What if we told you that in the very beginning ‘Dispatch’ was the name of a series of releases on Metalheadz around the 90s? Indeed, big projects can sometimes arise from surprising situations. And the birth of Dispatch Recordings was one of them.

The label as we know it today was launched in 2001 by the Hidden Agenda brothers – Nos and Max Fresh – soon joined by Ant TC1.

New Logo Dispatch Recordings

The early days of this intriguing project saw the three artists releasing their own tracks before opening it up to other actors of the scene: Artificial Intelligence, Zero T, Survival, Nymfo, DLR, Halogenix, Skeptical, Amoss, Optiv & BTK, Kyrist are just a bunch of few great names that released on the imprint. And the list goes on much longer. From its old-school funk influences to deeper & techier stuff, Dispatch Recordings has alternated during the years between older waves of drum & bass artists and newer ones, between more classic production techniques and more modern ones. The quality of the music however always stayed the same.

Moreover, it’s the diversity and longevity of each release that has made Dispatch Recordings one of the biggest & most legitimate drum & bass imprints ever known. Only a selected few can still top the charts after two decades of existence when you think about it.

So, to mark their very special 20th birthday, we met with the mighty Ant TC1 – who now entirely owns and manages the label – to discuss the past, present, and future of Dispatch Recordings.

Hello Anthony,

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!

First, happy birthday Dispatch Recordings! Twenty years in the drum & bass game, it’s impressive, congrats! How does the team feel about it?

We’re a small team really(!) but yeah it’s a real milestone, never really set out to nor expected to get here.  Milestones make you reflect way more for sure and this feels like a big one, it’s nice to be here still doing this.

20 years. What a journey! I’d like to start with a little “ 2 decades quiz”! 

  • Which decade was your favorite for Dispatch Recordings? (Talking about music but also the vibe, the trends, the clubs, the promoters, or even the radio shows?)

I’d say any up until (due to the big obvious) not being able to hear the label’s releases on club systems etc, most of what we release is very much dancefloor driven so it really does feel like somethings missing, more so as I think the actual music quality for D&B is the very best it’s been since the mid-’90s.

Ant TC1 mixing for Dispatch Recordings
Ant TC1 on the left/ Stress Level in the middle/ Nos (Hidden Agenda) on the right testing their remix of “Chameleon” @Momentum – 2003
  • if you had to choose two projects that defined each decade, which one would you pick and why?

I was always really proud of the ‘Method in the Madness’ LP release when I think back, I was told I was taking a big risk in putting out an album from 2 guys that had (up until that point) only released a few singles. I was confident in the project and it paid off in every way for all of us, it’s an LP that still sells well today even. The music on there really stands the test of time for me.

  • If you had to name two producers that defined each decade, who would they be and why?

In mentioning the above LP I’d have to say Octane & DLR, Cern’s ‘Under Another Sky’ Album is just absolutely timeless music with real depth for me. I still play that LP at least once or twice a month in its entirety, anyone reading that hasn’t checked it I can’t recommend checking this one enough. 

It goes without saying Hidden Agenda also, it’s been amazing listening back to the History Remastered (Part 1) LP, they defined the label. Every release from 2001 to 2003 on the labels was theirs! (well, I’m lying – there was a release from Stress Level and I but I was so unhappy with the original mixdowns on both tracks as it was an early production of ours that I decided I just didn’t want to re-master it/re-release it)

  • Last but not least, two parties? 

Tough one – I’d have to say Outlook Festival tops the bill, they’ve been the biggest supporter of the label ever I dare say, I think there was only one year since 2010 where the label didn’t appear at the festival.  I’d say the 2011 Dispatch boat party was a pretty spectacular one, pretty much everyone involved still talks about it today.

The other – I absolutely loved our event at E1 in 2019, loved the venue, the sound, it was busy, the lineup was a real all-time percy and everyone played incredible sets. I could reel off more and more, we’ve luckily had some great events worldwide over the years, thankful for this more than you could imagine at the moment that’s for sure.

Visuals fo a Dispatch Recordings night event
Visual of a Dispatch Recording night at E1 – 2019

Thanks to innovations and innovative producers, drum & bass is constantly evolving. Do you pick the 2021 Dispatch releases the same way you selected them back in 2003? If not, could you tell us in what way this process changed?

