BEHIND THE NAME: UNPLUGGED AUDIO
Unplugged Audio is a booking agency, label and events brand based in Bristol, specialising in the more minimal and roller influenced side of the jungle and drum and bass genres. We caught up with Charlie Fielding, one half of the Unplugged organisers, about the sound they’re pushing, the roster and what Unplugged Audio are all about
Charlie and I met over a couple beers some evening after work alongside Bristol’s harbour. Going on their following and roster to date, the rate in which it is progressing is something quite admirable. The idea for the brand roots back to running events: “I started running events before like five years ago, and I thought rather than going down the DJ route, I’ve always been more interested in the business side, behind music if you like.
“I worked with two agencies before for two or three months, Shook and Subtle Sounds, but never really took off for whatever reason. Then when Shook kinda finished back in July, I just thought why don’t I start my own thing.”
Being involved in events management in the past has given him that prior insight into the music industry in that light: “I ran two different event brands, one’s called Wheel It, that was from 2016 to 2018, and then more recently I was part of a sorta bassline group called Dark Moon. We were doing regular events at Blue Mountain, we started bassline but then ended up doing quite a bit of dnb as well.”
Each have done their rounds around Bristol, and these experiences helped in understanding how to work with promoters and agencies: “Obviously running events you have to deal with agents a lot, and I’m sure a fair share of promotors would agree with me in saying agents are very fucking difficult to deal with. Being divas, asking for stupid riders, stupid 5* hotels. We’d be paying like £300 for an artist and their rider will come to like £100, they’d want like two bottles of grey goose, like five hand towels, a selection of fruit, and it’s just not needed.
“It’s always a career I could see myself doing, I've always wanted to do music events or music business full time, and I think agency was just kind of the natural route for me.”
IT'S MADE TO BE HEARD THROUGH A FAT RIG
With endless music being produced by a countless number of artists each day, the concept of agencies seems to be of an exciting opportunity: “There’s always gonna be thousands of artists coming through each year, but who’s going to represent them? I’ve always been like it, everything I like I like to stay ahead with it. Even with football I’d look at young players and try and pick out who’s gonna be good, it’s the same with music. I listen to small artists thinking that they’re gonna go places kinda thing, and it’s good to be able to help them on that journey.”
Although with such a constant stream of new music comes a need of a keen ear for a good, or particular, sound: “A productions got to sound tight, there’s a lot of producers that you can tell they’ve got the ideology behind the tune, they’ve got the sounds sounding right, but it’s not sitting together. It’s quite rough.”
Being able to spot who’s going to still sound good in the future is a part of the game: “There’s a lot of producers out there who are raw and rough, and I think the longer they produce and the more experience they get, the tighter it becomes and it all comes together to sit in place a bit more.
“If you can spot a producer that sounds good when they’re raw, then when they’ve chiselled it so to speak, it’s gonna sound really fucking good.”
In today’s age of social media and technological investments, to make it in the music industry as a DJ or producer, a lot more goes into it besides the music. “Obviously when it comes to being an artist, rather than just looking at certain tunes, looking at the way they brand themselves because a lot of artists have really good music, but for whatever reason their image doesn’t sit, if that make sense. As shit as it is, it’s not just about what sound you make.
“As fucked as it is, to make it these days you have to be a full package kinda thing. You’ve got to have good brand image, good sound, even stupid things like talk to your fans, you have to be funny online, a lot of shit goes into it.”
The roster at Unplugged Audio has some incredibly exciting names, and the overall sound that is encapsulated in all of them has created a great image and brand sound. Whilst artists on the roster represent spaces in Europe as well as various pockets of the UK, the sound design influences make for a great pool of artists: “Obviously we’re situated in Bristol but we represent people from all over the place, there’s no limit on where you can come from. I think bristol has a really unique sound compared to other cities, it’s going back to bassline, Sheffield bassline is completely different to Birmingham.
“With Cramz coming from Germany, there’s a lot of good European artists at the moment, especially within this new comer bracket kinda thing. You’ve got Divison, Septon, you’ve got a lot of really, really fucking good producers coming through Europe. Cramz is part of a kinda new wave European scene, and we think if we can get him on a UK lineup there’s no reason why we can’t organise tours for him over here.
