For almost 2 decades, one label has dominated dark DnB.
This label has well and truly solidified its spot at the top of the food chain. In fact, if you think about it properly, this label is directly responsible for launching the careers of some of the most groundbreaking and original artists to ever grace the dark DnB spectrum.
Browsing through its discography, the first thing that strikes you is the sheer volume of releases and the varied list of producers that have contributed over the years. The second is the uncompromisingly high standard and quality of the output.
This isn’t just a a label or an event, its a fucking institution. In short, this label is “the” benchmark of dark DnB.
Today, I get the chance to interview the man behind the movement. Unlike a lot of label bosses he doesn’t produce for his imprint, nor does he run his label and events to enhance his DJ career. He doesn’t care for the limelight, has never been in it for the fame and is one of a small handful of people in DnB who will actually speak out publicly on almost any issue.
To be honest, I’m chuffed to bits that he agreed to the interview. I set up #GCB because I wanted to talk about all the things in DnB that get swept under the carpet, the issues that affect everyone, but no one wants to speak about because no one wants to “rock the boat”.
With all that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to introduce a man who couldn’t give a monkeys about “rocking the boat”. If anything I’m sure he’d be more than happy to capsize the boat and fucking swim home lol. So, without further ado, ladies and gents please be upstanding for Mr Renegade Hardware himself … Clayton Hines.
GCB … Firstly, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Secondly I’d like to personally thank you for almost 20 years of amazing music. The very first vinyl I ever bought was Cause4Concern’s “Symptom EP”, from that day on I was hooked and purchased every other RH release on sight.
Right, pleasantries well and truly dealt with, lets get to it.
Can you tell us a bit about how it all started and what was your main motivation for creating the Hardware imprint ?
CLAYTON … Renegade hardware started in 1995 primarily as an outlet to put out the harder and darker side of drum and bass. At the time we two other imprints, Trouble on Vinyl and Renegade recordings which catered for the more hip hop influenced and jazzier side of drum and bass.
GCB … 20 years is a long time to be doing the same job. Do you ever think “fuck this, I’m done” and if so, can you tell us what keeps you from jacking it all in ?
CLAYTON … Over the last few years I have thought about stopping from time to time, but the fact that we are going to be twenty next year to me that is a major milestone for a label to be around that long and still current, so if I am going to stop it won’t be before the end of 2015.
GCB … Financially speaking, in terms of actual profit in your pocket, which Hardware release has been the most successful ?
CLAYTON … In terms of sales it would have to be Killer Bees/Messiah/Twist Em Out
GCB … Musically speaking, in terms of your own personal taste, what is your favourite Hardware release and why ?
CLAYTON … My favourite hardware release from a musical standpoint is Dead by Dawn – Future Force as that was the tune that got the label noticed.
GCB … You’re well know in DnB for speaking your mind and talking straight. Do you think we need more honesty in DnB in order to move forward as a scene.
CLAYTON … I think there is too much people talking sideways in drum and bass and no ones wants to tell you how it is is, for the fear of upsetting the establishment/illuminati. I am at the point where I have to tell it how it is and I am self sufficient so I am not scared of reprisal.
GCB … When I was doing some research for the interview, I stumbled across a post on a forum which briefly went into the controversy surrounding the “Messiah” signing. There have been plenty of stories and rumours relating to this issue, everyone seems to have a theory or an opinion and I think its time we got the full story. Can you tell us what actually happened ?
CLAYTON … The messiah situation has been blown way out of proportion in the last ten years or so. I don’t have enough time in the interview to go into full detail but the long and short of the story is we signed the tune from Konflict, when Bad Company asked them for the tune thats when we had to put our foot down and ask to the honour the agreement that was in place initially.
We didn’t strong arm the tune, no guns were taken out contrary to popular belief, we done what any other record label would have done.
GCB … Hardware had a legendary, long standing residency at “The End”. What was it about the club that made you base your events there for so long ?
