Beneath the Label: Dixon Avenue Basement Jams
Continuing our series exploring the best club labels around, The Skinny sits down for a pint with the duo behind Dixon Avenue Basement Jams to discuss the label's ethos, the mysterious Marquis Hawkes and the merits of coloured vinyl
“Real rockin’ raw shit from the street for the clubs” is the unambiguous motto that underpins Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, the Glasgow-based label run by Dan 'Monox' Lurinsky and Kenny Grieve aka The Wasp. The duo signalled their intent in no uncertain terms at the tail end of last summer with the release of Jared Wilson’s Unknown Desires, immediately turning countless heads in the process. Since then, the output has consistently lived up to their founding promise, with the main emphasis being on a particularly jacking breed of dancefloor-ready house and techno. With vinyl runs of around 1000 copies pressed for their most recent releases, DABJ seems to have struck a chord with those who like their electronic music authentic and well-crafted.
Among the highlights in the label’s early history have been two releases by the uber secretive Marquis Hawkes, a hitherto unknown associate of Grieve and Lurinsky, who operates under an alias and closely guards his identity. His debut offering, last year’s Cabrini Green, was undoubtedly a key moment in DABJ’s increasing rise to prominence, with its old school rugged percussion, warped acid grooves and skilfully deployed vocal snippets. “Between us, we knew straight away that one was going to be massive,” says Dan. “I remember letting Richard and Martin who do distribution at Rubadub hear it. Before we’d even started doing pre-sales they said it was going to be huge and, sure enough, it’s turned out that way.”
Though Hawkes, along with other artists such as VernoN and Jared Wilson have quickly helped establish DABJ’s reputation as purveyors of the finest bubbling acid stompers, the label’s founders insist that they are open to exploring a broader range of styles, providing the quality remains high. “There’s no constraints,” says Kenny. “We’re sniffing about the same styles but if someone drops something on us, like DABJ 1207 (TX Connect & CT Trax), which isn’t the same as what we’ve done but it’s amazing, we couldn’t say no.”
“Even if someone sent us an electro record that we thought was an absolute nailer,” adds Dan, “if we thought it suited the label, we would definitely put it out. It just so happens that we’ve not heard anything like that yet.” In any case, it seems the duo has plenty to keep them occupied and one suspects they may well already be sitting on a goldmine of unreleased gems. With test pressings for their next few instalments already delivered or in transit, they seem to take glee in discussing how and when they are going to proceed with releases. “I think we should put number seven out before six just to fuck people up,” Kenny suggests through a wayward grin. “We could do that”, admits Dan. “Underground Resistance used to do that all the time.”
UR is one of many names that come up when the discussion turns to the labels they respect and those which they believe share the same ethos, if not a similar sound. Their list includes the likes of L.I.E.S, Creme Organization, Bunker and Sex Tags Mania, all of which have well-earned reputations through their commitment to releasing quality underground club music. “I really like The Trilogy Tapes, too,” says Dan. “Will Bankhead has good presentation as well. It’s always really unique which I think is similar to our approach.”
True enough, DABJ releases stand out for reasons other than their imposing sound. Each comes with an old fashioned inlay sheet and each record is cut on marbled vinyl in its own distinct colour, despite the fact that both owners admit to a preference for using traditional black copies when DJing out. “It was your idea, don’t be blaming me!” says Kenny as soon as the topic of their gleaming wax is raised. Either way, such commitment to presenting the label’s music as a complete package is to be applauded when so much electronic music, much of it of questionable merit, is beamed out into the digital ether without so much as a sleeve note to accompany it.
Sound and aesthetics aside, a significant weapon in DABJ’s armoury is the combined experience Kenny and Dan bring to the stable. Through years of forging friendships through music, not least during their stewardship of long-running Glasgow techno night Monox, and the MNX label, the pair has established numerous valuable relationships that are likely to enable them to source killer material for some time to come.
Yet they are equally happy to look outwith their own circle for artists to invite into the family. At the time of writing, the only DABJ artist who has no previous association with Kenny and Dan is French producer, VernoN. Thankfully, recognising that his twisting acid lines and driving percussion bear all the requisite hallmarks of the label, they have welcomed him with open arms. “He seems to fit right in,” says Kenny. “He’s a total synth weirdo, he’s mad on his acid, he’s crazy on buying vinyl and he’s into all the jacking stuff that we’re into.” A kindred spirit, it would seem.
As well as gaining increasing recognition for the label, Lurinsky and Grieve are finding a wider audience for their joint DJ sets, during which you are as likely to hear pounding techno melters as you are to find deep, spaced out house tracks. “When we’re DJing together, we probably end up being a bit more banging than the kind of thing you’d hear on the label,” explains Kenny. “It’s not on purpose; it’s just the way DJ sets tend to go. If you’re DJing with Dan you know it’s going to be fucking monstrously banging at some point, anyway.”
At the moment, the pair’s artistic input is limited to representing DABJ from behind the decks, though the prospect of their own productions surfacing on the label is not entirely out of the question. “We’ve worked on a few bits together but we’re not happy enough with it to release anything yet,” says Dan. “We’re doing a remix at the moment for another label too, but that’s not quite finished yet.”
“We won’t be secretive about our own stuff,” insists Kenny when asked about how they will approach releasing their own material. “We’ll just call it Dixon Avenue Basement Jams. None of the people on the label just now are either of us, if that’s what you’re getting at.” Grieve is referring to the speculation surrounding the identity of Marquis Hawkes, which has been rife since he produced such a standout debut outing on the label’s second release. “Everyone thought he was me,” says Dan. “He turned up at Fabric and folk were asking ‘are you Dan Monox?’ It isn’t me, but I’ll happily take the plaudits for it.”
Whether they are directly involved in the productions or not, it is likely more praise will come the label’s way in the coming months. For one, we can expect the first in the DABJ Allstars series, a split EP featuring two tracks by TX Connect and two by CT Trax, yet another artist operating under a mysterious alias for the label. Marquis Hawkes is also set to release Sex, Drugs and House before the end of the summer.
Crucially, for fans who missed out on earlier copies, the partners plan to start issuing re-releases of the first five records - a welcome move considering the infuriating phenomenon of limited runs and the subsequent exclusivity fetish which leads to records selling for obscene amounts on websites like Discogs. “People doing those limited one-sided records can go and fuck themselves,” Kenny states with conviction. “Although, we’ll probably release one in six months,” jokes Dan. “Yeah, under another name though,” his partner replies.
With the pair clearly excited about the label’s future, and with the prospect of a Boiler Room set in October among the many events they have to look forward to, the only foreseeable hitch in their plan will come when they run out of colours to use on their eye-catching marbled vinyl. “At that point, we’ll have to rethink it,” admits Dan, pondering a somewhat enviable dilemma.