As Kasra, Enei, and Foreign Concept descend upon Los Angeles, ready to unleash all manner of unholy basslines on the Bassrush masses this Saturday night, we managed to squeeze in a little exclusive chat with none other than Critical Music’s own Kasra for a wide-ranging discussion on everything from the current state of drum & bass to his own hopes and vision for the imprint when he first started it 13 years ago.
Having since grown into one of the scene’s most respected and exciting imprints around, Critical has cultivated jaw-dropping talent like Emperor, Mefjus, Posij, Halogenix, Ivy Lab, Sam Binga, Hyroglifics, and of course, label stalwarts like Enei, Foreign Concept, and Kasra himself. Continually operating on the cutting edge of the drum & bass scene and pushing the boundaries on the dancefloor, Critical Music has come to stand for innovation, experimentation, and an untouchable mind-melting sound.
We were so stoked to have you and the rest of the crew dropping mad beats on bassPOD at Electric Daisy Carnival this past weekend! How was it from your end of things?
It was an unforgettable experience. To be able to play on a stage like that at a festival with the prestige of EDC was incredible and also so much fun!
Now of course the big news is this massive Critical Music Showcase we’ve got coming up in Los Angeles this Friday night. For those who don’t know how do you describe the Critical sound?
I’m really excited too! The “Critical Sound” is quite hard to pin down and I think that’s why people find it interesting. All bases of underground drum & bass are covered, some experimental, some rolling, some hard tech and everything in between. If it’s “Critical” I just know—that makes me sound like an ego-maniac doesn’t it? [Laughs]
This past year in particular seems to have been a good one for the Critical sound as well as other imprints and artists pushing the usual conventions of drum & bass. The genre seems harder and harder to define and yet things have never looked or sounded better.
I agree. For me, the music is so diverse and interesting at the moment and I feel the audiences are becoming more and more receptive to new sounds and styles. I think some of it has to do with the rise of EDM and now that some of that has started to fall away, kids are looking for new, maybe more underground sounds that labels like Critical are able to give them.
Looking back to North London in 2002, what was your original vision for the imprint and how has that transformed or evolved over the years?
I really didn’t know what to expect. I was ambitious and wanted to make a success of the label, but at that time “success” meant releasing a few records and getting my favorite DJs to support them. I suppose over time I grew in confidence and artists and the general public saw I was really passionate about what I do and that the label was here for the long haul.
My vision has always been to represent the best of underground D&B, caring about the artist, how we present the music, packaging and trying to push the music forward. I didn’t really anticipate that years later we would have such an incredible group of artists and a club night! As for the North London influence in a way I suppose it has had an effect. I used to go to Camden (and further into central London to Soho) like a lot of kids and buy records, be that drum & bass or punk and hardcore. That independent spirit inspired me to start a label. Drum & bass is punk as fuck.
The artists and sounds you’ve been curating have been off the chain and you seem to have a great eye for developing talent. Any other names we should be keeping an eye out for?
Hyroglifics for sure, he’s done a few things over the past couple of years but his new EP is incredible and I’m really excited to get it out there. There’s a kid from Holland called Signal who has a truckload of potential; he’s like 15!
As a predominantly “underground” imprint and sound, is there a fear of growing too popular or losing control of the brand as it continues to grow?
As long as we continue to release the music that is the core of what we do then I’m not worried. In fact, if we grow even more popular by releasing the music we believe in then that’s incredible. I’m never going to be one to chase the radio hits. I’ve seen the label grow and grow over recent years with us sticking to our ethics of releasing great underground D&B.
As avid fans we would love a primer on how you are envisioning the Modulations and Binary series.
We actually brought Modulations to an end last year. This was always seen as a series rather than a label, and (we’ve) replaced it with a new series called Systems. The first of these was by Halogenix and the next is by Fre4knc and is due in a couple of months. We have some amazing music lined up for this run of releases.
As for the Binary series, it gives us the ability to be agile and release new music by new artists quickly. The latest by Posij just dropped and next up is Subtension. We have an album planned for Binary too, more news on that soon!
You and your co-pilots are no doubt already bound for L.A. Give us some quick insight into the personalities of each of you and how that translates on the dancefloor!
Foreign Concept always brings a rolling style and is one of my favorite drum & bass DJs in the scene, as he always comes with smooth mixes and is extremely versatile. Enei is the floor-smasher known for his fast energetic mixing and always with a surprise tune up his sleeve that turns the room upside down. As for me, I’m the guy who tries to play something the crowd doesn’t expect whilst always keeping the music fresh and exciting.
Click HERE to snag your pre-sales to the Critical Music Showcase featuring Kasra, Enei, and Foreign Concept with support from Nightstalker at Los Globos this Friday night in Los Angeles! It’s going to be hot and heavy from start to finish so look out!