We had to be way more ‘sure’ back then and we generally took fewer risks (taking every factor into account), this was wholly due to vinyl being the only format in operation back then, it’s expensive to manufacture.  We even submitted some tracks back in the day that our distro knocked back – they felt the tracks weren’t strong enough to release on wax and would have left a hole financially in the label’s accounts, I’ve got no shame in admitting this.  I’ll be honest; I release music I love. I enjoy the way it is now way more, I can just put out music I love first and foremost.  Even if I look back at an artist’s accounts from last year and it maybe didn’t do so well/didn’t become a big release or tune, it makes no difference to me. I’ll still sign another release or track from them if it hits me upon first listen.

Speaking about the way drum and bass has evolved during these two decades, one might say distribution changed a whole lot as well. How did Dispatch make the transition from selling physical-only records to also promoting digital releases? 

I was resistant to change at first (I guess that’s just me as a person sometimes), we were one of the last in the batches of labels I know of to really get to grips with the changes and accept them not necessarily as a ‘positive’ but acceptance of it being the future whether we liked it or not.  The download/streaming environment being so heavily internet-based/reliant does mean we are way more active than we used to be in using every promotional tool we can do to support a release/gain new fans, etc, etc. Back in the early days, it was way easier, just send off a pre-master, approve the test press, artwork, and then the next thing it was on a shelf in a shop or all the promo was done by your distro, Redeye Records/Juno, etc, fully.

A cover for the release of Survival & Paul T on Dispatch Recordings

Let’s be nostalgic. Do you have any regrets from those past 20 last years? For example, an artist you cared about that stopped producing or even playing music? Or maybe a release you thought would smash everything and didn’t?

I’ve only got regrets over mistakes I’ve made in the past where I’ve made mistakes/oversights in the release process and it’s resulted in them not wanting to release with me anymore.  I’ve learned hard from those mistakes and put steps in place to not repeat them. I’m a really keen ‘step by step’ process follower now in 2021. Cern’s someone from who I massively miss hearing regular music, he surprises me and betters himself with everything he does and the variation in his artistry is not something he sees or feels boundaries in.

To celebrate this epic birthday, you launched a very cool project called: “Dispatch Recordings ‘History Remastered Part 1 – 2001 to 2003’” Could you tell us more about it?

It’s a collection of the 14 key/pivotal tracks that built the label from its inception in 2001 to now. Jason from the Hidden Agenda duo started the label, I initially just helped him before some years later his circumstances changed and he wanted to pass the label on to me fully. All the tracks have been remastered from DAT tapes/original files, some pulled from old pre-master files which were (luckily) saved in a box in either mind or Jason’s spare rooms/lofts for 2 decades. Some of which were never released previously in digital format at all.  I’m really happy with how they all sound so a big thanks to Steve at AT Mastering, Teebee at Black Science Labs and DLR at Labmasters for knocking the remasters across this release right out the park.  The release means a lot to me and Jason in particular as it’s a reminder of where we started out, more so Mark from Hidden Agenda is sadly no longer with us so it’s an honor to re-release his music and give newer label fans the chance to hear just how good an artist he was. The music lives on.

Finally, let’s quickly jump into the future. May 2031. Where do you see Dispatch at around that time?

Very tough Q! 10 years ago I’d have answered this with ease but I’ve taught myself to never think too far ahead. I look at what I’ve got to do today and (at a stretch) tomorrow/next week at best.  I used to live a way more stressful life thinking far ahead, pondering/worrying so yeah I guess all I can say is I’d love to be sat here doing what I’m doing now in 10 years time, releasing what I feel is good music in the all-around best way I can for the label and the artists involved.  

 Some final words you’d like to say?

Thanks for the interview firstly! 

Goes without saying really – a huge thanks to Jason Hidden Agenda too for entrusting me to carry on the label’s legacy all those years back. I’m looking forward to people hearing his new music on the way in 2021 too.

Thanks again to Anthony for taking the time to answer our questions with dedication and passion. We wish all the best to Dispatch Recordings for the years to come, and we look forward to 2031 for their 30th anniversary.


Dispatch Recordings