A Fairly new label, so let’s talk about the origins, how did you come about launching the label and why?
The irony of that question is that I personally did not launch the label. It was originally created by a guy called Gerasimos Toulios who is also the artist Silent Force. He had started a crowd-funding project for the Silent Force E.P. which I contributed to. The crowd-funder collapsed but I really liked the tracks so I offered to pay him a fee and fund the release myself. He was happy to do that so we went ahead and The Silent Force E.P. was pressed.
The next thing I knew, he emailed me and told me he was not interested anymore, he was giving it all over to me and had made me the admin on the Silent Force Facebook page. So before I knew what had happened I had inherited Silent Force Recordings.
Wow that’s a crazy circumstance and not the answer I was expecting, how did you react with the news once you knew it was just you?
My initial reaction was like “thanks a lot, now what do I do”, but then I thought do you know what, this is a golden opportunity to make my contribution to the scene on my terms. I would have complete control of everything: Quality, quantity, what kind of tracks the label was going to showcase etc. The overall vision and direction would be 100% me with no outside interference or third parties to run things by.
In addition to the main label you also have a sister label “Sonic Force”.
Seemingly exhibiting the more atmospheric elements of the genre, what inspired you to launch the label?
I was always a massive fan of LTJ Bukem and Good Looking Records, especially the early releases when they were still very dancefloor orientated. I really wanted to bring that kind of sound back but was not sure if anybody even still made those kind of tracks. I had a conversation about this with both Michael (Dissect) and Ricky (Law) and they told me that they both made tracks like that but did not know who to send them to as they did not know any labels who released that kind of stuff. They sent me the tracks and I was like ‘wow, this is exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for’
and those tracks persuaded me to launch Sonic Force Recordings.
I always found it strange when the jungle revival came into full force and yet there wasn’t really much call for the atmospheric side of the music as much as the rougher side of jungle considering how iconic it was to the scene in the 90s, why in your opinion do you think this is maybe?
It was no different in the 90s though, whenever I went record shopping the majority of people buying music were not into the atmospheric side of jungle. They wanted quick fix party music with harder beats and basses that would tear the party up that night but would have very little longevity afterwards. I used to find many of the great atmospheric tunes that are highly sought after today in the pound boxes in the record shops, (the stuff that goes for crazy money on discogs today). Atmospheric jungle takes a little longer to get your head around as it is much more musically complex and not as in your face as some other genres, but stands the test of time better due to the enhanced skill and musical content that goes into making great atmospheric tracks. I am talking about tracks like The Piano Tune (Peshay), Complexities (Source Direct), Drift To The Centre (Aquarius) and Just Visiting Mars (FBD).
With both labels you are 15 releases deep now and seem to have a keen following already….Can you give us an insight into your views so far of what it’s like running your own label?
That’s very kind of you to say and it’s nice to know that people seem to be enjoying what we do. I personally love running a record label although you need to have a lot of patience and fairly deep pockets at times. I do not do this for the money (good job really lol) as I genuinely love the music and the scene. I also love to give very talented but sometimes lesser known producers an opportunity to get their music out there.
What is your approach to signing music? Give us an idea of how you source the music and how you have gone about connecting with the artists…
To me the most important criteria is if I heard these tracks in a shop or at a rave would I want to buy or play them. Are they My Sound? In the early days I used to approach producers whose work I had heard on Soundcloud and asked if they would be interested in releasing with us. Then, once you get into that circle people link you to other people. Phil (Inphiltrate) linked me to Olly (Dub One) as they were friends. My friend Antony Curtis (Tyke, of Tyke and Krimson for all you Old School Headz out there) linked me to Lewis (Sicknote) who linked me to Michael
(Dissect) who linked me to Tony (Justice) and so the chain goes on. For a scene so big it is also so small as someone always knows someone else. Also lots of people send me stuff and the ones I like I also sign.
It’s really refreshing that you say about focusing on lesser known but talented individuals, it’s how the scene grows right. Can you give me a few examples of producers who fall into this category for you?
Basically the majority of people who have featured on the label. The good thing is that quite a few of these producers are now getting the recognition they deserve like Law & Kola Nut, Acid Lab, Fushara, Sicknote & Dissect but I feel that artists such as Redshift and Abstract Illusion also deserve to be featuring on labels bigger than mine.
Staying with lesser known artists… now that you are established in the scene and have started building a name for the label, are you still actively looking for fresh faces and new up and comers for future releases, post your current release schedule?
At Silent and Sonic Force Recordings the door is always open to new up and coming producers and also more established producers if they like what I am doing and want to be a part of it. The only thing I ask is patience. It is only a small independent label so I do not have the capacity to turn out a release every two weeks or so (I normally put out a release every two to three months) and so I have to pace myself financially in order to be long term and sustainable. If you are happy to wait I will get your release out there and make sure you are paid as looking after artists is very important to me. I have lots of releases coming so am booked up now for the next 12-14 months which is a great position to be in, and for this I am truly thankful to all the producers that like what I do and want to be a part of it. Below is the releases that are forthcoming on both Silent and Sonic Force this year:
SFR011: Cetacean/Plateau (Redshift) (April 2020)
SFR012: The Eternal State E.P. (J Plates)
SFR013:The Warped Reality E.P. (Fushara)
SFR014: The Soul Promise E.P. (Aeon-Four)
SOFR005: Mystery Flute /Uplifting Pad (Law & Kola Nut) (July 2020)
SOFR006: Cascade/Simplicity (Sicknote & Dissect)
SOFR007: Hidden Away/QI Flow (Dissect)
Although from a personal stand point I’ve equally enjoyed each label release I am interested to know what releases so far been best received through feedback and sales?
