TenGraphs has been taking our breath away for a good minute now, so perhaps it’s about time for the rest of the bass music faithful to wake up and start following suit. Please form an orderly line. No need to be hasty, there’s plenty of filth to go around.
Breaking into the dubstep hierarchy presents more than enough hurdles as it is, but when you consider that Marc Distexhe also operates one of the most underrated labels (Crowsnest), it’s only natural to wonder where he finds enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on his plate. It’s truly a high-wire balancing act that requires a remarkable equilibrium. Luckily for this friendly Canadian, he’s endowed with the perfect makeup to excel in this dog eat dog music industry….
Between his collab-crammed Ripping Faces EP and some cutting edge solo works, it’s quite obvious that TenGraphs’ primary objective is to engineer monstrous creations that terrify us half to death. It’s working. The amount of pure terror packed into his extraordinary productions is simply unquantifiable.
Realistically, TenGraphs hasn’t even grazed the tip of the iceberg that is his untapped talent… And this is made all the more remarkable when you learn that under two years ago he was homeless and battling drug demons.
Music changed TenGraph’s life. Now he’s changing ours. Please observe closely…
How did Crowsnest all come together?
Crowsnest is really Sven’s (Code: Pandorum) baby. He’s the one who got it out of his mind and put it onto paper, so it all stemmed from that. He got Tyler (Lord Swan3x) on because he and Tyler had been friends for a long time, and he also had KRAM and Soberts on board originally. When Code started it off, I was just starting to get my production skills down, and he offered to do a collab with me and put out an EP on the label. At first that’s all it was, because Sven and I were just music friends. We weren’t really talking about anything beyond the music business.
Back in like September of 2015, KRAM and Soberts didn’t have time to help out with the label and Tyler and Sven were overloaded. So they asked on our group forum, “Does anybody want to help us run the social media?” A few years prior to that, I had already had my own label, so I already knew the basics of it. I’ve got a big background in social media marketing. So for me, I was just like, “Let’s do it!” I offered and they approved.
What difficulties come along with running a label?
There was a lot of stuff we underestimated, beginning with the hype that [Crowsnest] would gain. I’ll speak for myself, because I can’t talk for the others, but it’s been growing a lot faster than I thought it would. Even though we kind of knew that we had the product to generate that hype, it’s still crazy to us! It’s moving so fast, there’s so much going on, so much to plan. Having to balance full time jobs and school along with music and all the other parts of our lives, it’s hard to do everything we want to for the label.
Overall, this business has it challenges, but we embrace those challenges. We take them on and try to make it happen anyways. Personally, for me, one of my biggest influences is Kannibalen Records. I saw them grow from Montreal, from their first show until where they are today. I’ve observed everything they’ve done. Prime Audio and Bassweight Records are two labels that we also admire.
What’s your primary focus? The label or music production?
Originally, I figured I’d do a lot of A&R work, check out submissions and stuff like that. Then I realized that I’m good at scouting talent, but I’m much better at nurturing talent. Really, my focus in the past year has been to make sure that the brand name is really strong in the scene. Both locally here in Montreal – because Montreal really is a hub for what we do – but also internationally.
Our social media strategy is very sound, and that’s really my biggest focus. I spend at least a good 12 hours a week just on the social media and overall marketing strategy alone. Basically taking a pulse of where the scene is on a weekly basis. I end up spending maybe another 15 hours [per week] writing my own music and managing myself as an artist. There’s also a few other things that come up, but that’s mainly it.
Which two artists on Crowsnest are floating under the radar?
Definitely Qoiet. He is probably the most underrated producer out there right now. I’ve never seen somebody with so much talent. It’s crazy! His stuff is flawless and it’s so unique. Every time I hear a new song from him, I want to quit. It’s that simple.
Another underrated artist is Lūx. He is so close to blowing up. I mean, his second volume of Genesis just recently came out. Plus, I already know what he has in store for the future. The kid has got so much talent and he’s so close [to breaking through].
Code: Pandorum has been quietly constructing a massive album. Any thoughts?
I can’t talk about it just yet, but I’ll just say this about Sven. Everything he puts out is pure genius and it’s always way ahead of its time. On the God LP, it really gave an image to Code: Pandorum, but this specific release really depicts what Crowsnest and Code: Pandorum are about. That’s how I feel. It’s so much more horror than aggressive. It’s just, it’s scary for fucks sake. It’s just plain scary! Everything about it has this real horror and feel.
Most of your productions have a fairly vicious nature to them, is that deliberate?
