A few months ago, ST Holdings – one of the key distributors of independent vinyl record labels – announced they were scaling their business back. This obviously meant that a number of labels that had signed up for vinyl deals were being dropped and their contracts cancelled. The move inspired a few interesting conversations around the quality of the current crop of ‘new’ underground labels, quality control and what it meant for vinyl releases in the current climate.
I thought ST’s announcement meant they would no longer be taking on new labels. It seems I was wrong. A few weeks ago (and again today), the distributor announced the signing of a new label. And, thankfully, it’s not just any other label.
Mantra Music is the vinyl embodiment of YouTube channel (and website) Deeper Vibrations; an exciting and consistent supporter of underground bass music (including a few of ours) with 6,500 subscribers and nearly 1,000,000 views. And their debut release sees them join forces with the one and only Quantum Soul.
We got in touch a few weeks ago, just before co-founder Simmy departed to the Alaskan wildnerness (as you do), to find out more…
Hello guys! How are you all? Hi Wil, We are well thank you, feeling pretty blessed watching the world go by.
For those who don’t know the label, can you introduce yourselves and explain the roles you all play? The label mainly consists of myself (Simmy) and Oli from Deeper Vibrations (DV). We both do a bit of everything really, whenever I feel like I am drowning in work I just give Oli a shout and he helps me out.
As well as Mantra, you guys run a few other dubstep/ bass music titles right? Yes we do, just one other – Deeper Vibrations – it is a YouTube promotional platform which is devoted to promoting the deeper sounds of dubstep. We also have a website where you can find track lists and download selected mixes.
How did you go from the YouTube channel/ blog to creating a vinyl record label? It’s a pretty big jump! Ah, well we guess it is when you look at it from that perspective!
For us, it was simple really we fell in love with these tunes and just had to release them… We were initially going to turn DV into a label but we didn’t want to change the promotional platform in any way; so we decided to start a new label with a broader scope and its own identity.
What is the label’s release philosophy? What sort of release frequency can we expect from you guys? Our philosophy is to evoke emotion through music and also visually through the artwork that will come with our releases. Initially we hope to do 2 maybe 3 releases a year, however this is very much dependent on the music we find or is sent to us.
If there’s a Mantra ‘sound’, how would you describe it? We guess it would be described as contemporary bass music with a classical twist.
How did the release with Quantum Soul come about? What can you tell us about Guy’s two tracks? Well we had heard these tunes in mixes that Guy had done in the past. When we noticed that Guy had put the tracks up on his SoundCloud, we emailed him and asked whether he was looking to release them. At this point we had expressed our interest in starting a label to actually release these tunes. Guy wrote back and said he would think about it. In all honesty at that point, we didn’t expect to be given the go ahead so we kind of forgot about it. It wasn’t till a couple of weeks later when Guy got back to us and said okay, let’s give it a shot!
The FKOF review: “Quantum Soul returns with another creation that can be categorised as a top-of-the-bill anthem. And it’s being released on a fresh new imprint that encapsulates the Deeper Vibrations mentality! His place on Mantra’s debut release highlights his ability to take the sound to a higher state of conscience, opening new directions for the music we have fallen in love with. The emotional tensions induced by the driven violin strings bring forth a bombastic spark of energy, surrounding the natural elements that form the deeply rooted base. Sub frequencies emit a ground-shaking vibration, enhancing the soul to be powerful beyond measures.”
Emergence comes from both Quantum Soul (Guy) & Katya Gabeli, with the idea of fusing classic western music with a contemporary approach. The idea was to create an epic intro – a sense of heightened suspense and anticipation which could be followed up by being plunged deep into an immersive world where past and present marry perfectly and take the listener on a sublime journey. We think the finished article is spine-tinglingly sublime.
Nemawashi is a solo effort from Guy, with the intention of bringing the percussive drama from classical music to the sound system. Nemawashi is very much the brutally-percussive, sensory-overloading, aggressively masculine Yang to the delicately sensuous, winding journey embarked upon by the feminine Yin of Emergence.
We’ve always been impressed with the artwork you guys come out with – what can you tell us about Mantra’s visual identity? Ah, thank you! Visually we hope to be able to create an original piece of artwork to compliment each release that also provides the listener with a tangible print. For this release in particular, we liaised with Guy and tried to combine our visions to create artwork that not only complimented the release but was symbolic to the track names.
Given ours is a fairly small niche in a rather large market, do you think that the vinyl side of the music industry is in healthy shape? That’s a difficult question. We all know that vinyl sales have decreased over the years, however there are reports showing a 32% increase in sales in 2013. In the first week of June, Jack White’s album sold over 40,000 LPs, this is more than any other vinyl released since 1991! Although this isn’t related to the underground scene this does give us hope that vinyl sales are increasing – we hope that this will have a knock on effect on sales. Other than that, all we can do is continue to put out music which touches our souls and try and be innovative and original throughout the process in the hope that we can attract a few extra sales.
You’re distributed by ST Holdings right? How did you manage to work around that one – given a lot of labels they’ve taken on over the past year or so have been shown the door? Honestly, we have no idea how it happened, we got lucky with our timing and since we had signed our contracts etc we guess they had to give us a chance!
What do you guys have in store for us in the next few months? We have a couple of things in the pipeline but nothing set in stone as yet, we are always on the look out for good music. For anyone out there that would like to send us any music please drop us an email on [email protected] and we’ll get back to you!
Although you’re launching with vinyl – which is commendable given the startup costs involved – can we ever expect digital releases under the Mantra name? Yes most definitely, there is so much good music out there and it deserves to be heard. We would love to be able to press every release but it just isn’t cost effective or environmentally friendly.
With a number of new artists coming through – and old ones moving on to new genres – which producers are you keeping eyes on at the minute? Any tunes you know of that are guaranteed to go off? There are loads of producers old and new out there making exceptional music. There isn’t anyone in particular that we are keeping an eye on as such, but we do have a list of artists we hope to work with. For example Ruckspin (who a part of Submotion Orchestra and one half of Author).
Any final words or shoutouts? Good luck for the future – we’re looking forward to what you bring out! We’d really just like to thank everyone who has supported this release and the label – it means a lot to us and we hope that you feel that when you hold the vinyl in your hands. Thank you FKOF for your time and support. Blessings!
The FKOF review: “The closing track, entitled Nemawashi, rounds off Mantra’s debut EP with a serious bang. Convergent Eastern elements give off a feeling of exploration, combining with a meandering sub that carves out a path for the intelligent percussion to flow through the sound field. Invading atmospherics wash away fear, dragging the warrior living deeply inside the listener towards sacred ground. Guidance through sudden growls enhance the level of intimidation, driving the heard rate unexpectedly. Quantum Soul and Mantra Music have joined forces to set the bar higher than ever before. You have been warned!”