Standing at the forefront of D‘n’B, Brighton-based Shogun Audio recording label recently celebrated ten years of producing choice tunes. Now there’s a new landmark for the scene’s biggest and best in their 100th release. After nearly 12 years and 100 releases, there’s few signs of the Shogun juggernaut slowing down any time soon. “No! Would be nice if it did, so I could have a rest!” jokes founder Friction. “We’ve recently launched sister label Elevate also which will be releasing slightly more high impact, dance floor drum and bass, so things are definitely full-on right now.” This new sister label, which enables their output to cover even more sonic territory, was launched with Friction’s Dare EP last month, a cheeky pumped-up interpretation of the Gorillaz hit. Things couldn’t be more different than the early days. Back then they pressed tracks to vinyl and then sold them through traditional shops and distribution channels. The Internet had yet to take a grip on the industry at that point. “Over the years we have evolved into a label with a roster of artists working towards album projects which are distributed across traditional physicals, as well as downloads and streaming,” says Shogun Audio co-owner, Keir Tyrer. “We’ve had to adapt our business model to reflect the changing times and today we are a record label, promoter, publisher, merchandiser and much more.”
Keeping it fresh is the pair’s enthusiasm for developing new artists and sounds. “I’ve just always enjoyed the whole A&R process,” Friction tells me. “Being able to communicate with an artist, feedback and help try and improve their music and develop a sound is one of my favouring things about being involved in music.” By investing so much time and faith in producing the music they can has seen the label range an incredibly strong artist roster, who all continuously push the boundaries of technical heavy beats and liquid gems. Now they can boast industry heavyweights like Technimatic, Total Science, SpectraSoul, Icicle, Rockwell and Alix Perez amongst their ranks. Despite being recognised for releasing a deeper style of D‘n’B, the label is more than capable of smashing out a big tune or two.
Even since Shogun Audio started, the DJ world has changed immeasurably and in a number of different ways – some of them good and some of them bad. As someone who’s watched legendary DJs like Carl Cox, Randall, Andy C and Swift perform first hand, Friction sees it as a true skill. “I’m not keen on how the art form of DJing has been destroyed over recent years. On the plus side, I do think that the rise of online sets are great for people all over the world that may not be able to get out and see a specific DJ live.” Brighton born and bred, Friction rose to prominence with his frenetic debut single [Critical Mass]. Quickly establishing a distinctive sound, he began releasing tracks on labels like Valve, True Playaz and Hospital, as well as his burgeoning Shogun Audio imprint. The presenter of an immensely popular BBC Radio 1Xtra show, he’s recently made the jump to Radio 1, forging his reputation as one of the scene’s most influential players. Now he stands as one of the biggest D‘n’B DJs in the world, wowing crowds with his triple deck style and impeccable tune selection.
After scooping awards for Best Newcomer an obvious step is to start your own label, which can platform music you love. So Friction started Shogun in his front room on a PC, completely from scratch. “To be able to have a label that is one of the leaders in my genre, which hosts artists known around the world, and to have grown the size it has, makes me very proud.” A label night at London’s The End followed, bringing this sound into the heart of the capital. Soon their work was getting substantial radio support, with Annie Mac and Zane Lowe hyping it on their national shows. As the imprint’s stature grew so did their confidence, signing artists for album deals and taking the brand to cities across the country. Instead of just being an outlet for the occasional 12”, they actively developed artists and forced evolution within the scene. “At the end of the day the music direction reflects our tastes,” says Tyrer. “We have always just stuck to the philosophy that we want to work with artists we are passionate about, and release music that excites and interests us.” The exceptional output just keeps coming, repeatedly jumping boundaries and defying categorisation. Ranging from heavy-hitting club bangers to chilled liquid bliss-outs, each tune is crammed with rolling basslines and infectious melodies.
Before they start working on the next 100 releases, there’s the small matter of celebrating this landmark offering. On Fri 6 May, the label’s leading lights head to Brighton’s Patterns club for a special party. Taking charge again is Friction himself, who’ll be joined by Rockwell, MC Linguistics and the label’s newest signing Ed:it. As you’d expect, he’s extra hyped by the hometown show. “Our every first show was in Brighton, so it’s great to be back here for the Patterns show. I’ve always been a big fan of the club.”
The bass scene just keeps growing, whilst other genres simply lose their edge after a few years. Much of this longevity is down to original innovators like Goldie, Fabio and Grooverider remaining passionate and fully engaged in its development. “That meant we had strong roots to build on,” enthuses Tyrer. “In addition, the music has constantly stayed fresh and relevant… plus you can’t deny the energy. People just love to jump up and down at 174 bpm!”
Shogun Audio 100 comes to Brighton’s Patterns club on Fri 6 May