Are we currently witnessing a new wave of neuro coming out of the UK?
Mainland Europe is known for its love of the harder styles of drum & bass, but it’s been a slightly different story back in Blighty for the last decade or so.
Labels like Virus and DSCi4 have held the fort in terms of UK neuro since the beginning. But recently there’s been an interesting shift in the scene as a number of labels like Neuroheadz, Stonx Music, Dirtbox Recordings and VTO have catapulted the UK back onto the neurofunk map.
Another label that has been instrumental in this movement is Birmingham-based BrainRave Music, and it’s been exactly a year to the day since the label was born. With a goal to see the UK hit the heights of the European neuro scene, BrainRave head honcho Tollgate Shindigs sheds light on the humble foundations of the label that go back years in this interview.
In the space of a year, BrainRave have started as they mean to go on by throwing three events in Birmingham and Leicester with the likes of Ed Rush, Audio, Magnetude and HighThere all spinning shellers at the helm.
Their first album release Cortex Chronicles Volume One launched them into the stratosphere with an almighty bang. Featuring tracks by Screamarts, Sola, The Fi5th, Moisinn and Scout 22, their debut VA rmade headway in the Beatport charts by reaching number six and Screamarts’ Coalesce was dropped by Camo & Krooked to thousands of Let It Roll ravers this summer.
It all sounds very inspiring for just a year of operations. But who are the actual brains behind BrainRave? And how many years have they been grafting, and how much hard work did they put in before launching the brand?
We’ll tell you… DJG, Syn, Lumie and Tollgate Shindigs complete a team of selectors and scene lovers who want to see UK neuro thrive and have seemingly hit the Birmingham scene at an optimum time to make this a reality. Further cementing the fellowship between UK neuro labels right now, BrainRave do not see others as competition as seen by their collaborations with labels on their club nights, most notably with Neuroheadz at their club night at Sector57 in April this year.
To show their dedication to the neuro cause, the BrainRave team are offering takeover sets for the price of travel expenses only. Add to that a handful of EPs on the horizon, a remix album and a Cortex Chronicles Volume Two in the pipeline, BrainRave Music are keeping the UK neuro ball well and truly rolling.
So with the success stories of BrainRave and other similar UK labels in mind, are those waters beginning to rise into a thumping tsunami of face melting power? There’s a dark storm brewing and if the past year is anything to go from, we should brace ourselves as it’s about to hit the British shores
Prepare yourself for a trip that rolls back the years and join us in saying congratulations to BrainRave Music for a fantastic first year in the wonderful world of drum & bass, hopefully many more to come as this exciting grassroots neuro movement continues to evolve…
How was BrainRave born?
The foundations of BrainRave were built back in 1996 where at the age of 18 I played at my first event called Groovy. My love for the scene first started way back in 1991 thanks to my older brother who used to buy tape packs from events such as Dreamscape, Amnesia House, Eclipse & Fantazia. The years that followed were spent hosting local events named By Popular Demand with some of my closest friends from a road I grew up on in Warwickshire, Tollgate Road.
Fast forward 20 years and the fire is burning as brightly as it was when I was a teen. I saw a huge gap in the UK neurofunk scene early last year with only really Neuroheadz hosting regular events over here at the time. I wanted a piece of the action and started putting together ideas, researching local and global neuro producers and DJs. With all the ideas in place I had to come up with a brand that sticks in the mind with a memorable logo. I wanted to use the theme ‘Brain’ to coincide with ‘Neuro’ and had a few ideas myself.
To create a bit of exposure I decided to run a competition on Facebook where the winning entry received guest list at our first event; BrainRave being the winning suggestion. On the 1st November 2022 I received the original BrainRave logo from an incredibly talented local artist named Billy Tibbats, and so the fun and games began. From here Ian, Rob and Dennis were recruited to help with the running of the brand and so it became four of us.
That’s amazing, real evidence of graft and adapting to your surroundings! What is BrainRave in a nutshell?
BrainRave is a collection of friends with a lifelong passion for music hoping to help neurofunk thrive in the UK as it is currently in some European countries.
Would love to see this happen! You have a team of loyal comrades and followers, can you tell us a little bit about them?
We’ve put on three events so far this year and there is a solid core of loyal neuro fans who have been to each one. I could name them all individually and we have nothing but respect for them for supporting our venture. In my mind it confirms that we’re onto something big here and it gives us more belief in what we’re trying to achieve. People will travel the country for these kind of events because there are so few happening currently.
