Senseless Records is a Leeds based label whose 7 vinyl singles to date have impacted on many a set, show and listening experience. Their most ambitious project to date is a duo of CDs entitled ‘Vocals & Versions’ that will be released a month apart as of May this year. The CDs, like the title so eloquently puts it, are tracks by the label’s roster of producers that have been vocalled by an array of singers and rappers along with a slew of remixes from producers of the caliber of Starkey, MRK 1 and King Cannibal.
Sonic Router grabbed one third of the team behind the label, DeVille, to give us the low down on his style and a bit of information on the upcoming projects.
Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?
I started DJing really young in the early nineties and going to raves like Helter Skeltah, Dreamscape, Fusion and totally caught the bug. Started promoting little nights round Reading when I was like 15 and played mostly jungle until late nineties, then moved away from that and played 2-step/speed garage for a while, moving in to a wider mix of electro, techno, broken beat and early dubstep when I was living in Leeds. Got much more in to promoting there, first with a crew called Most Wanted doing all kind of stuff (Guests ranging from Derrick May to Photek) then a night called The Fix Up playing bass music from round the world (Guests like Plastician, Virus Syndicate, Oris J, El-B, Chase & Status, Boy Better Know etc) also played on pirate radio a bit. Got really in to grime in like 2004 and then followed that through to new dubstep stuff and where we are today.
Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily?
There is no outside of music! I work for a UK independent label doing bookings, events and PR stuff as well as bits and pieces for music journalism, it’s all music 24/7 basically! When I’m not doing that I’m out listening to music or breaking my eyes finding new stuff online… eating also features and recently a bit of Street Fighter IV too.
How did you get into recording music?
For me it was when we got a gig supporting Ratpack in the late 90s, me and my mate wanted to make a bootleg of Champion Sound, the old jungle tune, so we sat down with Cubase and had a go. That was about ten years ago, I’ve been in a couple of bands since then and produced mostly bass music of different kinds on and off.
What’s your production set up like?
I’ve been through various bits of hardware including some stuff I really miss like a 909 and a Space Echo, but now it’s all on a computer running Ableton, Reason and Cubase. Most of the stuff gets done in Ableton, I’ve been using it since version one, and it was the first piece of software I actually paid for.
What are some of your influences on your sound? How would you describe your music? Can you name check 3 artists who influence your production?
Hard to pick just three…
Number one would be jungle and hardcore, to many to list but only really 1993-1996, Ibiza, Congo Natty, Moving Shadow, Suburban Base, Formation, Metalheadz etc.
Number two would be international stuff like Dancehall, Funk Carioca, Kuduro, Soca, I’m trying more and more to incorporate the rhythms from those in to my own tunes, and I was really pleased to work with someone from Lisbon and someone from Sao Paolo on this album.
Original 2-step and 4×4 garage from 98-02 kind of time I still check all the time from Todd Edwards, Catch Records, Tuff Jam and El-B/Groove Chronicles through to cheesier stuff like Monster Boy and even a bit of Wideboys, Sambuca anyone?
I have to just check hip-hop as well for sonic influence and production techniques (Madlib, MFDoom, Dilla, Neptunes, DJ Screw, Outkast, Lil Jon, Darkchild, Timbaland etc)
I know you’ve played in the US a lot. We’ve got a mix and interview coming from Shiva. What’s it like playing on foreign shores rather than in the UK? How do you think the scenes compare?
The scene in the USA is amazing right now shouts to all the people I’ve played for out there, I’ve been out three times and people just love it there’s a lot less cynicism and a little less politics involved, people really know how to party there. Of course we still remember how to do that here from time to time. Travelling to play is what it’s all about for me, we’ve got Senseless gigs coming up in Poland and Italy and we’re hoping to get out to Australia later in the year.
How did Senseless Records begin? What’s been your goal?
The label started in Leeds in 2004 with a self funded white label from Sarantis featuring a Leeds MC called Taurus. It got played on 1xtra and Channel U and those kind of places and it went from there. The three people who run the label are Sarantis, Sasquatch and myself, now spread between Leeds, London and Brighton. The whole thing grew out of soundsystem culture, there’s a lot of it in Leeds from inspirations like Iration to systems like High Pressure who Senseless cut their first tunes for. Things kicked off with the Warrior Queen track which got played all over the place, Skream, Mary Anne Hobbs, Appleblim can’t remember but lots of peeps were on that one and we got distribution on the back of it. Seven vinyl releases later and we’re putting out out first full length albums, onwards and upwards. The idea was always music from other people as well but there’s a lot of music from the three of us to put out too. We’re really focusing on vocals a lot from now on as well, and full length albums.
What’s been the most successful release so far and whats been your favourite and why?
My most successful release commercially was actually a house bootleg of Busta Rhymes in like 2002 that got played by Basement Jaxx, Black Strobe, Freq Nasty, Tom Middleton and loads of people which was very exciting at the time. Recently my first proper dubstep release in 2008 Rumble/Stamina probably, having people all over the world message me about it and some of my heroes like RSD and Warlock play one of my tunes is what I’m in it for!
