In Conversation with: Korsakov Music
Getting music signed these days as an upcoming producer is hard. Really hard. But despite how disconcerting it can be, sometimes you just need a little help from someone who believes in your work. Introducing Korsakov Music – the Drum & Bass label who are hoping to make a difference with the release of ‘Future Stars Volume 1’.
Featuring 17 tracks from a mammoth selection of unsigned acts, Korsakov Music’s ‘Future Stars Volume 1’ album represents a shop window more mesmerising than any prestigious Christmas window display. One where labels could easily bag themselves a rising star in the genre or listeners could discover the Drum & Bass talent of the future they need to be following.
Curated by Korsakov Music’s founder, AL/SO, the album features a diverse selection of productions from artists with the creative freedom to make exciting music without limitations. Neuro, dancefloor, liquid, and sounds you’ve most likely never thought were possible, this album is packing some priceless D&B gold dust.
As a release, ‘Future Stars’ speaks volumes of the current situation we face – where lockdown may have stripped people of the freedom to see their favourite artists perform, but it hasn’t halted the up and coming producers who have found their way into spotlights they never thought were possible.
Even though times are still bleak for our industry and beyond, Data Transmission spoke to AL/SO about how the future is looking particularly bright for Drum & Bass.
You must be very happy with this album. It bangs!
It has been a long road, but I am super excited because everybody smashed it. I knew I was going to have some good tracks, but I didn’t think it would be this good. Over half of the people on the album have not even released a single note of music before… How can you be that good?
I’m pretty blown away by the quality of the productions. If I didn’t know the story behind the album then I wouldn’t have guessed they were unsigned acts.
There you go! I’m gassed about it because it’s a big chance for the artists to release on Korsakov Music. What I said to them from the start is – I’m going to give you the same attention as I would any DC Breaks, Droptek or Teddy Killerz release, which is tough because no one knows these artists. I’ve had to make them aware.
Putting that arm around the artists and saying you care is important.
Exactly. Luckily I managed to secure various premieres and write ups, alongside getting help from Beatport, who generously gave us one or two slots in their D&B charts. Every two days a couple of the artists from the release have been putting music on there. I’m happy to be able to give the album the same attention as I would any other release on the label.
That’s wicked. So how did the initial idea come about?
The third track on the album, which is Bytecode ‘Bifrost’, got sent to me and I was so impressed. I was like – how the hell have you not released more? But I couldn’t put the track on any other Korsakov Music release because the schedule was pretty full.
I also felt the track didn’t fully fit into the direction I want to take the label, but because it was so good I wanted to release it. So then I had the idea of putting together an LP of unsigned tracks. He inspired me to do that. I put up a post on Dnb Talk and I got absolutely swamped with demos. I regretted it within ten minutes, haha!
I can imagine… How many demos did you get?
Easily 300. The worst thing is I had a terrible flu the day of posting it, so I only started listening to the demos after a week. My inbox was a warzone… Most of the demos were up to standard. Some were bangers, while others were almost good enough, so I’d have to tell them to make a few changes. I have to shout out Maztek because he did a phenomenal job with the masters.
I looked up the artists on the album and was shocked at how little followers they had!
Some of them didn’t even have socials…. They had to make new ones. That is how new some of these artists are, yet they are still making music this good. How mental is that? Lockdown has definitely been a good time for D&B. Maybe not for the people making it, but especially for the people listening to it and discovering new music.
Absolutely. Too often in music, the tendency is to focus on the big names, but there’s something fulfilling about unearthing those hidden gems.
Definitely. Looking at my own career I’ve had to work hard to get to where I am now, but I’ve also had so much help getting here through knowing the right people. So I felt it was only fair to use my network and knowledge to give something back. Everybody deserves a break, and I’m trying to be that break. It’s cool to see that I can be that ‘right person’ for the people on this release. Now their music is going to reach people who may never have heard it.
So when you got sent the demos, were there any that stood out to you in particular?
The best story is the PRFCT Mandem one. Their manager George sent me two tunes that both ended up on the album. One of them was PRFCT Mandem ‘Monument’, and the other one was Invert Era ‘Hypa’. In that same folder were six or seven tunes from PRFCT Mandem and I couldn’t believe my ears… I was like – are they joking? There’s no way they haven’t had a release before. So I signed them exclusively because I really believe in those two. I heard it, I believed in it, I wanted it, I got it.
