We caught up with S.P.Y about everything to do with his newly-launched label – DARKMTTR. The long-awaited debut EP for the label releases at midnight, 2nd July 2021.
KMAG: When did you initially think about starting a label?
S.P.Y: 2016 was when I seriously began thinking about starting my own label. It had always been something I’d wanted to do, but at the time I felt that I didn’t have enough knowledge or experience to confidently make the leap. Back then I had already decided on the name DARKMTTR because I have a love of science fiction and anything to do with space and I knew I wanted my label to tie into that. It’s been a long time coming but I’m really looking forward to seeing how the label grows and develops.
KMAG: 100%.So do you think your work with Hospital has influenced the way that you’ve done the label?
S.P.Y: For sure, I’ve learnt a lot working with Hospital. I got to see just how much is involved in running a label and the amount of work that goes into each release. There is so much that happens behind the scenes! I wanted to make sure that when I was setting up DARKMTTR that I laid a really solid foundation for the business so that I’d have something strong to build from. I wanted to make sure the back-end of the label was as professional as the visual aspect.
KMAG: Setting up a label is a process, one I’m sure was aided by the free time during the country’s various lockdowns?
S.P.Y:It has taken me some time to set up the label, mostly because I’ve just been so busy! Being at home because of the lockdowns meant that I finally had the time to really get stuck into setting up the label. There’s a lot involved and you’re right, it is a process, I honestly don’t know how I would have been able to do it if I was still touring.
KMAG: Absolutely. I mean, your label should be an embodiment of yourself as an artist really.
S.P.Y: Exactly. I’ve been trying to do as much of the initial branding and artwork development as I can too, I’ve got a really clear idea of how I want everything to look so I’ve been busy creating graphics as well as getting the first releases ready.
KMAG: Of course, you’ve got a graphic design background!
S.P.Y: I do! I love graphic design and I’m starting to learn how to do 3D animation, but as gigs and touring starts coming back I’m not sure how much time I will have to spend on it.
KMAG: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. When you have a concept for a label or a brand or anything, it’s just quite hard to let go and outsource.
S.P.Y: Well it’s your baby isn’t it, it’s an idea that you’ve grown and developed right from the beginning. You work so hard on it that it can be difficult to relinquish some of that control and have confidence that what you do outsource will be done to a good standard. I think it’s also important to acknowledge where your strengths and weaknesses lie too, it can actually be beneficial in many ways to outsource some parts of the business instead of trying to do everything yourself. I’ve been quite conscious of building a really solid team around me that I trust and that I know their work. Hopefully, it’s going to build a strong foundation for the label.
KMAG: If you look at the artists and DJs now that like are the forefront of their label, they are a representation of that label. Promoters know that their label’s sound will get carried on to their sets and so on. So right now you have now this incredible task of being able to create whatever sound you want to be a representation of DARKMTTR.
S.P.Y: I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next, I just want to release music that I love and hopefully people will like it. I really don’t want to rush or force the growth of the label, I want it to be as natural and organic as possible. I want DARKMTTR to reflect me as an artist and my vision musically and creatively. Releasing other producer’s music and curating which artists and tracks to sign to the label is such a big responsibility and one that I’m not taking lightly!
KMAG: Yeah absolutely. I can imagine you want to leave some mystery with the label as it’s early days. Do you see yourself doing events and everything? Or is it just digital and physical releases?
S.P.Y: If everything goes to plan it would be nice to run DARKMTTR events. I think that’s a key part of the natural growth of a record label in drum and bass.
KMAG: That would be amazing, I’ll look out for that!
S.P.Y:Let’s see what happens, hopefully as the label grows and things with the pandemic get a bit more back to normal we can start running some label nights.
KMAG: Are you looking to put any Brazilian talent on the label?
S.P.Y:Yeah, I’ve been talking with a few Brazilian producers. The first few releases on DARKMTTR will be mainly my own tracks though, as I have quite a big backlog of music I want to get out there into the world, but as the label grows I’d love to release some music from Brazilian artists.
KMAG: You haven’t released any solo project for two years right?
S.P.Y: That’s right, my last album release was Dubplate Style in 2019. I can’t believe it’s already been two years! Lately, I’ve been doing remixes and tracks for compilations but have been saving my new solo projects to release them on DARKMTTR.
KMAG: I listened to Bad Monday, that was really good. I remember Randall playing it at the DNB Arena BBQ in 2017!
S.P.Y: Yeah, I did that track quite some time ago. The version that has been released is a much more up to date version though, that I feel kind of feeds on what’s happening right now in drum and bass.
KMAG: Picking up on the trying to do something different, it does feel like right now that it’s quite a saturated market in drum and bass?
S.P.Y: There’s definitely a lot going on in the scene at the moment, but I don’t feel like that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s great to see drum and bass thriving as a genre, with so much new music around. It does reinforce the need for everyone to carve out their own space though.
KMAG: Yeah, absolutely. The platform is so accessible now based on what used to be back in the day.I mean, if I can work out how to do it, I’m sure everyone else can!
S.P.Y: So much has changed in the music industry in terms of how music is listened to, how artists are promoted and where the money is made. The influence of digital downloads, streaming and social media have completely altered the ‘traditional’ set up and it’s given artists much more control, not only of their own music and how it’s released but also control over their own brand. I won’t say it’s easy to start your own independent label or to release your own music, but there are many more different options available to artists now than the traditional pathway of trying to get signed to an existing label.
KMAG: I think we’ve got a good understanding of the basis of your label now, thanks for that! Before this what was your career highlight?Obviously, the founding of a label is a massive part of an artist’s career, but what do you think the step was before this that was the milestone?
S.P.Y: I think just becoming part of the drum and bass scene. To move here from Brazil without even speaking the language and not knowing much about music production. I knew how to DJ, but I had no idea how to produce a track. It was such a great feeling to be welcomed to the scene and for people to appreciate what I do. That, to me, was always the biggest milestone, being part of the whole scene collectively. Not just to know my heroes, but get to be known by them. For your heroes to come to talk to you and make you feel welcome and support your music – I think that was my biggest milestone. I used to just read about these guys in Knowledge Magazine!
KMAG: Absolutely, It’s been a staple. What was your first memory of seeing Knowledge in the scene?
S.P.Y: I think it was back in Brazil actually. There was this record shop that sold some of the magazines, of course costing a fortune, it was the equivalent of about £50 for one magazine. It was so expensive back then to afford to buy a magazine like that, sometimes you had to get all your friends to chip in and then share it. I remember when I moved to the UK and I went to a newsagent somewhere on Oxford Street, they had all the magazines there and they were only a few pounds or something. I could actually go and just buy a magazine and read it on the bus – I still love to.
KMAG: Yeah definitely. What has lockdown taught you?
S.P.Y: I feel like lockdown has taught me a bunch of things actually, the main thing was probably that I need to make time for new projects. During lockdown, I started a bunch of new projects, including starting the DARKMTTR label and my SPY Beats sample packs, and they’re all things I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time. But when you get busy with album deadlines, touring, studio commitments etc. everything else gets pushed to the side. Moving forward as we come out of lockdown and back to a more normal life, I’m going to make sure that I make time for these other creative outlets. I don’t want to wake up years down the line and regret not taking the time to try something new! I think lockdown has also taught me just how fragile our world is and how much we need to take care of it and each other. When something like this pandemic happens it really brings you down to earth and makes you realise what’s truly important. Hopefully, we can all come out of this stronger and more resilient.