Garage is everywhere, and lately, it has even been finding its way into the drum & bass scene as well. Bassi, the owner of Flexout Audio, noticed it too, so for the last 12 months he has been busy curating an album around this called ‘Waves 2’. This album challenged Flexout residents like Teej and Amoss to think out of the box but also features newer talent like Samath and Vektah. 

‘Waves 2’ is an invitation to explore this new sound. Flexout is certain that this trend will only keep growing in the months to come, with more and more artists incorporating garage in their drum & bass sets. We spoke with Bassi and Teej and talked about ‘Waves 2’, the new direction the pink sub-label is taking, and the future of drum & bass. 

WAVES 2's artwork

Congratulations on Waves 2 coming out! How did you curate this album?

Bassi: For a lot of the Flexout artists on there it was me asking them to make a garage tune specifically for the album. Then, organically, over the last 12 months, people would introduce me to artists I hadn’t heard of before who were making garage in a similar style. Samath is a great example of that. His tune blew me away. Some of the artists were asked to make a tune, but it was really interesting to see that at the same time, a lot of drum & bass artists were also writing garage in the background. It feels like a bit of a movement, it happened naturally. It’s really difficult to try and put an album together that has a theme and a sound to it when you’re working with so many different artists and hopefully, I’ve done that. It’s a subtle art trying to put a ‘various artist’ album together. 

I’m proud of how it’s come out and I’m just really thankful to all the artists who are involved. It’s refreshing to do something a bit different and hopefully, this can be the start of a new chapter for Waves. We hope to get a lot more garage demos to come through and continue this movement. Our first Waves compilation was during the halftime movement, and that sound naturally burnt out. But, interestingly, drum & bass has never done that. It’s 30 years old and it’s still going strong. But then you do get these little movements that come along every few years. That’s really exciting. Yes, often they do burn out, so we’ll have to see where the future lies, but at the moment I’m excited to be working on something a bit different. 

With this compilation, do you want to push the garage movement that’s going on?

Bassi: There are 15 Waves releases from 2016 to 2019. You had Monty on there. Ak:Hash who is now a member of Visages, did an EP as well. I want to do a similar thing now. Let’s start with an album, and Teej is already making a lot more sick garage tunes so hopefully, we can do a follow-up release. It’ll be called ‘Wave 16’ because there have already been 15 wave releases before that from the old days. The plan is to continue the series and explore this new direction. 

I also saw that in the first Waves compilation in 2019, there were about 20 artists on there, a lot more than on Waves 2. Why did you make it less? 

Bassi: If you look at an album and there are 30 tracks on it, sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming and it’s not fair on the artist, it waters down the importance of each track almost, so it was a conscious decision to keep it at 13 tracks. I think that’s just a sign of the times. The Waves 1 compilation was a ‘greatest hits’ compilation of all of the releases that we had done over the last few years, so there’s loads of music to choose from. This album isn’t, it’s more of a fresh and original VA. 

Have the tracks already been played out at shows? 

Teej: I debuted my track ‘Incursion’ at Boomtown, and it got a very good reception. Since then, I’ve played it in a few sets, because I’ve only started playing garage myself recently, kind of incorporating it in my sets. It’s been well received by a lot of people, so it’s been really good to get that because it’s my first garage tune. 

Bassi: And, interestingly, there’s this trend where quite a lot of drum and bass DJs are now having little garage sections in their sets, and we’ve not seen that before. When we put out the first series of Waves, there was that time when halftime was big, and I guess Ivy Lab were probably the biggest artist that pushed those wonky hip-hop beats and halftime, and they incorporated that into their drum and bass sets (read our recent interview ‘Talking past, present, and future with Ivy Lab’ here). It’s really interesting to see that now there are a lot of people who are mixing garage sections into their drum & bass sets and a lot of the drum and bass producers who we’re sending the tunes out to are making an effort to incorporate these garage sections into their sets. 

And what do you think has pushed this garage wave? 

Bassi: I feel like, from my side, these sorts of trends go around in circles. I mean, if you are playing a drum & bass record on a vinyl player and turn it down to 33 RPM, it would sound kind of garage-y. So, it is just like slowed-down drum and bass, and it’s just got a different groove. I think that’s what Teej has been finding fun to play around with.

Teej: Yeah, for sure. There are so many similarities, especially the drum patterns. It’s just literally a slower drum and bass version, playing with the sounds and stuff that you have in a different genre is just so exciting to me. Also, in the events sector, in Bristol, where I’m from, you’ll find a lot of cross-genre events, like garage and drum & bass. I think that’s so well received, there is a junction between the two of them that is so close together. It does spill over, and then eventually it starts flowing into the music. You see a lot of drum & bass artists now making garage. In the last few years, it’s been quite prominent, which is cool to see. 

What would you say is the common thing between those two genres? 

