Black Beacon Sound - why and how?
Benny - We had both met in Sheffield through the music scene, which had come to a crossroads by October 2015. For me, I was seriously considering making a permanent move back to Liverpool, for as much as I loved living in Sheffield, a few opportunities had presented themselves back across the Pennines. However, I'd also been seriously contemplating the idea for setting up my own record label, a fire lit by the frustrations of previous work. I was, and still am, lucky enough to know so many amazing people who are making such incredible music, but not all of them have the opportunity to release their work, which is where I wanted to step in. However, not ony did I know I couldn't do it alone, I also knew there was really only one person I wanted to work with on this: Toby. Having spent so much time talking music, going to gigs and listening to a range of stuff on the office stereo, I knew our tastes complimented each other well enough, but also that Toby's optimisim and realism would help balance out my doom mongering and flights of fancy. Once he said he was up for it, after a fairly inebriated chat on the dancefloor during a DJ Funk gig, I think, we set about planning and creating what would become Black Beacon Sound. We hope we can be both a stepping stone, that helps the artists that we release onto bigger and brighter things, as well as continuing to grow as a family alongside those we're privileged enough to work with on a repeat basis.
Toby - DJ Funk may have played a bigger part in the formation of Black Beacon Sound than he is aware of! And judging from a selection of our releases, he may have musically inspired us too. But truthfully, it was from a concoction of past work and future ambition between two like-minded people that built the early foundations for the label. At the time, I was making movements into live events and inner-city festival work and simply didn't feel like giving up the chance to follow on with steps into label work, where I had worked with Benny as well. It was blatant we both had very similar tastes in music (but equally across a very wide spectrum). I couldn't pass up the opportunity to mission on with a person who had the right idea, at the right time and for all the right reasons.
What’s been the biggest unexpected challenge of setting up the record label?
Benny - The impact it's had on my personal life. Like, I kinda knew that would be the case, but once you get into this you soon realise that to have any hope of succeeding you have to absorb yourself in it, because if you don't you'll soon be left behind. At times it's been difficult to explain to people just what it is we're trying to do and trying to achieve, especially as we're working on an almost sub-underground level. There have been moments when Toby and I have been delighted with something that's happened, bouncing around the room in joy, only to share it with those around us and be met with, at best, blank expressions, or just a 'meh'. It's hard to convey how far we've come at times to those who think we're just standing still.
Toby - Road rage! I would say I've always been a decent motorist. But I suppose counting the mileage over the past 18 months, where label work has taken us to each corner of the country, there was always going to be a higher risk of exchanging obscene remarks with other motorists; it's just required a little nurture.
What’s the biggest argument you two have had in terms of the label?
Benny - Man, that's a hard one, coz we genuinely don't argue that much. I'd say the main one that forever comes up is how we push the label forward and how we fund it. We just can't afford to do everything we'd like to, so it's like trying to manage a series of spinning plates: making sure some are going faster than others when necessary, but always ensuring none of them crash to the ground. It's just every now and again we don't always agree on which plate is about to crash! With that, I'd say I'm the risk taker, whereas Toby's the realist. So, for example, I'll want to fly to the moon to plant a BBS flag and Toby will be like, "Well, how we gonna do that," at which point I'm already drawing rocket ships, making launch noises and looking at the stars, whilst Toby explores how many moths have taken up residence in our wallets that month. He's forever having to pull me back into reality whilst I'm always trying to drag him deeper into my madness. Thankfully, it seems that combination has served us fairly well so far, and, in such circumstances, when we do argue, it's only because we both care so passionately about what we do and want it to go ever further than we've already reached.
Is vinyl essential for BBS?
Benny - No, is the short answer. But it's important to us and always will be. First up, as mentioned previously, we're working with a lot of boss musicians and producers who deserve to have their music out there on vinyl, so we wanted to be able to do that for them. We think there's still something special about being able to point to something you've made sitting on 7, 10 or 12 inches of wax. We still massively value the record shop and the work that goes on behind those counters in pushing new music. I'm a bad vinyl obsessive. I still play out on vinyl, having never really made the switch to digital. I have my reasons for this, and none of them are based in anything to do with sound quality. I just like record shopping and the physical nature of the medium. I've always enjoyed going into record shops and digging through their crates; the deeper, the better! And being able to build that relationship with those who run the shop, so they get to know your tastes and can turn you on to stuff that might otherwise have passed you by, is something that's never been replicated by an alogrithm yet. And that's one of the main reasons we wanted our releases out on wax, so it could be out in these shops that we've known, loved and respected for years - such as Piccadilly, Jumbo and Idle Hands. That said, both Nord Suburban Genossenschaft albums are to this date only available digitally, and they're currently working on an audio-visual project that explores the Grenfell Tower disaster, focusing on the political failings and ineptitude, that will be presented more as an installation piece, with plans to create a similar piece that tackles the Windrush scandal next.
