When the going gets tough, the tough get going, or so they say, and it's certainly true of Vibez Recordings. The London-based label have always followed their own path and released the music they believe in. It's that passion and commitment that has sustained them and created much respect amongst the drum & bass community.
2008 has got off to a great start, most notably with the recent release of Acoustixx Live Vol. 1, a double CD compiled and mixed by label founder Subject 13 with vocals by MC System. We're talking music by ASC, Seba, Future Engineers, Method One and many more, and it's the perfect snapshot of what the label's all about. Likewise, Dave Stewart, otherwise known as Subject 13, put together this issue's cover CD and it's an incendiary 22-track mix capturing the sound he brings to dancefloors across the world.
Dave's always got plenty to say too and we started by talking about the current state of play with Vibez Recordings when Kmag caught up with him recently.
"The state of play at Vibez is very good," he explains. "We've obviously been around a long time and this year we're going to concentrate on more album projects. There'll be quite a few individual artist albums and some new mini-double albums featuring two artists on one double CD with eight tracks each.
"It's a concept I've been toying with for sometime and I've finally developed it. There's no pressure on the artist to write a full album and they can push it a bit further than an EP. All the CDs will be accompanied by a sampler vinyl EP too. I want to build a platform for artists signed with the label to be seen as producers of real substance."
Tell us a bit more about Acoustixx Live Vol. 1 – what's the idea behind the name Acoustixx and the events of the same name?
"The Acoustixx sessions are based around the Vibez parties at Café 1001 on Brick Lane in east London. We've steadily built up our own unique sound and there's always a great atmosphere as people go to party. The meaning of 'Acoustixx' refers to the sense of hearing or the science of sound which is exactly where we're coming from."
There are plenty of up-and-coming producers featured on the album – was this is a deliberate plan?
"Vibez has always provided a home for new artists, so it was a deliberate plan to make sure they get exposure as we're all about pushing music regardless of reputation. The wide range of artists on the label span the globe as Vibez firmly states itself as a global label that prides itself on releasing good music from around the world."
What essential ingredients do you look for in music for the label?
"Vibez is a label that specializes in deep, melodic, energetic music whether that's soulful or dark-edged atmospherics. I look for character alongside a real creative edge, something a bit daring. Good production is a high priority but probably the most important thing is the vibe of the tune."
Similarly, how did you go about selecting the music for the cover CD?
"I get a lot of music sent to me and much of it is really good, but I had to choose what I thought would best reflect the diversity of style and sound I play as a DJ, produce as an artist and I sign as a label manager. A few of the tracks are not on my labels but they are tracks I've been rotating heavily on my travels and deserve to be here."
How have the current changes facing the music industry such as digital releases and downloading affected Vibez as a label and what are your plans for the future?
"Vibez Digital is our new outlet for digital releases and we are embracing the format 100 per cent. These releases will be exclusive to MP3 and mobile phone services, and we'll continue to do promotional vinyl releases but digital is very important to us also. We've just signed an mp3 and mobile phone service deal that will take us into the next phase of how music will be sold and distributed in the future.
"Vinyl purists may be quite surprised to see this but we firmly believe the artist, the label and, most importantly, the buyer will benefit. Many more releases will be available along with some exclusive new concepts. There's never been a more radical time in the music industry where change has brought about new ways of thinking and doing things, and this falls right in line with the Vibez ethos. We praise the role of downloads in spreading different kinds of music to people who might otherwise never hear it. It's the music that counts not the format."
What about Subject 13 as an artist?
"The Subject 13 album is nearing completion. Fuck playing it safe – we're here to create and not just rehash the same old shit! Time and experience along with being blessed to be able to travel and see different cultures and diverse sounds have changed me as a writer and producer. I've gradually been working towards the realisation that this is who I am; I couldn't just hide these new creative inspirations and experiences, so I decided to put them into the album.
"Only a few things in life are infinite: and music's one of them. The new Subject 13 album will cross many boundaries and styles – not to disappoint my drum & bass supporters but it won't be just drum & bass. There's also a collaboration with Resound, Black Magic, coming out on Metalheadz soon; it's a much darker, harder style tune."
Time spent in the studio working has gone hand-in-hand with a hectic DJ schedule for Dave and it's been a strong influence on the shape the album has taken.
"For me DJing is primarily about moving the crowd. Great DJing is not always about flash mixing, seamless mixes and clever tricks; it's about creating a buzz on the dancefloor. Improvising your selections and feeling the crowd's direction – it's so important how a DJ interacts with their audience."
Vibez has always been a fiercely independent label and you've done your own thing – how do you think that it fits into the current drum & bass scene?
"It was always about having a vision of a label that could stand the test of time, a label that's based on its own ideals and musical integrity. There'll always be a place for Vibez as long as the music remains good. We need vintage labels in the scene to give it a long term history. Drum & bass would be much stronger if more of the labels from that beginning era were still about, but shit happens and I guess only the strong survive, as they say.
"Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom," says Dave in conclusion. "If you don't live it, it won't come out of you. They teach you there are boundaries to music but there's no boundary to art."
Here's the low-down on this issue's cover CD compiled and mixed by Subject 13...
01. Future Engineers – Eden (Vibez Recordings)
"Future Engineers at their classic best; well worked Amen break and an ambience to kill for. Blissful drum & bass and that sample in the drop – quality tune."
02. Subject 13 & Resound – Deep (Future Thinking Records)
"Resound and I take it deep in this abstract techno tinged track. Expect sparse synth hits alongside a moody electronic atmosphere with unorthodox twist and turns."
03. Seba & Krazy – Imperial Moments (Metalhadz)
"One of my favourite tracks from Seba & Krazy. Superb use of soundscapes and well chopped and edited beats with great arpeggio keys and a killer bassline."
04. Mendelayev – I'm a Zombie (dubplate)
"Mendelayev from Russia takes it all over the place here; well crafted track that's ever changing and morphing constantly. This guy isn't afraid to try anything."
05. ASC & Mav – Retract (Covert Operations)
"Another duo taking things light speeds ahead. Both ASC and Mav individually have a great sound and on this one they combine to deadly effect, a classic stratospheric vibe."
06. Mendelayev – untitled (dubplate)
"He sent it to me over AIM and I've been playing this for a while. I love the drums and fine attention to detail; it's one of my favourite tunes at the moment. I'd really like to sign this track so get in touch!"
07. Resound – Show Me (dubplate)
"Back with Resound and one of his lighter moments, although still retaining that dark edged vibe of his and deep end bass sound he's into. Nice female vocal helps create the mood and takes things on more of a summer vibe."
08. Method One – Borderline (dubplate)
"Amen workout from Method One and this tune always moves the dancefloor. Relentless beats and sounds put together really well."
09. Mav – Ocean Phantom (Fokus Recordings)
"I love the build-up on this one, always makes an impact and lights up the dancefloor with its dubby bass vibe and atmospheric pads. A fine moment from Mav."
10. Drum Cypha – Tribal Punishment (dubplate)
"Drum Cypha's superb drum work is hard to overlook and an eerily rising vibe brings this tune into the middle of a battle torn war of sounds. This is an energetic, well crafted track."
11. System/Dissect/Bio Method – Now (Vibez Recordings)
"These guys have taken soul and fused it with tough sounding tribal atmospherics and rollin' breaks with a pensive female vocal every now and then followed by a heavy killer bassline. When I first heard this I knew I had to sign it."
12. Dirrrty B – Whispers (dubplate)
"A hypnotic deep flavour here with a pulsating bassline and subtle synth hits spread across this deep roller which doesn't fail to get you moving."
13. Future Engineers – Time Zero (Covert Operations)
"We're in for another Future Engineers treat here with a deep space workout and no-nonsense techno tinged vibe. This track represents all that's positive about the effect really good techno has had on drum & bass."
14. Smote – Only You (Vibez Recordings)
"Smote gets funky here and lets a light piano roll over this breezin' soulful tune. Neatly worked drums and a clean production make for a simple track that works every time."
15. Theory – Special Request (13 Music)
"Dancehall lover Theory brings mash-up drums and drone sounds to the dancefloor. The selector vocals sit well with a heavy mix of jungle and techno effects; this tune is relentless in pace and creativity."
16. Loco & Defsync – Ground Control (Vibez Recordings)
"A really nice track with simple elements smartly placed. The tune itself doesn't comprise of loads of instrumentation but the real genius is how well the space and limited melodies are used. It's only their first release too."
17. Paul T – Warping Substance (Vibez Recordings)
"Paul T sees his first release on Vibez coming out shortly with this classic percussion-led tune. A nice tribal intro leads into a more mysterious, deep chiming style."
18. ICR – Heartbroken (Vibez Recordings)
"One of IRC's finest moments, this is a soul-washed tune of the highest degree taken from Acoustixx Live Vol. 1. He pays lots of attention to minor details in this track along with plenty of energy and soul which always make for a good combination."
19. Fá de Araujo & Romulo – Desperate (Vibez Recordings)
"More fusion-styled funk here as we see the Brazilian duo make their debut on Vibez with this excellent first release. Soulful bubbly rhythms like this remind us of good summertime vibes and happy moments in the sun."
20. Physics – One World (Vibez Recordings)
"One of the forthcoming tracks from the Physics mini-album due later this year. Eerie atmospherics lay across this drum & bass/techno track; an awesome use of dynamics and effects produce something a bit different."
21. ill-esha – Coward (dubplate)
"Young lady from Vancouver taking it to the dancefloor with this finally produced track. It rolls out a pumpin' beat alongside surging frequencies with some really nice nu skool techniques and excellent production. Fellas, take note!"
22. Cybass – Japonica (Vibez Recordings)
"Cybass on the cut with this awesome number obviously drawing influences from the far east in sound and style. Cybass pulls this off to great effect and it's a track with real character."
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