Skip to main content

The Sound of: Metalheadz

DJ Mag’s latest monthly mix series puts the focus on the seminal labels we love; outlets that stay at the top of the game, breaking and developing new artists, dropping key releases and driving their respective scenes. For our debut edition, we catch up with Ant TC1, label manager of mighty drum & bass institution, Metalheadz...

There are few drum & bass labels that can boast a legacy as concrete as that of Metalheadz. There are bigger ones, sure — with more releases or events, more awards or mainstream popularity — but when it comes to seminal cuts, uncompromising sound and respect throughout the scene, it’s hard to think of a true rival. It’s for the Headz, afterall.

Launched back in 1994 by Goldie, Storm and Kemistry (may she rest in peace), Metalheadz was a driving force throughout the ‘90s. The classics it released in that era are practically innumerable: Dillinja’s ‘The Angels Fell’, J Majik’s ‘Your Sound’, ‘Pulp Fiction’ by Alex Reece, ‘Metropolis’ by Adam F, Doc Scott’s ‘VIP Drumz’, Souce Direct’s ‘Stonekiller’, not to mention Goldie’s own ‘Timeless’ album... and that’s barely scratching the surface. Then there’s the label’s Sunday Sessions at the Blue Note club in London, a veritable incubator for d&b thanks to forward-thinking DJs with bags jam-packed with dubplates.

Since then, the roster has only continued to swell, with the likes of Commix, Jubei, SCAR, Ulterior Motive, Mikal, Artificial Intelligence, OneMind and SB81 all becoming staples throughout the years, amongst countless other signings, each original, progressive yet decidedly ‘Headz. One of the label’s most recent drops, duo Blocks & Escher’s stunning debut ‘Something Blue’, once again redefined what a drum & bass album could be, setting a new standard that will be hard to top. The pair discussed their process at length with DJ Mag back in April; read the full feature here.

At the helm as label manager is Dispatch Recordings founder Ant TC1. He recalls first encountering the label when he was just 15 years old. “I remember personally hearing tunes like Peshay's ‘Psychosis’ and then follow on material from the likes of Wax Doctor, Doc Scott, etc., and thinking there's something about this label that's shaping an angle in this music that I've never know, felt or heard,” he tells DJ Mag.

“For example, I was buying Doc Scott and Wax Doctor's stuff on legendary labels such as Reinforced and Basement Records when I was just 13/14 years of age, but there was something about their output on this label. I could only imagine it being an imprint that influenced/led that musical sound in some way. Metalheadz continued to release music that blew my teeth out consistently and I became an avid follower of everything released by it.”

Years later, when Ant started working on Metalheadz events, Goldie asked Ant to take on the label manager role. “After initial reservations,” he admits, “mostly brought on by fear of the massive responsibility I eventually (after 278 phone calls!) said yes.” And, of course, Ant hasn’t lost any of that initial enthusiasm. He simply says the future holds “a slew of releases both Goldie and me really believe in”, and with the label’s 25th anniversary landing next year, plans are already in the works for a series of celebratory releases and events.

Working for the label though it’s natural for Ant to be enthusiastic; why, however, does he think the label has had such an enduring impact on the wider scene? “Because it was responsible for injecting so many flavours into d&b that were very daring and never really heard before,” he says. “At its core it gave the artists a place that felt like home to be able to confidently (or at least more confidently) express themselves as musicians.”

In light of this, and the ever forward momentum of Metalheadz, Ant’s put together a mix to launch our new Label Focus series. “Apart from loops and cuts used in places within the mix,” he explains, “all material played is either forthcoming on Metalheadz, some tracks are VIP versions of tracks/unreleased or special edits."