As DJ EZ’s NUVOLVE marks its first anniversary, we catch up with label stars Laura Alice & Phonetix, Ryuken and Echelon


Having set the template for UK Garage for more than two decades, DJ EZ launched a brand new record label, NUVOLVE, in October of last year, to further the development of the scene.

Starting as it meant to go on, NUVOLVE dropped six singles on launch from the likes of Todd Edwards, Proper Tings, Club Asylum, Fabian Dubz MPH and Shosh, and has followed that up with essential cuts from artists both established and up and coming, including Jay Colyer, Para, Hybrid Theory, Matt Jam Lamont and Smokey Bubblin’ B.

The label’s latest offering is Next One from Russian duo Hi-Top, which lands on 3 December; their second release on the label in the last few months.

DJ EZ, who runs NUVOLVE alongside long-term friend and manager Paul Marini, has said that the label will showcase ‘“the brightest and best artists of the future alongside those of the past, bridging the gap and completing the evolutionary circle”. In short, expect it to build on EZ’s reputation for blending genres together and furthering the cause for upfront UKG.

As NUVOLVE celebrates its first birthday, 909originals caught up with some of the label’s stars: Laura Alice & Phonetix, Ryuken and Echelon.

LAURA ALICE & PHONETIX


NUVOLVE has just turned one year old, what has your experience with the label been like to date?

Laura: It’s impressive what they’ve managed in just a year, and knowing EZ is behind it makes it a huge honour to work with them. For me, NUVOLVE means high quality so it’s reassuring to know you can trust they’ll get the best out of any track they put out.

Phonetix: 100%, it’s a top level operation. Also, EZ was the first DJ to support any of my music way back when, so having releases scheduled on his label is cool – it makes me feel like things have gone full circle! I’m so grateful for his ongoing support over the years.

When EZ launched NUVOLVE last year, he described it as showcasing the ‘future’ of a genre that has been around for 25 years now. From a personal point of view, how do you think UKG has evolved over the years?

Phonetix: I think it’s fair to say that UKG has constantly evolved in ways which don’t necessarily run parallel with other genres. There are themes which have been consistently present since the genre’s inception; but – in spite of that – experimentation has resulted in some really unpredictable sounds and movements.

Laura: Yeah it’s mad to think Garage stemmed from Todd Edwards’ work in the early 90s and ended up kickstarting Grime! It blows my mind how it’s evolved. Having said that, it’s funny that some of the stuff coming out now sounds pretty old school. Things always go full circle I guess, but I’m all for some mid-noughties vibes coming back!

Just as grime, dubstep and speed garage have permeated the UKG scene over the years, do you think that there’s a certain sound that is influencing artists at present?

Phonetix: I think you’d get a completely different answer to that question depending on who you asked.

Laura: The Garage House movement’s been growing in recent years, and I’m loving it. I like a genre blend as well, and Garage is great for that. Like what Rob’s been doing with Jazz Step – what other genre can mix with Jazz & work so well!? It’s mad, I love it!

Phonetix: The fact there’s even a demand for Garage House and Jazz Step makes for an interesting conversation in terms of the UKG fanbase’s age range – as I think it’s probably fair to say both those sub-genres appeal to a slightly older audience.

In terms of the wider club scene, the UKG that’s working best for getting the ravers going seems to draw heavily on Tech and Bass House. Higher tempo, wobbly, gritty, bass-heavy 4/4 is really getting things going at a lot of the new club nights that are springing up.


Aside from the pandemic, do you think that UK Garage is currently in a good place? What most excites you about the scene at the moment?

Phonetix: Although it was obviously detrimental to club owners, promoters and DJs, lockdown produced a colossal amount of high level music. A lot of labels are still working their way through a backlog. DJs like Brainz & Impact – who pride themselves on repping new material – are legitimately struggling to showcase the full breadth of the music available to them right now.

That’s a double-edged sword as it puts UK Garage in a great place… but it’s also frustrating because some strong releases inevitably fly under the radar.

Laura: Yeah. I think Garage is doing really well, and I think it helps that people have been looking for something familiar in the pandemic, because Garage reminds them of good times! Like Rob said, there is a lot of great new music around, and the creativity – hearing something nobody has done with Garage before is always exciting.

What’s next up for you, production wise?

Laura: We both kept busy during lockdown, so we’ve each got a load of single releases lined up. In terms of production, I’m new to the scene, so I’m trying to show what I can do is important to me right now. I’ve got some 2 Step stuff in the works, as well as some hard-hitting 4/4 and a couple of bits which are ‘housier’.

