The 9th of November will see the unstoppable Flexout Audio taking over room 2 at the SINE Drum & Bass Warehouse Rave. Ran by Tom (better known as Bassi) and more recently Andy Tweedale (the former half of Flexout mainstay Amoss), the label has been on quite a journey since its humble beginnings in 2011. Focusing on the deeper, techier side of drum and bass, Flexout has gained a huge following in the underground scene, with it being a significant and instantly recognisable name for anyone into the genre.
Never letting trends outside of Flexout affect their musical output, they have focused on a deep sound that has attracted a loyal following. The label includes a variety of sub series’, including ‘Onyx’ for all the newcomers, ‘Core’ for the established artists, and ‘Waves’ as a space for wonky halftime beats. Essentially though, these spaces are created for Tom and Andy to release music that they love, from artists they love.
We at SINE recently got together a bunch of our favourite DJs and producers at a local pub, including Bassi, one third of Data 3, Sweetpea, Maximous, and Kolectiv, all of who will be playing at the event in November. Whilst there, we had an in depth chat with Bassi, and Dan from ‘Data 3’ - a trio whose sleek productions have been causing a stir recently. Their most recent release, the Tyrant EP, is out now on Flexout, and you can listen to the EP here.
They chat to us about everything from the above-mentioned EP, what to expect from the room 2 takeover in November, to made up German languages… Check out the interview below, as well as a fresh new mix from Bassi.
Flexout began releasing music back in 2011, with the first EP containing a 140bpm title track, and a remix from Critical Music head honcho Kasra. How did the label originally start up?
Bassi – Well Flexout actually started up as a club night due to me being a promoter at the time. From there, I set up Flexout as a label just to release music from my mates, who were making both drum and bass and 140pm stuff. I also knew Kasra already as I’d previously done Critical takeovers at my club nights, therefore I got him to do a remix of the title track. But yeah, the whole point of the label from mine and Jon’s (DJ Apocalypse) [Bassi’s previous Flexout partner] points of view was to release music from our mates, however he unfortunately passed away a few years ago. I then started running it with his best friend Stephen Dampier but now he’s moved to Thailand so I’m running it with it with the former half of Amoss, Andy Tweedale. I’ve been the consistency throughout the first 7 years and it has evolved into something much bigger than I could have imagined when we started.
the idea was just to release music from my friends that made drum and bass and it has just organically evolved over the years into this deep underground sound.
How do you feel the label has progressed since that first EP?
Bassi – To be honest, sometimes I wish I could start the label again, knowing what I know now. I’ve learnt so much along the seven years since I’ve been doing it. It’s been a huge learning curve in every single department - from the artwork, the branding, A&R, and just the way to run a label. All of that has been learnt along the way as I’ve been doing it and I’ve just tried to continuously improve in all aspects since we began. Hopefully people outside the label can see the progression as it is hard to see the picture when you’re in the frame
Generally, what would you say is the ethos of the music you put out on Flexout? Has that stayed the same?
Bassi - It hasn’t no. As I say originally the idea was just to release music from my friends that made drum and bass and it has just organically evolved over the years into this deep underground sound. I just put out music that I like to be honest. My tastes have always been quite eclectic, but then over the years as I’ve grown up I’ve gotten fussier and it has kind of funneled down into this stripped back, deep underground sound. I suppose that’s how you would describe it. I’ve always liked drum and bass music with a bit of soul and groove and hopefully that comes across through the music we release.
Well one of the things unique to Flexout’s music output is the ‘Waves’ series, which focuses on the wonkier halftime sound, creating a clear contrast between the two styles on the label. Could you tell us a bit more about the series?
Bassi - Yeah, so the Waves series all started because of Monty. Basically, he sent me all his music a few years ago and it was all halftime. I thought, ‘Ah I really love this music but I can’t out it out on the main record label’, so that’s why I started ‘Waves’. There was a bit of a movement going on, so I decided to start a side series in which we could release all these cool halftime, wonky hip-hop beats that were being made by various artists. From there, people kept sending me similar sounding stuff and we just kept releasing our favourite beats with pink artwork (all thanks to Monty) so yeah, big up Monty if your reading this!
