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In Conversation With…Bowlcut Beats

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Bowlcut Beats began their journey in an unprecedented year and still managed to stand strong throughout. If you like underground music, and the culture that it’s connected with, it’s likely you have heard of their clothing line Bowlcut Garms.

Bowlcut Beats stands on its own, and independently represents everything we all search for and love in underground music. ‘Hold your Corner’ speaks for itself, and the Kyrist remix only adds to the already defined sound of Bowlcut Beats. It’s a small look at what we can expect from them in the upcoming future, with the next releases from T>I and Objective. June saw them drop three incredible tracks, from Dread MC, Tall Order and Kyrist – and all within their own right absolute bangers.

The immediate success of this record label comes at no surprise, with the amount of passion and hard work behind the scenes. We had the pleasure of speaking with Joe from Bowlcut Beats, and it doesn’t take long to notice the amount of knowledge and appetite they have for not just drum and bass, but the music scene and underground culture as a whole. Bowlcut Beats will definitely be one to watch.

Joe

Hey Joe, it’s great to speak with you! So, I have to ask…what’s the story behind the ‘Bowlcut’ name?

A lot of fashion brands have proper powerful names like Supreme, Palace, Diesel etc so it’s a flip on these names. What’s the most anti-cool thing that everyone had as a kid? A bowlcut. I don’t like conforming to normal standards and I had a shocker of a Bowlcut as a kid that I still don’t forgive my folks for so the name was an in-house joke that became a brand. When naming the record label it made sense to keep the Bowlcut brand and Bowlcut Beats has a nice ring to it.

You guys have been going since 2016, how old were you when you started up the streetwear brand?

I’d done pretty much every job you can think of before I launched the label so I’m at healthy age now. I’m more secure in who I am and give less of a shit about what people think of me now. This definitely helps in music and fashion as they’re fickle worlds where people are looking to cancel other people’s careers on a daily basis.

Looking back then, did you ever see yourself doing what you do now – was creating a record label always something you imagined happening down the line?

When asked in school what I wanted to do I always used to say ‘A&R Manager’ and then I’d have to explain to the Careers Advisor what that meant. It seemed like a pretty unrealistic prospect as only a tiny percentile of people go onto do it but I guess I am doing that now even if it is working for myself. Music was always my first love but I happened to make clothing before music which I would never have predicted.

It must have been an incredible journey, when did you start being involved in music and how did you first discover jungle and drum and bass?

This will answer how old I am now. I stumbled across ‘Out Of Space’ whilst flicking through pirate stations back in the ’90s in West London where I grew up. I subsequently properly fell in love with the whole ‘Experience’ album by The Prodigy. The darker hardcore with ragga samples and bigger subs spawned into Jungle and I remember caning the Jungle Mania compilations with my mates and a smoke. This led to picking up One Nation and Helter Skelter tape-packs from my local record shop and they became a staple of my listening habits. I hadn’t been to a rave yet but I could hear the energy and skill of DJing in the tapes and knew it was something I wanted to be involved in.

Do you have a stand out event or performance that made you go – “this is what I want to be involved in, this is what I want to do?”

My mates and I told our parents we were sleeping round each other’s yards in the summer holidays and we got a megabus down to Glastonbury ’97. We all jumped the fence and were horribly underage and naive to be raving it up to Jungle/DnB but it definitely gave my young head a perspective on how the music gave everyone a sense of unity and just how big the music could become. It felt like being part of a secret club as it was before social media and to be part of it you had to really do your homework and find out what was on and when. I never imagined it would go global or they’d be a D&B No 1 in the charts but even back in ’97 you could see the movement was real and the passion was fierce.

Glastonbury ’97 sounds insane, so much good music and talent come from those years. There is such an incredible amount of talent in the scene now too, who do you find inspires and influences you the most?

The amount of talent is massively daunting. Our 1st single reached top 20 on Beatport which wouldn’t have meant anything to me before launching the label but we were surrounded by huge labels like Valve, V, Metalheadz and Dread that I grew up listening to. Those same labels are still smashing it today and I find the labels that are the complete package are the most inspiring. By this, I mean the labels that are more than a label. They’re a brand, they have stages at festivals and sick merch. They’re the labels I find the most inspiring, the labels that live and breathe the music.

I grew up on a mixture between psychedelic rock and disco thanks to my parents, and I’ve found that positively affected my music taste now. Who are your childhood influences outside of the drum and bass/jungle world and how have they impacted your taste in music today?

My Dad plays a lot of instruments and if I hadn’t gotten thrown out of most of my music classes I’d like to have thought I could’ve inherited that trait too. My folks have a really eclectic taste in music and they always had their own music on in the house or car journeys instead of a commercial radio station. The original Rhythm & Blues, psychedelic Rock and West Coast Rock & Roll were big in my house growing up so they were slightly fascinated but a bit confused by the love of electronic music as a kid. Influences for me were far and wide: Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters stand out.

Coming into 2020 with the new record label, I mean we couldn’t have predicted everything happening with COVID, how has it affected you guys?

Solely relating to the label, COVID has been a blessing and a curse. It’s been a blessing as it’s freed up a lot more time to concentrate on getting the label up and running, making sure I’m signing the right artists, getting the artwork bang-on, having the mastering done to a pro-level and sorting out releases for the rest of the year. Bowlcut Garms keeps my crazy busy alone so the label has been a welcome distraction even if it means I’m now working more then I ever have. The downside is that as a new label during lockdown you can only gauge how successful you are by feedback online and hearing the tunes being dropped in Soundcloud mixes and Facebook streams. I tried not to check the Juno and Beatport chart position but when the 1st release kept climbing it was hard not to see where it finished. Dread MC who was part of the 1st release thought I was mad starting a new label and with a brand new artist with Tall Order marking his debut release and said we’d do well if we hit the top 100. Dread knows a lot more about the music industry than me but top 20 was what I was aiming for, we’ll aim for top 10 with the next release. Also, I can’t wait to hear a Bowlcut Beats tune at a festival or on a massive rig which is what they deserve to be played on.