Loving the loyalty! In the space of a year, you’ve made some real movements! What are some of the highlights?
The highlight for me so far is the success of our very first release Cortex Chronicles Volume One and the feedback we had from some of the industry dons. For it to get to number six in the Beatport charts was a huge confidence boost for us and we feel it really helped to put us on the map.
On the map you definitely are! You’ve got some amazing talent on your roster, how important is it to have a strong relationship with the artists involved in your projects?
We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to deal with 90% of our artists directly and not through an agency. It gives us chance to befriend them and give them confidence in us directly. It’s fair to say that we have gratefully learned so much from some of the artists we have worked with and are continuously learning new ways of better running the brand. If a fee has been agreed the artist is paid regardless of cancellation or any other misdemeanour which is out of their hands. The first year has been an incredibly steep learning curve and we’ve really thrown ourselves into the deep end on occasions, but here we are still one year later.
The best way to learn, getting stuck in! Great to see BrainRave at the forefront of the neuro movement, would you agree there’s a fellowship amongst the UK neuro labels?
Thankyou. That’s great to hear and gives testament to the hard work that’s been put in behind the scenes in our first year of operating. We certainly do not see anybody as our competition and hope everybody who is part of the UK neuro movement succeeds. Growing the neuro fanbase in other parts of the country through other promoters and labels can only help us to sell more tickets to our own events and releases at BrainRave Music. If somebody for example hosted another neuro event in Birmingham we’d see it as a perfect opportunity for us to promote one of our own events.
Go on! Birmingham, a vibrant city, lots of venues. With neuro on the offensive, you must be rubbing your hands together at the thought of this right?
Absolutely. We feel that we’re still educating the good folk of Birmingham about all things neuro but with the options we have around the city we feel like we’ve hit the scene at a very good time. Testament to that is being offered the opportunity to host a room at Ravelogy’s New Years Eve event at the Tunnel Club in the city.
A fantastic way to bring in the new year! Can you tell us some of the challenges you’ve faced in the past year?
We’re confident that we have put on events that would sell out in some cities in and around Europe. I think the biggest challenge has been getting our brand known in a country where neurofunk is behind jump up, dance floor and liquid, for example, in terms of popularity. On the back of that we are ready to continue to be at the forefront of the neuro movement as it grows here in the UK and are confident with the likes of Neuroheadz that we’ll be the names on people’s lips.
Keep the momentum rolling, keep the people talking! Have you got any special plans for celebrating this milestone?
If we’re still here doing our thing this time next year then probably yes. The first year has completely exceeded our expectations in terms of giving the brand a solid platform but it’s the second year that will deserve a celebratory event if we can build upon where we’re at now.
Very humble and driven, love it! What do you think about the drum & bass scene at the moment?
I used to go to drum and bass events religiously from 1995 up until around 2005. The scene has changed enormously since the dawn of social media and we are having to adapt to keep in touch with the way things are ran today. We used to advertise our Nocturnal Combustion events on local dnb radio stations and get out and about flyering events. Social media has been a blessing in terms of advertising, you couldn’t operate without it these days, but with that we’ve had a DJ influx of popularity over skill set. I’m not one of those who preaches that the scene was better in my younger days, that’s my opinion and I generally keep it to myself. I do think that the scene is currently very healthy but I also think that’s partly due to the mainstream exposure some drum & bass tracks are getting. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing is not for me to say. What I do love to see is Hardcore/Jungle promotion teams like Amnesia House/AWOL alongside classic D&B events doing so well. That being said, we have a strong following from older and younger heads which can only be healthy for the scene.
It’s fascinating how everything is evolving. This has been amazing! Lastly, do you have anything exciting planned for the next year?
All being well, much more of the same. We’re currently looking to push ‘BrainRave Takeover Set’ bookings and for a limited time are offering sets for just the price of travel expenses. We’re also in talks with a couple of big-name promoters regarding hosting rooms and playing at their events. We’d love to play a festival set and take the brand to Europe at some point. On the label side of things we continue to search for who we believe are incredibly talented up and coming producers alongside signing some of the scene’s big names. There’s a Cortex Chronicles Volume Two in preliminary talks with three other EPs good to go. We’re also looking at doing a remix album of Volume One in the Spring next year.