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Exclusive Interview: Subtle Audio.

Subtle Audio began back in 2005.

A record label dedicated to Breakbeat D&B,Jungle & Drumfunk.

This record label hosts shows on http://jungletrain.net

There has been some serious releases from producers like Equinox,Senses,Fracture & Neptune plus many more talented producers.

Here is a detailed Q & A with Subtle Audio manager Conor O’Dwyer

 ( aka Code )

 

 

Well over a decade the record label has been treating us to some great releases…Since 2005!
How did it all begin?

 

It all began long before that really – back in 92/93 at the beginning of my teenage years when I began to hear dance music on Irish radio and got a loan of The Prodigy Experience album from a friend at school.

This was exactly the music I had been waiting for – electronic sounds and strings over heavy, energetic beats.

I cained the Prodigy album for the best part of a year before eventually getting 4th or 5th hand copies of sets from the likes of LTJ Bukem (Dreamscape 5), Dr S Gachet and DJ Monk from the same friend (a friend of his had a cousin who lived in London or something!).

The music on that bunch of tapes was a step beyond what I’d heard on the Prodigy album and was even more alien and mysterious – that was it for me.

I began a mission to find out more about the people behind the music and after picking up a few editions of Generator magazine and reading an interview with Goldie, I had a list of names to go on : Fabio, Grooverider, Randall, Doc Scott, Kemistry & Storm etc etc …

Luckily I came across a Reinforced tape mixed by Randall in the local music store and followed that up with a few really good compilations of hardcore / jungle on Kickin Records.

I was quite influenced by those label compilation albums from Reinforced, Kickin and some others like the XL Recordings 2nd Chapter / 3rd Chapter series etc.

I guess the strong label logos stuck with me as did the ideas of curating music and presenting a collection of tracks in an interesting way with an overall theme.

I got my first set of turntables at the end of ’95 and once I was old enough (in ’97) I started going to clubs and trying to get involved with the DJ’ing side of things.

I got a few gigs and eventually hooked up with some other local D&B Dj’s and after doing a few one-offs we started our first regular night early in 2000.

Fast forward to 2003 and I’d made quite a few contacts both in Ireland and internationally with people who were making really good beats – unfortunately, a lot of this music wasn’t seeing a release as it was to breakbeat heavy and ‘choppy’ for a lot of the established labels at the time.

I was still highly influenced by the beats I’d heard all the way through the 90’s and wasn’t quite feeling the new direction in D&B since the turn of the century. So I thought, why not start my own label and help to get some of the unheard gems out into the public domain?

I started work on the label that year and 2 years later we were ready to go with the first vinyl releases by Alpha Omega and Equinox / Senses.

 

Whose involved?

 

In the running and promotion of the label it’s mainly just me.
I do all the A&R and have an input in the art side of things.

I’ve always sold the Subtle Audio releases directly from the website but we always had partnerships with distribution companies as well – Nu Urban (2005 / 2006), ST Holdings (2007 – 2014) and we’ve been working with Unearthed since 2015 now.

Stacks (Conor O’Riordan) does all the artwork for the 12″ singles on Subtle Audio and then Louisa (my missus) does all the cartoon drawings for Bustle Beats (she also does the album / EP sleeves and any CD releases on Subtle Audio too).

The local Wardance crew in Limerick are a great help whenever I need to do a release party or label showcase – we’ve collaborated on a few events in our hometown of Limerick.

Tamen does some overseas promotion for the label – he was Dj’ing and representing D&B / Jungle in Barcelona for many years and has recently re-located to Australia where is he’s active on the Melbourne circuit and represents the breakbeat side of things when he plays out, including plenty of Subtle Audio material.
He does some distribution of the releases too.

Artist wise, some of the main contributors over the years have been Equinox, Alpha Omega, Enjoy, Dissident, Macc, dgoHn, Nebula, Sub, NCQL, Nic TVG and Irish artists such as Polska and Mecca.

The next batch of releases on Subtle Audio will introduce new artists that we want to spotlight such as Drummotive and Scale and I’m also launching a new label for hometown Limerick related beats called ‘Treaty Treats’ (Limerick is known as the Treaty city).

The music on this imprint will mainly come from myself and long-time friend and increasingly prolific producer K3Bee.

How did you make the decision to run a record label mainly focusing on Breakbeat D&B, Jungle & Drumfunk?

