INTERVIEW – Defrostatica Records

Germanys Defrostatica Records have been a mainstay in underground music for years providing needs for lovers of all bass music. The labels latest release is Rogue Style 2, The follow up to last years first volume and is an EP series dedicated to b-boy culture, to share their own b-boy story through the language of drum & bass and footwork. As the label states, For Rogue Style 2 EP we continue the mission for a global b-boy homage with artists from England (Digital), USA (6blocc, Calculon, Shamanga), Finland (Fanu) and Iceland (Agzilla).
We caught up with label head DJ Booga to hear all about the Rogue Style 2 project and his background in hip hop and drum & bass as well as all the artists who feature on it to hear all about the project as well as their B-Boy experiences and adventures in breakbeat culture.

We chatted to DJ Booga first of all.

How did the Rogue Style EP series come about in the first place and what was the inspiration behind the project?

I knew Kiat’s strong background on hip hop and the ethics of its culture. After the release of Kiat’s Leipzig EP I discussed with him the idea of putting out tunes to pay homage to b-boy culture, where the worlds of breakbeat music and breakdance collide. He was on fire about it immediately and suggested to talk to Sinistarr (they worked together before) and he and Kabuki (who did a remix on Kiat’s EP) suggested to invite HomeSick as well. Everybody was keen to come up with a beat that reflected their own upbringing in b-boy culture and history. Kiat collaborated with ClogTwo a graffiti artist from Singapore on the artwork. The final release package with vinyl and poster was a match made in heaven.

Did you choose the artists that feature on the latest Rogue Style (Digital, 6blocc, Calculon, Shamanga, Fanu and Agzilla) specifically as you were aware of their B-Boy backgrounds?

Fanu is doing the mastering for the Defrostatica releases so I knew his hip hop background, he liked the idea a lot and as an acknowledged breakbeat connoisseur he brought something special to the table. Agzilla worked with Sinistarr before and he did a remix for Kiat on his EP on Defrostatica too, he told me about his inspirational roots in b-boy culture so he was in as well. I met Calculon online actually and we talked in a mixture of German and English (he lived in Germany for a while) about the Rogue Style series. He loved the homage idea and came up with this massive collaboration tune “Call Out” by him, LA OG 6Blocc and Shamanga. Then happened the best weirdest thing, I actually met Digital in my hometown Leipzig about ten years after I invited him first to a gig at local club Distillery. He is a good friend of Kiat and he knew about my label and the project. Then one of my earliest drum and bass heroes decided to contribute “Uprock” to the EP and I couldn’t be happier about it, it’s a dangerous tune!

Kabuki, Sinistarr and DJ Nasty amongst others have worked on Rogue Styles in the past, have you got any artists lined up for the next volume yet?

Maybe!

Who would you love to feature on Rogue Style in the future?

Let’s build a dream team: Paradox of course, he’s the most outspoken ambassador of uptemo b-boy breakbeat music for so long! I think Teebee would be fantastic because he grew up on Beat Street very much as well. Ink had once a tune called “B-Boy Convention”, but what he did with “Craze D Minor” on his Last Scroll album made me wonder if that could not be the best track for a flavor move. Dom and Roland had it down with “Get Up” and “Boogie Down”, I’d like to know his inspiration about it. There are quite many producers I admire and I may not know yet that have probably a background in b-boy culture and I just started the search.

How did the Defrostatica label start and what was the labels plan when it started?

After twenty years of playing and promoting drum and bass music I decided to put up a label, heavily inspired by dBridge’s Autonomic sound and Om Unit’s UK approach to Chicago juke and footwork.

Hip hop shares the same DNA with drum & bass and footwork in that the breakbeat is the foundation, what is your own take on this and do you agree that they all share the same energy and excitement?

With breakbeat music it’s all about stripping down rich musical structures to the core of non-repetitive drums and a bass line. If you work that the right way, your body will respond immediately. All three genres have this in common even if they are not seamlessly connected culturally: Hip hop is coming from funk and soul, Footwork stems from Chicago house music, UK drum and bass stems from jungle with roots in ragga dancehall. Dancing to breakbeat music is probably the lowest common denominator and it’s a central theme in my musical life. It is exciting to break down energy from these tunes with your body uptempo, half time, following certain elements and to just bust a move.

