Just like that, a decade has passed and names like Goldie, Doc Scott, Dillinja, Photek, Hidden Agenda, Source Direct, John B and Adam F have not only helped define a generation but have given birth to a genre in the process. With each of them forever linked to the early history of the Metalheadz imprint, there’s no doubt that the seminal label has played a massive role in the development of what it once dubbed, “21st Century Urban Breakbeat Music.”
Now firmly established in reputation and with a unique sound all its own, the ‘Headz have begun to look beyond the shores of the UK, eager to take part in the surge of drum & bass talent surfacing all over the world. Most recently announcing the creation of a sister imprint focused solely on the hotbed of talent brewing in the Americas, the Metalheadz: Americas project is envisioned as another expansion of what the Metalheadz philosophy has always been about: pushing boundaries, taking risks and exploring uncharted territories.
“The label really came about because we were increasingly getting more and more good tracks from American artists,” says label manager, Rhyan Paul. “Having lived in Miami for five years myself, I have a pretty close connection to America and am pretty passionate about the place. We thought about doing a Metalheadz USA label but then we discovered Gremlinz, Mutt, Stranjah, Rolodex, Outlook, all these people in Canada and it was like, ‘okay, it’s going to be Metalheadz North America’. And then people like Fission from Puerto Rico come through and we were like ‘fuck it, you know what – we’ll just call it The Americas series and incorporate all these incredible artists with their incredible styles’ and that was it really.”
While the ‘Headz family itself has evolved into a rather large and amorphous organisation, there’s no doubt that three people, in particular, are responsible for making things happen at the core. While Goldie is the still the primary force and face of the imprint, label manager Rhyan and assistant label manager Chris are often the ones who deal with potential and established artists on a day-to-day basis and as a result have had an equally strong impact on the direction and sound of what gets released.
“I started working for the label eight months ago,” says assistant label manager, Chris. “One of the first people I started talking to on AIM were Gremlinz and Stranjah and they opened my eyes, admittedly, that there’s a whole different world out there. The way the UK is perceived by people in other countries, the way people make music, their whole drum & bass culture, it’s like everything is flipped around. I always knew there was music coming out of these countries but I was never tapping into the whole rawness and the whole soul that they’ve got going down there. It’s been a wicked experience.”
Of course, that’s not to say Goldie isn’t earning his keep. Still ultimately responsible for the creative vision and direction of the label, Goldie is often the one who not only attracts new talent but encourages and develops those lucky enough to have elevated above the hundreds of demos and tunes the ‘Headz camp receives monthly.
“Goldie is great because he’s able to bring something special out in the artists when he speaks to them,” explains Chris. “Immediately, you can see the difference when they go back in on a track or come with something new after they’ve spoken to him. It’s different, somehow, better. He’s Goldie – people respect that and are inspired by him and it’s great to be a part of that process.”
Set to be released as a series of three EPs with three pieces of vinyl per release, the interlocking artwork of the debut Americas releases will eventually give way to a longer standing imprint that the crew hopes to use as a sort of launching ground for talented up-and-coming artists. “We would like to have the first EP ready for release by March 2005 for Winter Music Conference in Miami,” says Rhyan. “We’d actually be in America so it would be great to be actually premiering it then.”
Currently representing artists like Dstar, Gremlinz, Stranjah, Outlook, Mutt, John Rolodex, Fission and, of course, the well-established Hive and legendary UK-to-US transplant Photek, the Metalheadz expansion into the Americas is no mere whim. While the South American representatives have yet to reveal themselves, the ‘Headz are determined to make the imprint reach as far as possible.
“There’s got to be something other than Marky and XRS and Movement down in Brazil,” says Rhyan. “I refuse to believe there’s not. My background is house music and it shocks me that d&b has borders whereas house music is all-encompassing worldwide. No matter where you go in the world there’s a 90% chance that you’re going to find a DJ spinning house music, be it good or bad. Drum & bass seems limited to certain areas and we’re trying to expand those boundaries.”
