For anyone into drum and bass, Critical Music has been more than just a blip on the radar for a number of years. Perhaps starting as just a blip way back in 2002, label boss Kasra Mowlavi, better known to many by production and DJ moniker Kasra, has worked tirelessly to curate and push Critical Music into a special niche for dnb heads worldwide. Some call it deep. Some call it dark. Some call it experimental. Maybe Critical Music is a pastiche of all these things. No matter what, we can agree that Critical has become one of the most respected labels in the genre under the guidance of Kasra.
Critical Music has had many, many notable achievements in the sometimes-elitist world of electronic music. Milestones such as a regular night at Fabric, a night club regarded by “heads” worldwide as perhaps the most respected nightclub in the world. Signing Enei, one of Russia’s most renowned and coveted producers was just another activity in Kasra’s day-to-day, but nonetheless a signing surely envied by many labels, as Enei has become an instrumental producer in pushing the genre for the last couple years.
Critcal Music label showcases have become coveted music events in the world of drum and bass, and on June 19 Calgary’s premier drum and bass event producers 403 DNB will be playing host to the first ever North American Critical Music showcase at their event Metropolis. Enei, Foreign Concept and the boss man himself will be touching down to slay Canada for the first time ever. All You Need is Bass chatted with Kasra to get the know on what’s happening with Critical Music these days and what the junglist massive can expect from the show.
AYNiB: So, you started Critical Records way back in 2002. You’ve spoken in the past about that time period being very saturated with new labels, brand new ones starting every other day. I’m curious, what sort of “success” were you hoping for in this landscape? I have a feeling success might have looked a bit different to you then than it does now …
Kasra: When I started my idea of “success” was really just to release a few good singles, get some of my favourite DJ’s to play them and see how things would develop. I tried to be ambitious but at the same time knew that I needed to be realistic. I focused on signing some great music.
Back in 2002 there were still quite a few drum and bass labels around that had gained a fair amount of success. What gap were you intending Critical Music to fill in regards to what was going on in the world of drum and bass in those times?
Thinking back to that time now I’m not really sure. I knew I was incredibly passionate about the music and the new wave of underground producers coming through, and that I wanted to run a label where the way the music was presented was really important and the way we worked with the artists in partnership rather than a “them and us” dynamic.
What came first, Critical Music or making music?
Now, obviously you’ve come a loooooong way since the inception of the label, and you’ve had many, many milestones (like getting a night at Fabric for example). I’m curious what some of your personal “we made it” moments have been. Are there any in particular that stick out?
I never think of things in that context. I’m constantly excited by the music the artists make and the nights we do, but I don’t ever think about “making it”. That said some real standouts for me have been the nights at Fabric, my Fabric Live CD release, the last Critical takeover at the Moat Outlook 2013.
One of your favourite things about your job is finding new artists and helping them grow. Can you describe the feeling in words when you find a brand new artist that you know is going to be sick? (I’m thinking of what you must have felt when you found Enei for example).
It’s a combination of things. Of course it’s mainly about the music but also the attitude of the person who’s making it. We have to connect and be able to be honest and also have a great working relationship where you know you can do great things together. Ultimately the music always leads the way though.
One thing that’s really cool about Critical is it’s essentially curated by your own personal tastes. I have to ask, is there ever any insecurity that your tastes won’t match what the scene wants? When you started, maybe there wasn’t as much at stake…
In a way I’ve started to care less and less about what the “scene” might think. The label’s artists are all pushing themselves and when they deliver music it’s rare that it’s something I don’t feel is special enough for release. We trust each other’s instincts and I also respect the artist’s desires to release certain sounds or experiments.
So, your appearance in Calgary is going to be the first North American Critical tour, which is pretty amazing actually. If I’m correct you guys will be hitting EDC the next night. What can attendees expect from the show? You won’t be saving the big guns for EDC will you?
We won’t hold out don’t worry, Canadian crowds are great and the reaction to the tour has been amazing. We all can’t wait to play.
As a producer and an artist, what’s next for Kasra?
I’ve got a collaborative effort with Enei dropping this month called the ‘Inside The Box’ EP and a summer of festivals, which I’m really excited about.
What else can we expect from Critical in the remainder of 2015?
New music from all the camp including a couple of amazing albums.
A big thanks to Kasra for taking the time to chat. Don’t sleep on the first ever North American Critical Music showcase at Metropolis. The event spans two days, and tickets are just $50. Click on the image below to buy yours today!
Editor’s Note: Kasra and Enei are ready to launch a brand new EP on Critical Music, Inside the Box. The EP will be out June 29, and is sure to be mental. The boys are sure to be bringing the fiyah from their EP to Metropolis, so come check out the new sounds from a couple of legends.