There exists a handful of drum & bass labels that hold legendary status. Goldie’s Metalheadz, Andy C’s Ram Records, Timecode’s Moving Shadow, Chris Goss’ Hospital Records, Bryan Gee’s V Recordings, and a few more were spearheading the dawn of drum & bass back in the ’90s.
The latter, Bryan Gee, has been at the helm of V Recordings since 1993, pushing acts like Roni Size, Calibre, Dillinja, Adam F, Marky, and Ed Rush & Optical. Quivering basslines, clean breaks, and a sound that honors nostalgia but has its sights perpetually set on the future, Bryan and V both persevere onward, making sure that drum & bass survives longterm.
We talked with Bryan about the culture’s past, present, and future. He offered some tips for label heads hoping to make an enduring name for themselves, and some helpful information for those looking for a solid dnb club while trekking across the UK. We also have the great privilege of premiering Intelligent Manners’ “How Sweet It Is” off the forthcoming Liquid V Club Sessions, Vol. 6 via Liquid V, a sub-label of V Recordings founded in 2004 to push the more liquid side of things.
Check below for the tune and words from Bryan Gee.
How, in your opinion, has drum & bass evolved since its creation?
It’s always evolving and that’s what’s so exciting about it … I mean everything, the way we go clubbing, the way we buy music, the way we promote, even the way we listen to it. I remember when the scene started. To hear new music you had to either be in the clubs, listen to pirate radio or listen to tape packs; to promote it, we would mail out 50/100 records, drop a few white labels at key record shops, and carry a few with you when you were out clubbing and working… Now, it’s all bout the social networks and getting at the BBC Radio 1 DJs.
Back in the day, as a DJ, for gigs we would just turn up to our bookings and play, but now you kinda gotta get involved with the promotion side even if it’s not your party. You’re expected to post, share, tweet, Instagram, do mini video shouts, etc.; I still scratch my head at the thought that people now prefer to stream than they do to buy or own a record or CD or even mp3s. I’m hearing they are going out of fashion and when you want to listen music now you just stream it. As an older head I still find it a bit difficult to understand, but that’s part of the evolution of it. Now, we only sell vinyl to vinyl fans and not DJs. DJs turn up to gigs and if you got five DJs on the gig they could all have different ways of playing (i.e., USB, Traktor, Serato, CDs) so yeah things are changing and moving real fast.
What are some of the key underground dnb clubs that are still alive and well?
Club land seems to be going through a bit of a weird place at the moment here in the UK and especially London and, unfortunately, a lot of the original clubs are gone now and new ones have replaced them. Personally, I’m a fan of the small venues where you can get close and personal with the crowd, and it also suits the way I play as I like to experiment and go deep sometimes. If I’m in London, I enjoy playing at the Brixton Jamm. It’s got a real family, local, back in the day, comfortable vibe. It’s the sort of place you would usually find outside of town. You also get a real nice mix of people just rocking up to the door because there’s always alternative nights on at the venue.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned from founding and running your own label?
Always learning. Everyday. But, like I said earlier, it’s always important to have a good team of people around you and a good working relation with your artist. At the same time, be prepared to see them move on as that’s artist progression and as independent label. Also, lately we have had to think outside the box to bring in more revenue as music sales are not like they use to be, so you can find other ways (i.e., merchandise, label nights, and, in some cases, artist management).
I think a strong identity is good at V. We try to focus on what we are about and not what’s going on out there. By doing that, we have created an identity where people can hear music and say, ‘That’s a V tune,” or, “Its got that V vibe.”
Any tips for emerging labels who strive for longevity?
Hard work, good people around you, be honest (i.e., on your opinions with music from your artist even if it means being ruthless). They may get a little dent in their ego, but it makes them better. Also, working with artists who are signed to the label is very important as it enables you, as the label, to invest and put more time in developing the artist. For the artist, they can make music and know where it’s going and the vibe and sound you want from them, rather than them just making tracks and sending them out to different labels and hoping someone bites.
I also notice that when you got a group of artist all committed to what you’re doing it creates a great buzz within the camp and everyone bouncing, feeding, vibing off each other. We had that in the early V days with the Bristol boys and I’m feeling it again with the new Brazilian guys, Alibi, L Side, Critycal Dub, Command Strange, Paul and Edward, Serum, etc. It’s like they’re all vibing off each other and the results are amazing at the moment. It’s like one will do something and the rest be like “Wow” and get inspired to go in. So, having that family feeling and structure for me is very important, where I feel we’re more than just friends.