In your opinion, what is the greatest breakbeat there has ever been or do you have a few favourites?

I mean how can you not name The Winstons – Amen Brother?! But there are so many wonderful classics that are inherited by drum and bass and even footwork tracks by the Teklife crew. To me one of the finest amen break work outs was made by DJ Crystal – Warpdrive. And then you have a genius like Photek who lays down his surgical yet lush breaks even in non 170 bpm territory as in 124, still can’t get enough of this tune. What Goldie and Danny J did as Rufige Kru on Beachdrifter is also an outstanding way to exemplify that breakbeats are a driving force even when they’re not in the spotlight but conveying the whole structure of a tune.

With Rogue Styles, is this your way of saluting the breakbeat and B-Boy culture that you grew up with but with a modern twist?

Absolutely and it’s an exciting feeling to nurture and grow this b-boy homage idea along with so very talented artists from around the world. We do nothing nothing new here for sure, we do it with passion because it feels natural.

How did you get into B-Boying in the first place and what are your memories of starting out in the culture?

I was 13 years old when I watched Beat Street and that changed everything. In East Germany it was a miracle that this movie about american underground music and dance culture passed the censor, they really didn’t saw the consequences coming. Beat Street basically made hip hop a thing in the GDR, big up Harry Belafonte! I don’t know how many times I watched Beat Street back then, even today I could recite dialogues from it haha. Ever since then I was intrigued by the DIY ethos of hip-hop culture and their use of breakbeats as a musical backbone. It made me somehow become a punk rock drummer and then a Hardcore / Jungle DJ, always close to the drums and the breaks.

As vital parts of the four elements as well, did you get into graffiti, DJing and emceeing as well?

Loved the dancing and practiced a lot, I wasn’t affiliated with any of the emerging dancing crews back then though. I was rather recording radio shows from West Germany, gathering remixes and extended dance versions of hip hop and pop songs to bother my fellow pupils at the school discotheque. DJing and making music was and is my way to contribute.

B-Boying and hip hop itself started in the Bronx but is now global. Do you find it incredible just how massive the culture is worldwide?

Thanks to movies like Wild Style! and Beat Street it did set fire to youths globally. These movies were not just flashy dance flicks. They exported an undeniable cultural mentality of afro-american heritage, it felt real and empowering to overcome your own burden in life, you just had to do it yourself. I highly recommend the movie “Here we come” about hip hop in Eastern Germany in the 80s, it tells exactly that story. There is also that project from my hometown Leipzig called Style Wild [stylewildbattle.de], it did connect local producers with dance battles, just another example of how this spirit is just alive.

Who were some of the MCs and DJs that inspired you and continue to inspire you to this day?

The Sugarhill Gang, De La Soul, Stetsasonic but also Malcolm McLaren with Buffalo Gals steered me very much into learning how to dj, blending and combining these tracks into something that would make people gonna dance to. Later I admired DJ Shadow a lot and still do so.

Coming from a hip hop background, how did you first get into drum & bass and how did you first hear it?

Close before the wall came down I was very much into Bomb The Bass, M.A.R.R.S., Coldcut and also D-Mob, Tyree Cooper and Fast Eddie. The mixture of acid, house, samples, hip-hop felt very fresh and exciting. Around 1990-91 I bought so much new music because we finally had access to it after all these years with radio only. I felt drawn to Rebel MC, Shut Up and Dance, Strictly Underground Records and The Prodigy blew away everything I heard before. Later I learned this was called hardcore breakbeat. From there it was just a small step to compilations like Jungle Tekno, Drum & Bass Selection, The Dark Side, The Joint (Suburban Base & Moving Shadow).

What was it about the music and the atmosphere and vibe that made it so appealing?

You just couldn’t tell how they made this music! And it had that irresistible combination of unheard and fast breakbeats with speaker shaking sub bass. A category of sound and frequencies that were totally unheard-of before.

What were the big tunes for you when you were first getting into the music?

Hyper On Experience – Lord Of The Null Lines, LTJ Bukem – Logical Progression and then everything changed to a new level again with Goldie’s Timeless album in ’95.

Was jungle a big influence on you too?

Between hardcore and drum and bass I bought a lot of jungle records. I still like to call fast breakbeat music jungle because the term encapsulates the unpredictable fierceness, it was so wild, you know?

