In Conversation with…Breakbeat Kaos
2018 has been a monumental year for underground music on every level, with the divide between the underground and the mainstream blurrier than ever whilst raw unadulterated vibes are all over the airwaves and alive on social media wherever you look! Packed out parties in unusual venues, promoted in the most imaginative ways are going off all over the world… it’s an exciting time for Bass music fans and especially as this year also marks 15 years of Breakbeat Kaos – one of the most influential labels in Drum & Bass and one that has stood the test of time since it’s inception.
Founded by the musical maestro Dan Stein aka DJ Fresh and his label boss partner Adam F back in 2003, their ear for exceptional talent and timeless taste-making were the essential elements in establishing the platform as it stands today… Dan takes some time out of his hectic endeavours to recap the story so far…
Hi Dan, how’s it going?
Yeah really good thanks, very busy! There’s loads of exciting things going on at the moment as we are celebrating 15 years of Breakbeat Kaos which is a major milestone that I’m very pleased to say we have reached, it’s been an amazing journey!
Diving straight in, what would you say has been the key ingredient to that longevity? And how do you manage to choose tracks that always appear to stand the test of time and become classics, and in most cases elevate the producer to another level entirely too?
Well when you are involved in something like Drum & Bass, it feels like you are part of a family, like a movement – something much bigger, so the music reaches everybody who is a part of that collective and therefore it is easy for me to tap in to what everyone is making in their studios and playing out at gigs.
You just know when there’s a sound that everyone is excited about at a particular time and an energy that producers and DJs thrive off which often manifests in really interesting music and exciting new trends in sound and I just work on finding tracks I believe in to support and release.
I don’t feel that I can take much credit for that, but I just love the music and I love trying to give new people a platform to realise their dreams as musicians and producers and feel blessed to have that inside knowledge of and access to find these new artists and tracks.
I would say that mentality has remained constant throughout the 15 years of Breakbeat Kaos and will of course forever more going forward too.
15 years of successful releases as a label is an enormous achievement, what was the vision musically at the beginning and has it changed in any way throughout the course of time?
Well of course it was a very different landscape then compared with the way things are currently and as you would naturally expect the music was also equally different, I mean it was before ‘Hot Right Now’ was released, it was before Sigma’s mainstream success, before Chase and Status and Pendulum for example and it was a totally different time in every sense.
It’s hard to describe if you weren’t there and didn’t experience it yourself, unfortunately, as the music and the culture of Drum & Bass has not only changed but has also grown so, so much since the very early days of the label.
Back then in 2003, for the most part the people that loved Drum & Bass had heard about it through their older brothers and sisters or through their friends as it was still primarily an underground thing with very little mainstream exposure so the vision was to add the promotion and marketing that the major labels were using to our underground releases and to be more adventurous about how we did our artwork and the way we packaged our releases overall.
We tried to create platforms that stood out and music videos were the focus of a lot of our efforts, I mean there were definitely Drum & Bass music videos around at the time but they tended to be really, really low budget back in the early 00’s.
It was back at a time when other labels like Ram and Hospital were in the same mindset, in that we all felt like we were fighting this fight together to try and get Drum & Bass in to the charts and on to the radio, whilst remaining true to our core beliefs musically and never watering anything down to sell records to make money specifically, no matter what.
What would you say were the key ingredients that you looked for in what might become a Breakbeat Kaos release?
First and foremost it had to be something that Adam and I loved and we just wanted to capture these moments in Drum & Bass that were out there in people’s tracks, whether that was because it was a track we were playing ourselves or because we were excited about the artist, or maybe because the track represented something in terms of where the scene was at, at the time.
Adam and I grew up listening to labels such as Prototype Recordings which was Grooverider’s label and it was literally like the biggest thing that could ever happen to you, to have a release on Prototype – a lot of the Drum & Bass producers aspired to achieve such a feat.
Even now we have producers wanting to release music on Breakbeat Kaos because they want to be able to get a physical copy of the record and frame it to hang on their wall – to honour the prestige by saying I was there and managed to be a part of this moment with this music. That was what those labels were about and it was just something you took for granted back in 2003.
