There has been one label that's been ruling the bass music scene for the past couple of years — Sub Slayers. Nominated for Best Label at the DJ Mag Best Of British awards recently, the label — started by bass fiend and former Kiss FM DJ Jay Cunning — has been smashing it since its inception.
Sub Slayers has been at the forefront of the flourishing future jungle scene, the 140bpm take on drum & bass that's broken onto the floors of some clubs in the past 18 months or so. Yet the label doesn't exclusively push this sound.
“I look at it like a triangle of music — breakbeat, dubstep and jungle,” Sub Slayers chief Jay Cunning tells DJ Mag. “If it fits somewhere within that three, it's the Sub Slayers sound.”
Jay went to his first rave at 17, although before that he was lapping up the hardcore sounds emanating out of pirate radio. Learning to DJ himself, the young Cunning gravitated from old skool into early jungle before ending up in garage for quite a few years.
“That’s when I found breaks, I was playing on DJ Luck’s station Lush FM, late '90s, and I was mixing up stuff on Freskanova with the garage stuff, and the garage guys couldn’t work out where this breaksy stuff had come from.”
He ended up in the breakbeat scene, scoring lots of international DJ gigs and teaming up with good pal Terry Ryan from Atomic Hooligan to launch Menu Music. Bringing through new talent like Lady Waks from Russia and Rico Tubbs from Finland, Jay balanced his label and club DJing commitments with hosting a show on Kiss FM every week for four or five years in the late noughties.
“Breakbeat was getting quite tired around that time,” he believes, “there was a lot of bootlegs and there wasn’t a lot of fresh material, so it was quite challenging for me to come up with a fresh radio show every week on Kiss.”
He explains how he'd double-drop dubstep tracks with breakbeat to beef up and energise the sounds he was playing. “From there it was quite easy for me musically to work out where I wanted the label to go,” he says. “It was great working with Terry, but I’m an obsessive control freak and I wanted something that I have complete control of.”
Releases by High Rankin, Gella and RackNRuin kicked the label off in style, and Jay soon began signing a core of new artists and forging the new, pioneering, bass-heavy 'Sub Slayers sound'...
Toronto Is Broken Jay
“I signed him when he was 18, he’s now maybe 19, it makes people sick how talented he is. He just sits at home on a laptop using Ableton and a shitty old pair of headphones.”
“He has found himself lately. He’s very much into his reggae and jungle, and it’s heavily influencing his music. He lived, breathed and shat Breaks FM for 10 years, and basically did the same for Mechanoise, and toured with The Prodigy and all that — he’s been one of the true soldiers of the scene. He’s always worked tirelessly in the background, so it’s so rewarding to see someone who’s worked so hard now get his turn in the limelight.”
“They’re four Jersey boys, I think I found them through Pyramid, who played a gig out there and gave me some of their stuff — I instantly fell in love with it. I’ve worked with all of the artists a lot to fine-tune the music, and that’s why I picked a lot of new artists, but with Schema they gave me four tracks and I was like, ‘I’ll take ‘em. Done’.”
“He was introduced to me by Yoof, he’s already enjoyed great success in the jungle resurgence, the 175 jungle, he’s in the LionFire group with Jacky Murda. His 140 stuff is phenomenal, it encompasses that Sub Slayers sound but also retains a uniqueness about it.”
Black & White
He is Al Storm, who’s a very big name in the UK hardcore scene. He’s one of those guys who’s like, ‘Oh, you like those bits and pieces? Here’s 54 other tracks that I’ve done’.”
“He's a new signing, based in LA, he basically rules dubstep over there, he hangs with DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill and Diplo, and he’s just had one of his tracks taken by Snoop Dogg for his next official single. He’s crazily enthusiastic, he’s taken just about every classic jungle tune there was around '94-'95 and done a 140-150 edit of it.”
Aswad & Renegade Soundwave
“They’ve recently done a track together. The single that Yoof did, ‘Warrior Charge’, which was a tribute to Aswad’s original, he played it at a support gig for Dreadzone, and Danny from Renegade Soundwave was down there. He came over with Aswad and told Yoof he liked the tune he was playing, and they were totally cool. He said they’d recorded a single and weren’t interested in doing the major label thing, would you be interested in doing a remix? Yoof said ‘You should have a chat with Jay’.
“After a few meetings, the deal was done. We've got about nine remixes, it’s an amazing track with a positive feelgood vibe.”
To showcase the story so far alongside the phuture, Jay has put together a 48-track compilation, 'Bass Selection' (with a couple of DJ mixes, mixed by Jay) — including 15 exclusive unreleased tracks that point to where the label is heading. With all the Sub Slayers signings represented, plus guests such as 601, Gella, Jinx In Dub and even the late Gregory Isaacs, it's a tantalising taste of conscious dubwise jungle sounds and sub-bothering bass bizness.