In the world of drum & bass, Critical Music stands out like a sore thumb. Well, more like a lucky thumb…one that will take an unexpected hitchhiker on a journey through the deepest, most soul-drenched and intricate sounds of the picturesque D&B spectrum. Consistently growing from strength to strength, Critical releases come hard and fast, and from every direction imaginable. We stopped to have a chat with the label boss who’s often found DJing on dancefloors around the globe, visionary extraordinaire Kasra.
What drove you to start the label in the first place?
I’d always been interested in the side of music that others most likely find dull - the mechanics of releasing records and getting people to hear them. When I was 15 I had my own avant garde guitar label which was a relative success, so I knew I could do it. I was hearing lots of great music that wasn’t by the big producers yet felt it needed an outlet. In hindsight these may not be the best reasons - as some feel there’s a reason certain music doesn’t have an outlet, but I’m a fan of the underdog - if we all release the big tunes there wouldn’t be any shade to the light.
What was its initial ethos?
Simply to release good music. When I started I was pretty much an outsider. I had been buying and DJing D&B for years but I didn’t have a network of producers or DJs to call on to help me out. Very much a case of using my resources and a professional approach to procure the best tunes I could, and build the label slowly and surely.
How has Critical changed since its launch?
I’m glad to say that now most producers are excited about being on the label and there isn’t that struggle to convince artists that the label is a good home and that I’m trustworthy. The label has a lot of respect within the scene and profile of each release is always strong. Other than the labels natural evolution, the core ideal of releasing quality music is still very much the main focus.
What do you think it takes to make a label successful these days?
Someone asked me this the other day - I would say a distinct combination of dedication and patience as well as creative vision. With so many labels around, just believing in what you are doing isn’t enough - carve out a distinct place for your label and its music. Stand out on the shelves - be those physical shelves of Black Market or the digital ones of Beatport.
Where do you think the label sits within the current drum & bass scene?
Critical releases underground drum & bass, we haven't released any radio hits but I’m proud to say that the label feels like it sits happily alongside a lot of my favourite labels. Imprints synonymous with quality such as Metalheadz, Soul:r, 31. Sounds like I’m being terribly narcissistic but that’s what people tell me - so I believe them!
Do you think you have a trademark sound?
I’ve made a conscious decision to release music that isn’t constricted by sub genre or style. I’m a big fan of a wide range of dnb - from deep minimal things to rolling jungle. Fans of the label tell me that Critical has a distinct sound - I suppose that sound is the sound of what I like!
How do you see the label developing in the coming years, and what direction are you moving in musically?
More albums and more singles. Going to start working more closely with a group of new up and coming producers again no focus particularly on any style - just quality drum and bass. Id like to think more music we can appreciate at home as well as the club environment.
You had Ramadanman remix a track on Critical recently - how do you see the relationship between drum & bass and dubstep developing?
I do think they go hand in hand. Some of the dubstep producers like Ramadanman, Pangea and Untold are making incredible music, with a lot of these guys being fans of D&B. There’s a lot of the excitement in that scene that was present in the early days of D&B so I think harnessing that and working together can only be a good thing. Ramadanman is going to be doing a single for Critical and is also going to appear on the forthcoming 'Critical Sound' LP.
You've been producing yourself for a little while, is there anything we should be looking out for?
I’ve made a handful of tunes - a couple of which I’m really happy with. I’m going to keep pushing myself creatively before I release anything – I’m in great position to have friends who make some of my favourite music around to help me out. I’ve also started a collective with Craggz and Parallel Forces called Ratio and we have a few bits knocking about too.