As a kid, I used to listen to metal and drum & bass primarily. So when I first started producing music, it was really metal-influenced drum & bass and drumstep. That’s where I come from. I also had a huge neurofunk influence as well, so that’s where all my ideas stemmed from. So when I first heard of Code: Pandorum and started listening to his stuff, I was like, “this is really sick, the whole horror aspect of it.” Slowly but surely, things just evolved into this weird sound.
Ripping Faces is a prime example of that, and it’s where the whole idea of my music stems from. I mean, that’s what a bass face really is, just your face being completely distorted because how crazy the music is, and that’s what I try to bring out. I love seeing mosh pits at shows and walls of death at shows. I used to love seeing those even before the Wall of Death tune came out, so for myself, it’s always been a natural thing. And I always want to try to bring that out in my music, that angry and almost sadistic feel. I want it to be hard.
So what’s the bass music scene like in Montreal at the moment?
As a fan, over the span of the last seven years, there’s been a lot of shifting, a lot of competition, a lot of people quitting and stepping on other people’s toes, bashing of this and that and whatever. I think in the last couple months, there’s finally been this sense of unity that’s been created and this feeling of peace between all the different promoters. Everybody just started working together. It’s honestly a good thing that it happened, because right now the scene is evolving on to a whole different level. It’s really fun to see that.
If I put my producer hat on, I come up to a point where all of a sudden the world opens up to me and I don’t have to play local shows just to get my name out. Everybody is supporting everyone, so I can literally spend three or four months on tour without playing in Montreal and then come back and people are supporting me like crazy. That’s a good thing to know, because when your own hometown isn’t supporting you, it’s a really hard thing to deal with.
You recently shared a clip of your tune Sanctuary, please tell us the story behind the track.
I’ve got to go a bit back in time a bit here. So the Ripping Faces EP had just come out, and I’m listening to the whole EP and I’m thinking that it’s doing really good on the charts, things are going well and it’s getting a lot of visibility. And I’m listening to it and I’m like, “How the hell am I going to make something better than this?” I’m just stuck. I was in a writer’s block and couldn’t write anything else.
So I took time off, shut everything out and just sat down and wrote music for the fun of it. I wasn’t trying to make a banger or write anything intense, I was just writing music that was coming from the heart. Even the sound design that I was making, I wasn’t trying to make something that fit with my image, I was making sounds that I found cool. I ended up landing on a 45 second clip that sounded pretty decent.
We we’re planning something here in Montreal for the Crowsnest team and we wanted to put together a video clip for the show, and we were just like, “Let’s call it Sanctuary.” So I wanted to write a song based off that. That was kind of like the first spark that I got. So I used that little 45 second bit and I tweaked it a bit. I got it to a point where I thought it was good. I showed it to Sven and he was like, “dude, you need to stop everything else you’re doing and write more of this, because this is what is going to sell. This is you!” At that moment I knew this was legit.
Sanctuary has more of a hybrid trap feel, but like really dark. So I figured, I know somebody who is going to enjoy this, so I sent it to Kai Wachi and he digged it right away. He told me, “Send me a playout as soon as possible!” And that’s what I did. Two days later the track was done and he had the track. I can’t talk too much more about it, but it’s going to be on another one of our big releases this year.
Apparently there’s also a Ripping Faces remix EP in the works, what details can you divulge?
I can’t name any names, but the artists on there are very popular and in-demand on the scene. The reason why I did a remix EP is because of one producer in particular had asked me to send him Mind Games with Sudden Death and then he asked if he could remix it. It grew from there. The producers I brought in are prepared to completely flip the shit on it. They are going to bring a whole new aspect to the EP. I’m also going to throw in a VIP of Ripping Faces as well. That’s just going to be pure mental! I know that this release is going to please a lot of people from all sides of the dubstep community.
What’s your message to aspiring musicians out there that might be struggling to find their way in this industry?
If I look back about a year and a half ago now. I was homeless, I was really deep into drugs, I wasn’t really doing good in my life at all. It was really dark times and I had been in that vicious circle for four years. I got to a point where I needed to change and I needed to get my life back together, so I went to rehab and got my shit straight. The more I started taking care of myself and the more I started focusing on a being a positive person with a positive outlook, the more I started seeing results.
So if I had to translate that to a suggestion to aspiring artists, I’d say, keep pushing. Stay positive. Quit the drugs if you can, or at least minimize it. That’s really a big thing. All the producers that I know that are doing really, really good, most of them drink and that’s about it. They are really focused on their work.
The whole point of the underground scene is that it is a community, and if you try to pretend you’re better than anybody or play the ego game, it’s not going to work out for you. You’ve got to help everybody out, whether they are smaller or bigger than you, it’s about being a family. That’s why the underground is still alive, because people continue to help each other out. Otherwise it would’ve been dead a long time ago.