In Depth
DLR reflects on the ethos underpinning his label, Sofa Sound Bristol

Known as one of the key purveyors of funk within drum & bass, DLR has been one of the scene’s household names for many years. Early on in his career he was putting out records on labels like Dispatch Recordings, and has continued pushing his music across select platforms since. He has collaborated with names like Survival, Break and Ant TC1, and teamed up with Mako to form the Metalheadz duo, OneMind. Naturally, the next step in his career was setting up a label. Cue the arrival of Sofa Sound Bristol, whose ethos has been built on quality over quantity, with carefully-selected releases from a small yet steadily growing family of trusted producers. With DLR set to bring his imprint to FABRICLIVE on 14th June, we caught up with him to chat about the showcase, how things started, and some other projects on the horizon.

First of all, congratulations on the recent release and success of your first Sofa King Sick compilation. It seems to represent what you've achieved so far with the label, focusing a lot on up and coming talent as well as tunes from some established heads. How did the label start up?

It initially started as a label for myself, where I could put my own music out on and sculpt an identity. A couple of years ago I was getting a bit mixed into the neurofunk world at times. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I felt sometimes I lacked an identity, or perhaps an overall image and sound. I felt it was important to start a label that put all of that across, so I could stamp my identity onto the scene.

How did the name for the compilation come about?

My manager If (also known as Khanage), suggested the idea of Sofa King Sick, and I loved the idea because it keeps with the tongue-in-cheek aspect that I really like. One of our first digital releases on the label was actually called Still Fucking Warm, but the distributor wouldn't allow it, so I reluctantly had to change it to Still Warm. However, we decided we could now trick everybody with Sofa King Sick as it kind of has that dual meaning of “so fucking sick”. Well, it's actually just one meaning.

In true DLR style, you involved yourself in multiple collaborations on the album. Is there anyone you've worked with over the years that has perhaps inspired you the most?

I'm always inspired. Octane is one person I’d definitely mention though. Maybe it wasn’t necessarily inspiration at the time of working with him, but his knowledge of the technical aspects of music production was so integral in me advancing. I would never say that he showed and taught me everything as I’ve put in a lot of hard work myself, but he was so knowledgeable on that side, almost held back by it in a way. Inspiration wise, I think it has largely been a collective thing working with all these different people over time.

If you had to pick one?

I think I would possibly go for Break. He’s similar to me in the respect of really understanding what he wants to achieve, but maybe sometimes struggling to do so. If we’re working on something, he doesn't give up on his idea, and we'll push really hard to try and achieve what he wants. He's been influential in my career, if not from a point of me as a younger DJ playing all his tunes, and later on in life as really good mates. I've also got to mention Randall from when we made Song And Dance. He is just absolutely hilarious in the studio and has so much to say. That’s really important to me, and I think everyone should understand that. By that I mean learning from the elders and really understanding the mentality surrounding what drum & bass is, where it comes from, why it's so important to us, and how you can still inject that passion into the music.
“I’m always inspired.”
You've created a little family for the label with these people, which seems to be massively important for a label of your size.

Exactly, I really want to keep that going. Honestly, people like Alix Perez, Lenzman and myself - we all echo it to each other. Dispatch and Ant [TC1] were always incredible to me, but I've worked with other labels who I could honestly say were fucking useless. There's no need to name names, but it's obvious at this point where certain labels have fallen off and are trying to claw back and get their shit together again. They've fucked it because they didn't build that family. Perez helped ingrain this idea – building a family, yet not over-extending it and making too many promises. I want everyone on the roster to feel like they're part of something.

I want to ask you about this new project, The Sauce. What can you tell us about it at the moment?

We set up The Sauce Recordings after surveying what we were looking at in the scene. The Sauce is Total Science, Hydro, and me. For a while, people were pointing out a sound going around that was similar to what we all made, but with more of a jump-up influence. People who know us know that we love this sound and were wondering why we weren’t making it too.I know some may disagree with me here and that's all good, but I think it's important to be focused as an artist and stay true to what you were always about.

Tell us about this remix that’s been floating around of Total Science’s classic tune, Nosher.

We made that remix partly because Smithy [Total Science] was part of the project, and also because I grew up on the original. A lot of people wouldn't necessarily know that I grew up in Bristol listening to that jump-up sound. It was fun, bouncy, and pure vibes back then. It crossed the spectrum, and everybody played it no matter who they were. It was important for us to put that across again, and I think people have caught onto it really quickly. Lots of people really like that remix, which was a massive surprise to us. That's cool though, it really sets the tone of what we're about with that being the first tune.

I think it's important what you said about keeping drum & bass fun, or even tongue-in-cheek. Some people might argue the genre can get a bit too serious at times.

Yeah, that's the whole thing for me. It may be difficult sometimes, but we've just got to have fun. It was all pretty bouncy when I used to go raving in Bristol, and that to me was jump-up drum & bass… because it made you “jump up”. Personally, I think the name got ruined in recent years.

