Critical Music started in 2002 by producer and bass music visionary, Kasra. The label has become one of the most respected worldwide in discovering and shaping drum and bass, dubstep, halftime and experimental bass music over its 15-year tenure. And to commemorate that, Kasra and friends have released a delicious compilation album with tracks by many of the cutting-edge artists who have released on the label, but who have also been influenced and shaped by Critical Music. On the release date of this epic album featuring tracks by Enei, Mefjus, Ivy Lab, Signal and Kasra himself, Your EDM was able to connect with the scene-shaping label head to talk about his thoughts on the last 15 years of Critical, how his tastes and music have shaped the bass music landscape, and what’s next for this influential label.
Critical Music was started on a whim as a hobby, in your own words. When did you start to feel like it was viable and like you had something in terms of the music you were producing and the response you were getting?
The label was started on a hobby but not on a whim, I took it seriously from the get go. The only difference to know was that I didn’t think much past the first few months. I didn’t know if it would get off the ground at all! It took a good three or four years until it felt like the label was something that would continue for any length of time. Starting a record label is fraught with pitfalls, especially when producing vinyl in such a volatile market.
It’s pretty crazy to think about Critical being started 15 years ago, when many people think there was a lull in harder, techstep/neuro style beats, save for Renegade Hardware and RAM. In the beginning, what types of dnb were you looking for? Did you have any idea how much of a game-changer Critical would become?
The label’s A&R process pretty much revolves around my tastes. These tastes change and develop like anyone’s but it’s always about what I like, what I like to play and what is interesting to me. It’s the most narcissistic approach to label management ever. (laughs)
As the label moved on from those early days of neuro and other experimental drum and bass, how did you select artists and tracks? What kind of persona, if any, were you trying to build for the label?
I wanted the label to be diverse, not about one sound and in its own way have a common thread that ties all these different things together.
Many of the most highly-respected names in drum and bass such as Noisia and BSE credit Critical with being integral to discovering and helping cultivate the artists who drove the harder and more experimental side of drum and bass, such as Current Value, Ivy Lab and Mefjus. How do you feel about the assessment? How do you plan to keep helping visionary artists push the edges in a way that really resonates with DnB heads?
I think the label has always pushed creativity, that manifests itself in many different styles and sub genres. As long as people are making music that excites and interests we will be here to release it.
What excites you about the direction drum and bass is going right now, with half-time, trap, experimental hip hop and all the other highly technical permutations that labels like Critical is giving a voice to?
Drum and Bass has always been a melting pot of ideas and influences, a genre that is always open to outside influence. The half time movement is particularly exciting to me.
What do you want the compilation for your 15 year anniversary to reflect?
I wanted it to be a reflection of where the label is right now and where it is going, not a retrospective look, a look to the future.
Anything else you want to say about Critical’s journey or where it’s going? Anything to the fans?
Thank you for supporting us for the past 15 years, we have only just started!
The “Critical: 15 Years of Underground Sonics” is available today, May 26 on Critical Recordings. Both digital and special edition box set versions are now available on the Critical Music website. Click below for the streaming album.