Fortunately they have all been fairly well received both in terms of sales and feedback but three that have really stood out are the Dub One Remix of Dark Droid Dub (anything that Olly puts his hand to is going to send a buzz through the scene), The Future Past E.P. by Acid Lab (as I think it took people on a trip back in time to mid 90s Metalheadz) and Detection/Out Of Fokus by Law & Kola Nut which really put Sonic Force
Recordings on the map.
But from a personal point of view I am proud of every single release and it is great now to see producers that have released with me going on to release with much bigger and higher profile labels than mine.
Adopting the “looking forward while looking back” view on music makes me wonder, if you could go back to the scene in the 90s and approach any producer in their prime for music to sign who would it be?
That is a great question and it would be this. Peshay in 1993-1995 when he was making tracks like The Protégé E.P. and The Piano Tune. Source Direct, Photek (and their many aliases), LTJ Bukem, Dillinja, Lemon D, Trace. I basically would have been Reinforced, Good Looking and Metalheadz all rolled into one and lots of those tunes that never saw the light of day like Atmospheric Jubilancy, Crazy Daydreams, Flavour Of A Sound could have all been released through my label.
Obviously you are a label that prides yourself on vinyl releases but also offer the option to buy the music digitally, I’m interested to know how many sales you make from digital compared to the wax. Is it a fairly even split?
At the moment vinyl is still king although digital is close behind now in terms of sales. Going into the future I think digital will eventually overtake vinyl as there are only ever 200 vinyl pressed and although there is this big vinyl come back at the moment I think cost and practicality will steer more people towards buying digitally.
Also talking of sales, how was the last Clashmouth record fair in London? Good day of record sales?
It went really well, I certainly sold more than I expected to. When I looked around and saw some of the biggest labels in the scene there I thought wow I am holding my own at an event featuring these people, it was a real confidence boost. I am certainly hoping to attend more in the future.
You do a regular radio show “The Silent Force Sessions”, talk us through the concept and how long it’s been running for?
The Silent Force Sessions began in May 2016 as a way of promoting Silent Force Recordings. The concept is a homage to the history of the sounds and influences that have shaped the label and it’s ethos. Once a month I pick and record a mix from a certain era. I also sometimes do tribute mixes to certain DJs such as Grooverider, Bukem, Jumping Jack Frost etc by featuring tracks that they were playing in that era. For example: 1994 LTJ Bukem Mix or 1993 Grooverider Mix etc. It covers anything from mid 80s Hip Hop & Acid House through Hardcore and Jungle right up to current Drum and Bass. I also have a guest DJ, PH1 who showcases Electro, Detroit Techno and Chicago House etc. They are available as free downloads at https://silentforcerecordings.bandcamp.com It is just a great way to celebrate the rich tapestry of music that this scene has produced in the last 30+ years, to help the old skool headz reminisce and provide a bit of a history lesson to all the newcomers.
What can we expect from Silent Force / Sonic Force in 2020?
We have more releases coming on both Silent Force and Sonic Force in 2020 (I have given you a couple of exclusive tracks on the promotional mix I have done to give you a taster). The first release which is due in April is a two tracker by Redshift: Cetacean/Plateau. Cetacean is a real dancefloor monster with a speaker blowing bassline and an amen that twists and turns like a rollercoaster. Plateau (to me) is a masterclass in Atmospheric Darkside production. Sinister as anything whilst taking the Big Daddy Kane Raw Break to a whole new level. Something that I could have easily imagined Grooverider playing today if he had stuck with the sound that was his trademark during the 90s. We will also be providing more of the Silent Force Sessions and hopefully providing a platform for
more up and coming producers out there.
How about some background on you Mark? I have spoken to you at length about the scene but fill in the readers about when your love of the scene began?
Originally I was from a Hip Hop background (Public Enemy/Eric B/BDP/ Ultra Magnetic MCs etc). When I was about 16 a friend of mine from school said “If you like Hip Hop you might be into this” and he played me £10 to get in by Shut Up and Dance. Because it had speeded up breakbeats I was like “yeah I quite like it” and so he invited me to a club called Rifles in Enfield. Richie Malone (Xpansions) was the resident DJ at the time and every Friday night we would go to hear the latest Hip House, Acid House, Techno etc. Then we progressed on to Orange at Camden Palace to hear DJs like Hype, Grooverider, Randall etc playing Euro, early proto jungle and hands in the air hardcore, it was madness but I was completely hooked. From then on I went anywhere and everywhere, Astoria, Hippodrome, Dance 91, Elevation, Vision, Future Myth, Bassbox following DJs like Rider, Bukem, Fabio, Randall and JJ Frost. I used to DJ on Rude FM under various different names as I could never settle on one I liked (big up Reckless B and all the Old School Rude FM family). I also lived in Manchester for a couple of years so I went to a few of the Northern/Midlands clubs like The Hacienda, the Orbit, Club Kinetic, Milwaukees etc and they were also great (although the drum & bass/jungle scene was not as strong up there). I returned to London in 1995 and Bukem and Fabio opened Speed and then Metalheadz opened at The Blue Note and that was just another level again.
I would like to thank anybody who has supported us on our journey so far. Producers, suppliers, pressing plants and of course anybody who has purchased any of our releases on vinyl or digital download, as without you guys none of this would be possible. Finally, I would like to thank the man like the Tyke who helped me set this all up in the beginning and helped get Silent Force Recordings on the road it is on today.
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