Functions Of The Now VI: Gage

For our next edition of Functions Of The Now, we travel from Berlin to Bristol, a city with an enviable history of dark ‘n’ deadly soundsystem music. The last decade saw Bristol rise to prominence as a second centre for eyes-down dubstep and sub-bass driven mutations only for the overground explosion of more straightforward instantiations of that sound to scatter the scene. Contrary to the tortured epitaphs you’ll find in the YouTube comments under Mala tracks, it’s something Bristol has come out of much stronger for with impressive pockets of creativity moving things forward in a variety of distinct ways: Livity Sound, Young Echo and the many labels operating around Idle Hands to name just a few.

While there were always grime-minded producers in the city, in recent years a number of excellent grime-indebted beat-makers appear to have sprung up simultaneously and remarkably fully-formed. Kahn and Neek are essentially household names in the scene now, and one can point to artists like Hi5Ghost and Boofy arriving in their wake, but the guy we’re most excited about is Gage. Last year during Jammer’s much hyped producer war, an at that point unknown Gage sliced through all the deadweight with his blistering send for Neana, giving a tantalising glimpse at the levels that had been brewing behind closed doors. What really got people talking though was “Telo,” a track you’ll be intimately familiar with if you’ve been paying attention to DJs like Slackk, Logos and Murlo. Of course, if you’ve been following FOTN, we’re sure you have.

Stream: Gage – Telo (Crazylegs)

This week finally sees its release on Gage’s debut 12″ for Crazylegs, a crew who entered our hearts by virtue of their fwd thinking eponymous clubnights and look to be applying the same philosophy to their label: always innovative but with feet firmly on the dancefloor. “Telo” rides roughshod with gnarled pulses not entirely unlike Untold’s classic “Anaconda,” though paradoxically Gage pulls the grime influences even further to the fore while dropping tempo to a 2014-friendly 128bpm. Its wrong-footing lurch is instantly recognisable, doing for pulses what Objekt did for wobble on “Cactus.” More potent still is the flip “Shiftin,” a spring-loaded, percussive powerhouse that marries the rowdiness of vintage 8-bar to a template more commonly associated with Hessle Audio and A Made Up Sound. They’re tracks that hark back to that beautiful transitionary period after dubstep’s fall from grace where sets would be punctuated by stop-what-you’re-doing curveballs, audaciously challenging you to find new ways to dance. Our hunger for these kind of club moments is one reason we’re so excited by the movements we’ve been covering in this series.

With that said, now would be a good time to do our usual round up of recommendations, and there have been a wealth of releases since our last edition. Checking in first with some Functions Of The Now alumni we have two firecrackers from Strict Face on two equally excellent free compilations; one from London bar-setters Boxed and the other via Scottish clubnight Bake Haus. We particularly recommend Prince Lazio and Local Action up-and-comer Finn‘s contributions, both coming correct with RnB earworms that touch the heady heights of classic Ironsoul instrumentals. The eagle-eyed amongst you will also spy two more FOTN mixers amongst the Boxed lot, and as if that wasn’t enough Inkke has also recently released his dirty south indebted beat tape Faded With The Kittens which can be streamed in full over at Thump. Returning to Local Action for a second, our buddy Tom Lea uploaded an excellent mix of the label’s forthcoming material last month with plenty of grime indebted fire to whet your appetite. For the time being you can sate that hunger with an excellent DJ Q remix 12″, pre-empting his debut album for the label. Back on a FOTN flex the Her Records gang follow up Miss Modular’s Reflector Pack with more devilish 8-bar mutations on Sudanim’s equally impressive The Link. And of course no round up would be complete without the long awaited release of Slew Dem veteran JT The Goon‘s impeccable Twin Warriors EP on scene mainstay Oil Gang. The title track’s flip of Jammer’s “Chinaman” is already a certified anthem, but for us it’s the impossibly lush Grime Light that really does the business.

We managed to pin down Gage to chat Bristol, Channel U and how he feels to have crafted what one deep house loving soundcloud dweller poetically decried as the “worst thing [they] have ever heard stop making music your shit.” In true enigmatic fashion this edition’s mix comes with no tracklist, but look out for some special Gage edits & VIPs, dancefloor-destroying pulses and a very Bristolian remix of a Drexciyan classic.

So not much is known about you at the moment, pretty much just that you’re in Bristol but you weren’t from there originally. What brought on your move over there and how did you end up hooking up with the Crazylegs crew? “I came over here in 2010 to study and decided to stay rather than go back to London. I went to a Crazylegs party in 2011 which was mad so I just kept going. Then [Crazylegs boss] Shandy clocked on to a Missy Elliot bootleg I did in 2012 and I’ve just been showing him stuff since. It’s been pretty organic.”

Production wise, what’s the story so far? I’ve gotta say it sounds pretty well realised for a debut release, how long have you been making tracks and was it always grime related? “I’ve been making tracks for like 4 years now and from about 2 years to like 7/8 months ago I really started concentrating on sound palettes. When the sound was strong enough I started to strip my stuff right back, then Telo and Shiftin happened in the same week. It wasn’t always grime related but I’ve always been fucking with the sound, just behind closed doors.”

