Ant TC1 is unquestionably one of the most influential and inspirational figures within the drum and bass community, and it goes without saying that the magnitude of brilliant projects he’s been behind and involved with, will have undoubtedly worked their way into the collections of most that are passionate about the genre. Ant TC1’s work as a producer has circulated the sets, radio shows and talk of the scenes most esteemed persons – and as creative a businessman as he is an artist, not many can claim to have shaped a successful label as recognisable for outputting beats of high quality, soulful and forward-thinking vibes as the highly regarded Dispatch Recordings.
Ant TC1 has pushed drum and bass forward through his talent for signing tunes out with the barriers of trends. Outputting music solely for its sound, not only is his label home to some of the most prolific and gifted artists in the genre including Survival, Break, Octane & DLR and Skeptical; Dispatch is equally responsible for nurturing upcoming producers. Founded back in 2001, a real milestone for the label was the Transit 1 compilation album, a game changing album, it set a very high bar and the eagerly awaited Transit 2 absolutely equals if not exceeds this. Incoming very soon, I won’t deny I just bought the bundle (and by the way… I don’t even own a record player), and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending (pre-order here).
On top of owning Dispatch Recordings, and producing tune after tune of technical savagery and creative genius, AntTC1 is involved in the organisation of pioneering events Outlook/ Dimensions festival, and he is responsible for running one of the most long-standing and inspirational record labels within Drum and Bass, Metalheadz.
Ant took some time out of his busy schedule to have a chat with us, and here’s what happened…
Hello Ant, you certainly sound like one of the busiest people in drum and bass, how do you manage to fit it all in? – Could you give us an insight to your day-to-day schedule?
Hi! I’ve pretty much given up having a personal life to a degree. It’s definitely been a loaded year work wise, I do intend to put the brakes on a bit next year and definitely try and have a holiday at some point. An average day to day consists of speaking to artists or emails, production processes, contract stuff, promotion plans, all the socials stuff, it obviously gets way more detailed but those are the things that need attention daily.
Outside of drum and bass what kind of music are you into? – I read in a previous interview you were keen to learn jazz piano, is jazz a passion of yours, and how is the piano coming along?
With how busy I got I never made the time, still very keen to do it at some point it’s just finding a window to dedicate myself to it. Re other styles of music I like, I’m a fan of techno, old funk, jazz. I love any music with soul.
What was your first ever CD/ Vinyl purchase?
I struggle to remember, the first stuff I bought on tape! A prized old one is Neuromancer’s “Pennywise” though.
The Transit 1 album was an absolute game changer, definitely an In-Reach favourite! Tell us a bit about Transit 2, what were the aims of the album?
The aims were to put together something equal to the first or even more so better than, it’s felt like a tall order but that’s why it’s taken us so long to put the right follow up out. I treasure that release as it was the first album on the label so yeah my own perception was to do the 2nd one justice by making sure it sits up there with the first edition.
What goes on behind the scenes at Dispatch HQ for a project of this scale? And how involved do you get with the creative process with artists?
It can differ for each artist really, depends on experience and their confidence I suppose. Some will send me something that will blow me away instantly and with other tracks / producers I often here the potential for it to be in that same place so I try to give some feedback where they want or need it in the hope of getting it to that high quality bar.
There are a fair few international artists on the album, and the Transit 2 album tour has included dates all over Europe and the US, would you say that Dispatch is a global label and do you think the Internet is significantly contributing to an ever-growing, healthy global drum and bass scene?
Yeah most definitely. The internet has the widest reach of anything in the world and it’s great to see we’ve got fans in places you wouldn’t dream of where there isn’t really a scene. The nets great for allowing any fans we have to communicate with us too. I’d say we’re an ‘underground global label’, I like to think a lot of fans who start following the label stick with us but of course on a grand scale our fan base is relatively small, but then again we’re so far removed from trying to appeal to the more ‘popular culture generation’ of listeners.
You have quite the reputation for signing tunes regardless of whether you’ve heard of the artist or not which is brilliant, I feel off late quite a few main players have been wary of signing new acts and have headed in quite a commercial direction – the scene seems to be opening up to more diverse labels as a result and a lot of sister labels (including your own Dispatch LTD) are pushing incredibly experimental music, do you think as a result of these changes musical barriers are breaking down and pushing the genre forward as a whole?
Yeah it’s totally each to their own on this one, it’s a labour of love for me. I actually want to be able to look back and feel like I left the label (when ever I get too old!) with the same approach I started it with which was (and still is) a passion to offer some good true to the craft D&B music to people, I keep liking what I’m hearing and how it’s all going so I don’t see myself wanting to stop doing what we’re doing any time soon.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that your not one to follow the trends, Dispatch have certainly become a major force within drum and bass and for many it’s a buy on site label, do you think in being a successful, highly respected label you reach a point where you become the trendsetters?
