Every so often, there’s a new outfit that arrives on the ‘scene’ – whatever the scene is these days – that has the potential to get people really excited about dubstep – whatever that is these days – again. It’s happened a few times in the sound’s history, but on the whole few have stood the test of time or lived up to the promise or expectation.
So when Encrypted Audio, a collective of likeminded
troublemakers individuals we’ve got fairly close ties with, appeared we all stood back and wondered. Are they just another flash in the pan? Or are they a new movement that has the potential to reinvigorate an occasionally tired and listless genre, full of egos, stale sounds and dying distributors?
Encrypted Audio. How goes gang? [Both] Very well, thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
Anytime! For those who’ve missed the cryptic social statuses, who exactly are you? What are you – a label? Collective? Group of like-minded producers? [Tony Content] All of the above I would say. It’s something Rich and I had been talking loosely about over the past 2 years of knowing and working with each other. The way the sound was moving in the latter part of 2013 (the whole “Dubstep is dead” thing) sparked a moment in one of our many chats. It culminated, settling around us, and without even knowing we’d created Encrypted. A focus on taking things backwards to go forwards. Encouraging people to break the mould and test their own ability. Not just the usual kick to snare combo you hear.
[Rich Deafblind] I think a loose collective is a decent way of describing it. We wanted to bring together artists that have a unique fingerprint, that are flexible and have a lot to offer in the general spectrum of the genre, but all with a common thread throughout. I’ll underscore what Tony said though, we don’t want standard 140, we want it to be whatever the individual artist is feeling.
There seems to be a decent number of producers moving on from dubstep and branching out into new genres, or at least changing up the tempo. What’s the Encrypted Audio sound? Are you strictly 140/ dubstep or? [C] I don’t think any of us exclusively write 140 or dubstep. We write what I am calling ‘the Encrypted sound’. We have dubstep at the core but there is also grime/ DnB/ techno/ rap & some 130. We have said from early on that we are not saying we are this or that… We are just determined on pushing quality music that sounds like Encrypted!
[D] Honestly I feel like dubstep has spawned a number of sub-genres that are currently in incubation mode… You just may not have heard them yet. I think people have realised that you can flex around a stylistic feel in a piece of music, but it doesn’t have to be pigeonholed as “dubstep”. In fact, I’ve gotten to hate that term of late. We just want to make interesting music. The tempo and the genre description are pretty irrelevant. And that’s what we encourage in the collected artists, which is why we’ve got some pretty amazingly varied output queued up already.
How does the collective setup work – who does what? [C] Rich and I are doing it all. The releases are a loosely planned idea, but we like to let the artist take creative control on what they want to release. We just steer them around a few tracks we really want. Then basically everything is done in-house. Mastering/ promo/ artist relations/ social media management etc. The whole team works to The Bible so to speak and this helps as we don’t have to do too much chasing about. Rich and I have cretaed a nice working environment for ourselves and the artists, the only pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves to do things solo.
[D] We’re trying to do everything in-house right now. We want the artists to focus on making the music they want to make, we have a very active sharing culture internally, throwing up work-in-progress clips etc that the group can check in on, feedback etc. It really supports an organic development of a piece of music AND more importantly, it’s nice to not be working in isolation so much. Not many of us are co-located so it’s nice to get that collective input. Additionally one of the core ideas we focused on early was that we’re (the label) not in it to make money, we want to ensure that as much money as is possible from the sale of a piece of music reaches the pockets of the artist that produces it. We’re just trying to take the sum total of our experience individually and mash them together, and hopefully bring a unique and interesting spin to things.
Of the artists involved, who and why have you chosen them? [Both] We have 9 artists, including the two of us. We sat down and wrote down the set of names we wanted. The list we wrote is who we got which was nice as it just seemed to slot together. We have Argo, Deceit, Eva808, Kloudmen, Mershak, Valac and us. We have just recently welcomed Karnage & MarkIV into the fold as well. We chose the acts based on what they brought sound-wise, everyone has their own unique characteristics. Trying to cover the whole spectrum and evolve all of our sounds which is something we can safely say we are seeing and it’s a joy to watch something you have created evolve so quickly. The team all talk and collaborate. I think everyone has remixed or has collaborations with another member of the team cooking.
