Sasha Duke is multi-faceted. He produces and mixes drum and bass under his alias, Shulgin, whilst running his label Sub:stance and Outset Audio, alongside representing talent as a booking agent for Outset Artists. Sub:stance was born as an events business, as a means to book nights after moving up to Leeds from London. His motivation derived from putting on nights that he’d want to go to. Sasha wanted a platform to book the artists he wanted, play alongside them and create an atmosphere that he’d want to immerse himself into. The logic of creating a brand, event or moment based around your genuine taste always guarantees a level of integrity. There’s a plethora of Wire events that I’ve religiously assumed were the pinnacle. But, I went to the Sub:stance launch night with Etherwood and Urbandawn last year, and it’s remained my ‘Wire Everest’ to this day.
Since its creation, Sub:stance has evolved into a fully fledged label, with recent releases from Bruk and GLM going to second and third in the Juno Download Charts respectively. Sasha explained that the label has always revolved around catapulting the up and comers in the scene. Hip hop magazine, The Source, ran a column in the 90’s called ‘Unsigned Hype’. It sat the most talented, unrecognised artists in the shop window for renowned labels. The column was a resounding success, launching DMX, Biggie, Eminem and many more into the limelight. There’s a parallel that runs between Sub:stance and The Source. Both stand up on their own, whilst reserving a space in their core values for elevating artists.
Although chart positions and recent rave reviews from the likes of Bryan Gee, Doc Scott and Bladerunner are reassuring; Sasha finds the greatest satisfaction in hearing their tunes in the wild. Whether it’s in a club night or on social media, this acts as a Litmus test for growth. Taking pride in the reception and energy of your music over numbers and ratings links back to the aforementioned integrity of Sub:stance. Making and representing music that strives to blow the ceiling off any event will bring in the numbers, but the opposite isn’t always true. To further improve the label, he wants to push its diversity to match the black and female representation of Outset. With the nature of multi-project involvement, you’re bound to gain interchangeable lessons and goals. It’s brilliant to see that this is at the forefront of a label’s strategy going forward.
Sub:stance is providing us with a lot to look forward to. They have got releases up their sleeve from Tweakz and Posk, and a VA, The Northern Line, from the North East’s Stompz, Hexa, Kastro and Scudd. They have two events locked in for the near future, kicking off on 2nd July at Old Red Bus Station, with a packed lineup featuring Disrupta. On the 9th, they’ve teamed up for a collaborative night with Central Beatz and Overflow to dish up drum and bass’ return to Wire. After the troughs of last year we all deserve a peak or two. Maybe even a new Everest.