Phonetix: Whilst I’m not working on it exclusively, my focus right now is Jazz Step. I’ve got a load of Jazz Step singles lined up, including one on NUVOLVE, which is scheduled for a January release. After that, I’m planning to release a Deluxe Edition of my album Jazz Step FM. Is now a good time to plug phonetix.co.uk? (laughs)

Laura: We’ve also been working on something together that’s a bit different under a new alias, which we’re feeling pretty hyped about. That’s for another time though!

RYUKEN


NUVOLVE has just turned one year old, what has your experience with the label been like to date?

It’s been really great, all the team at NUVOLVE are really professional in how they communicate and handle everything, plus we felt like they really showed us that they care and believe in the release, and they want the absolute best for it.

When EZ launched NUVOLVE last year, he described it as showcasing the ‘future’ of a genre that has been around for 25 years now. From a personal point of view, how do you think UKG has evolved over the years?

UK Garage has always had a very broad sound pallet – for example you have sweet vocal garage from MJ Cole to bassline anthems like 138 Trek from DJ Zinc. Now we are starting to see a new generation discovering UK Garage and taking in all these great tracks and using them as a foundation and then adding their own new twist, for example artists like Bklava, Shosha and Conducta.


Just as grime, dubstep and speed garage have permeated the UKG scene over the years, do you think that there’s a certain sound that is influencing artists at present?

We don’t think you can pinpoint it to any one particular sound as such. UK Garage is this wonderful mix of House, Jungle, R’n’B, Rap, dancehall & dance music, which we think makes it really unique. Perhaps it’s this sound, which has influences from all over the world, which is what makes it very inspiring for artists.

Aside from the pandemic, do you think that UK Garage is currently in a good place? What most excites you about the scene at the moment?

We think UK Garage is in a really good place at the moment. We are at a point of time where we are regularly seeing UK Garage tracks crossing over into the mainstream and being played on licensed radio stations. Also, the sound is catching the interest of the next generation of ravers, DJs and artists, which will only help the sound travel further and continue to evolve.

What’s up next for you, production wise?

We have a good few things coming soon, but really our main focus is to continue making music that we love and try to work with artists that really inspire us.

ECHELON


NUVOLVE has just turned one year old, what has your experience with the label been like to date?

It’s been great – we’re happy to have a release alongside some real quality names on the NUVOLVE roster, and we think it’s great that EZ has used his unparalleled reach and profile to start a label where he can showcase and bring new garage music to the masses. 

EZ has a respect that reaches far beyond just UK Garage, so what he’s doing with the label, radio show – and everything else that’s connected to it – can only be a really positive thing. 

When EZ launched NUVOLVE last year, he described it as showcasing the ‘future’ of a genre that has been around for 25 years now. From a personal point of view, how do you think UKG has evolved over the years?

It has definitely changed a lot. It doesn’t have so many of the dancehall/reggae influences any more, and it’s taken on much more a bassline feel in recent times, but we’re happy to see that there’s still lots of R&B vibes, lots of bubblin’ vocals and still plenty of shuffle and swing.

Just as grime, dubstep and speed garage have permeated the UKG scene over the years, do you think that there’s a certain sound that is influencing artists at present?

As per the previous answer, it’s definitely more bassline driven now. I think the younger crowd, plus the popularity of festivals in recent years, means that there’s a want and need for those bigger ‘drop’ type moments.

In addition, labels like Night Bass have taken influence from UKG, but taken it forward in the USA with their own producers. Also, by signing records from prominent British UKG artists, they in turn have also influenced the sound because they’ve built a great culture and following. Now, UK producers are trying to be a part of that, or emulate it. 



Aside from the pandemic, do you think that UK Garage is currently in a good place? What most excites you about the scene at the moment?

Things feel like they’re sort of creeping back to normal. It’s been very encouraging to see labels and artists just continue to be productive and put music out, even when clubs were closed or things seemed uncertain.

There’s loads of great stuff bubbling – Smasher is doing great stuff and we really love how Para is bridging that gap between old and new, which is what we’re trying to do as well. As MC Neat said, “just can’t hold back the garage sound!”

What’s next up for you, production wise?

We’ve got a Todd Edwards and Matt Jam release coming next year, which is an unreleased project from 2006. We’ve done new mixes and we’ll be putting that out on vinyl. Aside from that, that we’re going to focus more on original vocal records with some high profile vocalists, and of course look to take the label on the road to some intimate clubs for some Undagrnd Freqz label showcases.

For more information, visit www.nuvolvemusic.com

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