CLAYTON … The End to me was one of the best venues in the capital and holds fond memories. Before our residency started in July 97 I used to go there as raver and always wanted to do events in there, so when the time came and we managed to secure a by monthly slot I was chuffed to bits. I think it was the perfect marriage between the layout of the club and our sound. What many people don’t realise is that we were the longest residency there (11 years) across all genres.
The vibes when the club was packed is hard to describe unless you were there, What made the club even more outstanding was the management. Even to this day I still get people I still get people reminiscing about the parties we held.
GCB … You won the “behind the scenes” award in 2012. How did you feel about the award and what are your general thoughts on award ceremonies in DnB ?
CLAYTON … The way award ceremonies are viewed now days, it is more of a popularity contest i.e. (Facebook likes etc) rather than actual output from the label/producer.
To me, its just an ego boost. They are only relevant to the winners, whoever wins gets to put their price up over the next twelve months
GCB … Name your top 3 DnB tracks of all time and give us a bit of info as to why those 3 tracks stand out for you ?
Dillinja – Silver Blade
It is a timeless classic
Wax Doctor – Spectrum
This track takes me on a musical journey and the drum programming is so intricate.
Studio 2 – Dirty Games
This track is jungle it is purest art form.
GCB … You’ve scaled back your operations and focused your efforts mostly on Hardware in recent years. At one point you had 3 other labels in addition to Hardware (TOV/Barcode/Renegade). I know Donny is running Barcode now, can you tell us how that came about and give us some info on the current situation with regards to TOV and Renegade recordings ?
CLAYTON … I gave barcode away just before TOV Music Group closed down. The direction barcode was going musically I wasn’t feeling. The sound was a bit too harsh for me so I gave it to Syall who was our label manger at the time.
With regards to TOV and Renegade Recording both of them have been defunct for the last seven/eight years.
Maybe sometime next year we will remix some of the old catalogue.
GCB … Tell us about “the ones that got away”. Name 3 tracks that you wished you had signed to Hardware ?
System – Near Miss
Hive D Bridge – Standing room only
Konflict – Reanimation
GCB … Aside from Hardware, whats your favourite DnB event and can you tell us why you rate it ?
CLAYTON … My favourite DnB events apart from Hardware is a night called Rupture at Cosica Studios.
I like the fact it is an organic crowd, meaning they come strictly for the music and they have a very loyal knowledgable audience. I went to their first event seven years ago in Camden Lock and it is good to see how far they have come.
GCB … In the past there have been a fair amount of rumours and gossip surrounding Hardware’s business practices. A few artists have actually stated publicly that they are owed money for tracks and gigs etc. I set up this blog to ask the questions no one else was asking, so, with that in mind. Have you always paid every artist what was agreed for tracks and performances and if not, can you tell us why ?
CLAYTON … Regarding rumours and gossip about disgruntled artists not being paid, What label hasn’t had the same thing said about them?
Yes we did get in a situation where the label was doing ok but the event side of things took a downward spiral and that had severe financial consequences.
This situation has been magnified as my so called reputation precedes me. It makes me laugh when I hear the on goings at other labels but no one says nothing.
TOV music group went into liquidation in 2008 when the digital age came into play it effected us just like everyone else.
GCB … You are the very first person in DnB that I’ve spoken to who is also heavily into battle rap. Is there anyone else in DnB on the same vibe or is it literally just us 2 lol ?
CLAYTON … The only other person I know from the Drum and Bass scene who is into BattleRap as much as me in Ben (ex Metalheadz label manager) Im actually in talks at the moment to start a night which is geared towards BattleRap.
GCB … Who is your all time favourite DnB DJ and why do you rate them ?
CLAYTON … My favourite all time Jungle and dnb Dj is DJ Ron. Before I ran a label and done events I was a raver and Ron set always stood out. I used to listen to him in Beatfreak Sound System with him and Rebel MC.