I never know where you bloody live! Sheffield, Liverpool or Manchester? The moon? What's your favourite feature of each?
Toby - Hahaha, the moon seems be trending here, having heard Benny's dreams of building a rocket! Meanwhile we're both currently based in Sheffield. This actually comes off the back of a lengthy "argument" about whether in fact we should move to Manchester or Liverpool! We juggled with the idea of a move away from Sheffield but these were put to bed since we recently acquired the shop space. Manchester has some great food and bars, Liverpool rocks a good party but Sheffield has a bit of everything and is definitely the best place for a good pint!
Benny - Yeah, clearly our new record shop in the basement of Kelham Island Arcade is the best hing about Sheffield! But in all seriousness, that does epitomise what I Iove about Sheffield; if you've got an idea and some gumption, then the DIY vibe in this city is perfect. Manchester is just on fire musically, at the moment. That city has so much going on and whether it be techno, soul, or anything in between; it's all forward thinking and has got grooves for days. Liverpool, well, I'm a bit biased, but the clubbing and live scene is second to none. There are some exceptional promoters working tirelessly with some amazing event spaces to put on some wonderful nights, across the spectrum, every single weekend. And of course, there's our good friends at Melodic Distraction who've been with us from the start. As well as putting on some of the best events in Liverpool, usually at their Constellations base, they've also grown a community based radio station from scratch, turning it into one of the best independent stations in the country. Defo check them out, if you haven't already. I love all three cities and feel blessed to get to split my time between them so much. And the moon, well, that's a toss up between the view and the ability to bounce about 40ft in one giant leap, innit?
Take us through the remixers on this new release. Who are they? Why did you choose them?
Toby - This forthcoming release is super exciting for us! And we've been dying to get it out for a long time now. It is the final benchmark of our first release schedule, all the music we've released from the start, pulling in each individual remix from all 9 7" EP's released during the 12 month project; '12 in 12 - The Reworks'.
Denham Audio is a trio of boys I've known on some level individually and as a group of mates. One of the first collaborators to get back to us, I'm stoked to have them on a remix. They've really upped their game over the past year or so, harnessing a sound that bridges breakbeat and techno with a big nod to UK bass music too. With gigs in London, Bristol and recent work over in Paris for Rinse FM, they are now immersed in a resurgence of big beat music in the UK and I think they deserve far more credit. Arshaw jumped on board once he returned from London (I'd met him years earlier in Sheffield) and making the decision to go with his remix was easy. The remix shows off how intricate his production is and his admiration for unusual music with a focus on percussion - just like much of his back catalogue!
I met Yak somewhere near the speakers at the front of the stage during an event him and his mates put together. This particular time was a Pearson Sound 3-hour set hosted by Pretty Pretty Good, and this is where a few drinks led us along the path of that cheesy but nerdy dancefloor chat, proclaiming our love for the DJ. After a few chance encounters, further chats and then later a few clips of his music, it was a no brainer! The guy's got real skill. Morphing garage, dub, house and electronica into one giant pot of percussive-heavy techno, it seems to be taking him down the right path, playing gigs up and down the country. YAKONA are a duo that Yak recommended to us! The type of dub-techno they plant on his original had a significant tribal element to it that Benny and I have a soft spot for. Each track compliments the other but equally YAKONA have really stamped their sound on the original, something we felt adamant about was to allow each remixer to have the freedom to literally take the remix in whatever direction they liked.
R. Lyle and Atdhe may be perceived as emerging from the woodwork of Sheffield's more offbeat music scene. But in many ways they are creating their own legacy. I first crossed paths with R. Lyle during an event that included Throwing Snow on the line-up. Interested, I did some rooting around online and found some extra material and I was blown away. Highly influenced by the woozy air of UK sub-bass and experimental-beat music (say, Burial, and you get it,) R. Lyle explores sonics of space and depth that is undeniably impressive. Similarly, c popped up in and around the city spawning 'Stepping Out' events with his pal's and sharing his music online. Both Benny and I have a deep-rooted love for the funkier side of music and the kid's production salutes these attitudes; seriously fun, a little 'laissez faire' but always one to definitely get down to! His remix takes on the already riotous original from The Fire Beneath The Sea and livens it up in his own way to suit any carnival parade out there. And frankly, working with that many live instruments on one track is a feat in itself!
