Diversity in Motion: The Flexout story

We caught up with Bassi, owner of Flexout Audio, as well as all-round nice guy to discuss his musical roots, the creation and international expansion of his label and the pioneering sounds coming from the Flexout camp. With over 10 years in the DNB game, Bassi has become a highly respected DJ, producer and label owner. Be sure to checkout Bassi's mix for the podcast.

It takes about 10 seconds of conversation with Bassi to realise how passionate he is about music. From a very early age he was interested in rock/punk and started to write lyrics. At age 13, inspired by the punk rock quartet Capdown, Bassi became the lead singer of the ska punk band Relvis Troll. Surrounded by four talented amigos, the band became the catalyst for his thirst for wider musical knowledge. At the age of 16 he and his friends discovered DNB. He tells us the transition to DNB at the age of 16 was easy due to “the similarities of energy and speed” within both styles.

During this discovery period Bassi was tantalised by Dillinja’s 2001 Cybotron LP. “He was the main man that got me into DNB” he says, “it was the raw jungle based sounds and dark basslines that did it for me.” If he (or anyone for that matter) needed a night to cement his interest in DNB then a large, loud venue was required. Fortunately, his die-hard DNB mates prescribed him a healthy dose of Fabric. After using a fake ID to sneak in, Bassi was blown away by the Scratch Perverts and Noisia blaring through a monster sound system, and there was no looking back.

Whilst his hunger for live DNB was being satisfied, there was still something missing for him. This void was quickly filled by music production, as software rapidly became more refined, easier to access and cheaper. After being shown how to create music and mix two tunes together at the same time, the Relvis Troll lead singer laid his voice to rest and put his hands to work. Fanatical about this new skill, Bassi and his three friends practised into the wee hours of the morning, quickly forming the DJ collective Midnight Flight.

Over the next two years Bassi became a very talented DJ, frequently playing out at Dubbed Out, a local night in Maidstone. Building on that, he helped run a successful night in Tonbridge called Hijack. “There was nothing to do when we were growing up, so we put on a DNB night in our tragic local nightclub” he recalls, “all our mates came and I’ve got some great memories. We used to put on big Easter reunion nights for our mates coming back from uni.”

In his time at Lincoln University studying drama, Bassi started to take event promoting and Djing more seriously. His entrepreneurial business mind shone when he won a £5,000 government grant for small businesses. It was at this moment that Bassis goals switched from studying to event management and Flexout was born. Co-run with his good friend John (DJ Apocolypse), the duo set about to turn Lincoln's underground music scene drought and flood it with the pioneering sounds of Dubstep and DNB. For over five years, Lincoln was provided with big names like Andy C, Roni Size and Shy FX to name a few. When asked about success stories he chuckles and says “I remember when we got 1000 through the door. I felt so proud to pull of such a big event in such a tiny city, that isn’t known for underground music. You get that feeling when everything comes off right – the sound is perfect, party vibes, that is what makes it all worth it.”

Six years ago, Bassi’s business partner John tragically died due to a heart condition. The untimely death was a huge personal blow for Bassi, yet it ignited a fire within him to expand Flexout into a record label.  “I felt it was my duty to John,” he recalls “after his death I wanted to turn something we had only discussed and joked about into a reality.”

In 2011 Flexout released its first EP ‘Lionheart’ by Trutek, featuring Fermi, which included a remix from the mighty Kasra. Flexout met Kasra when they put on a joint event in Lincoln and he has played Flexout bangers throughout his career.

To stop listening to the back catalogue of Flexout is a challenge, the diversity of the styles keeps me happily tuned in for hours. We discuss the reason behind the versatility in length and it is clear Flexout will not be a one sound label. “One of the main reasons why I love drum and bass is because it’s so diverse. 170BPM is the canvas and artists can do so much with it. I love how you can start a set so minimally and gradually build up into tear-out rollers. I try to be progressive in my sets and I've always wanted the label to reflect my taste. I was told when I started the label that I should find a sound and stick to it, but I just want to release music I believe in and that comes in many styles”.

For six years Flexout has taken us on a journey from heavy bassline rollers, jungle inspired anthems and atmospheric liquid. In 2016 Flexout celebrated their five year anniversary of their core sound by presenting ‘The Rollers’, a 30 track LP, with tracks from Philth, Amoss, Chromatic, Taelimb, Conscience and many more. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the 64th release from Flexout, ‘Fearful’ (FLXA064) out on the 31st March 2017. Featuring Arkaik, Amoss, Hyroglifics, Deficit & Chesson, this EP is sure to bang.

Bassi has got a relentless drive that continually pushes him to improve the label, set bigger goals and push the boundaries of creativity. He tells us “you can’t take anything for granted in this game. There are so many good DNB record labels you have to put in all your effort to keep producing good content.” It is no surprise then,that Bassi’s supportive and diverse label are making waves within the DNB scene, both figuratively and literally speaking.

‘Waves’ is a new series that Flexout have started to showcase. Bassi was being inspired by French producer, Monty, who sent over multiple demos of hip-hop influenced, halftime, wonky goodness. After being shown some of this sub-genre it was easy to see why Bassi snapped up Monty. “His style sounded so different from what we'd been releasing and I just thought, I’ve got to make something happen here, so I came up with the idea of a series called 'Waves', that would give a platform for this new branch of drum and bass. Some people know it as halftime, or 'beats' to others. I still don't really know what to call it.”

Bassi tells us a story about speaking with Roni Size. They discussed how people are always craving a new groove and how these changes stop the scene from getting stale. This conversation clearly stuck with Bassi, as the 5th EP (Waves005) release of Waves from Iceland’s Balatron came crashing into the scene last December. Balatron’s EP encompasses an eclectic range of sounds - 80’s rolling synths on ‘Onima’, hip-hop grooves on ‘Flip Your Hands’ and the halftime jump up esque ‘Flux’. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on the next Waves releases from Neve, Ordure, Vorso and Corrupted.

Alongside the Waves series, Flexout are spearheading the new series, ‘Onyx’ – a platform specifically designed to support new artists that aren’t part of the core Flexout family. The first Onyx EP (ONYX001) was released earlier this year and featured the Belgium crew M-Soul, SVB, S27, Medisin, Mombosh and Anna Rune. “I am really excited about the artists we have lined up for Onyx”, he says “I know how hard it is to get exposure for underground artists and Onyx is a platform that will help them.” The next Onyx volume is from two Columbian artists – Brain and Semitone.

The conversation quickly moves onto the international community of artists that feature on Flexout. Ranging from Belgium (Bredren), Germany (Survey), Switzerland (Qbig & Zenith B), Berlin (PRTCL), Australia (Ewol) and Shanghai (Arkaik) the Flexout camp are truly worldwide. I asked if he tactically approached any international artists, “it happened completely organically. I’ve got my London crew (Amoss, Fearful, Taelimb & Conscience) and we are all mates who share the same passion as the other guys from around the world originally sent me demos and then we've worked with them and done parties together and become friends that way. I've always wanted the crew to be made up of a bunch of mates, so I won't work with anyone I don't like even if they make bangers.”

Extending the family has opened the door to tear up dancefloors across the globe. Playing at Boomtown Festival, Basel Switzerland and the Old Slaughter House Stockholm are some of Bassis favourite memories. The European expansion continues on April 7th for Teifklang and June Soul:unity, both in Germany. An American tour covering Boston, Portland, LA and Pittsburg at the end of the year will round off what is shaping up to be an incredible 2017 for Flexout.

by Graham Bromelow