- Michael Keating
Label Spotlight: 1Forty
In 3 years, 1Forty has grown from a small but impressive series of events into a leading UK independent label. With 24 releases to date from rising underground artists spanning across grime, UK funky, garage and bassline, the Leeds label is making big waves. Gaining recognition from the likes of Mixmag, Trench, DJ Mag and Complex and regular plays on BBC Radio 1, 1xtra, Rinse FM, Beats 1 and Reprezent, 1Forty has built a reputation for supplying only the best of homegrown UK sounds. We talked to label founder LOCKT about the journey so far and the road ahead for the imprint.
What have been some highlights for you?
I think without doubt the main highlight has to be the 1Forty Takeover on BBC Radio 1 with Toddla T at the end of 2018. Taking an underground label to the pinnacle of radio is something not many underground labels achieve. For us to do that after only releasing music less than 18 months (at the time) was pretty crazy. Big up T every time. I enjoy all the radio takeovers significantly as I grew up listening to radio sets and still listen to them more than I do actual tracks. Radio has been an integral part of my life as a consumer of music (specifically Grime) so even just hearing our music on stations like BBC & Rinse always brings me right back to my roots. I could reel off a few things because it’s been a crazy journey.
Where did the idea of doing Genre Release cycles come from? Do you see that continuing for the foreseeable future?
1Forty originally started as an event brand. I loved the idea of multiple genres over the course of a night – specifically Jamz (the Butterz night run by Elijah & Skilliam). When they stopped the parties to focus on the label, it left a big void in Leeds for me and lots of others. The idea was to recreate that in our own way and make it distinct by booking different names in different scenes, from Spooky (Grime) to Notion (Bassline). When the idea came around to adjoin the label arm, it was a no brainer to relay the same brand concept to the label - that was how the Genre Releases came along.
For me, big compilations often don’t get the recognition they deserve, because the sheer amount of content overshadows the quality of the tracks. I often find EPs don’t consist of an artist’s best four tracks, but instead have two bangers and two experimental tracks for example. That being said, this is why we decided to do an EP-sized release, so all the tracks get the same amount of coverage with a mix of reputable and upcoming artists delivering one (or two more recently) of their best works. The Genre Releases are the foundations of 1Forty, and will always be a key part of the label.
Is there an end goal for 1Forty, or is it a case of growing and seeing what happens?
One of the things I enjoy most is being able to contribute to the scenes I love. The way I see it, the bigger our reputation and following becomes, the more we can influence the balance of the scenes across the whole of the underground – that can only be a good thing for club culture. The goal is to keep all the genres we represent alive and kicking – anything else is a bonus. With growth, more opportunities come for me to use to carry on pushing that ethos.
You did your first label show in Manchester this year, branching out from Leeds, and in the past, you’ve done a number of festival takeovers – are you looking to get to other cities around the UK as well?
It’s definitely something we’d like to do when the time is right. Our releases are keeping us very active, which allows us to dictate when we put on events rather than feeling we need them to keep in the limelight. We get so much love for our events which is great, but it’s an incredibly difficult time for independent promoters. Artist fees are always rising and the cost of living is rising, so people aren’t getting out to half as many events as they were, say, five years ago. Competition with the big promoters and venues is also common knowledge. When you bring all these points together, it makes it extremely difficult to sustain regular events. That being said, I am looking forward to getting stuck back in, as we’ve progressed a lot so will be able to put more of our names on than ever before.
Most recently you released 1FGRM004, the Grime-centred EP of the cycle, and the 1Forty Bass EP is out 28th October. What else should we be on the lookout for from 1Forty?
The Genre Release cycle will be completed before the year is out, so as well as the stacked Bass Release (1FBSS004), there’s the Funky & Garage Release (1FFNG004). There’s also a single (released for free download) amongst this which sees one of our favourite producers team up with the best young MC right in grime right now.
Next year, expect more of the same: big collabs across the board, more new talent, new material from our existing names, and more reputable MCs dropping vocals and features on different genres. 2019 has been a defining year for us, and we are only making more connections as we grow. To say I’m excited for next year would be a big understatement.
Who would be your dream features on a release?
Right now, it would have to be D Double E, Jamakabi and Novelist. Imagine.