Are you going to bring new artists into the collective or is Encrypted the artists involved now? [Both] We are always hearing people we would like to get involved, but for the time being it’s us 9. We have discussed it and have said if it’s the right fit then yes for sure.
Of the new labels coming through the dubstep sound at the moment, what does Encrypted Audio bring that no one else does? [C] I would say we are not bringing the expected approach to the table. Nothing about us as a label is generic, we won’t be moving in the usual channels and paths. A lot of that is personal choice but some is thanks to the logistics of being spread across Europe and the US. As artists, I would say we all agree to trying new things and approaches. Everyone is treading their own path but always checks in to make sure that we all like what direction the path’s going. Almost sense checking every move we make with the others. It seems to create a great hive of activity and ideas!
[D] Given we aren’t strictly a dubstep sound, across the label in general that will immediately differentiate things. I think the artist collective is also extremely strong, inventive and forward thinking. We don’t just want to be another digital label. We want to promote music that is collectible in a sense, in whatever medium it is delivered.
We’ve heard (from fairly reputable sources) that you’ve got a very healthy release pipeline. What can you tell us about who’s got what forthcoming? [C] ENC001 is 100% confirmed and will be available via the Bandcamp mid August. It’s an EP from Eva808 – Shadow Riddim, Circus Lion, Wannabe & Rainy Mood. Kloudmen are ENC002 and Mershak’s ENC003. We do loosely have 4/5/6 but there is so much amazing music coming through at the moment we can neither agree or disagree on what drops when. It’s a constant change.
[D] We have a general idea of order, we aren’t solidly planning out any further than ENC0003 right now because things are in constant flux. I can say though that Tony and I won’t be releasing anything till the rest of the collective has had their releases though.
You’ve already announced – before even releasing your first digital EP – that you’ll be pressing vinyl. When can we expect EAV001 and what’s the process for deciding what gets cut? [C] I think it will be sooner than we both had envisaged… We had said that it would be after a full round of digital but it might become something that runs alongside the initial 9 digital releases and then carries on solo with the digital being the restock. We are most likely going to be doing very limited runs of vinyl and they won’t be getting the usual distribution approach.
[D] I feel strongly that if you are committing a release to any medium, you believe in the music, you have invested in the music and if it is worthy of a release, it is also worth of being embodied in a physical format. We aren’t 100% settled on our approach, but we don’t want to to over-commit financial resources, and press things that people don’t want. It’s a very fine balancing act we have to consider. This will also be one of the few steps we can’t actively manage ourselves, because the skills for mastering/plating/pressing etc aren’t things we can do ourselves. However, I’ve taken a lot of heart at seeing what Eshone at ElkBeats is doing, as well as what Bakir is doing with Grand Ancestor. We want that hand-crafted, artisan-esque approach to each release; something that makes each one unique. Those things inherently increase the intrinsic value.
Given you’re doing both, how do you see vinyl vs. digital? What are your thoughts? [C] Personally, it’s how it’s packaged up. Digital has its merits – with less overheads and the process has less potential risks. But vinyl, there’s just something about it. You’ve got to have it. That physicality. I have a dubstep collection that was spawned at the very roots and to me it feels amazing to own a piece of history. The digital format almost has a throw away feel to it but in the current age its imperative to have all bases covered.
[D] Digital is convenient, and easier to get hold of… But I think that disposable nature of it completely disguises the effort that has gone into getting that piece of music to someone. I think when people see a 99¢ digital download it almost feels like, I don’t know, buying a cup of tea. Let alone that when you break it down, that piece of music probably has over 100 hours of total effort involved in it to bring it to your ears. So for a 4 track EP, you easily have 400 hours of effort crafted into it, for about $4 of total revenue… That doesn’t feel like a good return on investment for the artist, label costs aside does it? I also am intentionally not getting into the whole piracy debate… That’s a whole other discussion entirely. If you look at vinyl as a medium though, you can more accurately reflect the effort that has gone into it, because you are holding something in your hands. Rather than some nebulous digital file sitting on a drive somewhere.