Can you give us a bit of backstory as to the growth of the ‘Vocals & Versions’ project? What are you hoping to achieve with the release?
It’s a few things really, most of out tracks so far have been instrumental but all three of us work with vocalists all the time live at gigs and recording, so we planned a four track vocal EP and then it became a double 12″ and then we got a few remixes and then a few more and it became a double CD, and then two CDs. Basically we kept finding more people to work with and more producers for remixes. On the remix tip there were a couple of people that we didn’t get in time but it was almost our wishlist of people we love the most so that’s really cool.
I’m very proud of the results and the fact that there’s no filler over 30 tracks, I like to think because thery are vocal led a lot of them could be for the club or the Ipod as well. The albums really colourful and interesting but with a dark edge and that’s what we want to label to be like. I’m also really pleased with all the design and artwork, originally done by a graf guy in Bristol called Song and then designed up by a designer down here in Brighton called Amo, the posters look really nice!
How much of your life/time/sanity has been swallowed by the V&V project? Is there anything else due on the label this year?
It has been a huge effort from us at the label and all the other producers and vocalists involved so much respect to all of them. It’s the most expensive thing we’ve done so obviously money was really tight, now I’m excited to see it go out in to the world. We’ve got lots planned for later in the year and early next year already. Our man Ghosttown who has done a lot of beats for Foreign Beggars and a few other heads is making us an all vocal bashy-future-crunk monster of an LP, with Warrior Queen, Killa P from Roll Deep, Saian Supa Crew, K-Swift and loads of others. We’ve got some dancefloor bangers from Sarantis, a new EP from me on an international tip and a couple of new signings we’re keeping under wraps!
The mix you’ve done up for us, is it a good point of reference for anyone interested in the CD projects?
It is yeah, I mean they are half tracks from there but there are also half totally new dubs, most of which no one has heard which pull it a bit more in to being a club set. It’s definitely a good representation of the sound of the label, which hopefully people will see is pretty varied. I also did it in one take so theres a few little mistakes in there but I don’t mind that in a DJ set, if you’re mixing fast and trying stuff then allow a couple of cheeky drops, there’s no ‘trainers in a tumble dryer’ moments though.
Any dates/things/people you’d like to big up?
I’d like to big up Sonic Router of course… big things have been achieved in a short time!
Shout to all the Senseless family too. We have two amazing launches lined up: Friday 24th April at DMZ/Exodus with Urban Vox, Bunnington Judah, Honey Brown, Asher Don and Dialect (massive respect to Simon Scott) and Saturday 25th at Urban Nerds Warehouse Party with Warrior Queen, Sick Sense Crew, Bunnington Judah and Dialect (shouts to Urban Nerds Crew).
‘Vocals & Versions’ Volume 1 is out May 4th, Volume 2 follows on 1st June.
EXCLUSIVE DOWNLOAD: DJ DeVille – Senseless Showcase Mix – Spring 2009
1. Sarantis ft Sick Sense Crew – Focus (Vocals and Versions)
2. Sasquatch ft Oova – Indian Rain Man (Vocals and Versions)
3. Sarantis – Going Home (Dub)
4. Sasquatch ft Yt – Hidden Agenda (Vocals and Versions)
5. Sasquatch – Escapist (Dub)
6. Sarantis – Miami Cowboy (Dub)
7. DeVille ft Violet – Click (Vocals and Versions)
8. Octapush – Quebu Sabe [DeVille RMX] (Dub)
9. Sasquatch – Pieces Of Me (Dub)
10. Randomer – Scapegoat (Dub)
11. Sasquatch ft Foreign Beggars – Stay Seated (Vocals and Versions)
12. Sarantis ft Dialact & Asher Don – Nitroglycerin [MRK1 RMX Instrumental] (Vocals and Versions)
13. DeVille – Inj3ct (Dub)
14. Sasquatch – Shallow [Jack Sparrow RMX] (Vocals and Versions)
15. Sarantis ft Honey Brown – Fall in Love (Vocals and Versions)
16. DeVille – Racer (Dub)
17. Sarantis – Noisette (Dub)
18. DeVille & Sarantis – Boom (Vocals and Versions)
19. Sarantis – Whatagwaan (Dub)
20. Sarantis ft Warrior Queen – More Than Money [Starkey RMX] (Vocals and Versions)
21. DeVille – Chase (Dub)
22. DeVille ft Jimmy Luv – Quente Demais [Kanji Kinetic RMX] (Vocals and Versions)
23. Sasquatch – Money (Dub) blend with Lil Wayne – Yes
24. Sarantis – Focus [Instrumental RMX]
25. Sarantis ft Bunnington Judah – Warzone (Vocals and Versions)
26. Sasquatch ft Oova – Funeral (Dub)
27. Sarantis – Double Dragon (Dub)
28. Sarantis ft Urban Vox – Justice Dub (Vocals and Versions)