EDC Las Vegas
Discovery Project Releases is a regular series featuring exclusive music downloads from our Discovery Project alumni.
Prior to dropping science at EDC Las Vegas 2016, Blacklab had already caused major tremors in the Las Vegas D&B scene. And over the last year, they’ve moved even closer to the epicenter of a major seismic shift that has materialized Stateside in the D&B scene. The sibling duo are staunch reps of the Vegas underground and, as such, have played a pivotal role in keeping the skanky beats proper. But their influence reaches far beyond the confines of the desert with worldwide support from genre heavyweights like Calyx and TeeBee, Ed Rush & Optical, Loadstar, DC Breaks, and the Hospital Records Crew.
While their primary focus is spreading their love of D&B as far and wide as they can, they’re also passionately working to unify the US drum & bass massive, despite the fact that they may be separated by thousands of miles. Together, with fellow Discovery Project winner Consouls, they have formed the Database Collective, whose aim, in their own words, is to “support and offer up a proper channel to help each other make waves as a movement for the new breed of US talent. We help each other get more exposure and, as a whole, make contributions to the culture we fell in love with.”
Blacklab are the first in the Discovery Project Release series to drop a double dose of dope beats. The boys have decided to flex their skills on two melodic liquid D&B gems. “Future” sees them at their best, a thickly layered number with rich pads, a floating topline, and just a touch of organic drums. The real star of this tune, though, is how well it’s composed and how well it harnesses emotions that are seldom felt in a D&B tune. “Hold Me Close” builds even further on the theme of incorporating silky-smooth melodies and organic instruments into a tune that is about as romantic as drum & bass will ever be.
You both started performing and reading music well before producing; tell us about that.
Kashim: We both started getting involved with music in middle school. We’re lucky to be close to the same age, because we ended up playing together in the same ensembles most of the time.
Kariem: We were in both concert ensembles and competitive marching bands for about eight consecutive years, so we drilled over scales and prepared for live performances daily. This really sparked the love we have for music. We also have an older brother who ended up in the music industry, as well, so you can say it just runs in the family!
How did being in a high-level high school marching band help prepare you for being onstage as a DJ?
Kariem: Understanding the balance between practice and performance. You have to know your music, and there’s definitely a link between what you play and how you play it. I like to think we apply that same sense of discipline these days when mixing or working on tunes. It also taught us how to prepare for those bigger performances when there’s more pressure to keep up with the best and show them what you’ve got!
Both tunes on this release are pretty melodic. Can you talk about why you’ve decided to take this direction?
Kariem: We wanted to make something more musical, for sure! It’s fun and challenging coming up with chord progressions and musical riffs. Our music tends to be dark and emphatic on sound design, but we have a whole different side of [ourselves musically] that we want to share. You can hear tons of layers in “Future”—that project was all about experimenting with colorful vibes and projecting that into an uplifting drum & bass tune.
Kashim: “Hold Me Close” is definitely centered around the whole “ensemble” feel! I think we had been listening to a bit of older funk vinyl rips when we started working on that project. I had a lot of fun with that concept and wanted to give it an old-school “slow dance” vibe, especially for the breakdown. We also wanted it to feel like an older drum & bass track overall, so we used instruments whenever possible to keep it organic—a touch of piano, string, horns, and guitars. It was fun balancing out each part, just like all those years in band class.
The D&B scene recently lost one if its most respected artists, Marcus Intalex. Can you talk a little bit about how he has inspired your work?
Kariem: First off, he was an amazing artist with a truly visionary sound. I was taken aback when I heard the news. Definitely felt myself fall in a bit of a funk, but decided it’s best to celebrate his legacy, as he left us with a beautiful collection of music. Liquid was the first style of drum & bass I fell in love with. Our library is decorated with classics from Intalex, and it’s crazy to think the music we casually listened to has shaped our influence in the studio.
Kashim: Tunes like “Sell Your Soul” or “Run Away” have that timeless sound that we always look at as songs for inspiration. Always a breath of fresh air, even after all these years, but truly a big loss for the scene.
How are things going with the Database Collective?
Kashim: The Database is doing great! We’ve added some new and familiar faces over the last few months, as we continue to help each other develop. Our collective recently hosted one of three rooms at Xcellerated DNB for the US debut of Xtrah and Signal, along with DLR and Annix. It was proper vibes, for sure! The crew has some big releases in store. You’ll be hearing tons more from all of us over the next few months.
D&B went big at EDC this year. We know you’re local, so we assume you had to have been there. What was it like for you this year?
Kariem: It was fantastic seeing D&B represented in a big way this year. Insomniac, along with Cyber Groove, really outdid themselves with some serious heat studding the bassPOD. Huge S/O to them for sure, as my night was filled with exactly the music I was looking for!
Aside from being glued front-stage at the bassPOD for some breathtaking sets, I wanted to catch up with some of the people we connected with last year. I had a chance to meet up with some friends and a few members of the Database, which made the evening tons of fun. A member of our collective had the full EDC wedding experience (congrats, Will!), so that was a definite highlight of the weekend. Thankfully, I was also able to spend a bit of time with the heads Prolix and TC, absolute legends. We talked about VSTs, studio vibes, tunes—it was a good time! I mentioned that we will be in London this year, and TC had tons of great advice to follow up with!
D&B in general is thriving! Of course, big thanks out to Insomniac for putting together such a great festival in the first place. Looking at the big picture, seeing some pioneering artists represent drum & bass at one of the largest music festivals in the world speaks volumes for the scene and how much it’s grown. It’s been great to see and even better to be a part of.