Distance, in our FKOF feature earlier this year, said “there are only a few producers keeping the sound alive”. For you, who’s making real standout music at the moment? [D] To be completely honest, there’s so much amazing music about from total unknowns that you literally could write a full article about it. I can’t really add someone without missing someone else, and consequently feeling really bad about it. And as with all things there is personal bias involved. If I were to pick a few standouts: Mesck, Feonix, Distance, Skeptical, Kahn. I’d also add this tidbit, what is the “sound” anyway? I’d say we’re so fluid presently I can’t really pin my finger on what it is. Is it techno’y? What about dubwise? Minimal? Wonky? All of the above… In one tune? I’d say there’s a lot of people making hugely impressive, non-derivative music with soul in general.
[C] Apart from members of our own team who I personally think are doing more than either of us could of envisaged, there are only a few known acts, I don’t buy anywhere near as much as I used to. But I love the work by Skeptical, Mesck and Nomine. I feel awful to only name a few but these guys are standout known artists. The list of Unknowns (a lot like what Rich said), could be endless.
What can we expect in terms of live shows? Will you be touring the Encrypted family? [C] There is loads in the pipeline with bits slowly coming together. I’m on a US tour this September/October, which will feature the US contingent (Deafblind, Mershak & Valac). Then we’re planning a little European stint when Deafblind is Europe later this year with Argo, Deceit, Eva808, Kloudmen, Deafblind and I all playing a few dates (plans for Germany/ Poland/ Belgium & Sweden).
[D] Yup, Tony has hit it. Traveling from US to Europe is obviously a bit tougher for me … because, well … life. But we are working the angles!
Have you got any advice for producers looking to get started or get signed? Anything you’ve done that you’d recommend doing – or avoiding? [D] This is a very tough one to answer, because our experience is all completely independent and very subjective. However, if I were to offer up my own experience and advice…
If you’re getting started:
- Take a look at what everyone else is doing, and see what unique spin you can put on things. Remember that imitation is both the sincerest form of flattery, but also a GREAT learning tool. Find tunes or producers that espouse the kind of aspirational goal you are looking for, and see if you can deconstruct things to get in the same zone. But make it yours.
- Don’t send your imitation tunes to people, if you sound the same as X number of producers you will get overlooked – no matter how well engineered and arranged they are.
- Make mistakes. There’s creative gold in the mistakes.
- Don’t constantly hound people! If you send your music to say Distance or J:Kenzo and don’t hear anything, don’t read anything into it. Just assume it was either not to their tastes, or they plain didn’t see it. Don’t take it to heart.
- Don’t focus purely on the technicals, those will come. You can’t engineer a good tune out of something soulless and derivative. But you can improve the engineering of a good tune.
- Don’t assume that if you JUST had <insert plugin name here> you could break through. Learn your tools. Learn them inside and out. You will find most of the time you will have 3 to 4 go-tos and those will be the majority backbone of your “sound”.
- Be polite and respectful of people’s time.
- Try and collaborate with other like minded people. Try and get a collab with someone more established than you, or technically more adept at something than you and learn through that. See also: “Be polite and respectful of people’s time”.
If you’re looking to get signed:
- Choose some aspirational labels that you hope to someday release on. This is a good guide to help you choose some guidelines for your own creative process. But don’t let it own you.
- Find a good platform to promote your new tunes, be it SoundCloud, YouTube or whatever.
- Follow artists, DJs and labels on social media and strike up a conversation with them. A personal connection will always open the door way wider than just randomly dropping tunes on someone.
- Give your tunes to a select number of people. Keep the list to people you can trust and not every single person who comes along asking.
- If a label approaches you, determine whether they are the right fit for your sound, and if they are work with them collaboratively to decide on what makes a solid release.
- Be polite and respectful of peoples’ time.
[C] How lucky am I Rich answered that one so expertly?!
What can you tell us about the Encrypted Audio mix you’ve put together for us? [C] It was mixed by Deafblind. He ate 4 kilos of red meat, drank a quart of rum and then did front summersaults to the sounds of Prodigy’s Mindfields (whilst whistling the theme tune to Indiana Jones) and then it just came to him.
I think I should let Rich explain what actually happened here…
[D] Sounds about right. Haha! Actually, it’s just a blend of the collective artists, some things that I am feeling and as per-usual, a random draw selection. Hope you dig.
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