Where do you guys see yourselves going once the lockdown is over, and in the future?

The labels I look up to are the complete package, as well as a record label they put on big events and sell wavy merchandise. That’s the benchmark I’ve set for us. I want to put events on and become the complete package. Cutting some tunes to vinyl would be sick as well, I learnt to DJ on 1210’s and big releases deserve a release on vinyl too even if the appreciation for vinyl is dwindling.

That would be unreal and I hope vinyl comes back around, can’t beat the sound of vinyl on a good sound system. Do you have anything tasty cooking in the oven at the moment? What can we expect to see from Bowlcut Beats?

The next release is out on 17th July and is by Bristolian badman Objectiv. He’s sent me 2 tunes which I was going to release as an EP with remixes but they’re both really strong in their own right so are getting separate releases. T>I has remixed ‘Peck Yard’ which is his 1st single and it’s mental. It’s been doing the rounds on streams and there’s a bit of heat on the original and the remix so can’t wait for that to come out. Going forward we’re going to do a release a month. When I say we, I have some wicked people helping me out as a team now with the label, big-up to them. (Jamie Bashington, Ben Tall Order and Maria)

It’s incredible to have insight behind the scenes, you guys have done some wicked work, l think I can speak for many of us when I say we’re excited to see your journey with the label. Who are your dream collaborations within music?

Quite soon after launching Bowlcut Garms, Critical Music hit me up for some artwork and some garments on a collaboration project by Chimpo & Sam Binga’s ‘For Those Who Like It Sweet’ EP. Critical have always been a label I’ve looked up to from the way they bring artists through and again nailing every aspect of being a record label. It was humbling to be asked to work with those guys so soon after launch and now I’ve been backstage at some of their events and got to know them they treat the events like a job but know when and how to party which is important. If Critical ever wanted to do a Vs Remix project or have Bowlcut host a room for them that would be a dream collab. Pendulum, Noisia and Roni Size gave 5-star reviews for the 1st Bowlcut Beats release and I’ve always looked up to them so if they continue to support the music that would also be a dream.

Finding new artists and being with them on their journey must be very rewarding, what advice do you have for aspiring artists and dj’s, and what do you look for when discovering new talent? (Are you searching solely in the UK or internationally?)

Finding new artists is the best part for me. I initially thought of asking some of the producers I’ve known for time to be involved but they’re already established on other labels and have carved a name for themselves. The turnaround of success would’ve been quicker but by bringing new artists through with Bowlcut Beats we’re making our own legacy. I want to get the artists on my label to smash it and be there from the beginning. In a short space of time, I’ve listened to hundreds of demos, to get noticed send private Soundcloud links or tunes on Dropbox that are clearly labelled and send about 2/3 tunes over. I might not like one tune of yours but that doesn’t mean I won’t like another. I’d also add a little bit about yourself. ‘Dave from Coventry, 21’ doesn’t let me know where you want to go with your career. If you’re solely a DJ, good luck. Unless you’ve got the dubs and mixing skills of AMC or Andy C you’re gonna need it! House Music has a lot more DJs who don’t produce who are at the top of their game but you need to be able to make music as well in D&B. If a label gives you feedback take it as constructive feedback rather than a cuss. I’d also recognise that you need extremely thick skin to be in the music game as everyone’s an armchair pundit, literally at the moment during lockdown. Keep persevering and if you’re going nowhere after years and years maybe it’s not for you. Probably the least inspiring advice I’ve ever given but only a small percent of DJs/Producers make a career out of it so have a backup plan. Smoking weed and playing as a warm-up DJ after several decades in the game isn’t a good look but if it makes you happy crack on with it mate.

What is currently exciting you, and driving you forward with music and the work you’re doing?

They’re both different things for me really. What’s exciting is happening in our own bubble around the label, talking to you and other interviewers, getting amazing reviews and hitting the charts. The labels I’ve mentioned before like Metalheadz, V, 1985 Music and Critical Music also excite me. What’s driving me forward is there’s a lot of unimaginative D&B and I feel despite the crazy level of competition there’s a place for Bowlcut Beats in the current climate. As mad as it sounds it’s the bad music that I hear too often that drives me forward. Music is subjective and one man’s hell is another man’s heaven but there’s some truly awful D&B music out there. It’s time for the levels to rise again.

Do you have any advice you have for people, or anything you would like to talk about?

If you’re doing a dead-end job don’t let it defeat you and keep looking at the bigger picture. Keep your goals very much in mind and when you have a bad day remember what it is you’re striving for. You never know what’s coming round the corner, I’m evidence of that for sure. Everyone needs to pay the bills but know your worth and don’t let an employer mug you off.

Finally some quick fire questions:

Who are your reigning Kings and Queens of jungle/dnb?

Kasra, Kyrist and Alix Perez

Your top 3 artists at the moment?

Tall Order, Objectiv and Kyrist

Favourite tune?

Tall Order ‘All Yours’ (Forthcoming)

Who is your guilty pleasure/go to shower sing-a-long?

Depeche Mode or Metallica

Favourite label at the moment?

1985 Music

What are you looking forward to the most once lockdown is over and events are back?

Hearing our tunes out at nights and putting down some plans to run some events and maybe some stages in 2022.

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