Multifaceted dark room music with a minimalist approach characterises the inspiring catalogue of Crucial Recordings. Operating within the murky mean depths of 140 (and related bpm’s), the imprint has quietly edged to the forefront of forward-thinking dubstep representing a unique take on sound system music. Once the foundations were laid by its curator’s inaugural anthems “Check It” and “Shatterz”, Sleeper then introduced Foamplate’s classic “7.5”, Oxóssi’s brilliant “Solace“, and Eva808’s incredible “Psycho Sushi“. Now after sixteen successful releases, the label is bringing a few of its artists together to commemorate its 3rd birthday. With the celebrations beginning this weekend in Bristol, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with Sleeper again to talk what has been and what is to come.
Alex, how you been?
All good here thanks. Just going through some demo beats currently.
What do you look out for when signing a new artist to the label?
Mostly I’m looking for artists who have a sound that stands out. I get sent loads of stuff and a lot of it sounds like the same idea done over and over again by different producers, who sound like they are trying to nail a certain sound. The best stuff I hear is the stuff that doesn’t sound forced, stuff that’s completely natural and distinct. The most important thing is that ownership of their sound, that a good artist will have. If you look at guys like Foamplate, Samba, Causa and Oxóssi, you can tell when a tune is theirs. I’ll be playing a brand new, unknown Causa tune no one has heard before, and get a tap on the shoulder from someone saying, “this one’s gotta be Causa right?”. Other than that I’m looking for sounds that fit with the label and the direction I’m trying to take things in, plus they gotta be cool, I’m not looking to work with dickheads.
Golden rule! So Crucial Recordings has just turned 3, Happy Anniversary! How did it all come together to begin with?
Ahh thanks! To be honest the idea to start a record label came a very long time ago. I think once I’d been collecting vinyl for a while it was just something that I knew I wanted to do at some point. The idea of finding undiscovered music you love, and bringing it to the surface, appealed to me a lot and still does. It must have been about a decade before I was actually ready to make it all happen though, and I’m glad I didn’t rush into it, because it all feels good right now.
How is the label going to celebrate?
So as you know we are running a session with the dudes at Subsist in Bristol this Friday: we got Causa, Foamplate, D£DW8 plus Bukez Finezt rolling through for that one. Then a couple of weeks after, we have a thing in London with the Shitty Dubstep guys, and we got Samba and Opus running things there. We do have a third, planned out in the states in May too. Very hyped for all three shows.
There are so many labels out there at the moment and the mutual support seems stronger than ever. However, as we have seen before, there are downsides to it all; the vinyl pressing process slows down, competition grows, quality slips. What’s your take on this?
I think we’re in a pretty good place at the moment, the scene is super healthy and there are so many good producers popping up. It makes sense, that there will also be a few new labels coming through to support the influx of talent. Also, I fully agree that the mutual support within the scene is at the high, and I think that it’s showing in how much everything is bubbling right now. Everyone seems to be rooting for each other again instead of themselves, and that’s how scenes move forward. It’s true about things slowing down on the manufacturing side of things, but I think it’s just a case of adapting and being a bit more organised to make sure you’re ahead and get music out when you want it out. That’s all that has really changed for Crucial. I just have to be a lot more organised than before.
There’s so much creativity too. Which direction do you think is dubstep moving towards at the moment?
To me it feels like it’s always heading in a bunch of different directions. There is obviously a big merge at the moment with both UK and US trap, as well as more experimental bass music crossover stuff. But that’s what dubstep is to me, one big crossover, with influences from pretty much every genre you can think of. To be honest, just the fact that it’s moving at all is good. Shit definitely got a little stale a while back, but thanks to all these sick new producers popping up, the scene has been given a big kick up it’s arse. The new school of dubstep producers have given this scene a second wind, if you ask me. It’s been great seeing new names on flyers and in set tracklists, instead of the same heads over and over. That’s how we are moving forward right now.
I really like those promo videos you upload, the Eva808, Samba and Moonstones ones in particular. Who’s behind them?
Ah nice! Yeah I made those, (laughs!) I was always pretty good with editing audio, so grabbed a free video editing thing on my laptop and started making these little promo clips to go with each release. They seemed to help a lot with the promotion, so I just kept on doing them, it’s kinda fun.
What can we look forward to from Crucial, as well as yourself?
Yeah so for Crucial we have pretty much the whole year lined up now, the Hebbe release did really well and is almost sold out, so obviously super stoked on that. Next on Crucial is a four track EP from myself which is due in April. Pretty hyped for this one. Then we have a sick, sick release from new guy Opus which I have been battering in every set. Cannot wait for people to hear it! Beyond that we will have “Crucial EP Volume 2” ready at some point, plus another new artist to announce. For myself, I have locked a few more releases with some other labels I’m working with. Starting with the SYSTEM plate, which should be out real soon. I think I might have 7, or 8 records out by the end of this year, under one alias or another. Other than that I’ll just be doing my normal thing – hiding away in the studio making weird sounds, eating exotic nut butters and stuff (laughs).
What about new artists, who’s on your radar right now?
I’m not sure if I want to mention that at this point (laughs). I’ve definitely got my eye on a few though, but yeah mostly just all the guys on Crucial right now. Other than that, obviously there’s all the Encrypted gang, plus everyone on Rarefied. Headland too, guy’s a killer!
Throwback question to finish, what were you doing before Sleeper?
Not sure if anyone has ever asked that one, but the answer to that is “not a lot”. I used to make drum and bass stuff, and a bit of hip hop too, but it was all just beats for fun type stuff, experimenting and just learning how to put tracks together. I think I was mostly just fucking around for maybe about five years, before I thought about trying to do anything with it.
A track that… you currently open your sets with: Gramz – STFU mixes dubstep and techno together perfectly: Martyn – Vancouver inspired you to start Crucial: Dubstep – All Of Dubstep