“What I’ve tried to create is a pool of DJs rather than certain names, we have a really distinct sound. So when a promotor thinks, oh I need like a roller/jungle headliner, they can just come to me and say I've got like a £150 budget, who can you give me? Rather than how much is such and such, so if I create a roster all in the same pocket, they know what they’re getting kinda thing. They can just trust our judgement on what their artist can add to their show.”
The nature of adopting this kind of sound came quite fluently, where the music taste both Charlie and his partner, George, share is the same sort of murky, ragga jungle inspired subtle rollers: “Myself and George, we share the same taste so we've gone for artists we enjoy ourselves and we think will go far. That’s just kind of where they all happen to fall within. It’s not like we’ve gone out to try and find a certain sound, there are a lot of good producers who are making that sound at the moment.
“I know they’re not limited to it that’s the thing, I know that anyone on my roster can step outside of their boundary. I know they can produce liquid bits, old school jungle bits, it’s versatility I guess. It’s made for the rave, it’s made to be heard through a fat rig. It’s when it’s best enjoyed anyway. Dark, dingy sweatbox.”
There are going to be some Unplugged Audio events popping up in 2020, and it is something they are looking forward to: “We’ve got a few small events coming up in Bristol, nothing crazy, nice and intimate. Try and get like 100 people in a small venue, have it out. Something we’re really trying to push going into this year and this summer is takeovers, so we’re looking to link up with promoters up and down the country, bring a few of our artists and have a good time. We’ve got our first one locked in in Norwich in May, big up Delusional Drumz.
“We’ve got myself b2b Recon, and GAW b2b Disrupta, so that’s at the end of May, it’ll be a good little weekend I think.”
Unplugged Audio have come a long way in a short succession, due to the unique sound all artists bring to the table and their clean cut marketing ideas: “We’ve grown more than I thought we would have to be fair, considering it’s just something I kinda do in my spare time. It’s a hard graft, putting as much as time as I can into it, always pushing, always chatting to promoters, always chatting to artists and hopefully one day it will be a full time thing. Just got to keep pushing and keep doing what we’re doing. It’s grown really nicely, it can only be good if it’s organic.”
The ethos behind the brand is a healthy one, with long-term ambitions equalling to a coinciding steady progression between both the artist and the brand: “We’re not really looking for our artist to ‘blow up’ cos blowing up can be temporary. We want our artists to progress, cos blowing up can be like I said, it can be temporary. What we want from our artists is to grow alongside the brand so it’s steady, it doesn’t have to be overnight, we wouldn’t really want it to be overnight cos things that do blow up like that are often forgot about after two or three months. It’s a long graft but when you reap the rewards it’s all worth it.
“We’re happy to sink as many hours that we’ve got into it and hopefully one day we will be on a level where we can run events full time and do the agency full time. I think that’s why we’re such a different brand: we’ve got the agency, we’ve got the events and we’ve got the label.”
Opportunities for future projects and collaborations holds a promising time to come: “Even in the future we can branch out and do more stuff, it’s just when the time’s right and when something pops up at the right time. Who knows what we could do, but it’s just being ambitious and actually believing in what you’re doing. Trust yourself, trust that other people have trust in you.”
Up until November Charlie was running the brand on his own, then George came onboard to help split the roster and bring fresh ideas to the table: “I think the roster was about eight or nine people then, and it was just a bit much to keep on top of, bit lonely to be fair, sitting there like, this is sick, but who am I going to tell? We had a lot of cool bookings and shit coming in and I just thought mate, to be honest I want someone to come in and give their opinion and bring fresh ideas in.
“He runs M4 Bass, he runs a nice, small event in Bristol and when I met him he booked Jappa, Alcemist, Disrupta, so a lot of artists that are in the same pigeonhole of who we’re representing. He’s got the same taste as the label does, he messaged me about it saying he was keen and yeah, we got him on board and just looking forward to seeing what we can both do.”
February 21st 2019
IT CAN ONLY BE GOOD IF IT'S ORGANIC