We Had A Chat With Terra Firma At Their Opening Night
Posted by Ben on 18th October 2017
Our recent countdown of labels to watch included Terra Firma, a new but growing York based label who, so far, seem to get everything right. To get a good start out of the blocks, new imprints need individuality in both their music and how they present it, a fact its two founders Matt & Warren know all too well.
Characterised by its quirky yet smart art work, Terra Firma have released a string of tunes that fit into their proclaimed ethos of “organic, non-synthetic” drum n bass, featuring home-grown artists like Revaux, Telomic and Low:r. It’s sort of like a label story straight from the early 2000s or late 1990s, back when new labels didn’t have the anonymity-ensuring internet to contend with and could create their own image free of concerns about SEO or network outreach.
It’s part of the reason why we felt the need to take a journey up to York for their opening night last week, to meet the pair behind Terra Firma and experience York’s take on drum n bass. The ancient town isn’t exactly a hotspot for 170 sonics, but as Matt described to me it’s a town that still yearns for a taste of the underground.
Fitting then, that Terra Firma’s opening sessions took place at the self-styled Mansion Underground. Filled by both a Funktion-One sound system, hundreds of eager students and headliner Loz Contreras, Terra Firma’s opener couldn’t have been in a better location.
At about 2am, covered in sweat, I ventured out into the smoking area to have a chat with Matt and find out a bit of the backstory behind his and Warren’s creation….
So, who are you guys?
There are two of us, Warren is a student at the University of York and I (Matt) used to be a student at the University of York, and we basically just knew that York had a drum n bass scene that needed to be tapped into. We’re trying to get the people who are into their underground music, regardless of style, to come down and listen to a bit of drum n bass. The turnout tonight has been incredible, we weren’t expecting it at all.
So, you guys are catering to that corner of students that are looking for something a little bit dirtier?
Yeah, and I’m absolutely speechless with everything that’s happened. Seeing so many smiles is great and I also just saw people posing for photos in front of our big banner, so knowing that people are recognizing our brand is incredibly gratifying. The music is really connecting with people, so we’re really, really happy.
Why did you decide to start the label?
I’ve been recording mixes for quite a while and Warren has been producing for some time too, and so we thought combining our respective skills and connections within the scene could work well. Everyone has been so kind in helping us out, we feel very blessed.
From Alex, our artist who does all the designs, to all the promoters who sell tickets for us, spread the love and buy merchandise. We’re only here because of the people around us.
When you first started the label, what did you envisage in the future?
We wanted to get a collective of artists who release music and do events with us, and then to grow from there. We’ve grown quite a lot faster than we expected, and to get acts like Loz Contreras down means the world.
In terms of where we go from here, probably just releasing more tunes, puting on more events and just growing.
How has it beaten your expectations so far?
Telomic’s new release was in the Beatport charts for over two weeks and in total four of our releases have spent time in the Beatport Top 100. It feels like we reach another milestone every month, so just the general progress has been way beyond our expectations.
That’s wicked to hear. Are there any labels you’ve tried to emulate?
Well we want to be ourselves obviously, but we take inspiration from Hospital’s happy, transparent attitude, their branding and the way they do events. In terms of more underground stuff Shogun Audio are inspiring, as are Fragmented Records, a Leeds based label who we have an event with next month.
Oh ok, so would you say you’re trying to combine the branding aspect of bigger labels with the sound of a smaller one?
Yeah, we’re trying to find our own niche, we aren’t anything, we’re Terra Firma – we’re different. Our music is hopefully different and our artwork is certainly different.
How you guys classify your output, then?
We’re a family of artists, and I guess we like to think we make organic drum n bass. What I mean by that is non-synthetic, non-electronical music, everything we’re release so far leans on the bass and drums, not so much on the synth aspect. Deep drum n bass basically. Oh, here’s Alex, our artist..
Hey man! So, Alex, what’s the background behind the Terra Firma art style?
[Alex] Drum n bass labels always have this dark, grungy look to their music, and I wanted a vibey, funky, colourful almost poppy feel, to make it approachable and bring it into the norm.
That’s how the ‘Terry’ head came about, he looks like he’s pissed off but he’s not! [laughs]
It’s almost bland but at the same time it’s packed full of character…
Yeah, he’s instantly loveable I think and people have told me tonight that they see his face everywhere.
What’s the scene like up here in York?
[Matt] York isn’t really known for its underground music, but it does have its small scene and we’re tapping into that. There is a grime scene, and our friends at Drop organise some really cool events, but on the whole York is used to more generic clubs.
So yeah, the scene is small but it’s a really sick scene – a group of passionate people enjoying nights out.
So, you want to channel that passion into Terra Firma?
Yeah, and we’re the only drum n bass night in York. There’s lots of competition in Leeds & Sheffield, but If you want to see drum n bass in York we’re your only option really. Here tonight, I’d say half are drum n bass heads and half are just underground music lovers who want to hear something different, something more thoughtful.
Sound. Who would be your dream artist to release music from?
That’s an impossible question! I think I’d have to say someone like Alix Perez, I have mad respect for him. Whiney’s new album is great as well, so he’d be fantastic – banging basslines, but still intelligent.
Do you two produce yourselves? Can we expect to hear any of your music?
That’s an interesting question, because Warren used to make chillstep music and we both are making music, but we’re not the sort of producers who churn out music willy nilly. I’ve got a few tunes I’m sitting on, alongside a collaboration with Telomic, so you’ll probably see a bit of me on Terra Firma.
We’re busy people though, so it’s not going to be constant by any means.
I want to keep this quick and the music inside sounds amazing, but lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to people who don’t know about Terra Firma?
Listen to our music and tell us what you think. We really vibe off feedback and we’re friendly people, we’ve gotten to where we are off people telling us what they think.
[Alex] Terra Firma is re-energising drum n bass labels, which are all dark and dingy, so we want to change them into something that has colour and characters. That’s what’s going to make Terra Firma separate from everything else.