Many of us will have been first introduced to Koast through his prolific MC career. Having hosted some of the biggest nights of Bristol’s dubstep golden era, including Subloaded and HENCH, he was also part of rap and dubstep collective Central Spillz, who scored a Ninja Tune release in 2012 with US dubstep producer Starkey.
As resident host for The Blast nights and Bristol In:Motion, Koast remains a familiar name on the scene, but has since added several more strings to his bow. In 2011 he launched his record label Durkle Disco, and for the past two years he has served as programming manager at online radio station SWU.FM who, with the overwhelming support of the Bristol public, are hoping to be awarded full, official FM radio status early this year.
‘Originally the label came off the back of Central Spillz. We were performing a lot and working on our first (and it turns out only) album, and we didn’t feel that there was really any label that was right for us, so we wanted to put it out ourselves. That was the beginning of Durkle Disco, which increasingly as the years have gone on has become my focus more than the rave stuff.
the consistent theme running through the label is MCs spitting on beats they might not otherwise
‘Central Spillz was about trying to bring hip hop and dubstep together, and that meeting of dance music and MCs is something that’s always stuck with the label. We’ve done instrumental releases and we’ve done a few straight hip hop releases, but the consistent theme running through the label is MCs spitting on beats they might not otherwise.’
While the label might have started as a vehicle to put out their own music, with now nearly 30 releases to their name, Durkle Disco has become a highly respected imprint with a knack for catching new talent in their very early days. Releases include two digital EPs from OH91 in 2012 and 2013, as well as Swamp 81 affiliate Lamont’s first 12”– his underground breakthrough track Far Away, backed with a remix from Zed Bias, in 2014. Durkle Disco’s forthcoming track from Sheffield’s Denham Audio featuring Serocee on the vocals also looks set to be another out-and-out club banger.
The older I’ve got, the more passionate I’ve become about being a bit more behind the scenes
‘The older I’ve got, the more passionate I’ve become about being a bit more behind the scenes, where you can do a lot for lots of people and push whole scenes and sounds forward. Being an artist is great and I’ve had some amazing times and I still love doing stuff now, although I’m a lot less active. But being able to push things forward and bring people together, that’s even more powerful.
being able to push things forward and bring people together, that’s even more powerful
‘One thing I didn’t plan on, which has been a surprise development for me in the last few years, is DJing. I started learning for purely practical reasons, because if we’re doing a label night, I’m there running it anyway, so it means I can do the rubbish graveyard set so that no one else has to. But it turns out I absolutely love it!
‘Although again, for me that’s kind of behind the scenes. Because as an MC, you can only either complement the DJ or be pushing your own music. Whereas the common thread behind DJing, behind the label, behind radio is that you can push whole sounds and different people – and that definitely excites me.
the common thread behind DJing, behind the label, behind radio is that you can push whole sounds and different people – and that definitely excites me
‘The last few years, the label has been quite consistent sonically, but it took a while to get there. After we put out the Central Spillz album, it all went quiet for a bit because we had difficulties with a distributor. We went back to making music, but more for the live shows or free downloads. The label sat there dormant for a while, until about a year and a half later when we did a hip hop release from a group called Se Fire. They had this amazing album that they’d never done anything with. So it was a couple of years old, but it still sounded fresh. I thought, let me come back to this label idea. Let me push this album that these guys have got just sat there, and see what happens.
I realised that I was surrounded by all these talented people, good people who are up for working, and some of them could maybe do with having someone else pushing them so they can concentrate on making music
‘Because I was a bit disconnected from it artistically as I wasn’t personally involved with making it, I found the process of doing that album really, really interesting – thinking of ideas for artwork and promotional campaigns and just the organisation of getting it all together for release. I realised that I was surrounded by all these talented people, good people who are up for working, and some of them could maybe do with having someone else pushing them so they can concentrate on making music. And it spiralled from there.’