There seems to be a sub-genre war at the moment.

Yeah, definitely. For me though, honestly, I just play drum & bass. Whether it's jump up, techy or whatever, I just play it because I like it. Even though there is this sub-genre war, there is this cool thing now where people are actually playing a big variety of music. At the end of the day they're just looking for good drum & bass.
“Really good sound, and solid DJs”
Let’s talk about your upcoming FABRICLIVE showcase. How does it feel to be placed alongside labels such as Dispatch and Tech Itch Recordings after only launching yours back in 2017?

I've got a lot of respect for Tech Itch so I'm really happy to be on this night, chuffed to be honest with you. People have always said this, but it's about who you know in this world, as long as you also back it up with really good content. That's an important word to me: “content”. It doesn't matter how much PR or marketing you do these days – there are a lot of people out there who don't have any content and they are just thrust into the limelight. You need to have the content to back it up.

Tell us a bit about the line-up you’ve pulled together.

There are a few people from the compilation, a few up-and-comers that I'm going to be working with, and also people like Ulterior Motive and Kid Drama who are highly instrumental in it all. In fact, I came up side-by-side in the scene with Ulterior Motive as we're all about the “funk”, and they really made me believe in that concept. One person a lot of people wouldn't know is Oto. He's a DJ from southern Spain who has become a bit of a cult hero over there, but no one from the UK knows him really. Last year I played three or four times in southern Spain in places like Malaga, Granada and Seville, and was back again recently for a gig the other week. He's helped in pushing my name over there, so it was important to me that we got him to fabric. It literally made his dreams come true, and that buzzes me out and makes me really happy. We've also got other people on there like Hybris, who's been great to work with over the years and is such a good friend. We want to show that while our labels are very different, both us and the labels are still very close. In fact, we've got a release coming on Sofa Sound soon, and we'll have a release on Pseudoscience Recordings as well.

What’s the most important thing for you when hosting a night?

What's always important to me, and we do it with our Bristol night Collective, I do it with Sofa Sound in Bristol, I did it with Sofa Sound in Brighton, is just really good sound, and solid DJs that play for a longer amount of time. Of course, I do like to throw back-to-backs in here and there, but as a reflection of my label I don't necessarily want to see loads of them. I started out as a promoter, along with being a producer and DJ, running a sound system, and everything else. I learned a lot over those years, and focusing on line-ups is just so important. You can start piling people on but they're not going to bring more people through the door in my eyes. I think a fight against what is generally occurring these days is more important to me, and I love that aspect. I've always done it with music. Whatever everyone else isn't doing, I want to do.

What would you tell people to expect from the night?

I would just say “drum & bass”, and they'd have to figure it out. What I love about those words is that it’s super fucking self-explanatory. For me, it started with Lee Scratch Perry in the 60s, when the music was stripped back to those core ingredients. It was all about that groove. He had nothing else playing at that moment, and it was just raw and driving. It’s really important for me and the label now that it's always focused on those two core elements. As soon as you start adding all this other shit on top or taking away from it, whilst it can still be influenced by the conventions of drum & bass, I feel like you begin moving into a new realm.
“Whatever everyone else isn't doing, I want to do.”
You’ve previously mentioned how the label is called Sofa Sound because you feel the best place to listen to music in the studio is sat on the sofa.

Yeah it was that, and I also just wanted to be stupid with it. “Sofa” is just a funny word. It's so English. I'm not in any way, shape or form like “yeah, fucking England”. I love England because it's super multicultural and is just an amazing country. It's a whole different story where we're going at the moment in politics, but when you're an artist and you travel a lot you have that beautiful view of the world. It’s different to what a lot of others get to have, and you really get to appreciate what we've got. Also, when you sit on the sofa in the studio it sounds really juicy as you haven't got the tops right in your face.

How do you feel the music you release translates to both the sofa and the club then?

I just love depth and progression within music, and real minimalism which is always the hardest thing to achieve across all music. In dance music especially there’s repetition as well, but it’s about building on that repetition and creating movement and progression. I think that's mostly why I liked the idea of the sofa in relation to my label. You can sit down, listen to the music and appreciate it for what it is - not just in the club.

What's next for you and the label?

The next release is with young Signal who I have a lot of respect for. He's always smashing it. Abis is on it as well, who's been a long-time friend of mine. I'm really happy with that release and I’m looking forward to getting it out. Apart from that, we just want to keep on moving forward really. My label manager If is just so good. He went through everything I’d previously done, scheduled it all, and we've now basically got releases all the way until April next year when we've got Sofa King Sick 2. Once a month is what we're going for, keeping in with that less intense schedule. It's very rarely going to be big EPs or anything like that, instead just keeping it focused. To be honest though, I'm just buzzing to get into fabric already. I think it really sets the standard for the label. Watch out for some really limited merchandise on the night as well...

Friday 14th June

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