Stream: Gage – Shiftin (Crazylegs)

Obviously there’s some great things happening in lots of different styles in Bristol right now: lots has already been said about the Livity Sound guys and Young Echo and there seems to be a real sense of community there with Idle Hands and all their related labels/friends/family. Beyond Crazylegs do you think there’s a chunk of the scene that you and your music fits into there? “I dunno man, it’s the place where I’ve matured as a producer and a listener so I feel very attached to the scene here but I’m by no means a figure of authority when it comes to the music coming out of the city.. I reckon because of the concentration of producers and musicians people are on their toes rather than letting everything stagnate so things are real healthy.”

I think a lot of people first came aware of you via your war dub sending for Neana, was he a random target or do you guys go back a bit? The stuff he’s coming out with compliments yours pretty well. “Haha, I wouldn’t say we go way back but we’re cool with each other. He spilt some tea on my floor when he came to play Crazylegs last summer so as soon as the wardubs started the crosshair was locked. But yeah, out to Neana. His tracks bang and he tends to use quite a harsh array of sounds so it all made sense.”

Are these new directions being reflected in Bristol night life at the moment? Talking to friends from there it seems like house has taken over in a big way which is a pretty big leap from when I lived there a few years back. “Yeah, the house ones are definitely pulling in the biggest crowds. That whole side of things is something that I feel a bit disconnected from now, but hats off to them because they’re doing their thing. The rise in interest towards the sounds that me and peers are making at the moment is the reason it’s now being reflected in night life, but that’s by no means Bristol-inclusive. There are other nights here like 4Seasons and Authentiq, who are doing cool things and bringing in some sick artists.”

This might be a good time to mention some of the reactions to your premiere on Mixmag haha. There were some ‘deep house’ stans lurking in the soundcloud comments who were pretty bewildered, which you and Shandy seemed to relish. I know other producers like Visionist have been pretty explicit in saying that making this rowdier stuff is a reaction to the tamer, house-ier direction a lot of UK music has gone in recently, what are your thoughts on that? “Haha yeah, that was too much. The track had been online for a few minutes when I checked it and the one thing on it was ‘worst thing i have ever heard stop making music your shit’. Telo’s not exactly a track to cook to. The answer in my head really relates back to the Bristol question asked earlier. Things just aren’t geographical now, not when it comes to the guy sitting in his bedroom tweaking parameters all evening. That kinda glossy house went mad exponential over the last year or so, leaving a lot of people in the shadows exploring the spaces in between genres and that’s exciting. At the moment I’m getting a lot of new stuff in and becoming aware of new producers each week that aren’t making music inside a box that was created for them. In turn that’s probably encouraging others to scrap the “rules” and just do their thing. For me, I just got really bored of hearing the same chords and sounds again and again so for the CL release dropped melody.”

What do you see as the context for your music? It seems much more immediately dance floor ready than, say, the Boxed’s crew’s stuff. “Yeah it’s intended for the club, always has been.”

Let’s talk a little bit about your relationship with grime. Some guys like Slackk and Logos came through the original wave as it happened, but it’s been interesting talking to other people in the FOTN series like Strict Face and the Her Records camp who are much younger and cite labels like Night Slugs and Hyperdub as major influences. What was your route into this world? “My secondary school playground, Channel U & Limewire (which seemed to have every DJ Ironik track made on it). I’d say 2005, 2006 and 2007 I listened to nothing but grime, I was obsessed. There’s a lot of other stuff through the next 6 years but over the last couple I’ve spent a lot of time listening to people like Helix and Kowton using elements from grime without being limited by what’s supposed to make a ‘grime’ track. More recently I cottoned on to everyone making music with a similar ethos. I don’t consider my stuff grime if I’m honest, I’m just meandering in a void between it and a couple of other things.”

What can you tell us about the mix? I know you made some special edits for it. “It’s a load of tracks I’m feeling from guys that are making cool stuff. There’s a few unheard ones of mine in there, as well as those edits. I never really was in to editing before, kind of felt that it was like pissing on another dogs tree.. I don’t know what changed recently but I’ve been making loads.”

What’s on the horizon? For yourself and for Crazylegs now you’re part of the team? “For me, I’m just working on new material towards something a bit longer down the line, got a remix that I’m finishing up at the moment as well. As far as Crazylegs is concerned, I’m not sure how much I can say without Shandy going chinese government on me, but there’s a lot of exciting things, both as a label and as a night, planned for this year. Stuff that makes me lose my shit.”

Before we end any shout outs or people we absolutely should know about? “There’s too many names on the up that are exploring and carving something of their own for themselves right now but Timbah‘s been pushing boundaries for a while and every time I get something from him I can bank on it being sick. Had the pleasure of sitting in on a Bloom session when he was in Bristol couple months back and what came out of that still leaves me speechless. And GUNDAM sent me through some stuff recently that fuckin’ bangs. Need to stop myself now, because I could go on for ages.”

Functions Of The Now VI: Gage by TRUANTS

Artwork: Joe Jackson

Simon Docherty