It’s officially a good time to be a Submorphics fan, appreciator or enthusiast… Fresh from his involvement in the hive mind heroics of The North Quarter All Stars, the Netherlands-based, US-raised soul man has just launched his own label Rosebay Music.
Established to develop a more prolific output for himself and music from peers and new talent in the future, Rosebay Music launched earlier this month with a warm and toasty two-tracker: the footwork-inspired Blastoff and the whirling orchestral euphoria of Cinerama.
Building on a discography that’s now the best part of 20 years deep and boasts releases on some of the most respected labels in drum & bass – Innerground, Hospital, SGN, Liquid V and of course The North Quarter where he’s a firm fixture on the roster – both Blastoff and Cinerama capture where he’s at sonically, creatively and soulfully in summer 2023.
Plenty more can be expected imminently as he makes a concerted effort to push himself out of his comfort zone and boost his music on a level he’s not operated at before. Not just on Rosebay, either. Read on to find out more and listen to the mix for a few exciting and exclusive hints at what he has in store…
Rosebay Music… Tell us everything!
I want to release music whenever I want to, all year round. I love being on The North Quarter but there are quite a few of us on the label so we have to wait for our time to release. But if you want to be booked all year round, you pretty much have to put out music all year round. That’s the nature of the market now.
Also on The North Quarter I’m putting out pretty conceptual mini-albums. Rosebay is for any music I make that doesn’t fall into that criteria, but I still want to release it. I’ve watched labels I’ve worked with like Shogun, Innerground, V, Hospital and whatnot for many years. I’ve learnt from a lot from them and I want to take that knowledge and put it into my own label. There’s a learning curve, there were some initial fears but now the first release is out, I’m feeling excited. It’s scary doing new things somethings, right?
Absolutely. But you need to push yourself to progress…
Yeah. Sometimes I feel like I’ve hidden behind the labels I’ve released with. They’ve done the promo and the networking stuff. With Rosebay that’s all on me. Now I can send music to my DJ friends when I want and build stronger connections that I have already. I’m so used to the labels pushing my music but I have to do a lot more pushing. Unless you’re someone like Calibre you can’t just let the music do the talking, can you?
Indeed. The game has changed.
Oh in 20 years it’s completely changed in every way! You have to be your own hype man, post on social media every day even if you don’t do something cool every day. I’m a shy guy. I’m not comfortable putting so much of myself on display like that. One thing that has helped me on that front is doing the interviews on The North Quarter radio show. I don’t know if I’m particularly good at it yet. I hope I’m improving.
Oh wow cool, I didn’t know.A fellow interviewer!
Yeah it’s on Echobox Radio. I’ve done around seven interviews now, mainly friends from the label. I think they’re going quite well.
What have you learnt about yourself? I find it very hard interviewing friends. Much harder than interviewing people you don’t know.
Well I joke that it’s kinda like state controlled media because I’m a North Quarter artist interviewing other North Quarter artists. Sometimes it feels a bit rigid and I’m sticking to the questions too much so I try and improvise and go-off script and relate what they’re saying to my own experiences. I’m getting better at that now.
I like hearing artists interviewing artists. You share experiences. I’m going to check these out. How else are you putting yourself out of your comfort zone? I guess moving to Europe was part of that?
I guess maybe yeah. I have my own apartment though so if I want to be an introvert I can be. But when I’m on tour I don’t get a single day to myself for weeks. I find that very tiring and I need those type of off-days to recharge. But on the other hand, when I’m on tour and I’m constantly in new situations and new cities, meeting new people, I find I become a different version of me. I would say a better version of me in some ways. Because I have to be. So I’ve found that touring is actually good for my mental health. Besides being stressed out by the actual travel.
I love that. You don’t hear that about touring very much! Tell me about the label name… Is it a place?
Yeah it’s like a fictional place. Like my last EP Verona Highway. I feel like with my music I’m creating this fictional, alternate world. But I want to leave a lot of that up to the listener, too. Sometimes there’s not even much of a story about it. I come up with these worlds and that’s how it is with Rosebay. I used to be a writer and created a lot of short stories, and now music is my short story. I want to leave it open to the imagination of the listener. And sometimes a name sticks with me. The words rose and bay kept coming up in my discography so I went with it.
Sounds like a beautiful place. Tell us about the tracks!
They’re both quite uplifting but I feel like they reflect two different sides of my musical style. I want to be in my own lane with this label and that’s what I feel I’m putting forward. I’m trying to be really critical with myself and asking myself, ‘What are the best tunes I have on the go right now? What tunes do I need to finish?’ It’s similar to how I work with The North Quarter but now I have to A&R myself in the same way Lenzman A&Rs me. I have this voice in my head saying things like, ‘You need to work on more details here, or more variation there, or maybe a switch here’. So I have this inner dialogue going on.
Lenzman is a very meticulous A&R isn’t he?
