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You don't need to be a clued-up-to-the-eyeballs junglist to realise the extent of Certificate 18's influence in the evolution of drum 'n' bass – the label that introduced the world to Photek, Digital and Source Direct
The brains and, most importantly, ears of Certificate 18, Paul Arnold, is one of the scene's lesser-known movers and shakers, responsible for kick-starting the careers of some of the most innovative breakbeat producers in the world. "Its quite nice when you think of it like that" says the ever modest label boss, "buts it's not about that, it's just about putting out good music". So it should come as no surprise, on the cusp of the label's latest release DJ Teebee presents Black Science Labs, that there are rumblings in the drum and bass community. Certificate 18's take on drum and bass is not your usual predictable floor fodder. "I think our sound is coming around at the moment" explains Paul, "Teebee's album is perfectly timed."
From humble beginnings working behind the counter on Ipswich's record shop circuit, Paul was fortunate enough to be amongst the first to hear demos of rookie producers who lived in the area. "Hardcore was just kicking off, and some of the demos coming into the shop were so new and exciting – completely different to anything else. Rupert [Photek] was one of them. He was playing me stuff that just completely blew me away".
So, does Paul still find time to DJ and promote? "Yes, 'Chew The Fat' runs every Friday at the Bug Bar in Brixton and 'Six Foot Stereo' the first Saturday of every month at 333 club in Brixton. Six Foot Stereo is complete mayhem. We have a compere, people bring their own records down, we pick a number out of a hat at random and whoever's number gets pulled out gets to come and play five of their own records. It's absolute madness – a real good laugh – a total spin back to the whole thing I do anyway. It's sticking two fingers up to it all in a way." A kind of response to the celebrity DJs that dominate the dance music scene then? "In a way. Its hard for DJ s to break through, its all pretty tied up. Everyone likes music, everyone likes to play records. This is democracy to the decks. Why shouldn't everyone have the chance to play what they want in five?"
Innovation has always been a central theme to the Certificate 18 sound, maintaining a firm belief in the music they feel deserves to be released, and thus allowing the label to carve its own space in the claustrophobic record label arena. C18's 12"s were often backed by B-side experimental re-workings from the likes of Autechre, Plaid and Kirk De Georgio. The success of these skewed leftfield remixes spawned a new off shoot label: Certificate 18 Electronic Projects. Pilote's debut on this C18 off shoot showcases some of the most emotional electronic music this side of classic Black Dog, Plaid and early Luke Vibert productions, with truly engaging organic beat construction and otherworldly melodies. One of the best tracks on the album is scheduled for a 7" release along with a new track later this year.
Those who fix a true focus on finding 'future' music should take heed of C18 release schedule for 2000: Polar, Pilote and Tee Bee all have debut albums coming up on C18 this year, plus Hi-Ryze – previously known for output on GPR — will also be providing material for electronic projects. Seek and ye shall most definitely find.