The other major player in Koast’s career is his role as programming manager at SWU.FM
The other major player in Koast’s career is his role as programming manager at SWU.FM. The internet radio station hopes to provide a much-needed platform for Bristol’s bubbling underground scene and in May 2016, SWU.FM were a 27-day trail period on 87.7FM. Koast and the team went all out, broadcasting for 24 hours a day with shows from some of the biggest names to come out of Bristol including Roni Size, My Nu Leng and Stanton Warriors, along with dozens of names from the current and emerging underground scenes.
Over the 27-day period, they saw nearly 6.5 million website hits, with the enormous level of interest even crashing the site during the Bandulu Gang show (with Kahn, Neek, Boofy, Hi5ghost and Lemzly Dale). Since then, SWU.FM have been lobbying OFCOM for a full FM license, evidencing their support in the city with their ‘Does Bristol Need a New Radio Station?’ campaign results, which recorded 10,008 ‘YES’ votes to 32 ‘NO’s in just over a month.
‘SWU.FM came about from being around the rave scene so much. I knew Ollie Watton, who is the main brains behind it, because he used to do a lot of stage management at festivals, so we crossed paths a lot over the years – he always seemed to end up running stages I was playing on and we ended up socialising and becoming friends.
SWU.FM came about from being around the rave scene so much
‘He moved to Bristol and began really trying to put the wheels in motion for SWU.FM to happen. He definitely had the vision and logistics in place for it to happen, but needed someone to help bring the artists in – someone who had those connections already, and that was where he got me on board.’
One of the premises of SWU.FM is to not discriminate and showcase underground music from across the board. From Styrda’s Sufferah’s Choice roots and reggae show, to hip hop collective Split Prophets, Mike Shawe’s Hot Buttered Soul, or DJ Die and Randall doing an acid house set with Gutterfunk, their 27-day programme spanned a huge variety of sounds from local and international names.
It’s the dream of any record label or radio station that your level of taste is respected enough that you can really help people who aren’t doing the “in” thing and need that
‘It’s the dream of any record label or radio station that your level of taste is respected enough that you can really help people who aren’t doing the “in” thing and need that. If there’s an artist you really like, but their sound is a bit more niche, you have to put them on accordingly. But I think what will be great if we do get this license is maybe being able to push some of those less recognised names and sounds and giving them a platform.’
This attitude is one that’s, thankfully, typical of Bristol. With such a high concentration of independent labels, promoters and artists, a happy industry microcosm exists where the majority actively supports one another, which is part of what breeds such a teeming creative playground in Bristol with a markedly above average output.
With such a high concentration of independent labels, promoters and artists, a happy industry microcosm exists where the majority actively supports one another
‘I don’t really see there being competition in Bristol. Obviously there are egos involved in music, especially when the MC side of things is involved where it’s a bit more normal for there to be competition because that’s part of the culture. But in terms of labels I think people co-exist quite peacefully. People are quite good at pushing each other’s products. Generally, if one label has a release, you’ll see other artists or labels pushing that, or an artist on one label will remix for another label.
‘Bristol isn’t that big a city and so everyone knows the route that all those people took to get where they’ve got to and what they’re doing. If everyone’s coming at it from the same angle, then it doesn’t have to be a competition. Maybe there is some healthy competition, but I think generally people want the best for other people. No one’s making crazy money off this, people are doing it essentially for the love. So why wouldn’t you wish the best for people who are doing the same?’
Maybe there is some healthy competition, but I think generally people want the best for other people
As well as plans to host semi-regular Durkle Disco nights in Bristol in 2018, Koast has a few exciting releases lined up for the label:
‘The next release is from two of my favourite up and coming producers from Bristol, Vern & Milla, with an MC called Kwam from London, who’s sick. And Lamont’s done a remix of that, which will be the first thing he’s done on the label in a while.
‘After that we’ve got a release from Denham Audio, who are a trio from Sheffield. We’ve got their track Mastah Blasta with Serocee on the vocals, and that’s got remixes from Caski and Bromley, who are both Bristol based, as well as a guy called Mani Festo from London, whose done a few bits with the label. We’ve also got a few other things after that that aren’t quite finalised enough to say anything about yet!’
Photos by Martin Thompson