The BSE trio, who all hail from Utrecht in the Netherlands, have fine-tuned and developed their production chops with releases on a plethora of self-run labels Obsession, BSE Recordings and their current outlet, Blackout – which also acts as a home for similarly minded musicians like Neonlight, Misanthrop and Noisia. With Blackout now in its second year of operation the trio are in the midst of a lengthy tour but the clan have kindly given us some of their time so we could delve into the thoughts and motivations behind Black Sun Empire and Blackout before they bring the imprint to Room Two this month (24th July)…
You guys kept things relatively local since launching the Blackout label events in 2012, but you’re fresh back from your first label tour of America. Considering the acute explosion of dance music state-side, what was the reception to your especially dark take on drum and bass? What were your highlights?
BSE: We have actually been hosting Blackouts in our home town since 2003… however with the launch of the label next to it, the branded nights started spreading rapidly over Europe. This summer we did our first Australia/New Zealand Blackout tour and two Blackouts in the USA. The response on all continents has been great. The explosion of EDM in America has slowly opened up a lot of doors for more alternative forms of dance music.
The clubs we used were not huge, but they were packed, so we are excited about the future. A highlight must have been the fire department trying to shut down the show in LA because we had too many people inside, but we kept going!
"During the quick rise of dubstep there was some frustration with a lot of drum & bass fans about why the world didn't look at drum & bass in the same way, but in recent years the genre has been hugely on the rise again."
Having produced d&b for almost two decades now, do you have any thoughts on the proliferation of the genre on a global scale? Have you noticed an uptake?
We find that things go up and down over time. During the quick rise of dubstep there was some frustration with a lot of drum & bass fans about why the world didn't look at drum & bass in the same way, but in recent years the genre has been hugely on the rise again. There’s no predicting where it will go, but we hope it will continue to grow in popularity but at a slow and steady pace. Mainstream success is cool, but the danger of overexposure is there as well, a strong underground with some mainstream peaks seems to be the way for drum & bass. We are just happy and grateful that Blackout has done as well as it has. We hope to keep expanding and both receive and offer interesting possibilities for us and the Blackout family.
European d&b is very healthy right now, with an emphasis on the tech-step and neurofunk styles. The UK is no longer the strict domain of quality music, with titans such as yourselves and Noisia who are revered as super-groups in your own right, with a sound to call your own. How is the Dutch scene feeling at the moment compared to when you first started out?
It’s hard to speak for a ‘scene’, but we think it’s nice to have been one of the first to have broken through in the genre that was until then dominated by the UK. Dutch producers now see us, Noisia and a few others and might think ‘maybe I can do that too or even do it better!’ At the same time, breaking through is not that much easier now. The bar of technical skills required for this has been set really high by some people, so that level can be hard to achieve for some newcomers... but when someone comes up who knows what he’s doing, everyone gets very excited.
You’ve cultivated a handful of solid imprints since the inception of your self-titled record label in 2002, including Obsessions and acclaimed dubstep division, Shadows of the Empire, all of which have ceased to release further material, for now. What lead you to focus on Blackout Music solely?
Our main label was BSE Recordings and oBSEssions also has ‘BSE’ in the name. Our plan was to have a platform, built around a label and a night/party, for other artists too, and having a name a bit separate from our artist name seemed logical, so since then we focused our attention on Blackout. We also decided to keep pursuits in other genres for other project names for the time being, so that meant a pause for Shadows of the Empire.
Your exploration outside of d&b has yielded some pretty special results over the years, historically speaking with the breakbeat style of ‘Dark Girl’ to the recent past of Shadows of the Empire including the experimentation heard on 2010’s LP project, Lights and Wires. Are there plans to pick back up with the multi-genre stuff any time soon?
No plans yet, for the time being we keep other music, experimental or not, to other project names and solo efforts - like Micha is part of Tinlicker; a progressive/techno-ish group releasing music on Feed Me’s label, Sotto Voce. We also recently made a track with Dope DOD called ‘Boiling Point’, which takes influence from some interesting music by people like EPROM.
Blackout is evidently pretty proactive when it comes to bringing through new talent, with Concept Vision, Pythius and Segment joining the ranks at and your decision to feature the likes of newcomers Neonlight and Memtrix alongside leaders of the old guard Noisia, Gridlok and Chris.Su on 2013’s remix album, Variations On Black. That must have been satisfying to hear the new artists’take on these classic tunes. Anymore A&R tricks up your collective sleeve for 2015? Who should we listen out for?
We are always on the lookout for new talented people, who indeed can come from all over the planet. Our plans for the future included starting an EP series with four artists on each who don’t yet have enough exposure or something for a full EP but have strong tracks that need people’s attention. We have new huge releases coming up by Pythius, Neonlight, Misanthrop, Current Value, Mindscape and more…
How are things going in the studio right now? Is there new material underway?
Yes, there is! Due to our BFFs State of Mind spending so much time with us when they are on this side of the planet, we have a lot of new collabs with them. We also have many collaborations with other people and solo tracks on the go. But we don’t want to give too much away for now...
What can our London audience look forward to when Blackout takesover Room Two on 24th July?
Being taken apart and then put together again - or something like that! There will be much darkness and many loud noises.