The ex-Shogun Audio/Viper duo tell us why they're branching out on their own
There's always been something about The Prototypes that's caused them to stand out. Ever since their debut in 2010, they've rushed the dance with a different energy. Different, unusual, cheerily against the grain.
Unafraid to embrace the largeness but determined to do it differently from any other peaktime D&B act, the signs have been there all along: the volcanic trance-like hook of their debut Cascade, the soul-stamping laser bass stabs of Abyss, the epic electro riff-infection of Pale Blue Dot. They refuse to park in any one subgenre space, and sing to many choirs as a result: the heavy-hitters, the banger-bashers, the underground and the overground alike.
In six years they've been exclusively signed twice, by two very different but equally influential labels. First Friction's Shogun Audio, then Futurebound's Viper from whom - after two years of major-league hurters and an impressive, explorative and narrative debut album, City Of Gold - they've now parted with to set up their own label: Get Hype.
Get Hype launched at the very start of this year's particularly sweaty summer melee of big festival bangers with Rocket Gunz Blazin'. With its distinctive classical arpeggio riff and steroid bass, in just one tune the Brighton-based duo have set out their stall unapologetically and confidently, and i's been sported by almost every DJ in D&B from Andy C to Adam F.
Within months they'd already followed it up with the equally turbo-charged (but more heads-down and bull-charged) Transmission, and the follow-up Electric, which isn't due out for several months, is already pricking up more ears than usual. For once, there's substance behind the hype.
We caught up the duo - Chris Garvey and Nick White - to find out what they make of this seemingly constant levelling up exercise, what's coming next and why they're not the only acts in D&B currently developing their own brand and doing things on their own terms.
Get Hyped, get acquainted, get to know…
I thought 2015 was the year of The Prototypes. Then 2016 happened...
Nick: "Thanks! Sometimes we have to step back and go ‘Fucking hell!' because we're constantly pushing ourselves and don't stop to take it in. We're already looking at the next project or working out how we can take things further. It can get quite easy to forget what you've already achieved when you're in that mindset."
Chris: "We're our own biggest critics, we're constantly trying to improve things but it does feel like there's more of a movement of people following us now. This feels more like people are into what we do, rather than being into the buzz."
Is that because you've taken things into your own hands label-wise? You're communicating directly now...
Chris: "Perhaps, but it's at shows that you can feel it the most. More people coming up, saying they're there to see you, all that stuff."
Nick: "It's like they genuinely seem to want us to do well. To be as big as we can be. There's no cynicism and that helps a lot."
You haven't just got people asking for Pale Blue Dot 2.0 on the regs?
Chris: "Exactly. I think having our own label has helped. It's given us that attitude that we can do what we want and people are cool with that. The timing feels right. We've been finding our sound for three years with tracks like Abyss VIP, LRAD, Pale Blue Dot and we have a good understanding of who we are now."
Nick: "That was missing for a long time."
Chris: "It's confidence. We're not thinking of making music for the fans; we just understand who we are and making music we love. Thankfully, people appreciate that."
Did last year's album help you find your sound, or did it divert you for a while as you tried so many different styles on it?
Nick: "We're really proud of the album but there are one or two bits we would do differently now. It helped us see what worked and what didn't."
Chris: "When we do another album we'll still explore different genres, have drumless instrumentals, experiment, delve a little more. That's what albums allow you to do. You can't do that on singles. We learned a lot about decisions made in the rush to finish it but we're still very proud of it."
Then you followed it up with Hypercube, a straight-up banger that wasn't from the album. That felt like a watershed - maybe the start of this whole new chapter?
Nick: "Everyone was expecting us to come through with a vocal track, possibly for radio, and we thought, ‘Fuck it, let's come back with something hard and big'."
Chris: "A lot of people were doing that and it didn't feel right to go with the tide on that one. We didn't want to sound like everyone else."
Rocket Gunz Blazin' sounds like no one else too. That riff is almost classical. I want to say Beethoven…
Chris: "That's right. I used to play a Beethoven tune as a kid on the piano and I was always inspired by that style of melody. We knew it sounded different, that's why we used it as the launch release, to say, 'This is what we're about'. Different, in your face, no holds barred. Let's have it!"
Everyone is playing it. Any support that's surprised you?
Nick: "Andy C intro'ing at festivals with it is pretty incredible. He's got a plethora of dubs to choose from. For him to play that? You couldn't ask for more."
Quite a benchmark. Too high?
Chris: "Possibly! But we've made a new tune - Electric - which, as soon as we started playing it, we've had a lot of people asking us about it. More people than usual. It kicks off. It's quite relaxing knowing we've got another strong track to follow-up Rocket Gunz Blazin' and Transmission."
You're too organised...
Chris: "For the first time ever! You never know, because hype can be misleading. But everywhere we go people know the name of it, or they're humming the melody asking what it is. It's mad."
Nick: "We've never had attention on a track as early on as we are with this. Which is another benefit of having our own label. We haven't had to keep this locked down and offline. We can tell people what it is, what label it's on. We can put videos up and create our own hype."