I guess Monty has a similar contrast in his own music as well.
Bassi - I think he said he's going to go in a harder direction now, but I think definitely to begin with it was the halftime beats he was loving. That's what I love about drum and bass, you can go in so many different directions. It's just a BPM really which can act as the starting point for producers. 85, 170, that's your canvas and you can do so much with it. You can do liquid, soulful, minimal, the halftime wonky stuff. I think that's why it has been going on for so long. You can evolve it and take it in so many different directions and branch off here and there. Essentially that's what we wanted to do with the Waves series, push a new branch of the drum and bass tree. Sometimes I thought maybe we should have started a new label just for the halftime stuff, but you know what... I think drum and bass enthusiasts these days aren't too put off if a label has a side series that is releasing experimental beats as the audience feels more open minded than ever.
If this is where we are at now, where do you see drum and bass going in the next ten years?
Bassi - I think it just goes round and round in circles. You know, it’s 25 years deep now, the deep techy stuff has been done before. Liquid has its own massive following, these various branches get popular and then die down for a bit. The dark stuff will get popular, and then it will get boring. Jungle has come back again and has had a huge resurgence. All these different branches have always been around, but to me it just seems to go in a loop. Although there has never really been that wonky halftime stuff till recently, that seems to have been a new branch.
I constantly change my mind but at the moment I want to take the record labels sound and make it more progressive, so it’s almost like deep house/techno at 170bpm. Where you almost have to mix it like house music, and the tracks are really progressive and evolve. My favourite artist at the moment is a guy called 'Missing'. His stuff is so progressive that the tune just keeps evolving over 5 minutes, meaning you can almost just let that tune play for the duration. And with DJs now trying to mix so quickly because they are scared of losing the audiences attention, I think it's really cool that you can put on a tune and let it roll for 3 or 4 minutes.
Dan [Data 3] - But it sounds like you are mixing as well because there's so much going on.
Bassi - Exactly. For me personally, there just needs to be either soul, groove, or this progressive nature. That's the sort of music that I'm looking for with Flexout.
we've got our yearly thing where we'll set a week aside and book a house in the middle of Wales, or in the middle of nowhere, and just get lashed up and make tunes for a week.
Do you see your music as somewhat separate to current trends in the wider scene then?
Bassi - Yeah totally. I think the best way to do a drum and bass record label is to not listen to any other drum and bass if possible, just listen to some jazz, soul and stuff like that. Get your influences from outside of drum and bass, that is the key. If you're getting your influences from drum and bass then I think that's where the scene can start to stagnate.
The latest big release on Flexout is the 'Tyrant EP' from Data 3, with Data 3 consisting of you [Dan], also known individually as ‘Mark Dinimal’ or ‘MD’, Alex Kostyakov, and Harry Bryson from ‘Pola & Bryson’. How did you three all meet and decide to form Data 3?
Dan - It basically started when I had my 21st birthday party. I'd met Harry and Alex before this because they used to be in a dubstep duo called 'Syrum’… not 'Serum’ [laughs]. I asked them to come play at my birthday party where we then we got chatting and became good friends. Basically, they soon got fed up of me saying 'We need to speed the tracks up to 175 and put a snare either side of the one in the middle.' It was a recurring thing, so we were like 'right, let's just make our own alias'. Data 3 came about like that really. The name itself came from the Axiom pro keyboards, which have a little label on one of the keys saying Data 3, so we thought that was perfect.
Could you tell us a bit more about the EP itself?
Dan - It only really came about because we sent a few tunes to Tom, and then he was like 'right, we need an EP.' And no one had really said that to us before.
Bassi - I don't think that's what really happened.
Dan - Was it not?
Bassi - I thought I messaged you lot and said that we were putting on these Flexout club nights and promoters wanted to put you guys on the line-up as well so I said you need to put some music out on Flexout no?
Dan - Thanks for letting me know. My memory only goes back about 2 weeks [laughs].
Bassi - I’m sure promoters just kept hitting me up and asking mentioning Data 3, so I had a proper in depth listen to your music and I could see why the people that wanted to book Flexout events would want to book Data 3. Then I realised you lived down the road and we went down the pub and that’s where we spoke about an EP…or have I just made that up?
