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Trouble & Bass. The New York City label known as a harbinger of uncompromising underground dance music that has the ability to smash soundsystems and burn raves to the ground. As standard. And always with a lot of bass.
It's just under two months until Trouble & Bass' sixth birthday. The label has DJ showcases booked well into the near future . But this week an illustration of a tombstone etched with the T&B logo appeared on its website, causing some fans to ask whether the label was releasing a new T-shirt design or calling it a day for good.
The answer remains ambiguous. Trouble & Bass still have releases lined-up from UK dubstep pioneer Plastician ('Start, Select, Reset' EP due September 11) and distorted electro upstart Doc Trashz ('Heavy Bass Champions Of The World Vol. XXII' due September 2). It seems inconceivable that the crew are disbanding now, when bass music is blowing up stadiums the world over and demand for the T&B sound has seemingly never been greater.
The label founded by Drop The Lime (second below), along with A.C Slater, Star Eyes and The Captain (all above), has made a mission out of unearthing gnarly rave music, taking an interest in everything from dubstep to techno and all the convulsing, explosive sub-genres in between. Think a mad melting pot of gutter house, ghetto tech, bassline, UK funky, industrial 4/4, mutant disco and ugly electro and you'll be somewhere near the T&B style. Add to that the label's penchant for sweaty, highly intimate parties and evil b-movie aesthetics and you've got a beast that lives on the bass vibrations that go bang in the far reaches of night.
With Trouble & Bass' sixth birthday coming up and the sudden commotion caused by that tombstone, Mixmag dug deep into the New York City underground to unearth an exclusive mix of label tunes and an interview with T&B vice president The Captain.
So what of the future? Star Eyes (below) left us with this quote from Goethe: "As long as you are not aware of the continual law of die and be again, you are merely a vague guest on a dark Earth." So, in true evil undead style, if this is the end of Trouble & Bass, it's sure to rise again in some other form. But let's not get hung up on that. Because T&B, as ever, are here to party...
THE TROUBLE AND BASS MIXMAG MIX
Bert on Beats - Flute Thing
Bert on beats - Get Your Freak On
Zombies For Money - Navajo feat. Drop Top
Bert on Beats - Modern Vampires
AC Slater - Raise Up
Damn Kids - Naej
Damn Kids - Nocturna
Star Eyes & UFO! - We Go In
Shox - Artillery
Zed Bias & MRK1 - Gangsta Ride
Mikix The Cat - Back
Damn Kids - Govudoh
Strange VIP - When I Die
Strange VIP - Funeral at Skyland Mountain
Distal - Green Lantern
Distal - Vampire Lightning
Deathface - Light As A Feather
Plastician - Rebel Music (Feat. Doctor)
How did Trouble & Bass begin? What’s the how, where and why?
Trouble & Bass was born in the dirty streets of New York City, fulfilling Drop The Lime’s vision of a futuristic mob of DJ/producers playing hard-hitting warehouse beats with no rules. The crew—DTL, Star Eyes, The Captain, AC Slater, and various affiliates worldwide—has built that vision into a reality with hype DJ sets and mind-blowing monthly parties featuring the most cutting-edge talent from the US and Europe, as well as a record label and clothing line. Along the way, T&B has fused subcultures to create a whole new audience for their sound, while creating an aesthetic that’s now recognizable around the world
How does Trouble & Bass choose artists? Do you regularly listen to demos or do you like to get to know a producer personally first?
It’s about 50/50 between people we’ve met on our various DJ travels and people that have sent us demos or we discovered through the internet. Of course, there is no replacement for meeting someone in person and catching their vibe, but it’s important to turn over rocks and peer in the dark crevices to see what’s lurking around just out of view. We try to listen to every demo we receive, especially when they are delivered with a large cheese pizza by a Ninja Turtle. We’ve released music from a lot of different people but we generally don’t sign anyone as a proper T&B member until we get an idea of them as an artist and their aesthetic and make sure it all makes sense.
What’s the ethos of Trouble & Bass? Is there a general label vibe or mission statement?
The name Trouble & Bass is the mission statement.
What sound does Trouble & Bass specialise in? Do you feel like the label is contributing to a certain scene or genre or is what you put out more flexible and varied than that?
When we started our Trouble & Bass parties around 2006, people would ask us what we played and we got tired of listing off 10 genres, like “4x4, grime, dubstep, techno, Baltimore club...” We came up with “heavy bass” to explain what our style was about; a way to be open-ended and open-minded without having to claim a specific bpm or a category. That idea extended to the music we started releasing on our label as well. Now, people use “heavy bass” as a genre tag, and “bass” is even a category on Juno… so let’s just call our music trouble, shall we?
What’s the best situation in which to listen to Trouble & Bass tunes?
Dressed as Snake Plissken battling the Duke of New York ’til the death on top of the Empire State Building.
Have you ever heard a Trouble & Bass record go off at a party and thought “job done!”? What’s the best reaction you’ve had to a release?
Yes! In 2009 Moby picked AC Slater’s remix of Mathhead’s 'Turn the Music Up' as one of his favorite tracks ever; growing up going to see Moby at raves, that was a big thrill. Seeing Jinder perform live on a huge stage with 12th Planet & Flinch at Ultra Music Festival at WMC 2011 was pretty insane, and we recently soundtracked a whole level of Rockstar Games’ Max Payne 3 so hearing our stuff while you’re smashing through windows and shooting criminals is nuts. We also got some hip-hop love: Lil’ Wayne wears a BASS New Era hat we did with Mishka in some videos and rapper Jim Jones used Jinder 'Youth Blood' (12th Planet & Flinch Remix) on a mixtape. On the day-to-day, we still get a rush hearing our tracks played on Rinse FM or BBC, or hearing DJs resurrect our early tracks, like 'What I Need”'or 'Bricks' and thinking they still sound fresh to death.
Who do you wish you had signed? Anyone you’ve missed out on and kicked yourself about after?
Probably Alias or Jon E Cash from Black Ops or someone else whose records we used to sweat back in the day when you would call up numbers on records you owned and get someone’s mobile! We don’t feel like we missed out on anyone, but we had a few ideas stolen. Keep your mouth shut and take your secrets to the grave.
What’s behind Trouble & Bass' aesthetic? Who does your art and is it a big part of what the label does?
Trouble & Bass is our own little universe that we’ve created, and we think about the visual and the experience as much as the sounds. Some of our inspirations are horror, sci-fi, pulp fiction, New York and getting wild, and early rave and punk, especially the DIY ethic of doing a lot with limited resources. Drop the Lime designed the T&B logo; he and The Captain still have a hand in a lot of the things that get made. In the last few years, we’ve worked with a lot of amazing designers who share similar tastes for the dark, daring and twisted. Some of the list of people who have contributed record covers, flyers and t-shirt design: Belgium’s Droon, Paris’ Zonders, and a cast of NYC friends including Aerosyn-Lex , Mike Jones (Mishka), Dust La Rock (Fool’s Gold) and Dennis Chow (Glamnation), to name a few.
What’s next for Trouble & Bass?
The Apocalypse happens and we use our stealth bomber to fly into a blaze of fire.