Well, that was easy – it’s the music I love.

As I mentioned already, the early nineties hardcore / breakbeat / jungle style was a huge influence on me and my favourite stuff from the mid to late nineties was a continuation of that sound.

The decision to focus on this style on my own label was made easier with the direction the scene took in the early noughties, that made me even more determined to try to represent my favourite style and help to bring the breaks back.

 

The location of Subtle Audio is in Limerick Ireland.
Due to your location does it have any negative effects on how the label performs due to majority of producers being based overseas?

 

No, I don’t think so.
I grew up in an era when flights were becoming much more affordable and Ireland is only an hours flight from London.

I made the trip plenty of times back over the years, especially between 2000 and 2010.
I was already in touch with quite a few producers online before I met many of them in person at different nights over the years.

One of the main meeting places was the Technicality night run by Chris Inperspective.
I first went there to hear Breakage, Senses and Bailey play around the end of 2002.
I got talking to Chris on the night and told him I’d bring him and a few others that were playing Technicality over to Ireland for a show.

In the end I booked Chris, Equinox, Breakage and Senses.

One of the tracks I got on a demo CD from Equinox when he came over ended up being on one of the first Subtle Audio releases 2 years later – ‘The Phantoms’.

I was able to catch up with artists fairly regularly by booking them to play our night (or when playing abroad or catching a show in London).

There are only a handful of artists on the label that I haven’t met in person.
The only draw-back over the years has been not having as much presence in the UK clubs as I’d like – especially since I was living in Canada for 4 years between 2011 and 2015.

I’m working on that though, so there might be some kind of Subtle Audio night in the UK soon all going well.

 

 

 Has the use of social media made it more easier?

 

Yes, definitely !

Social media is a good platform for promotion – especially for a label like mine where we do most of the distribution ourselves.

Even before the likes of Facebook and Twitter, internet forums were a good place to post mixes and release info.

Have to give a big shout to the Subvert Central forum (which is still going strong!) – A lot of positive things happened because of online interactions within that community.

It was a great place to throw out ideas and to meet like-minded artists / Dj’s etc.

Subtle Audio has a great reputation, providing unique releases from talented producers.
How do you find these producers for forthcoming releases?

Well, sometimes I find them and sometimes they find us!

I mentioned earlier about the hook up with Equinox and how that came about – that first release led on to many more and we’ve become good friends over the years.

It’s funny because one of my favourite compilation CD’s from the early days was ‘Jungle Dub 5’ on Kickin Records – it had a track by Bizzy B & Equinox on it called ‘Brain Records Crew’. Little did I realise at the time that we’d become good friends and that I’d get to release his music on my own label years later.

A similar scenario played out with Enjoy – I played at his night in Italy early in 2008 and he was playing me some demos that sounded really good.

We were on the same page musically and now, ten years later I’ve put out quite a few tracks by him and I’m just about to do an album release for him on Bustle Beats.

I got to know Macc initially via the Subvert Central forum and then eventually met him in person at Technicality – he ended up playing his live drum set at our night in Limerick in 2004 (with his good friend dgoHn in tow). They both became a big part of the label in the years that followed.
At this stage, now that we’re more established, a lot of producers know what we’re about and come to us if they think their style fits.

I get a lot of demos sent via Soundcloud / Facebook etc.
Other times I’ll hear an interesting track from a producer on another label and I might approach them about doing something for Subtle Audio.

 

There’s been plenty of releases on Vinyl now I’ve noticed you’ve began releasing more on MP3.
Is this due to more high demand and quality purposes?

 

Actually, we’ve always done digital download releases – usually a few months after the vinyl release, but we’ve done them since the early days.

I kicked off a sub-label for digital only releases back in 2006 – Subtle Audio Digital.
Time and financial constraints mean it’s impossible to get every track onto vinyl, so it’s good to have the option of just doing a digital-only release sometimes.

Even though I love vinyl myself, I acknowledge that not everyone wants to listen this way.
As for the sound of digital VS vinyl, that’s a subjective one – I’m not getting into it, haha.

My main objective is to make sure the music is available to whoever wants to listen, so we’ve always catered for vinyl lovers, the CD fans and the digital download crew.

To my knowledge there hasn’t been a Subtle Audio Tour for a very long time.
Will you be planning one in the near future?