Dan - Your memory is as bad as mine!
Bassi - Yeah mine is shocking to be fair [laughs], too much partying. But I definitely remember that after a few beers I realised we were all on the same level, and I realised these guys had to join the Flexout family.
You guys have quite a unique sound, sitting somewhere in between the deeper and liquid sides of drum and bass. How does the writing process go with you all?
Dan - It varies really. Harry takes his main inspiration from S.P.Y and I can think you hear it a little bit in some of the darker tracks. In mine however it's more of a minimal sound, and then Alex is more into jungle. It becomes a nice combination of all the different sounds, with the variation in the tracks also depending on who starts them. Me and Harry live together but Alex lives up in Manchester, so we’ll send tunes to each other and all end up starting different tracks. That’s basically how it works.
Do you ever work in a studio session where all three of you are together?
Dan - Well we've got our yearly thing where we'll set a week aside and book a house in the middle of Wales, or in the middle of nowhere, and just get lashed up and make tunes for a week. But aside from that, it is usually just transferring through Dropbox with me and Harry sitting and working together on the tunes.
Bassi - A bit of both then I guess.
Dan - Yeah definitely. Although, it is quite hard to take control when Harry is there because he's a proper control freak when it comes to the music. He likes to sit in the driving seat.
Is producing something that you have thought about much Tom? Obviously there was the Serum remix of your tune called 'Apocalypse', which you released on the 'Reflexions 2' compilation last year.
Bassi - Yeah, so I made that tune about Jon. When he died I essentially raided his hard drive and there was this tune that he'd made with this ragga sample. I then got Spyda MC - who we'd done a lot of gigs with in the past - to redo this ragga vocal. To be honest though, nowadays I don't really have enough time now to focus on both the record label and production.
Dan - It does take up way too much time.
Bassi - I think it's quite common for producers to get to an age where they are settling down with a family, and therefore don't have the time to put in for the music anymore. Unfortunately, their careers can fizzle out because their priorities change. It is a very time-consuming thing and most artists are also holding down full time jobs.
Dan, what is your personal favourite track from the new Data 3 EP?
Dan - That's a tough one. Probaby ‘Fractil’ though. I get the most enjoyment out of listening back to it because I love the space in the track. With my solo Mark Dinimal stuff, I like all the details, whereas with Fractil there isn't really too much of it. I just love listening to that song and I don't think I'll ever get bored of it.
It has that 'Stranger Things' vibe which is something definitely associated with the Data 3 name.
Dan - Well yeah, we discovered that with our second single on Addictive Behaviour, 'Something Strange'. We soon realised that it was a really good niche to go for, that kind of 80's synth vibe.
Bassi - I love Fractil and it's an honour that we got to release that track. I think you'll listen back in ten years time and it will still work because it has that timeless quality to it. It's the groove really, and that's what drum and bass needs… groove and soul. Although even some of the deeper stuff that we've released are pretty much one note rollers. However, I like to think that they have an element of soul or groove, or just some kind of character to it. I get sent so many tracks that sound the same, but there are certain tracks that really stand out.
Dan - It's one of those things that you just can't put your finger on but it's there.
You and the Data 3 guys formed in 2013 and it's safe to say you have rose to success fairly quickly, with releases on labels such as Addictive Behaviour, Soulvent, Shogun, and now Flexout. What can we expect from the future of Data 3?
Dan - To be honest, we literally just sit in the studio and make music, and we don't really plan too much ahead. We want to do some more work with Flexout definitely, and then venture out really. We've also got a few tracks coming out on big label compilations in the following year... oh, and another track coming out on Core 3 [Flexout various artists EP series].
Bassi - Yeah so we have a series called 'Core', which is for all the core Flexout artists, and off the back of the Tyrant EP we had to include a track from Data 3. It will be out this November I think. It's a really cool track.
Dan - To me it's an even bigger track than any off the EP as well. Definitely one of my favourites.
Bassi - Yeah, it's a big track. It's called 'Komparen'. Why is it called that again?
Dan - Because we made up a fake German language. If anyone has seen the comedian Reggie Watts, he basically just rambles on in these made up languages and makes it sound real. So, we decided to record some of it.