What was the drum & bass scene like in Germany and what is it like today?

Can’t tell for Germany as a whole, it was for sure never perceived as mainstream club music. In Leipzig a rather dedicated leftfield approach to drum and bass music dominated in the mid-late 90s. We had at least a dozen crews very busy and versatile in style consisting of djs, mcs, promoters, producers, authors, designers. In a way that didn’t change much. Now the first generation of listeners, dancers and djs forming labels which is a good thing. Only new music can push things further.

What are your most memorable experiences when it comes to putting on drum & bass events?

Meeting Kemistry & Storm as I supported them at Conne Island, they inspired me a lot! Promoting DJ Marky & Stamina MC for the first time in Leipzig, having Calibre, Marcus Intalex, Digital, Paradox, Doc Scott, Seba, Bailey, Alley Cat & Flight – to name a few – as guests was always an honor and pleasure.

What are your top three hip hop and top three drum & bass tracks of all time?

Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full (Conduct Remix)
Roxanne Shanté – Have a Nice Day (Remix)
DJ EZ Rock & Rob Base – It Takes Two

Source Direct – Dark Metal Remix
Sci-Clone – Everywhere I Go (Remix)
Nasty Habits – Liquid Fingers

D&B is full of people who were initially B-Boys and into hip hop with Goldie being the most prominent example, was this a big influence on the Rogue Styles project?

Absolutely, we’re merely standing on the shoulders of giants here.

Where do you want to take the Rogue Styles project in the future?

Every time I meet new artists I’ll sooner or later introduce them to the Rogue Style project idea to find out how they relate to hip-hop and breakbeat dancing and where they come from. Then we’ll see!

We then had a chat with all the artists involved in Rogue Style 2. Digital, 6blocc, Calculon, Shamanga, Fanu and Agzilla.

How did you hook up with the Rogue Styles project?

6Blocc- I got connected thru Calculon. He’s been reaching to me over the past year with cool collab ideas and projects.

Agzilla- I was invited to join the project by Rob @ Defrostatica. Rob had been touch over the years—even before the label was on its feet. My first collaboration with them was a remix I did for a Kiat tune called “Brooklyn.”

Calculon- I came to Hypezig last March and played for the crew (so glad I did!!!! it was great to spend time face to face with them). We were communicating online before the gig and they asked if I wanted to submit anything. Our track “Call Out” fit the vibe they were cultivating.

Digital- Apart from knowing Booga for a while, having mutual friends and visiting Leipzig a few months ago I knew about Defrostatica through my good friend Kiat who does most of my artwork on Function Records and also on Defrostatica

Fanu- I can’t even remember exactly! I had probably been sending some stuff to Rob and harassing him with some beats. Ha!

What was it that you brought to the project?

6Blocc- Calculon 😉 and my love for beatz hahahaa!

Agzilla- I wanted the song to switch back and forth from a half time beat with a dash of nostalgic amens mixed in. It’s a journey. During the process of creating the music, the identity of the tune overrides how DJ friendly it is, but that is definitely something I will be working on in the future. I have not been making enough DnB over the course of my producing career, so I felt I could allow myself to go back in time a bit.

Calculon- It was my friend Sinistarr that put me on to the Defrostatica crew, he spoke highly of them and it was only natural to reach out. I try to stay connected with standout crews and labels around the globe.

Digital- Hahaha You’ll have to ask them! I think I brought some of the drum machine vibe from the b boy era topped with a little bit of hardcore!

Fanu- When it comes to b-boying / hiphop, you can’t deny the fact that drum machines and music done with them have played a good part in that. So I fired up my Machinedrum, fittingly, and started shredding on it!

Shamanga- It was my good friend and long time collaborator Nik (Calculon) that told me about the project. We had started the track a few months prior, and we were looking for a label to release it on. When we heard the project was B-Boy-centric, we thought this would be a great opportunity to get Raoul (6Blocc) involved. We all jammed out on different parts of the track and sent it over before the deadline. Easy.

What does B-Boy culture mean to you personally?