GCB … You’ve made no secret of the fact (on twitter) that you don’t really like dealing with artist agencies/agents. Can you give us some info as to why ?
CLAYTON … Most artist agents can’t see the big picture.
Most DJ at this level don’t need an agent, if anything it convolutes the whole booking process.
If you look at most of the agents around now in Drum n Bass most are failed record label bosses/ DJ/producers who last resort is being an agent.
GCB … Name 3 labels in DnB that you rate and tell us why you’re into them ?
Hospital Records – Head and Shoulders above anybody else in the scenes in terms of marketing and self promotion. This is the way a label should be run. They are a major operating as an indy.
Digital Sound Boy – I like the fact Shy put what he wanted on this label regardless of what other people thought and didn’t get caught in up in the whole (it has to be 170 BPM)
Soul R – When Soul R was at the height of its game, the music and the way it was packaged stood out. Marcus never jumped on any bandwagons.
GCB … Hardware has moved around a fair bit (club wise) since its time at “The End”. You’ve recently moved the events to “Electric” in Brixton. Are you happy with the venue so far and do you see yourself staying there ?
CLAYTON … Electric for us is the perfect venue in the present climate. We have cut back and we only do three events per year in London. The venue and the sound system is perfect for our audience and we will definitely be there for the foreseeable future.
GCB … Who is your favourite MC in DnB and why do you think they stand out from the rest ?
CLAYTON … My favourite is MC in DnB is MC Dynamite. He stands out for me for his versatility and stage presence.
GCB … Do you think Hardware has any real competition in the dark end of the DnB Spectrum ?
CLAYTON … Hardware has competition in the dark side of DnB. Competition is healthy it keeps you on your toes. There is no time for complacency.
GCB … Over the years, Hardware has had a massive list of talent release on the label, literally almost everyone who’s worth mentioning in dark DnB has at some point released on Hardware. A lot of these artists come through your door, stay for a few releases, then they’re off, either setting up their own labels or releasing elsewhere. Personally, I think this constant influx of new talent has helped Hardware grow and progress, if nothing else its certainly helped the label stay fresh and relevant for 2 decades. Is it a conscious decision to keep the production line moving or would you like to hold onto certain artists for longer ?
CLAYTON … Hardware’s ethos from the start has always been about nurturing and bringing new talent through. I think the constant influx of new artists is one of the reasons why Renegade Hardware has managed to stay relevant for so long, in a scene which is constantly moving.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing! I would have loved to have signed a few artists exclusively who have gone on to do do bigger and better things.
GCB … For a long time, you had a studio/shop/HQ in south London. Why did you decide to “shut up shop” so to speak ?
CLAYTON … We had to close the studio/office due to the economic recession coupled with the decline of Vinyl and increased demand for digital products. It was no longer financially viable to sustain the amount of overheads we had.
GCB … At what point during your career did you think “yes, we’ve cracked it” and how did that make you feel at the time ?
CLAYTON … Im yet to come to that point where I think I have truly cracked it. I am always setting new goals.
GCB … If you ever did decide to “call it a day” would you ever sell the “Hardware” brand and if so, how much are we talking ?
CLAYTON … When I do decide to call it a day. It will stay in the bloodline.
GCB … Its no secret that you have had several label managers over the years. Which one do you think did the most in terms of raising the labels profile ?
CLAYTON … In my opinion the best label manager I have worked with is Scott AKA Cold Fusion who is the present label manager.
GCB … Do you think Hardware has reached its full potential as a brand ?
CLAYTON … I think there is a ceiling for our type of drum and bass and it will be hard for that sound to reach a wider audience but we have our purest who love what we do.
GCB … Finally, what are your plans for 2014 and where do you see yourself and the label in 2015 ?
CLAYTON … 2014 we will be making plans for our big 20 year anniversary. We will be taking our sound on a global tour.
GCB … Thanks again for taking the time to chat to me today fella. I wish you and your brand every success in the future, here’s to another 20 years.
Until next time … Peace.