Fearless Dread x Juan Forté: JUAN001

Fearless Dread is the new joint project of producers Arkwright and Chuckman that’s been receiving widespread play time from numerous pillars of the scene. Both experienced producers in their own right, the two have joined forces to push an older more classic 140 sound, re-tooled for the next generation. One of the tracks on their upcoming EP, “Double Red” can be seen dropping shells at the recent Boiler Room Festival and is part of a double debut: The first formal release for both Fearless Dread and the successful event-turned-label Juan Forté. It was in honour of this momentous occasion that I got a chance to speak to the guys behind Fearless Dread, as well as the Juan Forté Team.

Could you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you guys started producing?

Arkwright: Hello mate! Hope you’re all good! I’m Sam and I produce under the name Arkwright. I’ve been producing for near on 8 years now, maybe 9? I forget to be honest, there’s a year or two that I don’t really count, because I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t.

Chuckman: I’m Charlie, I produce under the name Chuckman. I’ve been in IT for the last six or so years, having studied design at university. I remember starting a job at Apple and we got Logic for free, so I just jumped into production from there. I was already playing tunes and buying records so it felt quite normal.

How did you two first meet, and what made you start collaborating?

A: We met at a Croydub night years ago! I knew Chucky as a DJ online and I sent him beats quite often, so we sort of knew each other from that.

C: Yeah I’ve been in London for 9 years now, and met Sam just after university. I was begging him for this sick tune he did with a Trim acapella and he eventually got in contact and gave me some dubs. From there, we were like “lets do this collab where we make bare old school sounding dubstep since we miss it and cant afford to spend £200 on Anti-War Dub. So Sam came round for a fry up and we smashed out our first tune.

What are some of your individual musical influences?

C: For me, garage, but that’s mostly the last 4 years maybe. I prefer the 2 step-y old FWD days of dubstep production.

A: My influences range from early DMZ stuff to Portishead, High Contrast and The Beatles. A bit of everything really but that early dubstep and trip hop has a real influence on me as a producer.

How did the release with Juan Forté come about?

A: They were starting a label and we were looking for one! We had a couple of labels in the pipeline chatting about the release and Juan just really stood out for us as these new hungry guys that are just doing it for the love of doing it, if you get what I mean. It resonated with us.

C: I remember seeing an email from them and couldn’t quite believe it. We had been searching for a good home for ‘N4’ for quite a while without any luck, as we could no longer go ahead with our own label at the time ‘Sovereign’. So putting out ‘N4’ with the Juan boys felt so right. And they have SMASHED every aspect of the release.

Artwork by Chas

You both obviously have your own solo projects and releases: Is Fearless Dread much different conceptually to your individual work? Does it represent a particular style or sound you guys wanted to push together?

A: Yeah I think it is, we quite often start tunes and send them over to the other for feedback, and Chucky will say “yeah this is really good mate but it’s a bit too Arkwright”. We try not to let our individual styles impact the music too much; it will always be there but hopefully not take over.

C: Very different: Arky has his sound and sometimes that leaks out when we make tunes, and I’ll just say “Nah mate, that’s a banger, but that ones for you”. When I’m not with Sam I really only concentrate on making garage, I just love drums and vocals, so making 2-step is so fun.

What is your production process like? Are you guys often in the studio together?

C: Hardly ever, but when we do get time together, we usually get two, three, sometimes four tracks done. I think its good, because we’re not constantly making tunes together and getting bored or reusing the same loops etc. So when we do meet, it’s fresh and we have ideas that we have been sitting on for sometimes 6 months.

A: We only really work well together face to face which is a struggle as I moved to Devon 3 years ago, but we catch up whenever we can.

Do you guys tend to “split” certain jobs whilst producing?

C: Yeah I mainly do the drums, but sometimes we swap. For instance, check our track ‘501’, we completely swapped roles for that one and it was so fun, we listened to it back in the car afterwards and were just like “yes mate!”.

A: Yeah we have this mad way of making music, where one person gets an hour for drums and the other gets an hour for the baseline. Then we put them together and see how they work without ever listening to the other’s beforehand. Sometimes it’s like “wow this is amazing,” other times it’s a bit like “what the fuck have we done”.

Do you tend to differ much in your ideas for where a track should go? And if so, how do you resolve those issues?

A: We differ quite a bit, because we both have different ideas about what direction we should be going in as individual artists, but we just meet in the middle, I think it works well.

C: Yeah it happens. It’s usually because we rarely attempt to make tracks online. It’s tough to be on the same musical vibe when you’re living so far apart. We end up just sitting on the projects that we have been sending back and forth at the time, and just revisiting them again when we next meet.

JUAN001 on vinyl

Judging from your promo mix for Juan Forté, you guys already have a lot of unreleased material. Is Fearless Dread your guys’ main focus at the moment? Or is it still second to your individual work?

C: For me it’s my main focus production wise, as I’ve had no real focus before that. Chuckman is still a focus too though, with regular radio shows and the odd booking.

A: I’ve put Arkwright on the back burner for the time being, purely because my spare time is fairly non existent and when I do get time, it’s usually on Fearless Dread since there’s momentum with this release. I will still make stuff for Arkwright in the future. It’s definitely not a dead alias, just a sleeping one.

Are there any tips or advice you’d give to other producers?