6Blocc- I was lucky enough to be born in 1970, so around 1982 when the NYC club / DJ / MC movement made its way to Los Angeles I started my DJ career playing hip hop, electro funk and DJ battles after watching the Herbie Hancock concert featuring Grandmixer DST. It was the beginning of b-boy culture in Los Angeles that is
still flourishing to this very day. The b-boy movement inspired me to push myself with my DJ skills and music production and mentally I’m still the same kid I was when I first started! I can’t imagine doing anything else in life than making music and adding to my huge vinyl collection. In the late 90’s I produced hard jungle vinyl releases under the name B-Boy 3000 because to me jungle music was hip hop fast forwarded 1000 years ahead in a time when lyrics no longer exist and all is just sample sounds modified by computers.

Agzilla- The disciplines of hip hop, graffiti, turntablism, and breakdancing have been subtle undercurrents throughout my design and music. The era of discovering groundbreaking sounds, dancing, and style in the 80’s left a deep imprint on me. And out of that wellspring grew my journey into the liberating universe of electronic music. The aura of b-boy culture has been with me ever since and remains both fascinating and deeply inspirational

Calculon- I vividly remember watching the Breakin’ movie with Ozone and Turbo and being blown away by their style and dance moves and the music in the film. As a teenager in San Diego I was later exposed to underground hip hop Kool Keith/Dr Octagon and DJ Shadow, and it was scratching that inspired me to save up and get my first set of turntables. I remember buying an Invisibl Skratch Piklz VHS tape from the local record shop and watch it at home, impressed to this day by their skill and dedication to the craft. Going out to local “cypher” events in the late 90s/early 2000s was inspiring as it was clear there was a community of DJs and MCs and dancers and artists that lived and breathed this music.

Digital- It’s a huge part of my make up, maybe even bigger than the rave culture because it was the first sign of togetherness via music that I experienced outside of reggae.

Fanu- Breaks have always been the backbone of the music I’ve loved the most, the longest, and with the most passion. I’m not saying all good music needs breaks, but to make it to my playlist and stay there for a long time…it’s gotta have good breaks. Did I say “breaks” a few times too many? BREAKS!

Shamanga- B-boying has been a huge part of my life since I was nine years old. My older cousin was a DJ… I remember vividly when he played me this new sound. “This is scratching” he said to me. The tune was ’Looking for the Perfect Beat’ by Afrikka Bambatta and the Soulsonic Force. I was instantly hooked on hip hop. This was 1981. I went on to collect any rap record I could find. Throughout the 80’s, I would obsess on the beats, trying to get the hot tracks before the other kids in my neighborhood. Growing up in Southern California, I would go to the swap meet and get Rodeo Mix Tapes by DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, etc. I learned about Rodney O and Joe Cooley, KRS One, Mixmaster Spade, King Tee, Eazy-E, Toddy T, and more. I began DJ’ing in 1988. One particular crew, 7A3 (produced by a mostly unknown DJ Muggs) inspired me to take my abilities to a new level. I purchased an HR-16 drum machine and bought a bass guitar. A few years later, a couple of the gangsters in my neighborhood wanted to become rappers, so they bought an Ensoniq EPS16+. Once they realized they didn’t want to learn how to program the machine, they gave it to me, with one stipulation… I was to produce beats for them to rap over. This was 1991. I have not stopped since.

How did you get into the music and breakbeat culture initially?

6Blocc- I’ve been playing music since 4th grade (drums, piano) and I started dj’ing / battling in the mid-80s. When jungle came out in 1991 I thought of it as fast chopped up hip hop beats.

Agzilla- The movie Beat Street was a big influence, opening the floodgates, so to speak. Also the book Subway Art by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. I was already into hip hop and breaking before I got hooked on DJ’ing back in 1989. From there, I began experimenting, following my heart, playing hip hop and early hardcore breakbeat material such as the Blapps Posse and Shut Up & Dance records.

Digital- It was literally all around me. At the youth club there was breaking and popping, town centre was full of it too and the icing on the cake was from my brother who is still a full on boom bap b boy. He doesn’t vibe from anything else!

Fanu- I was a teenager in the mid-90s, living in the countryside, and started listening to radio shows playing breakbeat music. That was a totally new thing to me…an addictive musical drug! Been on that path ever since.

Shamanga- My older cousin was a dj and he turned me onto rap in the early 80’s.

Where do you see B-Boy and breakbeat culture heading in the future?

6Blocc- It’s part of society at this point. In the future it will be looked back as a
highly important positive art form that brought different peoples together.

