In drum & bass back in the '90s, it was kinda frowned upon for people to start exploring other styles. But as the scene matured and DJ/producers started experimenting, it became more and more acceptable. In recent times there's been d&b producers making dubstep, techno, neurofunk, pop... pretty much any styles that anyone wants to delve into. The scene is secure enough to handle this.
The Exit Records crew have been at the forefront of envelope-pushing with regards to a post-jungle sound, and Fracture — of Fracture & Neptune fame — has been working with them lately.
“There’s a bunch of us all with our own styles and sound, but with a similar approach,” Charlie Fieber, aka Fracture, tells DJ Mag. “We’ve been doing a few Exit parties and events, and we’ve all had records out on the label recently.
“What you get when working with a group of people like Exit is friendly competition and a bit of one-upmanship,” he outlines. “So I may hear a Stray record and think, 'OK, he’s gone in! How am I gonna reply to that?' and then Chimpo might hear that track I replied with and think the same thing. It just creates a buzz and a desire to collaborate and clash with each other at the same time, it's quite unique.”
Charlie cites 'Exit Family' nights recently when 10 or so Exit-related DJs would go back-to-back-to-back as an inspiration, and likens it to when he started going to Metalheadz at the Blue Note in the mid-'90s and >FWD at Plastic People around 2006. “It's the same set-up each time: a group of artists, DJs and people behind the scenes all with a vision, and bouncing off each other to create something new and identifiable,” he says.
Charlie hooked up with Nelson Bayomy, aka Neptune, in the early noughties, releasing tunes on labels like Droppin' Science, Outsider and Inperspective. By the mid-noughties F&N had gravitated onto labels like Counter Intelligence and Hospital offshoot Med School, before setting up their own Astrophonica imprint in 2009. “It was actually on a bit of a whim as we had two tracks, 'Clissold' and 'Killerwhat?', that we had scheduled for another label that had to take time out, and the release was shelved,” Charlie explains.
“We loved both of the tracks and decided they had to come out — and the best way was to start a label.”
Putting out tunes by acts like Dawn Day Night and Moresounds as well as their own material, Astrophonica has defined itself by its diversity of styles and tempos. “We’ve even had a remix series that saw myself, Om Unit and Machinedrum doing footwork-inspired versions of some previous releases,” Charlie explains.
The next Astrophonica release is a collaborative EP with Sam Binga, with Rider Shafique on vocals, that's more bashment than d&b. “In the future I want to have more artists involved and release stuff that kind of stands out on its own, not necessarily tied to any genre,” he says. “I think that’s happening in music now, and it's wonderful. What I’m seeing now with the current youngsters is an acceptance of all music, not just one genre.”
Stating that he still loves DJing — “All you’re doing is playing records, quite often not even your own, but yet there is a massive divide between a good DJ or a bad one. Selection is key really” — Charlie tells DJ Mag that when he's writing tunes he tries to keep it simple and impulsive. “I always have a concept or idea I want to try before sitting down to work,” he says.
“That might be something musical like a rhythm or melody, or it might be something a bit more conceptual like a palette of sounds or a mood, but I don’t really put any restrictions on how to achieve that. I just like to work quickly in the initial stage of an idea.
“I’ve learnt from experience that it's so easy to kill a great idea or vibe by getting stuck on things like production or worrying about how the track is going to end up sounding when you’re still in the initial writing stage,” he continues.
“The magical moment is always right at the beginning, that’s when you’re truly just creating and it's all flowing without you even realising it.”