Obsession: an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind…
It’s an adage that will resonate with any discerning enthusiast of any topic of interest. An obsession… That insistent, unrelenting noise in the brain, constantly murmuring away, re-routing and rebooting ones thoughts and focuses.
A preoccupation, a fascination, a 24 hour infatuation that characterises and influences many other decisions we make. For Polish artist and promoter Piotr Häuser his drum & bass obsession can be traced back to one particular event… Sun And Bass 2009.
“That was the biggest inspiration,” says Piotr, who also operates under the artist alias Alegria. “I’m constantly trying to bring some of that magic back. The vibe in the dance. People knowing their music. Those reactions…”
Forever inspired and moved by Sun And Bass festival’s focus on community and the headsy crowd’s shared sense of connoisseurship and eagerness to maintain the highest possible standards of creativity and authenticity, it’s a spirit he and his collective have always tried to infuse into DrumObsession.
Piotr can list many examples of how the Poznań-based crew have successfully managed to do that over the years, creating a unique event and developing a culture among its crowd that has become renowned and respected as a key spot on the international D&B map for any DJ to be invited to play.
Comparable to Rupture in the UK in terms of its dedication to the craft, appreciation of original jungle and drum & bass culture and strong sense of collectiveness, DrumObsession has a reputation for crowds that welcome innovation and out-of-the-box selections… And will happily stay way beyond their bedtime to urge the DJs to draw for their finest records.
Responsible for many artist’s first Polish bookings – and in some cases, their first international booking full stop – over the years they’ve welcomed the likes of Naibu, Mako, Marcus Intalex, Icicle, Kimyan Law, Random Movement, Sam KDC, Sinistarr, Spirit, Djinn, Satl, LSB, Mark System, Yorobi and Blocks & Escher (to name a few) They’ve also organised some legendary world premieres of b2b performances like Loxy b2b Mantra and Special Request b2b Om Unit as well as hosted takeovers by an impressive menu of like-minded brands ranging from EQ50 and Narratives to UVB-76 to Inneractive.
Promising to never repeat the same line-ups and constantly looking for new ways to push the boundaries, join soundsystem dots and bring new artists and sounds into the mix, this drive has led DrumObsession to become Poland’s most consistent and longest running drum & bass event. Over the years Piotr can recall many one-off or historic events.
One particularly fond memory was their booking of Ivy Lab member Stray back in 2010. One of Stray‘s earliest international shows, it led to Piotr hearing Halogenix dubs years ahead of time (and led to him booking Halogenix for an event not long after) Another memory, this time bittersweet, was when they invited the late great Spirit. It turned out to be the pioneering artist’s first ever Polish booking but sadly one of his last ever shows.
Many other special memories pour out of Piotr as we talk. For the DrumObsession crew every booking – be it local or international – has to be special. And even if a DJ has played at the event before, their next visit will be very different.
“When people come back there must be a twist,” says Piotr. “Either they play a different type of set or they share this stage with another headliner – sometimes in a b2b set. Recently we’ve started a concept where our past headliners play b2b with someone from the DrumObsession crew. It keeps things fresh and it’s something that’s always inspired us. We’ve also had some DJs tell us we’ve restored their faith in DJing or restored their confidence in themselves and reminded them why they DJ.”
This Saturday, November 26, is a great example of them keeping it fresh but reconnecting with a familiar face. Following their 16th birthday in October, this month is yet another huge milestone for the collective as they welcome the mighty dBridge for the third time.
Their most regular guest to date, the Exit Records boss’s first visit in 2013 was a straight up dBridge set. His second appearance in 2017 was alongside Kid Drama with a very special Heart Drive set (their second ever worldwide appearance with the project)
This weekend, for the event’s birthday, dBridge will be the first guest to return for round three. This time he’ll be bringing his boundary-melting Black Electric concept. Joining him is another esteemed pioneer, the one and only Paradox who’ll also be bringing a live twist to the event on his unique old school Amiga-powered set-up.
“It’s our 90th show and we’ve definitely pushed the boat out on this one,” Piotr smiles. He explains how the rounded number events have been key line-ups and long-lauded bookings for DrumObsession, where they invite the gamechangers who inspired them as well as the entire scene.
Their 60th saw Loxy take to the helm, their 70th was all about Kid Drama while their 80th featured Amit and Duncan Spirit (RIP). Their 90th is the biggest to date and, in the spirit of DrumObsession’s passion for raising the benchmark and doing something new, Piotr will also be stepping up and pushing himself as he’ll be playing his first ever 100% Alegria productions set.