Agzilla- The level of craftsmanship in the graffiti world is so high now. It’s great to see it more accepted and appreciated as a cultural movement and a creative force. At the same time, the vandalism aspect of graffiti has diminished, which is great—I prefer more complete pieces and works that aim for higher ground. Likewise, breakdancing has reached superhuman levels. I’m not even sure how it’s possible to take it any higher LoL. But I’m sure they will. Breakbeat culture has been there from early on as a strong force of the underground and today it’s interesting to see how it is slowly creeping into other genres like Techno.

Calculon- The pillars of B-Boy culture are pretty firmly embedded in wider culture and have been adapted and has been monetized so it’s not going anywhere. As far as breakbeat culture….. I don’t have a crystal ball. I see things happening around the world but where I am in Southern California it’s hard to see much of a future for underground music and movements. I think the culture will be online but with the internet of things and festival culture replacing nightclub culture I feel out of touch sometimes.

Digital- I’m not really sure because to me b boy and breakbeat culture is an old skool thing and certainly has an old skool feel and I’m very happy with that.

Fanu- Breakbeat culture will always be prolific in underground music culture. It’s such a strong undercurrent although many people are unaware of it. It’s quite punk to be messing with breaks. I really hope breaks will do a strong revival on all fronts and that producers will pull out more original breaks.

Shamanga- I personally think the tracks are getting crazier, the artwork and graffiti is getting wilder and the dance moves are becoming even more gymnastic-like! I can see the art(s) progressing with technology… imagine some kind of antigravity dance arena. what about 3d graffiti holographs and augmented reality murals. It’s going to get wild!

What are your favourite breakbeats of all time?

Agzilla-
Twin Hype – Do It To The Crowd
Jungle Brothers – I’ll House You
Divine Styler – Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ ft. The Scheme Team
Eric B. & Rakim – Don’t Sweat The Technique
Special Ed – I Got It Made
Black Sheep – The Choice Is Yours

Calculon-
Ice-T – Reckless feat. Chris “The Glove” Taylor
Cyantific – Ghetto Blaster
Doctor Octagon – Bear Witness
The Pharcyde – Return of the B-Boy

Digital- My favourite breakbeat is the dynamically wonderful “Amen” break – Used on so many tracks like Mantronix, “King Of The Beats” and a fair amount of my tracks!

What are your musical plans for the rest of the year?

6Blocc- To get a new computer and learn to get my mixdowns even louder and tighter. The mission is never done

Agzilla- I have an album that is being released on Metalheadz this year. It’s titled “Cats Can Hear Ultrasound” and it has been in the making for a long long time. My immediate focus is seeing it through to its release. Once that’s out, my focus will shift to the tons of unfinished material that I have—mostly experimental non-genre tunes.

Calculon- In late march the Survival remix of my tune “Alley Girl” with Saxxon will be released on Voyage music. I’ve also got a single on Voyage dropping 4/20 (april 20th) which is my tune “Greatest Fun” coupled with “Live by the Streets” which is with 6blocc and Jaybee. My track “Mr International” with BSN Posse is dropping April 2 on True Colors.
As far as my record labels, on Shoot Recordings we will be releasing more music from Seattle’s Root for the Villain, he’s on fire. Rubik will release the Album by Eavesdrop featuring some big remixes by guys like Zero T.
As far as new music I’ve been working with HLZ, Jaybee, Dave Owen, Neve from Italy, Sonido Beserk from Juke Mx (I want to start collaborating more and working actively with my Mexican neighbours), Jamal from San Francisco….. as you can see I love to collaborate so I intend to do more of that. So watch out for the sounds you guys have been familiar with but also I am always moving more in a Dancehall direction…..

Digital- I crack on with as much music as I can because I enjoy making music. I have a 12 track project forthcoming early April called “Total Control” which has a few collaborations on it with the likes of Villem, Q Project and Spirit, Nomine, Flava and John B.

Fanu- There’s a breakbeat-rich release coming out at some point on a highly respected label, and I hope that gives the breaks culture a good push!

Shamanga- I’ll be attending SXSW in March, and then making more jungle dancehall hybrid tunes with Calculon!

Thanks to all involved and go check out Rogue Style 2 here as well as all the other Defrostatica releases.

Bandcamp link: https://defro.st/atica005