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Hancox / Bok Bok 2010 recap via gChat

Bok Bok and Dan Hancox, the original team behind the Lower End Spasm blog (RIP), take some time over gChat to talk about Night Slugs and look back at ’08 through to ’10, and into 2011.


Dan: i guess it’s best to start at the start
how long had the label been planned? when did it form as an idea? was it when night slugs was still in camberwell?

Bok : i guess it was later than the camberwell days but it was a seed quite early on
really it grew out of me and l-vis djing more, ever on the hunt for dubplates, and finding more and more new, unreleased music that we loved and fit right into our sets

Dan: where was that coming from? where were you and Lvis finding the dubplates you were playing?

Bok : the most interesting stuff came directly from people. like-minded producers and djs, people who heard what we were doing
two names to mention at this stage are Kingdom and Egyptrixx.
we were playing both their stuff alongside bassline tunes and stuff me and J were building ourselves from pretty early on, and alongside the early trouble & bass material

Dan: like 2008ish?

Bok : yea 2008
mind reader and that mystic by kingdom were just sitting around not going anywhere. even though we were bangin them out in clubs all over, and we knew dancefloors loved them. but it still felt quite ‘secret’ and that frustrated us, we just wanted to see these tunes do what they were threatening to do, on a full scale

Dan: how did you and kingdom get in touch?

Bok : that was actually ages before. years before he hit me up with an early mixtape. And then about a year after that we emailed again and started talking properly and realised we had a lot in common, musically and otherwise
he played his european debut at night slugs #2 in april 2008

Dan: so around 2008, did you see anything – a sound, a scene – coalescing at that point? or was there just lots of disparate music about that sounded good, independently of each other..

Bok : to some extent it always felt a little like there was a tension between the disparateness of tunes and my job was to make them fit and make it cohesive
but no, personally the whole time i felt as if i was pushing for a new sound. it felt on the brink of coalescing

Dan: you mean bringing together those sounds in a dj set?

Bok : yea, and by booking guests that were opposite in some ways, but kind of fit in with each other. in mixtapes, at the nights and in dj sets and on radio, i felt my role was to curate all these various styles into one and show people their similarities, not their differences

Dan: so was it coalescing? what kind of stuff was in your dj sets in late 2008 and into 2009?

Bok : well the first parties were quite heavy on bassline, mainly because it gave us what i felt grime and dubstep both lacked at that point, physical momentum
at the same tempo too
But yea a lot of older grime, some dirty bird type tech house bits, a lot of drop the lime stuff from when he started T&B.
bmore, chicago ghetto house, detroit ghetto tech stuff, always
Then increasingly, these new up-front bits by myself, L-vis, Kingdom, Egyptrixx, occasionally some early Girl U No Its True beats
and yea bits of Hessle, Hyperdub, stuff by Untold, Ikonika, Ramadanman.

Dan: so were you listening to tunes by girl unit and jam city in 2009?

Bok : not jam city until towards the second half of the year,
but girl u no its true was djing with us and making crunk and ghettotech type stuff quite early on

Dan: It’s interesting to compare to other labels, how well you know the people you’re putting records out by.

Bok : really unusual, really strange the way it came about
We can be a bit private about it, but i think its worth noting because its unusual and essentially a good thing that we’re friends. It’s a bit magic
when Girl Unit made IRL it took us by surprise
but then i always knew he was a brilliant DJ so no surprise there !

Dan: there have been a number of moments this year where you’ve gone ‘MY GOD, WAIT TIL YOU HEAR THE NEXT ONE…’

Bok : yep!!!!! i genuinely felt like that all year
the story with Jam’s production is cool too,
during my birthday ustream a year and a half ago, which he played at, he left a folder in my serato with trax tagged “jam city”
i listened to them and was blown away!
called him up to find out who this mysterious new producer was
it was really my ideal music
the tunes had everything i was after

Dan: what was in that bag of tunes? ones that have come out?

Bok : a lot of the early stuff that was in that FACT piece. Witches Sunset, Underpass, In The Park, Let Me Bang Refix, tunes like that
there were a few brilliant edits too that made a statement about a sort of hybridisation without really setting out to
they were just dj tools but they implied some very potent crossovers

Dan: what kind of things were you, and Jam, and i guess various others at that point, hybridising?

Bok : it was just a development of the same thing i guess we were moving away from bassline, and in its place the UK’s urban world had discovered house music, big time when Funky started to blow up.

do you remember that first bassline all-nighter in london we went to at the egg?

Bok : yea Northernline’s night

we owe Northernline our name ! The “___ Slugs” naming convention was Paleface’s, for trax that is. there were all these different tracks named ____ slugs
i checked with him if it was ok to use the name right at the start and he was cool with it

Anyway, 2009 was a real portal for the UK scene i think, and it allowed a lot of stuff to come into our scene. A lot of stuff was suddenly “allowed”
personally, before I was into Funky I was into house, but i was more interested in the older classic stuff from the 80s and early 90s, and then some of the new tech type stuff. what funky did was help me check out all the stuff in between

Dan: what’s the relationship with uk funky like now?

Bok : im not sure what uk funky really is now …
the artists that we’re connected with from that world have moved on to find their own path mostly

Dan: what are your releasing plans on the label generally / when do we get to hear some more Bok Bok beats?