Benny - I knew Thatmanmonkz from Madison Washington and I knew he'd be able to take Zen the Sharpshooter's original off in some delightfully twisted direction, which he undoubtedly did with that beat in their refix. Him bringing in Malik Ameer, who's the ridiculously talented lyricist, the other half of the ace Mad Wash, just added a different dimension that blew both Toby and me away and set the standard for all reworks going forward from the off. Afternaut is a friend from back in Liverpool who crafts delicate and intricate sounds out of machines that can range from blissed out and banging to delicate and introspective and everything in-between. He's one of my favourite producers and we were so lucky to have him work his magic on the David J Boswell track, turning it from electro-folk into a gorgeous and haunting bass driven behmoth. And we both knew the incredibly talented Rubberlips from previous work and were always keen from the start to have him work on the Galactic Funk Militia track, with his jazzier leanings working oh so well with GFM's full on funk assault.
If there was one producer, from any time throughout history, who you could have on the release, who would it be?
Benny - Dilla. No more needs said.
Toby - I would very happily agree with Benny, over and over. But there is another I would absolutely love have on board: Synkro.
Can you name the most exciting producer you’ve recently discovered?
Benny - Hugo Massien. Heard the Ghost Note EP and was captivated by that heavy bass driven sound he's got going on, that marries elements of hardcore that I remember from when I was a kid, using those breaks perfectly, with the techno I've loved all my life. Really enjoying exploring his back catalogue now.
Toby - I've recently picked up Johnny Jewel's latest LP 'Digital Rain' and highly recommend it!! It's a beautiful, airy, emotive and quite entrancing album of padded synths, raindrop bleeps, stabbing chords with all the flange and reverberated white noise I'd expect on my very own little cloud 9! Headphone ready to the max for a cruising around to. Or so masterfully produced that on a good set of monitors...well, it's simply stunning. It's a concept album about rain; get yourself drenched!!
You’ve got Loose Lips resident Treece featuring with some vocals on a forthcoming project right? Tell us about that, and about any other exciting future news you can share with us?
Toby - Yes! Treece. Part of the SWMS outift in Manchester - he's been putting out material both of us have buzzed over for quite a while now. So when Zen parked up with his album, and since he's collaborated with Malik from Mad Wash on a few tracks, there was no doubt in our mind that Treece would compliment the album, too. Zen gave us the go-ahead and Treece instantly responded to the track with a wicked energy that was just spot on. Treece speaks about plenty of things with a soft smirk on his face. And he makes that come through the production, which is just awesome. We're currently booking studio time in Sheffield and aim to have that recorded by the close of Summer, ready for mastering. With the remainder of the album maintaining an instrumental direction, it's gonna be wild to have Treece dot the i's and cross the t's, so to speak. Expect the official release early-2019!
After the compilation release, we've got a release from R. Lyle which is very exciting. This will include an EP launch in Sheffield as well. After that, there are various other bits and pieces tail-ending this year, with exact dates TBA. But I can say the path leads us along more live and instrumental music than what we've had in the past; psychedlic folk, horrible pop and synth-electronica.
Following on from bbs009's trump edition, if there was one other politician’s face you have to include on the next release’s artwork, who would it be?
Benny - Hahahahaha! That's a good one. I suppose it would depend on what sort of music we were doing with it. The Trump one was brilliant in pairing that Dance Mania style techno with the misogynism of the horror show that is Trump, so I think we'd need to balance that out with something more positive if we were to do it again. I like the idea of featuring Clement Attlee, the man who's government oversaw some of the greatest and most beneficial social reforms this country's ever seen, and set it to some hard funk, a style that has always carried the message of revolution well, as I think, at this time when we have the weakest, most self-serving, craven bunch of blustering bullshitters that we've ever been unfortunate to have to call a government working against us in this country, (you notice how they covered their own backs long before they did the tower after the Grenfell Fire?...that, sadly, encapsulates just how this lot govern) we're in need of a stark reminder that we once had great politicians who worked with the people to achieve great things that benefited all.
Toby - What he said!