One of the things which has replaced that fanzine culture is the online drum and bass community, which can be full of conflict at the best of times with people debating the direction the scene’s going, arguing about different trends, all that kind of stuff. I don’t know how much attention you pay to that. How do you feel about people on forums criticising what you’re doing with the label or whatever?
I don’t know how relevant forums are any more. I think the internet’s obviously hugely relevant to drum and bass and music in general, but I think it’s more social networking now. Rather than go on a forum and say you like someone’s tune or you think it’s shit you can now tweet them and tell them yourself. Whether the artist sees it or not is another thing, but it seems to be the way they do it. I used to look on forums back in the day – you’d play a rave and then check on forums to see whether people thought you were good or whether they thought you were rubbish – but now people can tell you themselves. It’s such a big part of music now.
Do you get a lot of people getting in touch to tell you they love or hate your stuff?
Yeah, I get a lot of feedback that way. It’s nice. If someone hits you up and says they saw you last night and says thanks, it’s great. If I’m sitting on a train or a plane or something it’s nice to be able to reply and thank them back.
You must get a lot of feedback on the label, people scrutinising the direction you’re taking. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know if I say there are probably certain sections of drum and bass fans who criticise stuff like Prototypes and other people who might want more poppy stuff. Is that something that happens a lot with the label?
Yeah but I think that’s modern life isn’t it? Everything has to be analysed and scrutinised and that’s mainly because of the internet. I think the problem with the label is that a lot of people are scared of change. People get used to a certain style. If it’s not too bold for me to say it, Shogun championed a sound. It wasn’t anything I planned to do, it just kind of happened. I signed artists that I thought were talented and we all went in a certain direction. It wasn’t pre-empted, it was all natural. But when you have artists who are that talented you don’t want to keep doing the same thing so we’ve experimented with other styles.
I remember when we released ‘Led Astray’, that wasn’t a contrived plan, I just took the sample and that’s what I came out with when I made the tune. That was a bit of a funny one because it was hugely successful from a sales point of view and what it achieved, but people questioned why I put it out on Shogun. Well, it’s my label. I made this. You don’t have to buy it.
My point is that there isn’t a set style for Shogun and we don’t just want to release minimal rolling drum and bass. I hear so many labels doing that kind of sound now. We don’t want to do the same as everyone else – I’d rather be championing a new thing. The stuff that Rockwell’s making, to me no one else is doing that. I’m proud to be championing that, putting it out, playing it on Radio 1, passing it to Zane Lowe and telling him to check it out. We’ll always try and do something a bit different to the rest. That’s what I want Shogun to do. I just want it to be a cutting-edge electronic dance music label.
‘Kingpin’ is another string to that bow, reintroducing a more MC-led sound.
I’m really pleased with how that turned out. Again it’s not a contrived thing, it’s just Oli [Skream] coming in the studio, getting a loop, working out what beats to put with it, P Money hearing it and going, ‘I can spit something over that,’ then kind of thinking yeah, something’s happening here, we’ve got some kind of future-grime thing, something a bit different. It’s really nice when things like that come together with no sort of plan to it.
So you mentioned at the beginning that you’ve been working on your artist album. How’s that going? You’ve been working on it quite a while.
The problem with trying to do an album when you’ve got a really hectic DJ schedule, a Radio 1 show and a record label to A&R means that your studio sessions sometimes consist of sitting on a plane going to Serbia or having two hours free to jump in your own studio and work on a tune, which isn’t the most productive approach. It’s taking its time but I reckon I’m about half way through it now. I’m just making tunes and seeing what happens, really. My next solo single’s out in September, called ‘Long Gone Memory’, then there’s loads of other little bits I’ve done around it, like I’ve been in the studio with Metric, with Total Science, I’ve got plans to do something with Rockwell. It’s been flat out.
We talked about how important it is for Shogun to champion new sounds. What kind of direction’s the sound going for your own album?
Honestly, just a bit of everything. I’ve always been really open about music, there’s never just been one set thing. I just start at 170bpm and see what happens.
FABRICLIVE.70 mixed by Friction is out on 15th July, available to preorder now.