Drum and Bass has been around since the early 90-s and after almost three decades the genre is still on top all around the world. It’s not a secret that the UK has always been the flagship for d’n’b with its regular events and festivals giving chance to the biggest selection of artists coming through record labels to show us what they’ve got. There are big names always in front of us such as Hospital Records, RAM or Shogun but there are other emerging labels with their uniqueness and great musicians and one of them is Terra Firma. One of the founding members, Matt Horton was nice enough to talk to us about the secrets behind the guy with the strange eyes.
Can you give us a little introduction to Terra Firma? How did it come about?
I have had a passion for Drum&Bass since I picked up on it at the age of 11. From those years I remember listening to certain songs from the likes of Pendulum, High Contrast and Sub Focus on repeat whilst I played on Xbox. As I got older, I started to read-up on artists and soon discovered the role that record labels played. It was about the same time that I started to teach myself music production and watch YouTube tutorials on how to DJ. Fast-forward to my Uni-days and by now I was a self-professed DNB nerd. I met a guy on my course called Warren with whom I shared a passion for the genre; he too also knew a thing or two about Drum & Bass. We spent a year having a lot of fun by hosting a weekly DNB radio show and attempting to make tunes together in our dorms, but we both eventually realised that our production skills were far second-rate to those of our friends and favourite producers. At the same time we thought we could be more successful by running a record label. It had always been an idea in the back of our heads to create a label, and with each other and with a list of practically unheard-of artists that we liked, we were determined to make a success out of it for everyone and so on the 15th of January 2017, Terra Firma was born.
What was the goal of founding a record label? How has it been maintaining its philosophy in the last 2 years?
The goal with this label was to build a platform whereby we nourish and encourage young artists and springboard them up in the scene. Too many labels get tempted to ditch their core base for more well-known artists as the label gains popularity, that wasn’t to be us. In terms of our sound, Warren and I agreed that as much as we used to love the euphoric, synthy, dancefloor anthems of our teenage years, the style was now too commercial and we started to fall in love with stripped-back, meaningful tunes that let little get in the way of the groove between the drums and the bass. Instruments such as pianos, violins, saxophones and cellos always sounded much better to us than synthetic pads. We like to call this ‘organic’ music.
Being referred to be the label with a guy having weird eyes I must ask what is the story behind the artwork? Who is the guy with the weird eyes?
Drum&Bass might be musically quite diverse but in terms of artwork and logos, it can be a bit simple. One look on Beatport and you will see that a lot of releases have a one-colour background. Labels tend to be going on the same way too, with most logos simply resembling letters of the alphabet or simple patterns. With Terra Firma, we went for a logo which doesn’t quite explain the name, something leftfield and most importantly something that stands out. We like to call him Terry.
Terry definitely stands out, but what makes an artist stand out from the others for you? What do you look for in an artist before you consider signing them?
This is such a difficult question to answer. The truth is the music does most of the talking. We are not fussed on the number of social media followers or quality of press shots. In many cases the fewer the followers the better.
What do you value more in an artist, technical skills or creativity?
In recent years the production level in Drum&Bass gone through the roof so unfortunately, my answer has to be technical skills. You can have a beautifully made song with flowing melodies and several surprising moments, but if it doesn’t have crisp drums or a punchy baseline then it won’t gain any traction.
What kind of strategy does the label use to promote their music?
It’s all done organically. We use social media like everyone else but you’ll rarely find an advert from us. Word of mouth is the best form of promotion, best of all it is free. We have built up relationships with several YouTube channels and Soundcloud platforms and some blogs. Sometimes you can easily miss a release from us and that’s because it has probably been premiered to networks that you aren’t following. In short, we don’t want all our sound to become tied to certain channels.
What are the latest developments for your artists to help them succeed? How does the label support them?
Every month we refresh our Spotify playlist. Our artists chip-in each month and add 3-5 tracks. They might choose to add their tracks or simply some songs that have resonated with them. In celebration of a new release on the label, we often let that artist take over the whole playlist ultimately allowing the listener to get into the head of their favourite Terra Firma producer.
Let’s go to a different direction for a moment. Who do you find the most influential in DNB?
For me, Break is very influential because he lets his music do the talking. Not a single social media account and yet he is constantly up there for the best producer of the year. He also runs a very good record label, he masters other people’s music and he gigs around the world.
Have you got any events, releases or projects on the way we should look out for?
Watch this space. The New Year means new projects!