5 Years Young: 2nd Drop Records
Roughly five years ago, Mark Gurney and James Bliss heard the song ‘Good Feeling’ by friend Ramadanman (now Pearson Sound), on seminal underground radio station, Rinse FM. Skream, the DJ who aired the track, announced that Ramadanman intended to give the track away for free. Roughly twelve months earlier, Mark Gurney was running Live Recordings, a youth project and record label that taught transferable management skills in the context of the music industry. Whilst running Live Recordings, Mark released Jamie Woon‘s ‘Wayfaring Stranger,’ backed with a sensational Burial remix.
When the funding for Live Recordings was pulled, Mark and James decided to create another outlet and 2nd Drop Records was born. Soon after, Ramadanman’s ‘Good Feeling’ found a well deserved home on 2nd Drop, receiving a 12″ vinyl release with ‘The Woon’ featuring on the B-side; a tough, sub-heavy re-working of ‘Wayfaring Stranger’.
Mark and James were immersed in the dubstep scene at the time. Regular heads at DMZ and particularly FWD; it’s a sure bet that 2nd Drop Records was conceived in the womb-like environment of Plastic People. Getting to know Rusko via Reso (who were housemates at the time), the pair heard Rusko’s tracks ‘William H Tonkers’ and ‘Roma,’ which soon made up 2NDRP12002. Throughout 2008 and 2009, 2nd Drop never really strayed too far away from that familiar, dark 140bpm template, with releases coming from the likes of J:Kenzo, LD and Sully. Come 2009 they, like many others, began to find themselves searching elsewhere for the next new sound.
“If someone had said to me that four years down the line we’d be releasing techno, I’d have laughed and been pretty surprised. But, if i’d heard the music we’re releasing now, I would have definitely been feeling it.”
James tells me it was the seventh release that was the so-called “turning point.” They welcomed Ramadanman back to drop ‘Revenue,’ and invited Untold to remix the track, resulting in the devastatingly stripped-back B-side. I can tell this 12″, perhaps the remix in particular, is still a serious source of satisfaction for the pair. Three years on, it’s still being played regularly in clubs, included in mixes, compilations such as Gold Panda’s DJ-Kicks, and has been labelled a major influence by recent signing, Tessela.
From that point on, 2nd Drop have put out techno, garage, and soul-infused electronica; building on the foundations of early dubstep, but gradually meandering away. Neither James or Mark see that as a conscious decision, more an organic progression that doesn’t negate the possibility of returning to its roots. They tell me that they would put out the 2007 Ramadanman record today. Stating that “it’s probably more relevant now anyway.”
The conversation moves onto vinyl, artwork and digital piracy. Mark and James come to the conclusions that they don’t care if people want to rip 128kbps copies of their releases, and that they would never do a digital-only release. The internet has changed the role of the record label. Gone are the days, they say, of selling tens of thousands of copies of a 12″, nowadays, trawling through Eastern European file-sharing websites asking for their tunes to be taken down is more of a reality.
In recent years, 2nd Drop have never really released straight house music, intsead, they’ve skirted around the edges, always opting for something more rugged and inspired. Recent output demonstrates this precisely, coming from Pedestrian, Djrum, Tessela, South London Ordnance and Gerry Read – a far cry from the strains of dubstep the they were originally putting out. Their discography seems to have followed a familiar pattern; think Loefah, Pinch, or even Ramadanman himself, all turning their attention to slower tempos. I want to know why they think this has happened. James tells me, laughing, that “five years ago, [his] perception of what techno was.. was.. Germans!”
Once again, the internet is cited as a possible reason for the change. Its impact, even over just five years, shouldn’t be underestimated. We discuss how exciting the scene is currently; “there are teenage producers drawing influence from all over the world, from tracks released before they were born; something not so easily done five years ago.”
“2011 was a kind of renaissance for us, we received a flurry of great music from LV, Djrum, Gerry Read, Youandewan and Tessela, who all embodied the elements of dubstep that we loved, but evolved it to into a newer, more interesting sound – through new tempos, hybridising genres and generally experimenting outside of 140bpm. It was exciting again!”
With five years and twenty releases steeped in London’s underground culture, this label have established themselves within a tight-knit community, whilst globally picking up plaudits for their A&R abilities and relentless quality control; and they show no sign of slowing down. An EP and a 12″ from Pedestrian are imminent, so too are a Djrum EP and album, a 12″ from Youandewan, music from exciting youngster Happa, and at some point, a label compilation. A lot of these forthcoming tracks, alongside a careful selection of recently released 2nd Drop music, and classic, influential material from the likes of Gregory Isaac, Raekwon and J-Live are included in the 2nd Drop Hyp Mix; an influences showcase mixed by Mark and James, together with long-time label affiliates DB, Ralph Solly and Marshal Darling. A deep insight into the label’s current musical ethos, and how they got there – here’s to another five years of 2nd Drop Records!
2nd Drop Records celebrate their 5th birthday this Friday (29th June) at Blink in Hidden. Full details here.
Stream Hyp 085 below:
Interview: Richard Akingbehin
Photography: Meg Sharp