DJ Agro (Sub-Liminal Recordings):
Musical Mind Control
Brighton-based Sub-Liminal Recordings head honcho Ben Carvin, aka DJ Agro, caught up with us to chat about his successful DJing career, the rapid expansion of the label and the amazing sounds coming from it. Since 2011 Sub-Liminal Recordings nights have been must-attend events for DNB heads along the south coast of the UK. The label has gone from strength to strength and has showcased some of the biggest names in DNB, including Original Sin, Dillinja, Twisted Individual and Annix to name a few. Be sure to checkout Sub-Liminal on SoundCloud and Facebook.
The record label entered the scene with a bang in 2015 and has featured huge tracks from Dominator, Damage Report, Dialogue, Too Greezey, Agro, Version and Devilman. Now in 2017, Sub-Liminal Recordings have got a back catalogue of beats one simply can’t stop listening to.
After speaking with Agro, it is clear he is very excited about how 2017 is shaping up for both himself as a DJ/producer and the record label. With big nights at The Volks, Brighton (April 22nd), The Arch, Brighton (July 28th) and their first American and Canadian tour at the end of the year, it’s easy to share his excitement.
How did you get into creating DNB?
It was a natural progression from mixing, I wanted to get more bookings and knew that making my own tracks would open doors for me.
Who have been your biggest musical influences over the years?
This is such a broad question, but if I had to narrow down my influences into DNB producers, my top three would be, DJ Hazard, Twisted Individual and Generation Dub.
What were your top DNB 5 tunes from 2016?
I’m not exactly sure of all the release dates as I get some of them sent to me as promos but five tracks I have been playing to death are:
1. Dimension – UK
2. Turno – Cativo
3. Culture Shock – Have it all
4. Agro – Dub fi Dub
5. Dez – Its this beat
How is 2017 shaping up for Sub-Liminal?
2017 has already been really strong for us with releases from home grown producers ‘Mentah & Tyrant’, myself and Too Greezey, and Dialogue. Next up will be the Superbad Remix’d E.P.
In terms of events we have secured our first big event at The Arch in Brighton which will be happening on July the 28th . This is something that I have been working towards for years, so I’m really happy that has been confirmed and is going ahead.
We also have an event at our home, The Volks, on April the 22nd with Twisted Individual, Eksman, T>I, myself and loads more. That’s definitely one to look out for. We have also been asked to do room two for all the Breakin Science events at Concorde 2 and hosting room two at Motive. That’s just off the top of my head, but you’ll be seeing our logo put up all over the UK and abroad this year though.
You’ve recently dropped some great releases from artists such as Dialogue, DJ Hybrid, Version and Too Greezey to name a few. What is it about your label that artists enjoy?
I’m not quite sure, you’ll have to ask them that!
I’d like to say it’s the type of sound we push and the family style events we run month in month out and have been doing for ages.
What is behind Sub-Liminal Recordings A&R process? How much music do you get sent and how do you spot that diamond in the rough?
A big chunk of the music is home grown or in-house music. By this I mean Myself and Too Greezey have been making music together for about 10 years. I’ve also got Mentah & Tyrant who I’ve been developing as artists for the last five years so I don’t need to A&R. I know the producers are with me 100%, they all get a good cut and are happy to be a part of the movement.
Other producers that I have released music from like Dialogue and Version, DJ Hybrid etc. have just been through mutual friends or the DJ circuit. I don’t get sent as much music for the label as you might think and most of it isn’t very good. I have only in fact signed one tune from a producer that has sent me music and that was Rob Blaze. Watch out for his tune ‘The Only’ coming this year.
Lets talk about development, you have a well established label in Brighton are there plans to expand Sub-Liminal more nationwide or internationally?
I would like to see the world through DNB. It’s taken me to some amazing places already and I hope I get to carry on with that side of things. Me and Too Greezey have our first Canada/US tour at the end of the year which we are both really happy about. Saying that, I’m not desperate to be playing out of the UK every weekend and I am very glad my fan base seems to be predominantly in the UK. Home is where the heart is and all that.
What is the most rewarding and difficult part of building a label?
The most rewarding part is the event, It’s a family ting! It’s the only time I get to see certain mates like Charlie Rotten & Leaf.
I don’t know what the most difficult part is, there’s lots of difficult parts. I don’t like constantly posting online on social media, ‘Mentah’ now runs the Instagram for me which has been a massive help.
If you could go B2B with any DJ in the world who would it be and why?
Andy C, because he’s the best technical DNB DJ and the most knowledgeable selector. Other than that, DJ Hype as he’s a major influence on me too
Are there any artists in particular that you would enjoy collaborating with?
I like working with Too Greezey & DJ Hybrid, I always like building a tune with Hizzle Guy too. I can relax with these guys and I think that helps a lot. I’ve done some other collaborations that have been over the internet and it’s not as good as being in the same room with someone you can have a laugh with.
I would love to make a tune with Hazard but that would never happen so my realistic choice would be someone like T>I. He’s got a similar sound to what I try and go for, but Dominator and Turno also are very talented guys that I would like to work with one day.
How important do you think the re-opening of Fabric will be for the UK music scene?
It's important yes, but I think we could of survived without it. I’ve never played at fabric but I'm very glad I might get the chance to one day now that its re-opened.
The Volks nightclub in Brighton is a place of hazy dreams. What is your favourite memory from there?
Tough one, a fond memory is me and Charlie Rotten playing a vinyl set with MC Trigga. Another good one was playing back-to-back for 90 minutes with DJ Alpha.
Which are your favourite venues you have ever played at?
Lightbox & Fire, Hidden, London 02 (Building six), The Bestival, The Volks & Concorde 2
The back catalogue of Sub-Liminal is full of jungle fueled deep rollers and bouncing basslines. Do you think it is this style that keeps the fans filling out your club nights?
My events have all styles of DNB, we book anyone from Original sin to President T to Ray Keith so I just hope it’s the confidence that a Sub-Liminal event will be a good one that keeps the heads coming back time and time again!
Your recent release ‘Dub Fi Dub’ with Chats MC is an absolute banger and a personal favourite of mine from Sub-Liminal. Are there any new Sub-Liminal releases or signings we should be looking out for?
Cheers, it’s the best track I have made. Also look out for my track ‘Thuggish’ that’s coming out this year on Dread Recordings.
There will be more from Version, myself, Too Greezey and some remixes that will blow your socks off!
What has been the turning point in your career so far?
My career has been a steady climb so far and for this I am grateful as I have learned the hard way and I believe I appreciate more than some of the overnight producers. Making Noise Complaint & Dub fi Dub has been a wicked buzz, also leaving other labels gave me some inner confidence to make exactly what I wanted, rather than what I thought someone else wanted of me.
Describe what your perfect double drop would sound like
Two tracks, from different sub genres and years, complimenting each other in a way that only a connoisseur would select haha.
If you could have one DJ superpower what would it be?
Being able to teleport to gigs, I hate driving!
by Graham Bromelow