Bassi – Wait, is that you on the track?
Dan - It's Harry on the track [laughs].
Bassi - I thought it was an actual sample of a German speaking.
Dan - No we're not actually saying anything in German. We were just making English words sound German. It's something different, that’s for sure. But back to the original point, we don't really make plans. We talk to people and meet people and see where that takes us.
Bassi - Best not to make plans in life.
Dan - Exactly, you just get let down [laughs].
Back to the SINE warehouse rave, is there anyone that either of you are most excited to see on the line-up?
Bassi - Automatically for me, I'd have to say the Flexout room will be full of my favourite DJs and producers. Fre4knc and Amoss, well... I'm just very lucky to have them on the label. If I was to pick someone from the other room though it would be Satl b2b Ill Truth
Dan - It's got to be Fre4knc for me. Saw him for the first time at Tom's last Flexout night at Five Miles and I’ve honestly never danced so hard in my life.
Bassi - You were driving so were totally sober as well.
Dan - Yeah that guy is just a machine. Never heard anything like it.
Bassi - It took me absolutely ages to convince him to release music with Flexout, I think I've had to prove to him over time that Flexout is worthy. He has some stuff coming out on the label next year which I'm really excited about.
Dan - Send. Send. Send.
What can people expect from the Flexout takeover at the event?
Bassi - I'd have to say progression. I'll probably be starting the night, and I think warm-up sets are really important. I hate it when you go to a club and it's banging straight away.
Dan - You do a banging warm-up set though.
Bassi - Thanks mate. We'll start off with a good old fashioned warm-up set, and then let Amoss roll out. Then we have Fre4knc who mixes a bit more up front, and then Data 3 and Kolectiv. So yeah, the night will progress and probably get harder as we go on. That’s how I like to plan our club nights.
It's almost got that techno feel to it, you know? You need to mix it like house music, it evolves, and you can let the tune roll out for ages.
Flexout has been growing a lot since it started in 2011, and doesn't show signs of slowing down, especially with upcoming events such as the Fabric room 3 takeover and of course the SINE takeover. What can you tell us about your future plans?
Bassi – Well we've been doing lots of shows in mainland Europe, and we keep getting more and more people wanting us to do shows there which is really cool. We've got a few more of those coming up in places like France, Germany, Switzerland... all over the place really. In terms of music, we're trying to keep developing the family. We'd much rather go down the route of having a select group of core artists, rather than releasing new artists all the time. Hopefully we'll hear some more music from the people who have released on Flexout in the past. I also have this vision of drum and bass that we release being a lot more progressive. So in terms of the sound, it's always going to be deep, underground and minimal to a certain extent, but more soul, more groove, and more progression in tracks. I think at the moment there is a worry that this whole deep, minimal sound can get a bit boring and stagnate, so the plan is to not allow this to happen and inject some new life into it all.
Finally, can I have one drum and bass tune from both of you that you are rating at the moment?
Bassi - For me, a track by Missing called 'Psychological Profile'. It just really encapsulates everything I've said about tunes that evolve. I mean, I could name you about 20, but for me that I really love. It's almost got that techno feel to it, you know? You need to mix it like house music, it evolves, and you can let the tune roll out for ages.
How about yours Dan?
Dan - I want to pick something obscure to be honest. There is a tune Tom sent me called 'Para Days'. Not actually sure who it’s from though.
Bassi - It's from four French guys from Toulouse called Visages. That's Ak:Hash, who has done some tunes on our Waves series, along with 3 others. They invited us over to Toulouse last year, and it was just such a wicked night. We're actually going back again in December as well. All 4 of them are the nicest guys, and they’ve just started this little quartet. Their first, or maybe their second release is going to come out on our Onyx series after this Data 3 EP which I cannot wait for. ‘Para Days’ also features Messy MC, who has been DJ Fresh's MC for years. It's been going down really well.
Dan - Yeah it's sick, I've been playing it every set. Really looking forward to hearing the rest of it.
Thank you both for your time. We’re looking forward to catching both your sets and the rest of the Flexout crew in November.
Tickets for the SINE Warehouse Rave on 9th Nov are available >>HERE<<