Freedom! And it comes from the broadest experience of being signed to two very different labels.
Chris: "Being signed is wicked at the early stages of your career, but staying somewhere may possibly be detrimental to your creativity. If you're signed for several albums it's going to get boring at some point. How do you keep yourself excited if the label don't want to release what you're feeling at that time? We could have set up our own label right from the start but we wouldn't have got as much exposure. We've had bad experiences, we've had amazing experiences, we've learned from it all and we really appreciate their support."
Nick: "Having ups and downs with labels is also a massive learning experience. Much more than if it was cool and plain sailing."
Chris: "And when we find new artists we know how to treat people. As a label it's hard working with artists as at some point you're going to have to make a decision that they don't like. But that's the way it is. It's nice to draw from those experiences."
All your experiences seem really amicable…
Nick: "Always. It's just business decisions."
Chris: "People in the business game love doing business. But they understand that business is business and friendships are friendships. That's part of the enjoyment of it all."
Sounds like you guys are definitely in the business game!
Nick: "It's an incredibly important part of being an artist. You have to understand the business side to be in control and you have to be in control to be creative. It's vital if you want to stay in the business."
A few of your peers are making similar moves. Coincidence or hush-hush 'jungle council' shit?
Nick: "Ha! I think people are taking control more in general, not just in the music industry. People want more control of their money, their decisions, their destiny and feel empowered or have access to the resources to do it."
It's crucial. If Andy or Hype or Friction or Futurebound or any of the big guys didn't set up their stables years ago we wouldn't have the big labels we do now. This is the next chapter.
Nick: "Yeah. All of this has to be healthy for the whole scene. It's really exciting and opens up so many new outlets for forward-thinking, creative music and fresh artists."
Can I hear new artist ink drying on Get Hype contracts?
Chris: "Maybe. Maybe soon."
Nick: "Watch this space!"
Words: Dave Jenkins
FIVE MORE NEW ARTIST-RUN D&B LABELS
Launched in April with a four-track trove of cutting edge jams from founders SpectraSoul. Ranging from the future soul of halftime cut Only You to the outright danger rollers SM1 and 4URGH by way of the harmonious jazz folds of From The Jaws, the EP reminded us that, after the smouldering depths of their sophomore album The Mistress, the Brighton duo can still deliver KO punches. It also left us under no illusion that ISH CHAT is all about frontier fusions. The second release is due 30 September: this time it weighs in at six tracks and shows SpectraSoul at even further positions on the bass frontier.
Bulldozer business! Alix Perez launched his 1985 Music label in May and has already slapped down two uncompromising four-trackers. Elephant Dreams heralded the gully fanfare with two solo tracks and two superlative Skeptical collaborations (the mourning vocals on the title track will linger with you for days). It's just been followed by the sense-melting Better To Reign In Hell Than To Serve In Heaven EP. An eruptive bass/beat experiment session from Alix with Eprom under their Shades guise, its four missile constructions contain some of the most unusual designs and arrangements the halftime/beat side of D&B has heard to date.
Unlike SpectraSoul and Alix Perez, Hybrid Minds haven't left any particular exclusive fold to set up their own label Hybrid Music (although they've always been closely linked to Bcee's Spearhead.) Creating a space to conjure their unique musical, often vocal-based, soul, both singles so far - Touch and Skeletons - have come from Hybrid Minds themselves and this may remain the theme for the foreseeable as they've stated they're not actively looking to sign artists for now. They've also hinted at a second album. If they meet the benchmark of their 2013 debut LP Mountains, Hybrid Music will be well-worth watching.
The North Quarter
Launched this month by Dutch producer Lenzman, a prominent figure on Metalheadz since 2010, The North Quarter is, as he describes, “about all things soulful.” Inspired by the sounds and approach of 90s east coast hip-hop, he's launched the label with a mission to explore songs with substance, true samplecraft and creative beatmanship. The debut release comes courtesy of Lenzman himself. Weighing in at 10 tracks (including interludes and instrumentals), it's something of a mini album and showcases the label's potential future breadth as it ranges from beautiful gospel rollers to loose unhurried hip-hop breaks.
A label with benefits: Terminal isn't just a record label, but also the first virtual reality electronic music channel on YouTube, and a promotion engine to power the other labels run by the collective behind it, Eatbrain bossman and artistic auteur Jade, visionary Balkan cyberpunk Billain, Bad Company member and Bad Taste boss Vegas and MethLab agency/label founder Jef Lab. Dedicated to creating a place for "a specific thread of electronica that doesn't have a natural home" (read: experimental, futuristic, technological sounds happening on the fringes) they launched with a strong V/A from the likes of Disprove, Maztek, Audeka, Rawtekk and L 33, then followed with an EP from one of the most influential an prolific producers working in leftfield drum & bass, Current Value. Expect a fresh various artist EP and more 360 visuals before the end of the year.