Repertoire has really gone from strength to strength this year with a string of great releases and a change in the way the label is run. It is at the forefront of the modern movement creating new music taking inspiration from the early to mid 90’s. People often say that modern drum and bass lacks the soul or emotion from the 90’s, well Repertoire are here to prove them wrong. I caught up with Ben and Law from the label to find out the past, present and future of the label.
Could you tell us a bit about the label and the way it operates?
Ben Repertoire – We both focus on different areas. I deal with the general day to day running of the label and creation of the artwork. Rick deals with most of the online marketing and artists. We both listen to demos and have a rule that we both have to like a tune to sign it.
We’ve spoke for a few years now and it seems the music industry has recently undergone some massive changes with vinyl once again at the forefront of people’s agenda. You currently have three vinyl releases scheduled in the next two months, as a fledgling label what opportunities has this presented and what obstacles have been placed before you?
Ben Repertoire – This has created a massive change in the way we operate. We relaunched in 2012 mainly as a digital label initially but this has now shifted to a vinyl label due to demand. At the moment we do not have any plans to do digital-only releases again. Most of the people who are interested in the label really want the music in the physical format which is something we love.
Law – When I launched the label in 2009 it felt like vinyl was taking it’s dying breath. Nobody anticipated the format would make such a comeback. The same goes for the jungle resurgence. Back then there really wasn’t a big demand for that sound – that’s why there’s such a big gap between REPRV001 and 002. I never imagined we’d relaunch and the label would fire through 10 releases in a couple of years.
There is currently a real resurgence surrounding the 90’s sound of drum and bass. Although inspired by it you don’t seem trapped by its influence. How would you describe the Repertoire sound?
Ben Repertoire – In one word varied! Ultimately we look for great dnb/jungle with a nod to the past. If we both like it and we feel it is up to standard we will put it out. Both Rick and I are conscious not to be pigeonholed as an amen label for example. The scene is so healthy at the moment with artists producing a wide variety of music. It is probably the best I have seen it since we relaunched in 2012.
Law – The Repertoire sound, for want of a better description, is the sound of the drum and bass I love. You cannot deny the roots and history of this music and we always want that to shine through in the music we release. Having said that, we don’t just want carbon copies of old jungle tunes either. We aim for a balance – so long as the beats and the bass are on point.
You are both based in Stevenage which from a drum and bass history perspective was most famous for being the home of Moving Shadow. What’s it like operating from there and do the achievements of Rob Playford and his team influence you?
Ben Repertoire – You can’t really escape it. We both grew up listening to music from the label and it has been a huge influence on both of us. The area in general is steeped in dnb history. I went to school in Hertford the location of the infamous Parliament Music record shop and as a teenager it was almost a mystical place to me. I used to pass it most days on the way home from school listening to the music blasting out across the square. One day I decided to go in, bought some tape packs and my love for the music started from there.
Law – Even getting into D&B after Moving Shadow peaked, it was impossible to escape the influence they had over this part of Hertfordshire – there wasn’t a label I looked up to more. Everything was done right from the quality of the music, to the identity and branding they came up with. Stuff like putting remixes and 10” plates and doing specials like the 2 On 1 series seemed to set them apart from the rest.
August 2017 saw you put on your first night alongside Skeleton Records, how did this go and will you be looking to do more next year?
Law – It was a sellout so we couldn’t really ask for more. The venue was right, sound was decent and all the DJs delivered. It was a bit stressful at times planning it, but we’ll have to do it again at some point – no immediate plans though. Also, big up to all promoters! Probably the most underappreciated people in this thing.
You’ve also started a radio show on Jungletrain, what is the aim of this show and what kind of material do you play?
Ben Repertoire – We were really keen to take the podcasts that we started doing to a more regular basis. The aim of the show is to promo new material from the label, other labels and new artists. However we like to alternate the show. One show will be mainly new material the other strictly old skool dnb/jungle.
Law – Pretty much that ^. To promote the label and to also indulge my need to mix regularly and to get through the mountains of quality music that’s around at the moment.
There are currently a lot of drum and bass labels active within the online community, what’s it like running a label in 2017 where you can interact directly with your fanbase and sell direct via Bandcamp?
Ben Repertoire – Bandcamp is great in that it gives us a platform to sell directly to our fans. Also a big shout out to our distro Unearthed who have helped us get into all the independent record stores around the world. Without either of them the label wouldn’t be viable.
Law – It has it’s pros and cons. Before the internet and sites like bandcamp it would have been a lot harder for us to get going without some financial backing / upfront funds. It’s great we can engage directly with fans of the label and get feedback instantly, but at the same time the underground scene has lost the mystique it had in the 90s. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone IDs tunes instantly, so it’s lost a bit of charm in that respect.
Labels like Next Phase and Ako Beatz are putting out interesting physical releases whether its picture discs of 90’s unreleased dubplates, compilation cassette tapes or LP’s on USB sticks. Do you have any plans for merchandise other than vinyl records and what do you think of the current trend of collectables?
Ben Repertoire – We have had some t shirt designs done by a wicked graphic designer called Ultramega which will be doing a limited edition run off shortly. I am a big fan of the current trend and admire the level of work labels like Next Phase and AKO put into their merch. In particular Next Phase have some great ways of packaging their products. While people will always buy your plain standard black vinyl I think more and more people are interested in the whole package.
What have been your highlights from running the label so far?
Ben Repertoire – Being featured by DJ Mag as one of the labels to watch for 2017 was a highlight. It really felt after 5 years of hard work we were starting to get noticed. Also our forthcoming release with Blu Mar Ten is a personal highlight. Being a massive fan of their music for time to be doing a joint release with them is really rewarding.
Law – The biggest highlight has been the overall realisation that we can do this without financial ruin! Relaunching and doing releases 002 and 003 were pretty special too. And on a personal note, REPRV010 Sophine / Emptiness Is Form remixes getting a great reception and selling really well.
What are your plans from now until the rest of the year?
Ben Repertoire – We have three releases taking us up to the end of the year. A single by Cycle-One (REPRV012) will be out on the 1st September and will be shipping immediately from our bandcamp page. After that we have an EP by Artilect, and a joint release with Blu Mar Ten Music featuring Law & Wheeler’s remix of “Titans”, both on vinyl in October.
Are there any artists you would like work with?
Ben Repertoire – We are lucky that we have worked with some great artists so far but there are still quite a few that we would like on the label. Right now we’re really feeling Sully. His take on Jungle is great he just gets it from the vibe to the production levels and his forthcoming album is a great mixture of Garage/Dubstep and Jungle. We would also love to work with Forest Drive West and Concealed Identity who both have a great sound. Concealed Identity has released some great music on Narratives and his latest EP on Soul Intent’s Exkursions label we have been really feeling.
Law – We’ve already worked with lots of artists we love. Personally, being able to release music by The Invisible Man, Domu (Sonar Circle/Realside), and DJ Trax was great as these are producers I looked up to before Repertoire was even thing. In the future? Blocks & Escher and Om Unit are really at the top of the pile producer-wise, so someone like that.
What advice would you give to people that are perhaps thinking of setting up their own label or producers who are wishing to self release?
Law – Go all in or don’t bother. Make sure you have plenty of time dedicate to it, especially in the beginning. Be extremely patient – everything takes AGES. When it stops being any fun, stop.
Ben Repertoire – ^ Basically that. Don’t copy other labels forge your own label identity/sound. If you are starting a label that will be selling vinyl make sure you get distribution sorted and be prepared to put some of your own money in initially.