I don’t care if I’m honest. Sorry if that comes across really direct or abrupt in any way but I just don’t care about what’s trendy or ‘going to be big’ in the slightest. Huge sales and earning twice what we might have expected from a release is not a driving factor for me, I’ll never compromise the music itself to make the label bigger nor am I desperate to bulk up our fan base in any way, I just hope we get new fans because they like what they hear and can rely on us to deliver music that suits their taste over and over and over again – I don’t want to feel like I’d ever be doing the label and what it’s become any kind of injustice by putting a track out that’s not really right for the label but could be deemed ‘big’ or a ‘missed opportunity’ by some, I want the labels success to come good naturally and off of the back of releasing something I’ll always feel proud of.
Dispatch is a label with a real family feel to it, you’ve definitely shed some interesting angles of light on your friendship with Octane and DLR, are there any Dispatch anecdotes that over the years have stood out?
Haha, yeah good friends who you end up working with is always a funny one and with them 2 especially. There are a number of stories yeah but none we can safely print!
Dispatch has been around for over 10 years now, what would you say has been the greatest challenge, and what has been your greatest Dispatch achievement?
I’d say the challenge and the achievement together is keeping vinyl going strong really, a lot of labels have really simmered down on their wax output, some all together even but again vinyl is a labour of love for me, people can call me a dinosaur all day long and I admit I probably am but I still love the sound and feel of it and try to play it as much as possible in my sets (no technical issues on arrival to the venue is always an added bonus!)
I’m aware that your main love is for vinyl, Transit 2 will also be released on this format, and do you think in a genre such as dnb where vinyl is still used quite frequently by DJs, this translates into a strong collecting culture?
I think it does yeah, I think more artists and DJ’s should represent it still though. A lot of artists feel a vinyl release is essential for them yet a lot of these same artists don’t ever play it and there’s part of that I struggle to understand sometimes. It is what it is though eh, I’m not moaning or anything, people can choose to play with what ever format they want as long as it works for them, I think the scene itself is stronger than its been in a while at the minute and it’s great to see.
Which tunes are you playing out the most at the moment?
Stuff from Jubei’s album on Headz. Scar, DLR bits and of course stuff on ‘Transit 2’!
You listed Goldie’s ‘Timeless’ as one of your top 5 tunes in a previous interview, and your of course running Metalheadz, how’s it been since you started? And I hear you also have a release on Metalheadz later in the year. Double celebration!
It’s been heaps of work, stressful at times but it’s what I call ‘happy stress’. I just look at the music and the artists I’m working with and the stress feelings disappear pretty quick. It’s a great job to do. I see it as more of a paid hobby.
What would you say are your favourite parts of your various job roles?
By a very long way – hearing the music land in the inbox that first time. It’s an unbeatable element of the job role!
Your also involved in the organisation of Outlook festival, and have been running momentum in Leeds for over a decade (last ever one nov 29th) – what would you say have been the best/ worst if any changes to the live music industry over the years? And are any events that have really stood out to you?
The worst change to the live music industry at least in a popular sense was the invention of the Auto-tune haha. Yeah outside of Outlook and Dimensions I’m a big fan of Beatherders festival, it’s got such a friendly feel to it and great crowd, they go all out on the décor and display too which always strikes a chord with me. I go every year.
Is there anybody you’re inspired by when it comes to their influence in running events / labels etc. in any area of the music industry?
I think Kasra does a great job with Critical, as do Scott, Ray and Andy and the rest at Ram, all the guys at Shogun etc, all people / labels that I really respect for the work they put in to the scene. I’ve no shame in admitting I’ve often (at times) learnt from their ways of working and tried to adopt a similar style or approach to our label and its music (which can be different and more underground sometimes). I guess overall I just don’t like seeing releases go under the radar on any labels and getting that feeling of a track itself being great but just not put across or conveyed to listeners very well by the label releasing it. It all needs working effectively and needs as much effort put into it by the people at the label as was put into the very track itself by the artist(s)
What should we be looking out for in terms of projects you’re involved with?
Behind the scenes I’m involved in the following:
Transit 2 album on Dispatch
Jubei ‘To Have & Have not’ album on Headz
Nickbee’s album on Dispatch LTD
Platinum Breakz 4 on Headz next year
Lenzman’s album on Headz next year
And then as an artist myself…
I did a remix for Sunchase with Safire which is out now, and theres a track I worked on for Metalheadz along with the very talented DLR, Mako and Villem that should drop before the end of the year.
There is some other stuff I can’t mention at this point in time just in case it doesn’t happen and I then get egg all over my face (figure of speech!)
Any last words?
Thank you guys for interviewing me!