Midlands based label Top Drawer Digital is one of the best future jungle labels around. With an impressive back catalogue already under their belts and a host of regular artists airing top flight productions through them, TTD are simply on it in terms of style and production. They have nailed the pure essence of what future jungle is all about, and that is employing modern production techniques and ideas with the classic, slightly downtempo breakbeat style that we all know and love.
We caught up with label owner Lucas to get the low down on Top Drawer Digital, the future jungle scene and some of the awesome tracks on their new Future Jungle Expeditions 2 album.
How did the label came about?
Around 2009 I stumbled upon a mix online by DJ Pilgrim that just blew me away. It was full of tracks with that old skool, vibe but they had something new and fresh about them. After some digging around around I found the musical style was known as j-tek (nu skool jungle tekno) and was basically 140-150 BPM breaks and bass driven music with the vibe of old style jungle but with a modern, progressive framework.
I had a bash at writing a few tracks myself and had never felt better producing music. It was like I'd found where I needed to be. A few DJs picked up on my tracks and started giving them airplay to good reactions via internet radio shows and out at the small amount of j-tek nights available at the time.
There were a limited amount of labels pushing the sound at the time so I hooked up with a DJ called Digitally Mashed I'd got to know who shared my tastes and ethos about the music and Top Drawer Digital was born.
Not only was it to be a platform to release my own stuff but to really push the sound in general through releases and our Top Drawer Digital radio show every Tuesday 8pm-10pm (UK) on Nu-Rave.com.
As a label you locked straight into what was known then as j-tek, and has since become known internationally as future jungle. It's come a long way since its inception back in 2008. What do you think the style's main appeal is?
HaHa! Yeah, the future jungle tag had caused some very interesting and sometimes heated debate since DJ Fresh released his Future Jungle EP but, love it or hate it, it has at least got the music talked about and heard.
For me future jungle is a blanket genre that covers many other styles that work well together including nu-rave (j-tek, hardcore breaks and rave breaks), jungle breaks, 140 jungle, 140 breaks and the breakier styles of dubstep.
The thing that appeals to me most is the diversity of it all, the fact that dnb, dubstep , breaks and nu-rave producers are all making 140-150 BPM tracks that work together in DJ sets and borrow elements from each other's genres.
There are a lot of producers from hardcore and jungle's golden era (the likes of Vinyl Junkie and Bay B Kane) making future jungle now. What sort of an impact has their experience had on the sound, if any?
Well, Vinyl Junkie has in reality been producing and releasing what we are now labelling future jungle on Warehouse Wax since 2003. I went through a lot of their back catalogue the other day and it still sounds current now. Bay B Kane has always been a junglist looking to experiment and push things forward and after his break from the scene he's just picked straight back up where he left off.
It's also great to see the likes of Billy Bunter, Yoof, Rennie Pilgrem and Jay Cunning amongst many others championing the sound with everyone bringing their own take on it.
Would you say there is a big dancefloor appeal for the music or is it still quite an exclusive scene?
I can see a big pull towards this sound, interest is definitely on the up and more and more commercial tracks are starting to have elements within them which can only help the scene expand. Our DJ says dance floors are loving it and his bookings are increasing at an outstanding rate so it all bodes well for the scene as a whole.
You've managed to sign some huge single releases recently, tell us a bit about some of your best-selling singles and artists...
We've released over a hundred tracks in the past couple of years and I love every single one of them. As far as sales goes Bojcot Selectah and Pressa - So Fast So Serious EP , Visible Sound - Lost In Bass and our Electrux EPs have done really well for us but I don't really think the label should necessarily be defined by its best sellers, we're an underground label with a love of darkside music which doesn't always sell well but we will stay true to that ethos and keep releasing the music we love.
On to your latest LP then. Future Jungle Expeditions Volume 1 was a really good all-round selection that detailed exactly what was happening in future jungle at the time of its release, what's the story behind volume two?
If I'm honest for volume one I put together twelve of our previously released tracks to showcase our take on the sound to all the new sets of ears that were homing in on the new sound. For Future Jungle Expeditions Volume 2, I have put together twelve fresh previously unreleased tracks and purposely looked to get a good mixture of styles that all fit the Top Drawer Digital sound within what I see as future jungle. It's been getting some very good feedback and I'm really looking forward to the release.
We have another album series with Back And Forth volumes one and two which are a snapshot of everything that Top Drawer Digital is about and where we stretch the limits a bit more. I'm just starting to compile volume three now, hopefully for release towards the end of the year.
Are you going to release any singles off the back of the LP?
There's always a possibility, we're quite stacked release wise as per usual but later in the year I will look back and see about getting remixes done of a few for single releases.
Have you got an artist roster or do sign tracks one at a time?
Most often I come by tracks one at a time, sometimes with an album in mind, sometimes thinking of remixes for an EP, and then occasionally I specifically ask artists to do an EP. There are a lot of artists on our label so it's hard to make plans for future releases with all of them but there are a couple I feel have become strongly linked to Top Drawer Digital, Strange Rollers and Electrux being the main two at the moment.
I guess you couldn't have guessed you'd be one of the top labels in terms of representing the scene worldwide upon your first release. Is future jungle here to stay, and is it going to be a niche area for you as a label and producer?
I've been shocked by how fast things have progressed! My high points so far have been Top Drawer Digital winning best label at last year's Nu-Rave Awards and getting one of my own tracks as well as other label tracks played on Radio 1 by various DJs.
Is future jungle here to stay? For now, I think yes but music is meant to evolve and morph into something else. Top Drawer Digital is basically about my take on music so it will evolve with my tastes and, for now I'm just enjoying the ride not knowing where we're heading next.
For old skool veterans this scene is a dream come true, borrowing from old skool and jungle as it does and keeping things flowing at that all important 140 tempo, but have you had much interest from young producers?
There's plenty of new blood coming through. RyKennon, who recently remixed Morcee's Nocturnal for us, is only 19 and Kieran M on Warehouse Wax is only 16. Any scene that is set to flourish needs youth to push it forward and I'm really looking forward to more youngsters getting involved and seeing where they can take the sound!
Words: Daniel Beale
Download Digitally Mashed's Top Drawer Digital Showcase Mix here
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