As a legend in the scene for over a decade, Youngsta, real name Daniel Lockhart, is a man of many responsibilities: A&Ring for Tempa, DJ gigs, running his Contact nights, producing and playing weekly (now fortnightly) shows on Rinse FM. This year, he takes on yet another role as the boss of his new label, Sentry. Although Sentry drops its first release this January, the label has been in the pipeline for a long time. Deciding on the perfect track and an aesthetic that reflected his vision was a painstaking process that took years. Both Youngsta’s busy schedule and nagging self-doubt held him back from starting his own imprint, but with the help of good friends, including label signee dBridge, Youngsta was able to get his idea off the ground and release the first of what will undoubtedly be many stellar records on Sentry. During a brief window in his packed schedule, I met Youngsta to discuss the story behind the label and what he’s got planned for the future.
When did the idea for Sentry come about?
It’s been on my mind for a long time, I’m talking years, but it’s taken me up until now to finally launch the label. Obviously I’ve worked for Tempa from day one as their A&R, but that’s never been my label, it’s my sister’s label. I’ve worked with her from the very beginning and I still do A&R for Tempa, but the whole idea behind Sentry is to release the music I love, push that purist sound forward and be in full control. There’s a lot of good music out there, so I figure there’s room to do both Tempa and Sentry.
How will running a label fit in with all your other duties like A&Ring for Tempa, radio shows and DJing?
It will fit in perfectly but I wouldn’t say it’s always going to be straightforward or easy. It will be time consuming and challenging and I’m sure I’ll make mistakes. The lovely people at Unearthed, the distribution company that I’m using and working with, have been amazing, really supportive and very helpful. My Rinse FM radio show used to be every week but now it’s every fortnight, Tuesday 9-11pm GMT, so that’s worked out nicely. On the weekends I’m usually DJing at shows which doesn’t interfere or affect running the label at all, because I can deal with all Sentry related matters in the week when I have spare time. When I’m touring internationally it will be difficult sometimes as it’s pretty much non-stop when you’re touring, but as long as I’ve got my laptop, I’ll be all good. My main drive behind the label is the music of course, and I’m in no rush. Quality over quantity always.
You’re very specific about what sound you like listening to or playing. What kind of sound are you looking with this label?
It’s interesting, because a lot of people assume I’m starting a dubstep label. I do not intend to only release dubstep on my label. It’s a record label that’s gonna release a mixture of different genres and styles of music that I truly love. There’s music being made that’s between 120(ish) – 130bpm that I really like and I’ve been playing some of it when I DJ. I don’t even know what the genre is called. Some of it is slightly house / techno-sounding, which I enjoy. But I also think some of it sounds like very early dubstep before it was called dubstep (it reminds me of the music that me and some of the other resident DJ’s were playing at FWD>> between 2000-2003ish). Basically the sound that Swamp 81, Tectonic etc have been releasing is what I’m referring to, artists such as Loefah, Paleman, Pinch, Mumdance, Walton, Hodge, Wen, Facta, Alex Coulton and Addison Groove. I’m really into the 160-170bpm jungle / half-time D&B sound too, so why stick to 140bpm / dubstep? There’s so much good music out there to release.
You said that Sentry releases would be vinyl and digital. Is that because you’re a fan of using both formats when you DJ?
I use digital when I DJ nowadays and have done for a long time. I love using USBs for many different reasons. Occasionally I’m booked to specifically perform a set using vinyl and acetates only, which I don’t mind doing from time to time. It’s good to get my bag of vinyl and dubs out and go back to my roots. Sentry will always release digital and vinyl because I do still care about vinyl, it will always have a place in my heart. I also think it’s very bad for my business not to release vinyl and only do digital. It makes no sense to me because there is a niche audience of people out there that want the music they love on vinyl and I’m more than happy to give it to them, even if it’s only a small number of people that are consuming vinyl compared to back in the day when vinyl sales were massive! It’s still worth doing and there is a demand for it.
Where does the name Sentry come from?
I’m sometimes very indecisive and overthink things a lot, so choosing a name for my label was a long and challenging process. I thought of so many names, went through the dictionary hundreds of times trying to find the perfect name, the best name! But every time I picked one I’d changed my mind, thinking it’s not good enough. Most names I liked or wanted to use had already been taken and used by other record labels. I became obsessed with trying to find the right name. It was a nightmare and actually made me feel negative about the label, when I should have been feeling happy and excited. It was holding me back and I wanted to give up. Luckily, my very good friend mentioned the name ‘Sentry’ to me. I instantly liked it, and went with it. ‘Sentry Records’ was born.
What were the runner-up names?
Like I mentioned already, because trying to find the perfect name was driving me crazy and the process became so negative, it resulted in me giving up on words. I was gonna call it my date of birth, ‘1984 Records’, but Alix Perez beat me to it! He called his label ‘1985 Music’ recently. Maybe he was having trouble finding a name too. I was also considering using my surname because it would be very unique and not already taken.
You’ve chosen a very minimal look with your first release, whereas some labels go for elaborate artwork. How did you choose the aesthetic?
I wanted the design and look of the label to be minimal and simple but quality. Same with the logo. It’s minimal, bold and stands out. Less is more regarding the design and look of the label. The music is what’s most important to me.
Why did you choose dBridge for your first release?
dBridge is a legend and a friend. It’s an absolute honour to work with him. When dBridge sent me ‘Fashion Dread’ last year, I fell in love with it straight away. There’s a lot of good music out there at the moment but there are very few tunes that I love as much as ‘Fashion Dread’. I knew this was the one! It forced me to start the label finally after so many years of considering it but always putting it off or changing my mind. It honestly is a dream come true to have him on the label. Big up dBridge.
What have you got in the pipeline for Sentry?
I’ve got music coming from Nomine, Egoless… I’ve got some music coming from Cimm as well.
Any of your own productions?
Nah, I don’t want to release any of my own productions yet on Sentry. Maybe one day. I’ve actually got a 4-track EP with Markee Ledge coming out on J:Kenzo’s label, Artikal, later this year.
Would you sign similar artists to those you sign on Tempa?
Yes I would, definitely.
You’ve got Contact running alongside all of this, would you ever do a Sentry night?
I have no plans to do a Sentry night; it would clash with Contact. But in the future I’d like to maybe do a few small label tours. I think this would be positive and work well.