Reform Music is the Footwork Jungle DNB label to watch in 2020
The creative powerhouse: Mota (left, Reform Music and Inform Records label boss; owner of MOTA Creative Agency, former rave promoter at Ohm DNB & UP.dnb) and Bluescreen (right, Reform A&R manager and producer).
The evolution of artistic creativity is always inspiring to watch. In 2014, promoter, agency owner and Inform Records head honcho DJ Mota teamed up with musical connoisseur Bluescreen to form an invigorating new label: Reform Music. We love its unpredictable sound, which has evolved from Footwork Jungle through to soulful DNB. It’s as if it never stops blossoming into something exciting and new! To celebrate that, we caught up to explore how their approach to music has matured with time. We also got geeky about Footwork Jungle, and reflected on what’s been a hard year…but with big plans to watch in 2020.
Hey Mota, what was the evolution behind co-founding a club night, to owning a creative agency and 2 record labels?
Mota: Hey! It began when I started a DNB society when I first came to uni in Portsmouth. I hated going to Tiger Tiger and all that, but I got well into raving – there were some amazing DNB nights there back in 2007, such as Breakneck. So I thought, why not start some nights of our own!?
We brought downloads of big names: Sigma, Fresh, High Contrast, Logistics, SHY FX, Noisia… Over the years it got bigger and bigger, but the nightlife scene in Portsmouth got worse and worse. Certain venues closed down, others wouldn’t accommodate us because we were hosting drum and bass nights – and some just said “nah we can’t do it anymore” – too many noise complaints.
How did you go from bass club night to record label?
Mota: When me and Bluescreen started doing Reform Music in 2014, it began as a small underground night in Portsmouth. We had our friends playing Jungle, Footwork, DNB, Dubstep, Techno. The soundsystem wasn’t great, but everyone really liked it! People would walk in off the streets. Literally 4 months later, Bluescreen’s first release came out on Reform.
Bluescreen, how would you describe your musical influences at the time?
Bluescreen: From about 2000, I was into Jungle DNB, but around 2006-7 I got pretty bored of what was happening. Then I heard Bangs & Works [a Chicago Footwork compilation] and that was fucking exciting! Especially seeing how Om Unit and Machinedrum put their UK sound on Footwork too. I loved the way it was just music unified by the same pulse, the same heartbeat. Loved the way they all played different sounds together as “160” or “170” BPM sets.
Mota: When Bluescreen first showed that stuff to me he played Rashad, Sam Binga, the whole Astrophonica sound. I remember seeing D Bridge in Portsmouth, he came down and played in a tiny little club. It was all-vinyl, Autonomic kinda set. I was like “what is this! It’s fuckin sick!” I wanted to know more. That’s when I got to know Bluescreen – he showed me the light.
Mota, is that what inspired your shift from Inform Records to Reform Music?
Mota: Yeah, and I think at that point, Inform Records hit a level where I needed to give it more time and money… to take it from being a label that pushes smaller acts, to that middle sphere of labels – in the realm of Flexout Audio maybe, that kinda level. Some of the artists on Inform I’d never met before. I’d bring them down for nights or chat to them on the phone or online…but it’s not the same. I think I lost a bit of patience with it. Reform was refreshing to be honest. We were able to start a label that focused on a small core group of people, so we grew the label together like a family!
That family vibe always translates into the music and the vibe behind the decks! How would you describe the Reform sound?
Mota: I don’t think we’ve got one! We go off BPMs more than genres – to be honest it’s more just if we like the music. We both love artists that take Chicago Footwork and put their own imprint on it. So that was the key thing, whether it was dancefloor or stay at home music. Each artist has their own particular sound – I could put together such a wide range of mixes with all the tunes we have!
Bluescreen: At the start, for me it was all about trying to make the Machinedrum/ Philip D Kick type stuff. Now my production is a million miles away from that. For me it doesn’t matter if we make a 170 or 150 track. It’s more like “does it bang”, or “does it make me feel good”.
Bluescreen, I know you’re into live production. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Bluescreen: I generally prefer to collaborate, so me and See Jay make the bulk of our tunes together. We’ve been exploring live improvisational production, and we’ve had releases on Reform, Ground Mass and Samsara Beats on cassette.
We don’t wanna be pretentious modular wankers, but we’re old and that’s how we make tunes hahaha! It’s not really dancefloor music. It’s synthesizers, drum machines and guitars and stuff. We’ve known each other for such a long time, and sitting in front of Ableton is just a bit boring!
Obviously we’re coming out of lockdown, which has big implications for music. What can we expect from you guys in 2020?
Bluescreen: Really introspective slow stuff. Sad boy records. Ahaha!
Mota: I feel like I’ve been neglecting the Jungly stuff. I wanna sign some more artists, there’s a few on my list who I’ve been having ongoing conversations with. I’m building those relationships and making a point of facetiming them, getting to know them properly before we sign the contract. For example, we’ve got a release coming out from a really good producer called Modul8. I’d also love to work with Tim Reaper… I’d love to put out a vinyl out of his!
Yes, Tim Reaper is the man. We’d love to see that!
Mota: Then there’s the BLM movement as well. In our scene, Chris Inperspective calling out some of the big DNB labels has really opened my eyes. It made me think, “what can we do to get more black artists producing”. And “how can we get more black artists feeling like they can approach a label that’s predominantly white”? I’d actually love to set up a youth programme in Bristol or London – I want to reach out to some charities. Start off small and grow from there. But this whole period has really given me time to think.
Yup, it’s been a period of introspection that’s for sure. But with your industry experience Mota, you’d be perfect for this!
Mota: From shit times, things can only get better. So hopefully we’ll have some big announcements very soon! Oh, and finally, we’d like to give a big shout out See Jay, Walters, Sourpuss, Breaka, Dome Zero, Soul:Motion, Dexta, Sun People, Sekklow and Rex Domino.