Teej: The bass, underground, 808s, samples… you’ll find a  lot of old-school samples. It reminds me a lot of the sampling in jungle, and some of the new garage samples are like a lot of scratching samples, a lot of sampling from old MCs, live recording, and stuff like that. I think the sampling culture in garage is also up there with jungle, which is cool. 

What other genres would you maybe like to explore in the future? Now there’s a garage wave, but do you see other genres coming up as well? 

Bassi: When we started the original series back in 2016, it was with Monty and it was this halftime hip-hop beat, with all the same bass weight, subs and drum & bass sounds that the guys and girls were using in their drum & bass tracks. With the new direction for Waves, it feels like UKG and this 135 BPM tempo is predominantly where we’re going to explore. But there’s also a dubstep tune on the album. I did a mix the other day, and maybe it’s because it’s been quite a long time now since all those tunes came out. But it took me back to the days of the Skream album and Dub Police as a record label and places like that. There’s so much good music now but it was just so much fun going back and listening to all of those old tunes. I’ve been into dub, reggae, and bass-driven music. I feel like 135 to 140 BPM is probably the canvas for ‘Waves 2’. 

Teej: I’ve been making 140 to 135 BPM stuff a lot. Eventually, I’d like to have a go at 160 BPM. I think there’s some amazing stuff from people like Nectax and stuff in Manchester that’s coming through right now that I’d like to explore. I started on hip hop, then I went to drum & bass and I’ve only really started going into exploring more garage and 140 and old-school dubstep like Mala. That’s a big inspiration for some of the stuff that I would like to make.

What would you say was the biggest challenge between creating drum & bass and creating tunes with another BPM?

Teej: I approached the technical side of this track a lot differently from my previous outing on Flexout, as I find the sound of garage synonymous with a more analogue and loose sound. Minimal drum & bass has a more precise and surgical production. With this track, I wanted a more natural sounding flow, bounce, and gritty sound. I think it’s more fun to make this sound than a lot of other electronic stuff as you can be a bit more messy and loose on the mixdown in many areas. If you make a certain type of music for so long, it is hard to take yourself out of a pigeonhole to do that, but when you start doing it, the creative flow starts going and it’s really fun to do. 

Bassi: Drum & bass producers are the best in the world for sonic engineering and mixdowns and making everything sound good. Having drum & bass producers take those skills and then apply them to more vibey, garage-y tracks is a really good mix. I think that’s why this year there’s going to be a really big movement in UKG because a lot of the drum and bass producers are starting to make those tunes and that’s not been done before. It’s like when dubstep came along, that gave drum and bass a massive kick up the ass. 

Teej: The mixing part of garage into drum & bass is a new journey for me too. I used to mix bassline, but that’s a bit heavier than traditional garage. It’s definitely fun. It’s not the easiest transition to make sometimes and it does take skill to pull off a lot of the time unless you have a track that starts at 135 BPM going into drum & bass, which you have more and more of lately. We had one released on our record label and it was one of the best-performing tracks, so I think it’s clear that people want to have that transition, so that’s something that I might have to dip my fingers into at some point. 

What does it do with the audience? 

Teej: I remember that Boomtown set, which was my first garage set, and it was also a big back-to-back with Lupo and Objectiv. We started with garage and straight away the room was filled, and there were dancey vibes because it’s a festival, everyone’s already happy and they’re loving themselves. Then when we did the transition to drum & bass you could tell the energy lifted but the vibes were already good. Because of the tempo and the speed, you’re naturally going to be moving faster but the good vibes were there from the start. UKG and drum & bass are interlinked in a lot of ways in that culture and I think that you’ll find so many people that love both of them. 

Is there also a movement going on the other way around?

Teej: Flava D is one example. She used to make garage and now she’s signed to Hospital Records. The spillover is great because I think garage and drum & bass are two genres that are more underground than others. Involvement from both sides is great for everyone.

Do you think that UKG will become a permanent part of the drum & bass scene, as dubstep has become in a way?

Bassi: I hope so because I’ve always liked club nights that are a bit of a journey. I remember my favourite ever warm-up DJ. He was playing drone music and techno tunes turned to 33 rpm on the turntable. It built up the night. There was some 140 dubstep and then by the time the drum & bass came on the whole crowd went all in, they’d been waiting for some drum and bass for so long that it was a lot more powerful. Going back to 2016 when drum & bass artists and DJs were doing this whole of starting their set with either dubstep or halftime and then building up, you don’t hear that anymore. I feel like this UKG movement might not last forever, maybe only for the next two or three years, but it’s definitely going to be a growing trend and you will see more drum & bass DJs joining in and having garage in their sets.

Interview conducted in January 2024 by Annelies Rom.

Thanks to Tom & Tyler for the interesting conversation. Don’t forget to follow Flexout Audio & Teej on socials to find out more about their upcoming work.
You can stream and/or buy ‘Waves 2’ here.

Flexout Audio