10 years young yet sounding like they’ve been part of the fabric of drum & bass since day one, Natty Dub Recordings celebrates a decade in the game this week with a massive live stream and the continuation of a series of 10 year reboots and special releases.
Forecasting the renaissance for classic foundation dancefloor rinse-outs and the timeless Bristol sound by a good five years, Natty Dub was launched during one of drum & bass music’s most commercial and mainstream eras by Cabin Fever UK who, at the time, were a duo comprising Malachi and Voltage.
Now captained by Malachi himself, he’s maintained a steady and successful course for the good ship Natty Dub over the years, playing a key role in the careers of fellow vibe connoisseurs such as K Jah, Saxxon, T>I, Jaxx, K Jah, Vytol, Dub General, Classifyed and many more. Forever flying the flag for that traditional sound and spirit, the label has stayed true to its roots over the years and will continue to do so, as Sam Malachi reveals in this interview ahead of the 10 years of Natty Dub live stream this Sunday, November 13.
Time flies when you’re having fun. Does it feel like 10 years?
It really flies by. I’ll be honest, it sort of crept up on me. It was last year I was sitting there planning an album with a load of tunes I had been sitting on when I realised it was our birthday. The following year would be a pivotal one, so I shelved the idea of that album and release what I had on the new Trench Warfare series to start afresh and then focus on the birthday plans as I wanted to celebrate it in the correct manner.
Take us back to those early Natty Dub releases…
When we set the label up, it was simply to give Cabin Fever a platform to push the styles we loved. As we had a mountain of music waiting it was just the best way to get them out there. I don’t think we really had any expectations of how it would go, we just wanted our music out there. But quickly it was clear after the first few releases that we seemed to have struck a chord with many people. Subsequently we had a string of number ones on the old Drum&BassArena download site which really help to grow the label, cementing what the brand and Cabin Fever was about.
2012 was a mad time for drum & bass. You had the biggest commercial cheese / mainstream moments the genre has ever seen, but also a really strong underground movement with labels like yours coming through…
A lot of what we truly loved had gone from the scene. Everything seemed very digital and just not in the direction we liked. Lots of fun had gone from the music and everything had become far too serious. So we went back to when people mad tunes that were fun and almost simplistic in their approach, build around riff and vibe, not a clinical over-polished sound.
Yeah you can hear that. I think that resonated with a lot of acts coming through around that time. Natty Dub either brought through, or certainly played a role in the careers of, so many now massive acts. Saxxon, DJ Hybrid, K Jah, T>I – all had key releases, pivotal releases on the label. What are your thoughts on the talent that’s been part of the Natty Dub family?
When I decided to look for artists, all I wanted to do was release the music I love and give people a platform to put their art out on. That was it. So thinking this platform has grown and helped propel artists further in the career is just amazing and a bit surreal in all fairness. It makes me proud of what we have achieved.
Amen! You were also a love letter to Bristol, weren’t you? That first run of Cabin Fever releases especially was pure timeless Bristol. Discuss…
Very much so, At the time we both felt that the traditional Bristol sound had almost vanished from the scene and we really wanted to put it back on the map and felt it was a direction we could excel in and I think in our way we did.
Give us your proudest Natty Dub moment so far…
There have been a lot of moments that have made me very proud over the years with what we and the artists have achieved, and the part we have played in artists’ journeys, but one thing that blew my mind was going over to Jaxx’s house one day, meeting SUV and him agreeing to work with the label.
This was a crazy moment for me as he endorsed the label and everything we were doing and the fact he was a founding member of Full Cycle / Represent / Bristol legend was just the icing on the cake. To think he was one of the artists that gave us inspiration to start the label and to have him willing to working with us Just validated everything we set out to do. Very proud moment indeed for me.
Yeah totally! You’ve stayed true to that sound ever since. I would say in many ways it’s the universal sound of D&B jungle. Tunes that wouldn’t have gone amiss in the late 90s, but still kick ass and sound fresh now. That high energy melting pot. What are your thoughts on this?
This is something I set out to do, when I decided to grow the label I was looking for artists that were bringing that very traditional sound that was in keeping with what we had built as a label to that point. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to look too far because at the time a lot of my friends were on that same vibe. The likes of Saxxon, K Jah, Coda and Jaxx all were into that throwback sound with a modern twist, so it was natural evolution to work with these guys as they shared a similar mindset to the music they wanted to hear. For me this was something that helped so much. They stuck to their guns and put the music out they loved rather than the music that’s in vogue so to speak and chase something that wasn’t them. That can be really telling if that happens.
Tell us about the 10th anniversary event!
We have something very special lined up for this and asked some legendary artists to join us. Our official birthday is on November 12 but we decided to throw a live stream on the 13th as it’s a Sunday and we can ensure everyone can get there. Very kindly, the guys at Rough Tempo allowed us to take over their Attic space for the day and streaming starts at 2pm and goes on till 12am. Performing on the days will be Vegas (Bad Company), Aphrodite, Serial Killaz, Insideinfo, Funsta, Ragga Twins & Foxy along with label residents T>I, Saxxon, K Jah, Conrad Subs, Jaxx, Coda, Shadre & Salvage, Vytol, Dub General, Classifyed, Diligent Fingers, Mikey Blitz, DNA, Double G, Nu Flo and a winner of a DJ comp we’ve just held. There will also be some giveaways on the day.
Sick. How about release-wise? You’ve had the likes of Coda and Kleu remixing old Cabin Fever UK tunes. Are there any other 10th anniversary celebrations going on?
We have a lot planned to celebrate this milestone over the next year, there will be a big remix project that will feature remixes from the likes of Serial Killaz, Aphrodite, Inside Info, Filthy Habits and Hexa as well as an album of original works from label stalwarts alongside some new guys we are bringing through. There will be a little label tour as well that we are currently setting up.
Nice. What else does the world need to know about Natty Dub right now?
Aside from the birthday celebration, we have lots of music to unleash on to the scene over the next year. There will be some events as well for the 10th year celebrations, one of which will be a boat party on the Thames. But one thing that I’m sure will make waves will be the debut album from Coda that we are immensely proud of. This is an amazing body of work from him that takes you on a proper historical journey of our music. For us it’s been a long time coming and we believe it will be well worth the wait. We are also planning some vinyl releases for next year, so hold tight all the vinyl heads. We are also planning some label co-lab release alongside a legendary label – more to be revealed soon on our socials. Stay tuned!
I would also like to thank all the artists who have released music with us over the past 10 years and who are currently releasing music with us. Without you guys it wouldn’t be what we have become. I’d also like to send very special thanks to my generals Coda, T>I, Saxxon, SUV, Jaxx, K Jah, Vytol, Dub General, Classifyed, Criz, James and Toby. These are the heart beat behind the label. Love you guys x