Ever since Blame left the Good Looking camp there has been unending speculation as to why. A large amount of the opinions given have been based on hearsay and rumour. So here without any additional comment or editorial slant, is the interview Blame did with Breakin Point magazine and LTJ Bukem's reply which was also published. Nobody knows more about the reasons for the split than these two so read their comments and decide for yourself...
The drum 'n' bass scene has frequently been the subject of speculation, with new rumours and old claims that seem to surface time and time again. Reports of it's rise or demise fluctuate persistently whilst the occasional success of an underground classic in the national charts fuel claims that drum 'n' bass is the next big thing. A couple of episodes of Top Of The Pops later and its back to the underground which in recent years has seen it's fair share of artists switching labels and a proliferation of others branching out with their own individual projects.
Blame is a producer that has been around since the early days and knows this story all too well. In fact that is the story of Blame in a nutshell. He broke the charts back in 1994 with Music Takes You and went on to produce some significant tracks for Moving Shadow. He then moved to join LTJ Bukem at Good Looking Records in 1997 where he championed his unique sci-fi take on drum 'n' bass to high critical acclaim. Hosting the second chapter of the label's Logical Progression series situated Blame at the helm alongside Bukem where plans for his own imprint were set in motion. Then in a sudden and unexpected move he left the label during the build up to the launch of his debut album, news that came as a shock to many. So what went wrong? And more importantly has this departure dealt a blow to his ambition and overall drive to see a sound that he has avidly pioneered succeed? Time will tell some might say but ticking by louder than the hands of the clock Blame's mind is fully set on the continuation and expansion of his own 720° label.
His journey so far has necessitated a route that charters some of the drum 'n' bass scene's most cutting edge record labels, exploiting each opportunity to facilitate his innovative taste and future fueled creativity. A penchant for experimentation and an imagination that seeks to test musical boundaries have been the motivating force, a symptom perhaps of Blame's love for jazz. And in the same way that jazz, as a musical form, has leaned towards a desire to foil the imposition of defining rules and categories, Blame has demonstrated a passion to challenge and present new directions within his productions, 'I guess I've always striven to do creative stuff with my music and push the sound to another level, trying to better myself and do something that people haven't heard before and push the envelope of drum 'n' bass with it'. Subjecting some of the characteristics of drum 'n' bass to the Blame treatment has fostered many noteworthy tracks. Besides the aforementioned chart success there has been Nocturnal on Moving Shadow which ripped conventional breaks up to another level, this was followed by Neptune that was probably the most influential of the two. His Releases through Good Looking delivered 3 / 4 and 5 / 4 time signatures on tracks such as 360 Clic and Between Worlds, an avenue unexplored in drum 'n' bass at the time.
Upon hearing Blame's music his distinguished production technique is something which instantly transpires. It is refreshing and increasingly rare to feel challenged by a piece of music and perceive an element of courage and discovery in the way that it has been made, but the inclination to explore new avenues has left it's stamp etched at the core of Blame's style. His decision therefore to join Good Looking Records seems logical given that the label has upheld from the beginning an ethos of freedom within music, famous for it's refusal to 'sell out' or submit to a major and become part of an industry dictated by commercial interests. Such was the appeal to Blame back in 1997. 'When I signed to Good Looking they were a label willing to experiment with music and I felt they were a good label for me at the time to back me in my creative journey and support the ideas I had. As you evolve things change, you work with different labels that you pinpoint at that time in your life musically because you know they are the people who will work with it the best'. His style undoubtedly complimented that of Good Looking's and the move signaled a progression for both parties. The launch of his 720° imprint provided the opportunity for expansion and diversification within the label and created a platform upon which other artists coming through with that sound could be heard. It was an exciting time and the first couple of years yielded great things, including his welcomed addition to the camp's DJ roster. Demand was high from audiences worldwide who were eager to hear 720° beats dropped live and Blame was more than ready to play them.
But it appears that these opportunities were not always granted. He describes how limitations within the company strategy lead to a lack of gigs which in turn lead to frustrations, on both sides of the decks. 'There were so many opportunities to play different kinds of sets to different crowds and I liked the idea of DJing alongside other people such as Fabio and Grooverider as well as LTJ Bukem. Unfortunately, restrictions from the label were put on you. It was very frustrating for me knowing that there were people out there who hadn't heard the sound that would really appreciate it and think "that's what I've been waiting to hear" but they weren't getting the chance to hear it'.