I discovered them through Bloc2Bloc during lockdown and loved the energy they gave off. You can tell they are enthusiastic.
Whenever you see them you just feel there’s something special going on. It’s a feeling you can’t shake. When I heard the tunes I knew I had to sign them. I didn’t even ask my colleagues, I just signed them. It only took two days to make that decision… That has never happened before. The closest to it was when I signed Droptek, but it wasn’t this quick. I asked him for one tune and he sent me his whole album. I then listened to it five more times and was like – Damn!
PRFCT Mandem clearly caught you off guard… You wouldn’t expect a newcomer to provide you with the same feeling you had about Droptek.
Exactly. The person behind the music is just as important to me as the music itself. That’s why when people send me promos with only a link it goes straight in the bin. I have a strict tolerance policy towards a-holes because I need to be able to get on with the artists. I’ve refused a lot of good business in the past as a result of not wanting to work with people. Especially if I’m booking an artist for a long period, I need to know we are going to have a good relationship. I saw that in PRFCT Mandem.
I think a big part of it is how much freedom unsigned acts have. They just bring this positive let’s give anything a go attitude.
That’s the thing I like most about this release – that no one is bound by any rules yet. No one has been told what to do and they haven’t been ruined by 50 A&R agents telling them to change this and that. I think every artist on our label can attest to this, but I hardly ever tell someone to change something. That’s because it’s not up to me to change the music into something I like, it’s up to me to make sure it works. I know there are label managers out there who will make artists change half at tune because they personally don’t like it, but that’s not who I am. It’s all about the artists.
It wouldn’t be music from the heart if you changed it to suit you.
Exactly. When I go to an artist and ask them to release with me, I go to them because I believe in their music. The artists on this album haven’t been ruined yet, and you can hear that because there is so much originality going on. They are coming up with new ideas. It never ceases to amaze me how much you can do with a DAW… There are sounds on this album I’ve never heard in my life.
Which sounds in particular?
Cyntax ‘Asynchronous’. Technically, it sounds like such a difficult song to me. I’m amazed how new he is to the scene because if the track was polished up a bit more it could pass for a Black Sun Empire song…
Alternatively, with Part Time Menace ‘007’, it’s such a simple idea that you could easily ruin, but he did it so well. I’ve never heard anything like it, so credit to him. I can’t think of any producer who would make that tune because it’s almost too simple. They probably would want to put some automation on it or some effects… With this release, I really made a point of not telling people what to do. Instead, I just encouraged them.
The amount of variety on the album demonstrates that. From the filthy jump up of ‘007’ to the beautiful liquid of 3Föur’s Forgotten Souls. It’s a wicked contrast.
‘Forgotten Souls’ is a beautiful one. The album is still a bit on the neuro side for my liking, because I want to lean more towards dancefloor as a label, but even the neuro on it is so well produced that it could pass for dancefloor. There are some absolute bangers on there. You could easily sneak one or two into a Wilkinson set… I’m really happy with the diversity of it and I’m glad you pick up on it because I felt it was a bit on the neuro side.
I actually expected it to be more neuro, which is why I was so surprised when I listened to it. I felt like I was being taken on a journey through the album.
It’s a very nice journey. If it was all neuro then I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with the project because it’s not who Korsakov Music are. That’s the problem we’ve been having. We know most people in neuro really well because when we started that’s all we did, but we’ve grown so much since then. We like all drum and bass. That’s why our main stages at events are varied. We will have a jump up stage, a neuro stage and a liquid one. I want Korsakov Music to be like Ram’s dancefloor style a few years ago. It had a bit of everything, and all of it slapped!
Speaking of future plans, this is only Volume 1 of ‘Future Stars’, so can we expect more?
That’s definitely the idea. But I can’t do it too often because it’s incredibly expensive to do and has required me calling in nearly every favour I could possibly use in order to get this release some attention. I will definitely do it again because it has been amazing. It’s not even about me or the label. If even one of these artists gets signed by a label, then it’s mission accomplished. Anyone except PRFCT Mandem, they’re mine…