BCee: 10 Years Of Spearhead
In its 10 year history Spearhead Records have built an incredibly impressive repertoire of artist releases and successful events. Pushing forward-thinking liquid drum & bass to the forefront of the scene since its inception, the label is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down in its 10th year.
They’re celebrating a decade in the game at Electric in Brixton this Saturday, and they’re armed with a line-up which exemplifies the sheer talent and sound the label have been pushing the past 10 years. From legends Fabio & Grooverider, to John B, Brookes Brothers, Hybrid Minds, Technimatic, Tokyo Prose, LSB and (many) more, the lineup is a snapshot of Spearhead history.
We caught up with label bossman BCee to chat about the labels 10-year history, what’s coming up in 2015, and his upcoming album…
Ez Steve! Thanks for catching up with us! How did you welcome 2015?
I was in Bruges for the turn of the new year having a disco nap before my set at Invaderz and was rudely awoken by new year fireworks. The club had gotten me a bottle of fine red wine to have at 1am to celebrate the turn of the new year in the UK, but they failed to find a bottle opener, so it ended up being a Redbull.
What a start to the year! 😉 What was the worst Christmas present you received? (don’t worry, we won’t tell)
One of my daughters gave me a particularly stinky nappy to change after the Christmas dinner… My Christmas dinner nearly came back up at one sniff of it.
Haha and I thought I had some shit presents… Moving on: This Saturday Spearhead Records will be celebrating 10 years in the game with a huge event at Electric in Brixton – First of all big ups! Did you ever think the label would be going this strong after 10 years?
I think that 10 years sounds like such a long time, especially as I was still in my twenties then, so the thought of 10 years seems so much bigger. I didn’t really even think about how long it was going to run for. The thought of going for another 10 years doesn’t seem that far away anymore.
What was the motivation behind starting the label in the first place?
Before Spearhead existed I had started a label with another producer, called Kubiks, back in 2001. I’d wanted to run a label more than be a DJ or producer. Doug Kubiks was a producer and doing a bit of promotion so we teamed up and started Rubik Records alongside the Rubiks Cube events that ran in Bristol for a few years. In 2005 I took a job in Ibiza, and as it was hard enough running a label with me being in Norfolk and Doug in Bristol, I decided to start my own imprint. I left Rubik Records to Doug and set up Spearhead Records. I moved to Ibiza just after starting the label, and although we had computers at work, I didn’t actually own one for about 18 months and ran the label purely off of a USB stick in internet cafes.
Show’s that anything is possible eh? If you could give yourself one piece of advice when starting the label 10 years ago what would it be?
I always say “Don’t do it” to that question! At the time I came up with a golden rule that I’ve tried to stick to, and that is to believe in the music. What I mean by that, is that as the label owner and chief A&R person, it’s me that has to love the music, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. I have to trust that if I love it, then other people will. Then on top of that, it’s my money at risk on a release, so I would rather lose money on something that I love rather than something that I released because other DJs told me it was good. Then the other thing that I’ve tried to do is to allow artists as much creativity as possible with as little guidance as possible. I don’t want to shape producers’ sounds, I just want to help them make the best tracks that they can make in their own style.
That’s a brilliant ethos to have! Biggest highlight/s of the past 10 years?
It would probably be easier to write about the low points rather than the highs! There are plenty of them, such as Nu Urban (our distributors) going bankrupt, along with several other shops and companies that owed us money and almost closed us down.
But it’s always a highlight when I get a producer onboard that I’ve wanted to get on the label for some time. It’s also always great when you DJ somewhere and hear people singing along to Spearhead releases in a place or country where I’ve never even been before.
Electric, Brixton is an epic venue! Any particular reason why it was chosen for this event?
Yeah, I teamed up with a guy called Kristian just over a year ago to launch ‘Spearhead Presents…’ on a larger scale. Kristian promotes events in London most weekends so has a great relationship with quite a few venues across the city. For the 10 Years Of Spearhead event, he gave me a list of possible venues, and for me Electric was a clear choice. For those that don’t know, Electric Brixton used to be called ‘The Fridge’ and it’s the first ever proper music venue that I went to with my Dad when I was about 15. So here we are, some 20+ years later, and now I’m hosting an event in that very venue.
Absolute monster of a line-up planned for the night! It truly spans the past, present and future of Spearhead, is that what you were going for when curating the event?
I really wanted to get a line-up that represented the artists that we have had releases and remixes from, as well as those that have been big supporters of the label over the last 10 years. John B signed the first ever Kubiks track for his Tangent label, which led me and Kubiks to focus on d&b instead of starting a house label, so it seemed right to get John for the 10-year party. Fabio and Grooverider have always been big supporters, as have Drumsound & Bassline Smith, who were the first people to sign Technicolour. Brookes Bros have just been generally smashing it and I play a lot of their tunes. But most of all, I’m pleased to have Hybrid Minds, LSB and Riya who have all turned down deals with other labels this year to work with Spearhead, which is a massive privilege.