A lot of the guys who started labels around that time would have had that same desire to be a memorable beacon for the music, like a map of where it was at that point in time. So I think it was a combination of all of those things which would make us want to chase a track or an artist so we could release their music.
Given some of the music you released ahead of the producers’ ascension to the highest highs, you must have the midas touch for spotting emerging talent in it’s earliest forms…
“It’s like GOLDUSTTTTTT!!!!” Haha sorry I couldn’t resist the opportunity to belt that out then, oh my god man – I can’t even sing that, its probably in the wrong key too but if I could remember which key it was in I could probably just about manage to get a decent rendition out there!
I remember vividly having to sing that to Naomi in almost exactly that voice when we were writing it and it was a little bit cringe at the time but ultimately totally worth it and we had a damn good laugh too!
I was always trying to vary what I write personally myself and also what we lined up for release through the label too, applying the mainstream principles and approaches to advertising and marketing as I’ve said but trying to shine the light on all styles of Drum & Bass, while staying true to the roots of the music and culture.
So when we recognised artists or tracks that struck those chords we just wanted to push them and give them as much exposure as possible of course. It was always a good testing ground at a Drum & Bass event as the energy is so apparent, it can be and is more often than not a totally unique experience so trying to capture that and share it was always the most obvious thing to me to do, and I am very proud of what has been achieved in the last fifteen years by everyone that has played their part in it – from the people who made the music to the people who bought it, its an amazing culture and one that I am very proud to be part of.
You know there’s so many things I love about this music, I love the technology, the original concepts, the production process, the feeling of connectedness – I’ve invested so much of my life in to it and I would like to think my contribution overall has been positive and beneficial and it forever rewards me with satisfaction to see it grow stronger and stronger, year on year whilst being more and more exciting as times goes on.
The artists that we have worked with have not only helped to cement the label’s legacy, but they have built their own by pushing the boundaries of the music and inspiring others to do the same, that for me is one of the most important elements of Breakbeat Kaos.
As for me personally? Well I would say that I am more of a scientist than an artist, I love the process of creation and I care more about the perfection of what I am trying to create the than the reaction to it, and I do not mean that with any negative connotations whatsoever – I massively appreciate the people who support me and it blows me away just how supportive people are and have been, but I just mean that I’ve always been focused on the musical patterns, the melody, the way rhythm works and all the science behind music above all else, which is what got me in to Drum & Bass in the first place.
As for pushing boundaries, where is Drum & Bass going next?
That’s a good question! Well, it is definitely reaching corners of the earth that it hasn’t before now and it is down to the people who truly believe in it, that have pushed it out there and continue to do so. Of course, the artists that make and play the tracks and perform with the music have a huge role in that expansion, but it’s also the people behind the scenes so dedicated to providing the platforms that it stands upon and that really genuinely care about the music. It’s a community and it is a culture, a beautiful one at that.
For people to hear something, they need to be told about it and the person that tells you about something is the most important person in that sequence – if someone you have no interest in approaches you and encourages you to listen to a track, why would you? Unless they can manage to convince you, then you just won’t register it, however, if someone like Goldie taps you on the shoulder and goes “you need to hear this track mate, you NEED to hear this track right now!” (Dan speaking in the most unconvincing Goldie accent impression possible) then you are like ‘I need to hear this f*cking track!’.
Well that passion and ability to talk to people is essential and right now we need those people who love this music so much to push it out there and keep at it to get more and more new people interested in the scene, it is an essential ingredient that we must recognise and encourage as much as possible. There are people out there that need to be told, and we need to tell them so it continues to grow the way it has over the last three decades and more, and this right now could be the beginning of the next chapter in Drum & Bass’ rich history, so where will it be in another fifteen years from now? Only time will tell…
Thank you to everyone on every level that has made the last fifteen years possible, I am massively grateful to you all!
Grab yourself a copy of ‘Junglesound: Revenge of The Bass’ the album which celebrates 15 Years Of Breakbeat Kaos right now!
Photographed by John Wright