Once upon-a-time in the noughties, Andy C's Ram Records was the definitive home of dark tech-step, its tear-out sound as equally suited to a Hackney squat party as it was to the Movement parties at London's Bar Rhumba on a Thursday night. Yet over the last year, Ram has begun to transform into a potential hit factory of Stock, Aitken & Waterman proportions - with much better music, of course.
First up were Chase & Status, whose album 'More Than A Lot' led to them hitting the studio with Rihanna, while a possibly drunk, certainly jealous, Tim Westwood bemoaned their 'credibility' on Radio 1Xtra in possibly the funniest YouTube clip of last year.
Then, in October 2009, came another monumental debut, this time from Sub Focus, aka Nick Douwma. Already a Radio 1 regular thanks to anthemic d&b tracks 'Time Warp' and Daft Punk homage 'Rock It', his eponymous album unveiled a new side to his production, switching tempos and styles with ease and joining the experimentation with a jungle paced tempo being embraced by Shy FX, Clipz, Adam F and Zinc.
"A lot of DJs already had the promo tracks so it was great that the other genre tracks from the album were also picked up on," Douwma tells DJmag of the positive reactions from outside his normal sphere. "I guess my personal favourite on there would be 'Last Jungle'. Some of the house and dubstep guys have been playing that, and Skream really loves it. I already had the drum & bass guys onside so it's great to get support outside the scene. It makes me feel connected to the wider world of music."
Another shift of direction is next single, the huge piano led 'Could This Be Real', released by Ram on 15th January. A slice of gum-exposing euphoric old school house sitting astride a huge, juggernaut of a bottom end, it's huge crossover potential is further enhanced by a Sub Focus drum & bass take, plus remix from Bristol man-of-the-moment, Joker.
"I listen to a lot of house," admits Douwma, citing everyone from Jack Beats and Switch to Lindstrom and Booka Shade as influences on his productions sound. "'Could This Be Real' is me trying to mix a lot of sounds together, that dubsteppy bass and the ravey sound in the build. I even recreated the old school pitched up vocals by recording them with the track slowed down so they ended up artificially high."
While some drum & bass producers are jumping ship entirely, however, turning all their efforts to the newest sound of British bass culture, Sub Focus is happily embracing their shared roots and playing DJ sets that - just like the new face of Radio 1's dance empire, Annie Mac - mash it all up.
"I like writing music but coming from a scene, you get a little stuck in it. I found I had to re-evaluate what I was doing and realise I don't have to think of myself as just a drum & bass a producer. I think the audience likes all of it so why not make all of it?"
Laying ahead in 2010 are potential collaborations with Chase & Status and various dubstep artists, plus tours around the UK, Europe, "and probably further afield to Japan and the US".
Douwma adds: "I'm also going to be supporting Pendulum on a live tour in May - that's pretty exciting."
Having seen the sudden demand for his label mates' production skills, he's also open to offers.
"I think the US hip-hop guys are looking to the UK as there's some really exciting music being made here at the moment and they want to incorporate that edge into their music," he reasons.
"I can certainly see how with Chase & Status, dubstep appeals to hip-hop fans - it's got that kind of swagger and laidback feel. It's fantastic that interesting things like that are happening and I definitely want to get involved. Watch this space!"
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