Have you had a chance to plan for your set or will that be something you tackle on the night?
I will be playing a ‘History of Spearhead’ set, which I have some idea about, but I will go with the flow a bit on the night. Everything I play will be either past, present or future Spearhead releases, with a couple of special ‘Spearhead mashups’ thrown in.
To mark the milestone you guys are releasing an album titled ‘Ten’. Tell us about the concept behind the release.
We often get asked if we will be re-releasing / re-pressing certain tracks from the back catalogue. So we wanted to give new fans a chance to own some of these Spearhead classics. Trying to select a handful of tracks out of 10 years of releases wasn’t the easiest task, and I’m sure some people will tell me that I should have included other tracks, but I’ve selected my personal favourites. Then I approached all of our artists to see who would be willing to write something brand new that they thought represented the ‘Sound of Spearhead’, which is what disk 2 is.
Disc 3 is a 70min History of Spearhead Records Mix – what can you tell us about the mix?
The 70min mix is an attempt to fit in as many tracks as possible from the Spearhead catalogue without it sounding insane. It’s a bit of a history lesson. I’ve also mashed up quite a few of the tracks in the studio in order to fit more in. This mix is the result of about 3 weeks in the studio.
What’s coming up for the label in 2015?
In 2015 there will be EP’s from Dexcell, LSB, Eavesdrop and Hybrid Minds, an album from Muffler, a new BCee album and the debut album from Riya. Plus releases from Saxxon, Villem & McLeod and a whole load more. Break is also about to make his Spearhead debut as one of the producers for Riya’s album.
Sounds like 2015 is going to be huge for the label! Artists you’ve got your eye on this year?
Keep your eye out for ‘Battery’ and ‘Dexcell’ who are making some serious sounds right now. While not a new artist ‘LSB’ is the one to watch for 2015 in terms of taking things up a level and the same can be said for ‘Villem & McLeod’.
As you mentioned you’ve got another album coming out yourself this year. Any idea when we can expect a release?
It’s booked in for mastering with Beau Thomas (he has mastered every release on Spearhead), for the 13th Feb, so it’s on the way. It should be out around April.
Can’t wait to hear it! How have you approached the project this time around?
I’ve been working on this album for about 2 years. I’ve found it harder this time around as with it being album number 3 I didn’t just want to release more of the same, yet at the same time I wanted to keep that same feel that people like about BCee tracks. I’ve written around 30 tracks for this one and then narrowed it down to what will probably be 14 on the LP.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you’ve got another collab with S.P.Y featuring on the new album. Why do you think you guys work so well together in the studio?
S.P.Y works very fast and is super technical with his production. I usually work fairly slowly, go for a ‘vibe’ and some good sounds, and then try and make the production sound better later. So when I’ve worked with S.P.Y i’ve usually taken a nice vibey idea to his studio, then in quite a short space of time he’s added a few touches, worked his technical wizardry, and the combination seems to work. We both use Ableton which makes the collab process a lot easier.
Any other exciting collabs on the album we should know about?
I’ve got Rocky Nti and Philippa Hanna back on vocal duty, which I’m pleased about. A guy called ‘Saint Louis’ has also written a vocal track for me, which has been going down well in my sets for a while. Then production-wise I’ve also collaborated with Hybrid Minds, LSB and Villem.
You’re pretty prolific when it comes to remixes. Most recently your remixes of Hybrid Minds’ Broken and New Orleans featured on the Mountains Remixed album. Is your approach to remixes vastly different to how you’d approach a solo project?
I find remixes a lot easier than writing a track from scratch, as the main idea, samples and parts are already there to work with. I just try and manipulate them into something that I would play in my own DJ sets, which seems to work.
Speaking of remixes, Calibre recently did a sublime re-work of Typical Destination. Must’ve been an honour! How did that come about?
Calibre is one of those artists that I’d been trying to get a release or a remix from since day one. In fact it’s only really Calibre and Break that I’ve never managed to get anything from until now. I was playing at City Flow in Belgium on the same night as Calibre and we ended up sitting next to each other at dinner. Marky was also there, who I have known for some time, who just said ‘You should do a remix for Steve’. That was an opportunity too good to miss. I sent him the track, he liked it, remixed it, and there it is.
Apart from the album what else is on the cards for you this year?
I’ve been working with Villem on a few tracks that we hope to release as an EP. I’ve also been back in the studio with Bladerunner, so expect some new music from us. I’ll also be starting work on my next album pretty much as soon as this one is out.
Busy man! Final words/ shouts?
There are far too many people to list here and if I tried I would be bound to miss some. So really just a massive thank you to anyone that’s ever bought a Spearhead record, been to an event, or been to see me DJ. Here’s to another 10 years!
Spearhead celebrate 10 years in the game this weekend at Electric, Brixton. Tickets available here.
The ‘Ten’ LP is available to pre-order now. Get it here.