Blame began feeling that attempts to expand 720° Records were thwarted by such constraints. His dream to one day own a label and push this kind of music on his own terms required a greater element of control, and policies at Good Looking were beginning to impinge on his freedom in both business and creative spheres. On the creative side there were two factors. Since it's inception Good Looking Records has maintained a stronghold at the forefront of ambient break-beat, a status that can carry expectations as regards musical style or content and this is something Blame felt he was coming up against. He recalls his DJ sets at the time, 'Before you even put your first record on you've had a battle you're playing in a line up and people are saying "it's chill out music or atmospheric drum 'n' bass". I may be playing something tougher but it was just in a different kind of context at the Logical Progression nights although it was a good camp vibe in the early days I've always felt I was going in a different direction'. He also describes feeling held back musically and cites creative difference as part of his overall decision to leave, ' I like to do a lot more varied stuff that they don't cater for so I felt I was being restricted at times. Also I suppose when you've got one guy deciding to make futuristic beats and then one of the other main guys (LTJ Bukem) is trying to get back to the seventies soul era within drum 'n' bass, there are two forces pulling in two opposite directions and when that happens it is only a matter of time before those forces break apart'.
Blame's futuristic beats got the 720° label off to a good start. His own Cuban Lynx was the first track to be released followed by contributions from Odyssey and Blu Mar Ten, among others. Between Worlds, his first EP came out in 1999 and in the same year Two Revolutions - an album showcasing talent from the label's past and future. As the popularity of 720 grew the mechanics of the operation became increasingly important. With a new and exciting roster of artists and a wealth of fresh tracks in the pipeline, getting material out in the record store was obviously a prime objective. The carriage of material however appeared to have shaky foundations and there were elements at the root of this side of the business that Blame was unhappy with. 'Drum 'n' Bass moves at such a fast pace in six months time if you blink you've missed the sound that will be happening so you've got to try and get the music out there. My frustration was that I'd be making music and over a year later it was coming out that's something I wanted to change with 720°. When I've got fresh music I want it to hit the stores as soon as possible. I'm a drum 'n' bass fan at the end of the day and I've got a lot of respect for the people who can hold out for the music but it's really got to change now, people have got to get the music really soon after it is produced because that's what they want and that's what keeps the scene healthy and alive. There are a lot of good labels doing that so I've got to make sure 720° falls into that bracket'. Not being in full control of the situation compounded his thoughts of taking the label on by himself, 'It was always agreed that one day I could walk away with the label so that was always on my mind. Even when I signed to Good Looking Records I always knew I had plans to really take it myself and see the whole thing through I'm a bit of a control freak I suppose and I want to make sure everything is done right, it's nice having every single stage that I can check and make sure everything is cool. It was a good overall experience being at Good Looking, I have fond memories and no regrets but things change and part of what I've got to do now is take 720° to another level.'
The challenge remains the same but with these goals in mind, a determined outlook, and solid support from those around him it is difficult not to be optimistic. There are currently three 12"s from 720° doing the circuit and three EPs in sight for the near future so the foundations look fully set to support the next phase of the label. 'Between working on my own stuff I'm working with new artists. There's a guy called Dragonsword whose had the first couple of releases out. Also an artist called Plex. I sold him a keyboard about five years ago (a Roland W30) and never saw him since. Then he knocked on my door recently with some real wicked tracks that we mixed down and he's bringing a slightly tougher edge to the sound'. Apart from nurturing new talent he has been getting together some ideas for forthcoming Blame material, ' my first dream would be to get a Blame album out on 720° and hopefully that won't be too far away'.
'My long-term goals have always been to just keep making music and keep breaking boundaries. I've never really had a goal were I've thought "once I've done this or that I'll be happy". If you set yourself those kind of rigid goals then once there completed subliminally you might take your foot off the pedal. My dreams will always involve keeping drum 'n' bass alive as much as I can it's the only music I can really call my own'.
It must be reassuring as an artist to know that your contributions, at each step of the way, have offered a defining moment within the field you have pursued If we are to learn anything from his journey it is to listen and learn, but above all embrace the future with a very open mind. So Blame, Top Of The Pops? 'It would probably be Top Of The Pops 2 in 10 years when they look back at all wicked music they have missed'.
This article originally appeared in Breakin' Point magazine.