Label Feature: This Ain’t Bristol

Bizarre Culture recently spoke to Sebastian Wolters and Billy Kenny from budding Hannover based record label This Ain’t Bristol. The digitalisation of music has made it easier than ever to start up a label, and many argue that house and techno in particular has become saturated as a result. With its refreshing and finely crafted selections of forward thinking tracks This Ain’t Bristol dismisses such statements with ease, delivering release after release of original good vibes music. Stream their newest release, Marc Spence’s Nasty / Stop Interrupting above.

Billy came to work with label manager Sebastian after his track Funque was such a regular selection at Sebastian’s This Ain’t Bristol club night that Billy was booked to play. “After the first gig in Hannover, I got more and more involved with the scene. I didn’t have much happening at home in Leeds and Hannover was something new for me, after the speed garage and baseline I’d grown up around. I really clicked with the guys here and the straightforwardness of German life, compared to the negativity of many of the people I’d surrounded myself with at home.” Following the growing popularity of the events and the variety of musical influences that they attracted, the eventually decided that it was time to take the project to the next level and start a record label. The six involved in the events remained involved with the label, delegating duties such as press, PR and artwork around the group to ensure that it was all curated as carefully as possible.

By pushing a UK-influenced sound in a setting stereotypically known for its love of techno, the label’s uniqueness stems from the fact that it is out of context, and nowhere is this more obvious than in its name. “Some people say the name sounds controversial, but it is the very opposite of an insult. Bristol is the home of bass, with so many big producers emerging from that scene, whereas Hannover was just tech and techno. This isn’t Bristol, but we’re going to try our best to put it on the map,” Billy explains.

He also acknowledges the unique approach that the label has taken to reach its current reputation. “Right from the beginnings of the label, we created a hype by taking on established artists like Kry Wolf to turn a few heads before establishing ourselves as unique.” Having booked names as big as DJ EZ for their events, they have undeniably generated the hype they aimed for. “Now that we’ve built a reputation for ourselves, people follow us trusting that we release good music, whether it’s from big names or not.” It has successfully established itself simply as a source of quality music. “We are getting sent a lot of demos now because people recognise that we don’t care if it’s a big name attached to the track, we are just interested in good music. Our compilations are also a way of putting out great tracks that amy not have enough supporting material to release an EP.”

Sebastian is keen to emphasise the special connection between Bristol and Hannover, beyond the fact that they are sister cities. “Back when jungle and drum and bass first came up, Hannover was one of the first German cities to catch up with that sound. We were always ahead when it came to the UK sound, and Germany’s first big warehouse raves were in Hannover.” His explanation for this phenomenon is particularly interesting. “There’s always been a lot of army activity in Hannover, with army points in surrounding cities too, so people have always liked their drum and bass and now they’re moving towards UK-flavoured house.”

“There’s always been a connection, but we needed to refresh it. We saw the sound coming up and were really happy to jump on it. It brought back a lot of the emotions I had when I was getting into music with drum and bass, because it has so many different influences.” Sebastian, now the label’s manager, had been running a drum and bass label for the previous decade, but felt that it was the right time to move onto something new. “I’ve been into drum and bass since the nineties, when it was still jungle. It got darker and moved away from its initial influences, the hip hop and the reggae, and got boring for me. I fell in love with a new style and discovered that there was more to music than just 170 BPM.”

He is by no means the first drum and bass producer to experiment with four-four, and This Ain’t Bristol itself has worked with artists like Harry Judda, with whom Sebastian had first worked with years ago on the drum and bass scene. “My current Maximono project is a melting pot, with influences from many genres. It’s made up of myself and Nick, whose first drum and bass album I released on my label back in 2007. We became really good friends and were always looking for a project to work on together, but we’ve both also got our own things going. He’s signed to RAM with his Loadstar project, so we have to find a couple of sessions a year to get together and write ideas, then work on them while we are apart.”

“Whenever you are producing music as a duo, you keep inspiring each other, working and re-working each others ideas. For Nick, Maximono and four-four was completely new, though we don’t really have genre boundaries though, we just make what we enjoy making. I guess you can hear the drum and bass influences in everything we do, as well as breakbeat, dubstep, garage. It kind of brings back the connection to This Ain’t Bristol for us, just good vibes music.”

By focusing on feelings and experiences rather than genres, the label has a truly varied and unique output. Both Sebastian and Billy produce and release music on This Ain’t Bristol, and it is unsurprising that both draw inspiration from countless sources, including genres far and beyond those that they are actually producing.

“Anything from a movie which creates a certain feeling, a night you’ve been to, your friends, a landscape. When we took new press pictures, the photographer set the mood of this old school ghetto movie, The Warriors, so the new stuff we’re writing has kind of been inspired by that. We’ve used a lot of movie samples in tracks before.”

“The first Maximono release on CUFF, The Cannibal, was massively inspired by the movie Cannibal Holocaust. We watched it for fun and came up with the track idea right away – we also used some vocal samples from the movie. I also like to write music when I’m away on trains and planes. We had our first Ibiza season this year and I got a lot of inspiration from the nights there.”

Having been established just over a year ago, the rise of This Ain’t Bristol is well deserved and easily explained. Follow them on Soundcloud here.