C: Make what you like. Don’t make music you think will be popular just because everyone else is making it. Also, don’t feel like you have to make the music that you DJ. There’s plenty of DJs out there who will definitely play the music you want to make.

A: My only tip is to listen to people’s advice but ignore whatever the fuck you want. Music is art, and art is the beauty of the artist. If someone says they don’t like something, take it as criticism but if you love it just fucking ignore them. Do whatever you want and don’t ever make music for the masses.

Have you guys got anything else in the pipeline?

A: Nothing we can talk about I’m afraid mate!

C: 🤐

Finally, who are some other producers that you think we should pay attention to?

C: Foamplate for me, he always deserves a shout out, big love. Jackson too, he’s sat on bare dubs. Drumterror has got his sound now so that’s very exciting. Krytikal is making the exact music I love so I have to say hello to him.

A: Foamplate, Major Oak, Rizlateef and his label are doing madness. Sicaria Sound are on one at the moment as well. There’s so much new talent pushing through, it’s like a garage and dubstep revival. Lots of raw sounds again.

8bit promo video by GA2 Creative

Juan Forté, the label behind the Fearless Dread release is a successful dubstep event originating in Loughborough with a string of massive events that consistently brought the vibes. Since then, they’ve spread to Nottingham, Leicester and are now preparing to stick the Juan Forté flag into the fertile soil of Sheffield this November, with their anticipated event featuring Sicaria Sound and Joker to name a few (save the date). For those who want to keep their finger on the pulse, they also run and regularly update the Juan Forté blog and YouTube channel that host a multitude of exclusive track premieres and previews. Origins aside, the Juan Forté team have further diversified themselves by starting a label to push more of the music they love and represent. Given their more unique approach to events and promotion, I was interested to find out more about their plans and thought processes.

Obviously this is Juan Forté’s debut release, is there any particular concept or idea behind the label in terms of the music?

So, there isn’t necessarily a strictly defined concept with the label – the general principles we try and run all of our projects with are probably the most significant influence on our vision for the future of the label. But these are still quite broad. With our events, we like to bring the big sound. With our online channels, we like to give a platform to upcoming labels and artists. With our art, we like to keep things spicy. So, I guess in a way the label has been a way for us to synthesize these kinds of broader values into a single package. The tunes are the big sound; this is Fearless’ debut release (even though their name is already well established) and the artwork is full of scovilles.

This is early days though still. We have managed to lock in JUAN002 which also follows these key tenets. The tunes are fat. The artist doesn’t have a huge release catalogue but has been getting support from some of the scene’s most current figurehead, and, hopefully, the artwork will be just as aesthetically unique.

In terms of musical direction for the label it’s also quite hard to pin down at this stage. 001 and 002 are cut from similar cloths stylistically, but that’s mainly down to the decision-making mechanisms we use as a collective. There are six of us who run Juan, and we operate as a kind of chaotic democracy. We all have similar tastes, but with those added nuances you get with a music style as diverse on dubstep. We all like ice cream; we all have a flavour preference. Obviously, there’s always going to be a middle ground where we get sent a tune and think “Fuck, this is the juan” – and that’s essentially what has influenced the musical direction so far and probably will continue to do so. When you have six people with six differing stylistic preferences, when you find that tune you all agree on, you know it’s going to be a winner.

You guys have a very noticeable and unique visual style for a dubstep event and label, could you tell me more about the artwork and aesthetic you guys have going for the label, and Juan in general?

Yeah, so, for people who haven’t clocked it yet, ‘Juan Forté’ is a play on ‘140’. We always knew that we’d want a mascot/character called Juan Forté, and we managed to find him for our fourth event. The Juan character that you see on all our artworks is the brainchild of Chas – a former newspaper cartoonist, prolific illustrator and Underhill’s (Juan founder) girlfriend’s granddad. We’re very lucky to be working with Chas. He’s has such a wealth of experience we can’t even really comprehend. He brings that unique twist because he operates in a way that very few people do these days. Up until when the artwork gets delivered to us, nothing is done with a computer. Underhill mails Chas a printed out letter with our ideas/script and we then get a finished piece in the post a week or so later.

It’s definitely one of the most exciting bits for us. Even though we send the ideas and storyboard – we never have any idea what we’re getting until we open that envelope. So yeah, the kind of visual aspects of the release are pretty much this process working at it’s best. We enjoy working with creatives quite a lot to be honest. You may have noticed the skanking juan show reel on Youtube, which was created by our juanimator-in-chief Matt Marshall. We also released an 8bit video for this release, which we did with GA2 Creative – a 2d animator based in Brazil who has worked with some of the extended Midlands juandem before. Ultimately, we try and add a splash of colour and humour to everything we do. The scene often takes itself quite seriously and accompanying aesthetics can tend towards the darker or more minimal, so we consciously try and fight against this general trend.

The ultimate goal is for someone with no idea about the sound to get lured in by the visuals and thus expose themselves to this music we all love. Whether that’s by picking up one of our records, coming to an event or clicking on a premiere for another label – we aim for wider appeal without compromising on the fundamentals. The ultimate aim is to grow the scene’s audience and make it easier for everyone to release the good shit and to throw uncompromised nights with the sound system as its core focus.

JUAN001 is currently sold out on their store but more copies are landing at the usual stores soon. The next Juan event is November 16th. Join the event page and snag your tickets.

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