With the release schedule on all of the Metalheadz family imprints locked through most of the new year, Rhyan is confident that 2005 will be a big year for the entire crew. “On Metalheadz, we’ve got every release slotted through December,” explains Rhyan. “On Platinum, we’ve got every release through October, we only do two Razors Edge releases a year and they’re already locked in. As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve already started working on the MDZ05 album so we are definitely jam-packed. Obviously the Americas stuff will be coming out alongside rather than replacing any of our other projects.”
Even with such a heavy release schedule in place, Rhyan and Chris emphasise that they are always looking for new talent and potential ‘Headz should never shy away from sending in their tunes if they think they’ve got what it takes. “You may have a tune there and you think, I wonder what would happen if I sent this in to Metalheadz,” says Rhyan. “If you don’t send it, you’re never going to find out. The worst we can say to you is, no, it’s not quite there yet. That’s the very worse thing we can do to you.”
“The best thing that people can do is to not be too quick making tunes,” Chris continues. “Take time. Let a tune build inside you and then put it out there. That’s the thing with ‘Headz – it’s got to be something a little bit special. It has to have a certain element to it that’s different from the rest. Take time and when you think you have it, send it in.”
“We’re hoping this new series is going to work really well,” says Rhyan looking to the future. “Not just for the label but also for the artists concerned because all of them have really put their heart and souls into the tracks. We’ve got a lot of good artists on board with us now and we’ve got a nice blend of the old and the new. It’s really exciting and we’re definitely looking forward to what the new year has in store.”
Metalheadz Americas cover CD – mixed by Klute
A special mix and blend of forthcomings and previously released tracks from both the Americas series and Metalheadz imprint proper. Pull out your paper and your pen as assistant label manager Chris walks us on through the bits.
D-Star – If (USA)
The first time I heard this track I knew it was destined for the label. Goldie heard Grooverider drop the track out in Frankfurt, Germany and I heard the track on the radio and on Monday it was like, “Have you heard that track?” I was like, “Fucking hell,” and he was like, “I think that’s a Metalheadz track,” and that’s how it works.
Gremlinz & Stranjah – Tingz (Canada)
A really impressive track that came out on ‘MDZ04′. I’ve heard it described as a “congo roller”, definitely one for the headz. Expect to be seeing these guys’ names around a lot more in 2005.
Outlook – Like A Thief (Canada)
Another Canadian to watch out for. Fabio and Flight and a host of other DJs have been spinning this one. Definitely one to lock into!
Mutt – Nectarines & Penicillin (Canada)
Mutt is the king of the dreamy rollers and this one is no different. A track that can work on the floor or at home, this track really shows his scope as a producer.
Stranjah & Gremlinz – De Soleil (Canada)
The “bongo rock” as we call it in the office, this makes you move. Another track that shows the different angles these guys can use.
Mutt – It’s Pouring Once Again (Canada)
This track just makes me sit back and dream, it just has that vibe and feel you can’t help but appreciate. When it came across on AIM I instantly liked it. Then once Goldie had heard it, we had to have it.
Hive – Against The Grain (USA)
Hive delivers yet again, with a funked up track that’s been moving dancefloors worldwide. It’s such a great track because it shows his diversity – he’s known for a certain harder sound but here he shows that he can flip the script at will and the people who get it, get it.
Fission – Stigma (Puerto Rico)
Believe it or not we signed this track before it was even finished. Rhyan had heard an early two minute version of it and took it straight away. It’s got that kind of impact. It’s a mad deep, techy number – one to scrunch up your face to.
Gremlinz & Stranjah -+ Blues VIP (Canada)
Dark and sinister just how we like it, these guys always come with something fresh and this is testament to that. Not for the faint hearted!
John Rolodex – Machine Gun Funk (Canada)
Rolodex says it best: “A straight-ahead dancefloor killer; takes no prisoners, leaves no survivors.”
Photek – Age Of Empires (UK/USA)
This track has been smashing clubs up for the last six months. From DJs like Andy C, Krust and Dieselboy it’s just had massive recognition. With the classic horn intro and Photek’s unmistakable imprint this is one of those tracks that was just destined to be massive.
Hive – Krush (USA)
What can you say about this one? If you haven’t heard it – where have you been!? Definitely one of the tunes of the year in our eyes.