Yeah, you’re right about that and yes I am looking into the possibility of doing something in the UK soon.

Apart from Limerick, I got as far as Dublin to do a ‘Decade In Breakbeat’ party at the end of 2016 – we had Equinox, Mecca, Earl Grey, Aroma Nice and myself on the bill, but that has been about it.

Before that I was in Canada, so the opportunity to do a tour on this side of the world hasn’t been there.

The release schedule on the label is quite full for 2018, so it would be good to get out there to promote the sound a bit.

I have some ideas, so lets see what happens.

 

Any big forthcoming releases we need to know about?

 

We just did a collaboration release called ‘Elysian Boundary’ with 7th Storey Projects and Scientific Wax which (at the time of writing) is still available from the 7th Storey Projects website.

All profits go to charity.

Apart from that there are 3 new releases in the works at the moment – I just got the testing pressings back for all 3, so things are on course for a late April / early May release via the Subtle Audio site.

Have a few digital only releases lined up too which should be available via the Subtle Audio Bandcamp site a few weeks before the new vinyl bits go live.

The next release on Subtle Audio itself is from a Dutch producer called Drummotive. A very talented guy who has had a few releases on Infest’s Next Phase label already.

It’s a 3 track vinyl – with 2 D&B / Drumfunk style tunes and 1 live sounding jazz track.

I’m very happy with how the tracks work together (it’s always an important consideration for every release) and I think it’s something a bit different to what’s doing the rounds at the moment.

On Bustle Beats there’s an album project by Enjoy due very soon – it’s a 3×10″ release with 6 tracks.
Being on Bustle Beats, it’s got more of a oldskool / jungle sound to it with strong grooves for the dance floor.

I’m delighted to have the honour of releasing an album for Enjoy – he’s a great talent and it’s great to see him getting more recognition these days, he’s also had vinyl releases on AKO Beatz and Transmute in recent times.

I’m also kicking off a brand new sub-label called ‘Treaty Treats’. This is for music made in my hometown of Limerick or by producers that have some kind of connection to the place.

The first release features something from local producer K3Bee and then there’s something of mine on the flip-side.
We’ve been working on remixes of an Irish indie act called Audrey & The Icons and those should see a release in the future too.

There’s even a mad (non D&B) remix by Naphta (he’s not from Limerick but we’re thinking of giving him a pass as he lived here for a few months and he DJ’d in Limerick before!)

 

Obviously last question from us here at Drum+Basics..
Any special mentions, thanks?

 

My main thank-you goes to the supporters of the label who have kept us going for over 12 years now.

Many of them have been with us since the very first release and without that hardcore support, there would be no Subtle Audio.

Thanks, of course, to the artists – again, without them, there would be no label.

Want to give a big thanks to Beau and Bob Macc who are the nicest and most accommodating mastering engineers you could hope to have – they’ve both really helped to make us sound good over the years.

A huge thank you to Conor (Stacks) and Louisa for their great artwork over the years.

Big thanks to Manny (Deepcut) in Limerick who has been really helpful with promoting and staging Subtle Audio related nights in Limerick over the last few years.

Shouts to all the regular listeners to the Subtle Audio Show on Jungletrain – they’ve put up with countless technical issues over the last few years but still come back for more – lol.

Really though, the chat-room crew make it much more fun to play and because they are so into their beats, they help to remind me that there is an audience out there for this stuff.

Shouts to Chris Inperspective, still soldiering on after all these years.

Shouts to Simon @ 7th Storey Projects and Marlon (Equinox) @ Sci Wax – was great to collaborate on the 3×12″ release recently – respects.

Shouts to all the local Limerick crew!

Big thanks to Drum & Basics for doing this feature on the label and big shout to anyone I’ve forgotten.

 

Many Thanks Conor.

Check out these links for more info & releases you need to purchase from Subtle Audio…

http://www.subtleaudiorecordings.com
https://en-gb.facebook.com/subtleaudio/
https://www.discogs.com/label/42042-Subtle-Audio-Recordings
https://subtleaudio.bandcamp.com

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Obsession – Enei feat. MC DRS
Can’t Stop Me – Potential Bad Boy

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The new release minimix, from EntityNo1 exclusively for drum+basics. Check back weekly for the rundown of the best releases in drum and bass.

[powerpress]

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