“It’s pretty terrifying,” he admits. “But also exciting because it’s given me a real deadline to finish old projects and has been a major motivation point for me.”
Piotr putting himself out of his comfort zone is a great snapshot of the DrumObsession ethos. It’s how he became part of the collective in the first place; The event and crew was established by Artiztix and Kriss J for two years before he accidentally became part of the crew through the first ever DJ mix he put online.
“I think I’d had my CDJs for around six months and I recorded a mix and thought, ‘Fuck it, let’s put this out there’,” he explains. “I posted it on a local forum (dnb.pl) and, as a streak of luck would have it, this guy DMs me and invites me to do a warm-up. It was only about four months into me practising and he asks me to play! I guess they liked my set enough to get me on board afterwards and from there I slowly but surely got involved and wanted to help them take it up a notch.”
During the 13 years that have passed, Piotr has become one of the most prominent voices and a de facto leader of the collective. Responsible for the brand’s weekly Bassdrive radio show, he curates, promotes and funds the DrumObsession events. “I’m just a massive control freak!” he laughs.
“It has always been about what we love musically and never compromising.” he continues. “Especially for me, I really pushed the music I was into.”
The ‘no compromise’ aspect has become a signature for the whole collective and the community that’s built up around the events. Piotr shares stories of the die-hard crowd who have become as obsessed and fastidious about innovative underground music as the crew themselves.
He recalls a moment during dBridge and Kid Drama’s Heart Drive performance where dBridge drops a three minute ambient piece mid-set – Gen 19 – the opening track of his sophomore album. “They just stood there swaying and vibing to it,” he recalls. “Then around a minute in, everyone just starts cheering and clapping. That was a moment where I thought ‘we’ve made it. We can do anything now.’”
A movement that’s now several generations deep, DrumObsession and their crowd remain just as obsessed as they have when they first launched. Piotr is quick to highlight the wider picture including the support and open minds of Projekt LAB, the venue they’ve called home since 2014.
He also explains how each member of the crew plays a role in the musical and dynamic make-up of the collective. Artiztix, Impakt, k.o, STC, Yankoveeaq and Zoo-E all contribute their own take on music and digging and delivering at such a level to help the night’s musical progression and flow. It’s also not uncommon for guest headliners to go back to back with them in the afterhours slot.
Piotr’s most emphatic of shout-outs, however, zooms out to an even wider picture and highlights the strength of DrumObsession’s hometown Poznań.
“We have such a thriving community here when it comes to the bass music scene in general,” he says proudly. “Of course there is DrumObsession but there are also other crews all doing exciting things and we don’t see each other as competition. In fact I’m sure I’ll forget to mention someone from this rich tapestry but I encourage you to check them all out.”
Piotr co-signs the dubstep collective Dungeon Beats who’ve developed their output from an event into an agency and a label, the new generation D&B/jungle organisation BassTrip, the more roots and dub-based crew Dub System, as well as Synco Sounds and Dub Creatures bringing even more fresh blood to the drum & bass and dubstep scenes respectively.
“It has to be about community, right? Or otherwise this wouldn’t be sustainable,” explains Piotr who also hosts a weekly drum & bass show on his local FM radio, supporting national and local talent as much as possible. “We’re all supportive of each other, visit each other’s events and there’s very little ego. It’s a great environment to work in.”
Comparable in size and spirit to Bristol in the UK, but nowhere near as hyped (and – from a foreigner perspective – only a fraction of the cost to live or party there), Poznań has enabled an exciting culture that’s given DrumObsession the foundation it needs to continue for many years to come. Like all long-standing international promoters, their role is vital in spreading and supporting the music and providing a space and home-away-from-home for touring artists. Now as they slowly look towards their 100th show, with the 20th anniversary less than four years away, Piotr and the collective hope to expand the brand’s reputation beyond Polish heads and encourage more visitors.
“It’s probably cheaper to take a flight from Luton or Stansted and party with us for the weekend than it is to have a night out in London!” he jokes. “Seriously that is something we’d love to see more of. More people from our country and from abroad travelling over and seeing how we do things. We may not exactly be able to afford to book dozens of headliners like some London nights do, but we’re really proud of what we’ve created and the unique vibe we have here. It always has been, and always will be, about an unapologetic love for the music and the culture.”
An adage that will resonate with any discerning music appreciator of any topic of any corner of the global dancefloor.