else do you have in the pipelines in terms of releases? 

So, I’m going to be working on an album for V which will be wicked- I’m going to try and get loads of collaborations for it. I’ve got an EP coming with an MC called JKEN who’s a good friend of mine. I’m not sure when that will come but it’ll be some time next year. I’ve also got another EP coming with a Manchester MC called Slay which I’m really excited about. He’s got tunes with so many people that when they all drop next year, he’s going to be absolutely massive so it’s definitely good for me that I’ve got something on the way with him! 

As well as the veterans who’ve been holding it down for years, we’re constantly seeing new artists coming through in the Manchester scene…. 

Yeah, it’s really good! Loads of them are coming through on Bloc2Bloc as well which is wicked. Not all of them though, there’s a really good artist called Rohaan who is getting support from Noisia who makes half-timey stuff. It’s a really cool, close-knit scene, all the producers know each other and share music and want to work together. I really love it man, there’s always lots of wicked new people coming through.

They took some criticism earlier this year, but how important have Bloc2Bloc been for the development of young artists in the city?

It wasn’t the best of ideas, but we live and we learn! They do a lot for women in the Manchester scene, they’ve brought a load of them through who will all say Jack Banner is a really great guy who does so much for everyone. 

Rich Reason and Hit & Run have also done so much for bringing new music to Manchester…

Rich is the absolute guy in Manchester! He’s the one who always brings the music that I want to hear to the city. He’s never too bothered about if an event sells out or not, he just wants to bring good music for people to enjoy. If he believes in an artist, he’ll get them on a line-up and really support them. He always puts on multi-genre nights which others don’t really do. He’ll get a dubstep room and then have the drum and bass in the upper room of Hidden and then have something like U.K. hip-hop in the basement. If anyone’s been to their birthday events, they’ll know what I’m on about! At last year’s birthday event, Unglued and I did a jungle set together which has been one of my favourites. It was only like 11 o’clock but it was absolutely wicked.

On the topic of events, what’s your opinion of sit-down raves?

The ones I’ve played I’ve really enjoyed! The one in Liverpool I did was really good and the one down in London at The Cause was wicked. I played alongside Doc Scott who was been the unsung hero of the last lockdown in my opinion with his weekly live streams. The Engage Audio boys have been smashing it from what I’ve seen, they’re really keeping the scene alive in London at the moment. I also played the big Hit & Run one in Manchester before everything was shut down. I really like them to be honest! They’re not as good as the real thing of course, but they keep everything moving. 

With firstly the tier 3 restrictions and now another lockdown, what’s the attitude in the Manchester scene like at the moment?

We’re all just trying to do our thing and get on with it. Everyone is looking to put out as much music as possible, as the way a lot of people are looking at it at the moment is that if you’re not doing that, you’ll be left behind a little bit when stuff starts to open up again.

To finish, what do you think the current situation means for the future of the dance music industry, both in Manchester and in the U.K.? 

That’s a really good question. We obviously don’t know when stuff will be back properly. Manchester at the moment is waiting really, everyone’s got plans, they just can’t put them into practice right now. When everything is allowed, I think Manchester will kick off massively because it’s just raring to go.

For the U.K. as a whole I really don’t know. We’ve obviously got Brexit next year, so it’ll be harder for foreign artists to come over, just as it’ll be harder for our artists to go overseas. This could drive the music underground again back to what it was like before. We’re seeing free parties really kicking off at the moment, they’re the only thing that’s really going. There will also be less nights with lots of headliners as people will be so desperate to go out and listen to some music. You could just have the one headliner and then a load of local names which would still pack out. This could actually help the whole drum and bass eco-system as more attention could be placed on the smaller artists. People will go out and discover more artists they haven’t heard before, so I guess there is a silver lining in the sense the scene could really be built from the ground up!

Sl8r – Ambra / Mimosa is out now on V Recordings

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