We’re in to our 19th year of Drum&BassArena, and we’ve invited some old friends and new to help us celebrate at London’s Heaven nightclub on the 24th of May. With a line-up showcasing the forward-thinkers of our scene, it’s a perfect combination of D&B luminaries and fresh-faced talent.
Sharing the very same milestone are Blu Mar Ten, who released their first track on Way Out Records in ’96. Since then they’ve established themselves as true pioneers with countless quality releases and remixes, as well as bringing new talent through their own label Blu Mar Ten Music.
In the lead up to the event they’ve kindly donated this vintage mix from ’96, and made it available as a free download. 19 years old and still sounding suave, it’s matured like a fine wine… Recorded onto cassette with 2 belt-drive turntables (as they were too broke for Technics at the time) and a mixer with no EQ, it’s a little slice of D&B history. One for the true heads.
We caught up with Chris of the duo to chat about the event, the mix and more…
Ez Chris, cheers for taking the time to chat! Where have we caught you today?
Hello guys. Today I’m at slaving away at the animal shelter where I work.
Legend. You’re playing at Drum&BassArena’s 19 Year celebration in May… Looking forward to catching your set. How do you approach your sets these days, do you have a clear idea how you want to execute them or do you just wing it depending on the vibe on the night?
I usually have a pretty clear idea of what I want to cover, but there’s never really enough time to get through it all. I often abandon the last half hour of a set to winging through old tunes that you don’t hear that much any more. So yeah, it wobbles between super-structured and total freestyle.
Good approach! What have you got in store for us on the night? Any exclusives up your sleeve?
A fair amount of stuff coming up on our label, and if we can get any finished in time maybe try out some bits from our next album.
Can’t wait for that! What are your thoughts on Drum&BassArena’s place in the scene since its inception in ’96? What are some of your fondest memories of the brand?
Yeah I’ve had a long and affectionate relationship with Drum&BassArena. I used to be on the original email discussion list in ’96 before there was a website or forum or any brand of any kind, and it was great. A proper free-for-all of music lovers getting aggy with each other. I still run into people from time to time who I first encountered on that list and I still regularly check in on the Drum&bassArena forum when I need some amusement. I also seem to remember first bumping into Risky at 5am in a strip club in Miami about 15 years ago. Oh, and I played at the 10th birthday party in 2006, which seems like yesterday, so I dunno where the time’s slipping away to…
Scary how quick it flies… And haha what happens in Miami stays in Miami, no? 😉 You’ve kindly given us a mix you recorded back in 1996 – Talk about vintage! Tell us about how the mix came together back in the day…
Well like everyone else I just used to record mixes all the time as friends were always asking for them. There was no proper internet back then and mixes and tapes were the only real way of passing music around, so I’d make 3 or 4 mixes a year and dish them out to mates. I was clearing out my spare room a while back and found loads of boxes full of cassettes – old pirate radio recordings stretching back to 92, (I’ve been slowly uploading those at www.mixcloud.com/blumartentapes), and also a bunch of my old mixes. So I’ve been transferring them to digital bit by bit. It’s a slow process though.
But totally worth it! Looking back on a mix like this, how do you think the approach to mixing and production has changed and developed since then?
The mixing style was much slower, you could play tunes for a long time and let them breathe and the minimal technology meant that the music was at the forefront. Some people now have a flight deck’s worth of tech in front of them with which they try to ‘improve’ the music. No thanks mates. Listening back to this mix it’s surprising how elegant the tunes are and how well they’ve aged.
Agreed. While we’re on the topic of vintage mixes, as you mentioned you’ve been unearthing a ‘From the Vaults…’ series with some epic mixes you did in the 90s. Must’ve been like stumbling across a goldmine when you re-discovered all these! What kind of nostalgia do these sets stir within you nowadays?
Actually not that much nostalgia because I’m not that sort of person, but I like listening through them for ideas to adapt in new ways. Things were less rigid back then… people trying to stand out instead of fit in and producers would do quite audacious things which have now been lost in the mists of time, so I’ve been digging through them for inspiration.
Helpfully, back then (and much like now) I was never much of an anthem basher, so instead of mixes full of the top ten tunes of the day they’re full of weird little releases, white labels and b-sides, the names of which I have no clue, but they’re all still sitting in my shelves somewhere. I’ve frequently been listening to one of the mixes and ended up rebuying some of the tunes on 2nd hand CDs so I can play them again.
Your first release, The Fountain/ Lunar came out in ‘96 as well… Seems like it was a big year for d&b 😉 If you could give yourselves one piece of advice back then, what would it be?
Never rely on the middlemen.
What are the biggest shifts/developments you’ve seen in the scene over the past 19 years?
By far the biggest is technology, both for making music and distributing it. It’s a well-worn subject but the Internet is the best and worst thing that’s happened to music.
How do you feel the D&B audience in London has changed over the years?
God knows, I’m old now. I imagine it’s much the same? Young people jumping around to big loud noises? Nothing really changes too much does it.
Ha, fair point! What are some of the defining moments in D&B for you over the past 19 years?
The first Logical Progression at Ministry, Metalheadz at Blue Note, releasing records ourselves… All the usual clichés I guess.
Looking to the future, which artists are you impressed by at the moment? Any stand-out releases of late?
These days if I find someone who stands out I’ll try and sign them myself, so the label is a fairly good indicator. Kimyan Law, Frederic Robinson, Conduct, Stray; there are so many talented people out there who are walking interesting paths.
You’ve got some incredible releases coming out on on the label, most recently Spirit’s ‘Life Goes On/ 107’, both very diverse tracks… What else have you got planned for the label in 2015 and beyond?
After the Spirit 12” we have Kimyan Law following up his album with a new EP, then after that some new guys from Leeds called Nausika, then a great 12” from Need for Mirrors and after that we’re sliding into album territory with LPs coming from new boys Conduct, and Kimyan Law will hopefully have his second album ready. We’re quite close to finishing the next BMT album as well. Plus there are various other one-off releases here and there I need to slot in somehow. It’s quite a busy year.
Sounds like it, can’t wait to hear it all! Couldn’t chat BMT Music without mentioning the incredible revelation you had recently about Kimyan Law producing his entire album on a pair of £12 earbuds…. To think he can produce an album THAT good on headphones like that is astounding. How did you come to realise he didn’t actually have a proper set of headphones or monitors? I think what I enjoyed most about this was people refusing to believe it was possible..
He played the first set he’s ever played in his life at Hospitality @ Building 6 in February and the next day we were hanging out at the BMT studio working on something together. I asked him if our speakers sounded substantially different to his speakers at home and he pointed at his earbuds on the desk and revealed that those are all he has… He doesn’t have any studio monitors! Yeah the bitter denial of that being possible from some of the bedroom crew was pretty funny. If I was going to spin a great drum & bass swindle it would be a better story that that to be honest, although that one is pretty good. But anyway, straight up, he just uses £12 earbuds and he was nominated for best newcomer at the Drum&BassArena awards a few months back, so anything’s possible.
Incredible. Man has serious talent. Back to you guys: What’s next on the agenda for you? Been vibing to your remix of Seba’s ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ a lot recently. Big up on a stellar remix. Have you got more releases in the pipeline?
Thanks. As above we’re just trying to keep our heads down and finish a new album. It’s been a bit tricky due to DJing commitments and running the label and working and all that, but thankfully things are slightly quieter now so we can knuckle down and get it done!
Can’t wait to hear the new material mate. Big ups!
Catch Blu Mar Ten at Drum&BassArena 19 Years. 19 DJs @ Heaven, London on the 24th of May. Tickets available here.
Join the event page for updates.