He is. But I have to remind myself that I’ve also had some of my biggest tunes on labels like Innerground and Shogun where there wasn’t such a rigorous A&R process. Lenzman is unique in what he does with the label. But it’s given me a different perspective and at the end of the day I need to be confident about my own decisions and my own strengths as an artist. Anything I put out is going to be me wearing my heart on my sleeve and saying, ‘This is me’. If I like it, people probably will like it too. You might like one track more than the other but that’s down to personal tastes.
As for these tracks, Blastoff has a bit more footwork influence in the drums. It’s got those ghetto-tech kinda elements on the drums that appeals to my love of the wider bass music world. And then Cinerama is more of a ‘classic’ Submorphics vibe. Doing what I do well but trying to push it forward in a new way and trying to put out the best possible soulful roller I can right now.
Sick. Those footwork drums were also a feature on Verona Highway EP weren’t they?
That’s right. On Lucinda. And actually that track did pretty well for me and inspired me to carry on with that influence. There’s a lot of footwork jungle at around 160BPM.
Oh man, there’s so much stuff at that tempo. It sounds pretty sick pitched up into D&B sets too, I reckon.
Yeah. But unless I’m being ignorant, I don’t know that much of it being made at D&B tempo. The small amount of it that there is isn’t the musical lane I come from. I grew up in Chicago and Detroit and those sounds are a huge influence on me so why not explore and experiment with that? It’s fun too! Maybe some 808s and 909s too. So there’ll be more of that in the future but I felt this complemented Cinerama as part of the first release.
Is Rosebay Music just for your own releases?
No, in time I’m going to get some familiar faces involved. Lenzman, Satl, T.R.A.C. For now I just wanted it be just me. Putting myself out there for the world to hear. There will definitely be more in the future though. I’d love to help new talent too. I’m setting up a demo email and will encourage people to send me music. I would love to put out music by new artists and give them a little boost at the early stage of their career. So yeah, in good time I hope that will happen.
Sounds like it’s going to be regular!
Oh yeah. I’ve started with vinyl too. I didn’t want to start the label without a physical product. I don’t know if I’ll stick with that, especially with distribution companies like Unearthed going down, it’s a tricky market. But the launch release is vinyl because that feels like a significant moment for me.
You’re investing in it! It’s something real.
Yeah. And one of the things that makes it less scary for me is that I don’t expect it to be profitable in year one. So I’m investing in it. I’m going to pay for some interesting remixes, too. Beyond drum & bass. I’ve got ties in the house, techno and footwork scenes in Chicago and the UK dubstep scene so I’d like to bring in other genres. It’s kinda bothered me that drum & bass is in its own little corner where we’re quite removed from the rest of dance music, so this my own little effort in bridging those gaps.
I’m all about joining those dots on 1 More Thing. I think we’re moving on from that these days. A lot of DJs doing 140 tracks or 140 versions of tracks. Like Winslow did earlier this month
Sure. Alix Perez and Halogenix are doing it super well, too. They’re doing these sets which start with one genre and go into the other. That’s great. If your crowd are into that, then amazing. I think it takes some finesse to make that connection between one genre and the other, you can’t just slam it down the raver’s throats but it’s so cool when it happens. I’d love to do sets like that.
Sounds like they’re gonna happen. Tell me about this mix!
It’s a blend of forthcoming sounds on the label, some records from friends I’m really inspired by. There’s quite a lot of upfront music on there so no tracklist I’m afraid.
Sick! When’s your next release?
I want to release every two months if I can. But I’ve got to schedule any releases between some other releases I have on other labels. I have a release on The North Quarter coming up and I’ve also done a slightly darker, heavier EP for a classic UK label I’ve not released on before. It’s a bit moodier than people might expect from me. I’ve been saving particular tracks for it. More techno influences. Still musical but a bit grimier than you might expect to hear from me.
And on the complete flipside of that vibe – I’ve whipped out my guitar lately and I’m getting into some real psychedelic vibes to be released. Watch this space!
Sounds like you’re in a good place…
Yeah I’m pushing myself harder than I usually would. I would love for my back catalogue to bring in more regular gigs but that’s not happening so I’m doing everything I can to change that. I think I have been guilty of being a little lazy or resting on my laurels in the past but you’ve got to push harder, right?
Harder and harder
Oh man. And there’s so many more artists out there now. It’s not a competition but it’s very easy to get lost in among everyone, so you have to put yourself out there. That’s what Rosebay is about. And here we are. I can put myself out there. Now I’m comfortable, having got over that big first release hurdle and I’ve learnt so much. There were so many things I didn’t know how to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of the unearthed crew, my agent Tom, Lenzman, my designer Molly Brooks. Sometimes you have to know your own limitations and your own strengths and weaknesses so reaching out to friends has been really fulfilling on this too. Big up everyone who’s helped and supported me and supports the music!