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  • Rob Day

Label Spotlight: Off Beat

Manchester-based night Off Beat has been delivering a consistent supply of parties across the city over the last few years, hosting an impressive array of talent from Mala to Roni Size. Although lockdown has of course prevented such events from occurring, Off Beat haven't sat around twiddling their thumbs, but have instead embarked on an exciting foray into becoming a record label. Taking no prisoners with their first release, Breaka's new single 'The Startup' was released on Friday. 'The Startup' and 'The Ambush' are a lethal duo of bold and bassy breakbeat tracks that, whilst unable to be put to work in a club environment for now, will undoubtedly have you hopping around your living room yearning for the return of our nightlife. We had a chat with founder Zephyr, Jack and Lawrence all about how Off Beat has evolved into a label, their first release from Breaka, and what else Off Beat has in store for us in the coming months.

For people who haven’t heard of Off Beat, how would you explain what it’s all about?

Off Beat is a party where a broad range of styles all come together in one place. There’s little more to it other than that, it’s simply about the music and not taking things too seriously. We take significant influence from sound system culture and UK’s thriving history of dance music, and everything we do goes from there.

How did you first come to create Off Beat?

We all started university at the same time and were in halls together. Exactly when and how we all met is a bit hazy, but news of people with records and turntables gets about, and before too long we’d all linked up. One definite early meeting point was the weekly reggae society night, Thursdays at the sadly departed Ram. After a while we decided to throw a party and it’s gone from there.

What other party nights, labels, or radio stations have inspired you throughout Off Beat’s journey?

We’ve been very lucky; from the outset we were given support and airtime from stations like Limbo Radio and MCR Live. Sorts of chances like these were crucial for us and are great opportunities for any prospective DJ’s/promoters new to the city; hopefully these spaces will continue to grow and support those who move to Manchester in the near future. In terms of club nights, there really are too many to mention: Strange Riddims, Left Right + Centre, Loose Lips, Anti-Pattern and so many others. Shout out to the Stretchy Dance Supply camp as well and everyone smashing it in Leeds! It seems like most events we attend end up inspiring us in some way and have us rethinking whatever it was that we were working on.

You’ve recently announced that you will be taking your first steps into the label world in the coming weeks. Could you tell us about how and why you came to that decision?

It wasn’t a definite decision that we came to, more an assumption that it was something that would eventually happen. After putting on events for a while, we had begun to play some of our own music or that sent by friends. The natural next step was to investigate putting it out in some form. However, things were properly set in motion when we received the music from Breaka. He kindly entrusted us with some tunes he’d made, since then the label has been a work in progress.

Tell us about your first upcoming release from Breaka.

We booked him to play at our 3rd birthday event which he smashed. When he was next playing in the city we headed down and later down the line he agreed to provide us with some music for the label. We’d been admirers of his productions for a while and the tunes were exactly the kind of thing we would play at one of the parties, so it worked out great.

Is there a specific sound that you would like to pursue with this move of becoming a label, or are you open to see whichever direction future releases take you?

Though it might not be a very helpful answer, probably a bit of both is about right. We’ve got a clear idea of what the sound is and when a track is right or not, but we are very much open to anything. Hopefully we’ll convey that sort of feeling over the next few releases.

How did lockdown affect you? Did it factor in your decision to become a label whilst events have been put on hold?

In fact, no, Off Beat Records has been in the works for a while now. However, lockdown freed up a lot of time which we could use to focus on things other than events, including the label. In terms of the wider situation, it’s true that the entire landscape for clubs and parties has completely shifted, to the point that even releasing club-focused music seems almost a strange pursuit. We are unsure how we plan to move forward or get back to doing the events, but it does seem that the end of this period is perhaps in sight.

Beyond the Breaka release, what can we expect from Off Beat in the future?

More music! The second issue is now in the works and will hopefully make an appearance early next year. It may or may not be from one of our very own members. There’s also rumours of speaker cabinets being built out in the yard, but with those you’ll have to wait and see…

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