Bok : well i have two tracks on the Allstars 1 comp. that just came out i’ve been working towards a certain sound for a while and i’ve kind of got it where i want it. there will be some new material from me earlyish in the new year…. The label has kept me pretty busy so i haven’t really been focusing on myself this year

but in terms of future output, before the end of the year we have Jam City’s new single Magic Drops
then in the new year will come LPs from both Egyptrixx and Jam City, then later on an L-Vis one.

Dan: how did the albums came about? jam city’s was just an accumulation of stuff right? like there was just too much material

Bok : yea jam has been holding out for us
but its good actually because i feel he’s come sooo far as a producer this year and made some amazing music, so i’m glad we didn’t rush.
a lot of the early stuff is really strong though and one or two of the trax from that phase will make it onto the LP

Dan: how has his sound changed? what will the album sound like?

Bok : i’ve been playing a few of them as for a while now and some are even brand new
its hard to put into words… i think his tracks have become bolder and more direct. some of the more recent material is very focused and in some cases directed more squarely toward the floor
i think magic drops, the single that’s about to come out, gives a little glimpse of what to expect, to some extent

Dan: so, l-vis and egyptrixx. any clues?

Bok: Egyptrixx will actually be the first in line
the album is finished. it’s amazing.
The Only Way Up was the start of where he was going with this LP material
its got that glacial, astral feeling to it. he kept a very tightly controlled sound palette, so the whole thing feels very very cohesive,
some of it is droney, some of it is kind of like strange pop songs
it definitely feels like an album, it goes on a journey, it has a very dynamic shape
because there are tracks on there that are straight up techno, not bangers, but they have the kick drum weight to make a floor explode. i know because i’ve been playing Liberation Front for example for months in every set. (that one is on Allstars 1)
but also there’s stuff on there that he probably didn’t intend for club play, but i still play them and make them work in weird ways

Dan: what’s un-club-like about them?

Bok : like there’s no drums, like devil’s mixes or drumapellas or whatever else as a sort of dance interlude
they play an atmospheric / storytelling role on the LP but i make them work as sort of subverted club material

Dan: and has Lvis been working on his for a while now? and abroad, a bit?

Bok : he’s been building up a very classic sound palette, a lot of vintage drum machines and synths, but he’s writing L-Vis tunes using all of this gear…. ive heard bits and pieces and its sounding very very nice
a great progression for him

Dan: do you have a take on naming the stuff you’re making? people were saying to me in the US, ‘i love this shit, but can we get a name for it yet? just because i want to tell people about it’

Bok : i’m a very firm believer that it’s dangerous territory
we’ve had so much evidence that its not a good move

Dan: if it won’t be named, why name it?

Bok : i certainly wouldn’t want to force anything

Dan: and the thing is, people are trying and failing, and i actually enjoy them failing
i see that as a sign of health
resistance to getting tied down

Do you think the dispersed nature of different rave sub cultures now means that we won’t get a single unified, regionally-located youth culture explosion like grime again?
are the conditions for creativity so different now?
if so, is that a bad thing?

Bok : i think theres actually some weight behind the argument that we’re in a time of entropy musically
but i dont mind, because in 2006 i realised my part in all of this wasn’t to celebrate the patterns of larger movements but to focus in, collect, explore, draw new links.
I have to concede that Night Slugs isn’t just London or the UK
what we take from that culture is a certain formal aesthetic, as in – darkness, soundsystems, sub-bass weight, dubplate/riddim culture the value of newness and progress and pushing forward and so whatever new ideas come to Night Slugs from wherever they may come, we have this context to route everything through, borrowed from Rinse and FWD and the London underground that taught me ! but i have to concede that Slugs is out of my control, in terms of being part of a london-centered lineage. people like kingdom, egyptrixx, and despite his londonness, girl unit, all bring other things to the table entirely
l-vis too because he’s from a slightly different musical background as well.

Dan:  i remember girl unit mixes going up on Lower End Spasm and they were not uk bass-related really

Bok : GU was always vital because i could see how his favourite music directly connected to ours

Dan: the artwork – is that a different zeitgeist? or the same sensibility?
i mean it’s aesthetically capturing the sound, right?
lights in the darkness seem to be recurring themes

Bok : i guess it’s trying to show the elements our music brings together in that it’s dark and moody but also with luminescently bright elements

Dan: did you ask each producer first if they had any ideas or wanted input?

Bok : yea on some occasions i had done

Dan: what kind of responses did you get?
‘phallic’ was one, right?

Bok : yes Velour wanted something phallic
so they got a massive rocket-like tower with their name on it
Girl Unit wanted “something catholic”

on the whole the artwork all occupies this one spooky twilight dimension
it’s really important for me to keep that continuity

Dan: general plan for 2011?

Bok:  so to recap, albums from Egyptrixx, Jam City and L-Vis 1990.
also, I can’t be too specific at this stage but next year the Night Slugs logo will definitely be appearing on a few non-musical products.
ALSO many more hot 12″s and EPs, some of them from myself! Upfront, functional music for the club will continue to be the core of what we’re about into 2011 and beyond.


Lower End Spasm is in suspended animation here: The blog’s full archive is still available

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