Few record labels can claim to have changed the face of their respective scene, most simply happy to follow the trends set by others rather than lead the way themselves. V Recordings, however, can confidently say that they have always trod their own path, bringing through new artists and sounds right from day one and leaving a path of creative innovation in their wake. V Recordings was started in 1993 by Bryan Gee and Jumping Jack Frost. They had made a name for themselves as successful DJs on Brixton based pirate radio station Passion FM and had a strong following around London. While Frost spent most of his energy DJing on the warehouse and rave circuit Bryan worked at Rhythm King helping to launch the careers of artists like Moby and signing a wide selection of underground music’s biggest classics.
Thanks to his dedication and understanding of the rave scene, Bryan was offered the chance to run his own label as a subsidiary of Rhythm King. Drawing on all his knowledge of A&R and his experience working alongside a myriad of record labels helping them promote their releases to club DJs, Bryan was quick to jump on a demo he was given by house producers Absolute 2 featuring some new artists from Bristol. Unfortunately, Rhythm King began to lose money and one of the first projects they decided to cut was the last one they’d began to work on. And so, before he could sign the demo, Bryan’s label project was closed down.
As Bryan’s job at Rhythm King came to an end he took the stack of demo tapes he’d collected up and he and Jumping Jack Frost cut some of the tracks to dubplate to play in their DJ sets. Always one to follow his heart, it became clear to Bryan that the next logical step was to continue forward and start a record label on his own. Standing outside a record shop in Camden, the name popped out at him and Vinyl Experience was born - a name which became shortened simply to V Recordings after the first few releases.
After thoroughly road testing a selection of the demos that Bryan had taken away from Rhythm King, V Recordings’ first release was the ‘Fatal Dose’ EP from two of the Bristol artists, Ryan Williams and Kirk Thompson, working under the name The Deceivers. Of course, these producers are now better known to the world as Roni Size and DJ Krust. The importance of these artists to both drum & bass and British electronic music as a whole cannot be underestimated, and it’s thanks to V Recordings that they got their first all important break in the industry.
Following that all important first foray, V Recordings began to build up steam with a string of releases from Roni Size, Krust and DJ Die, each one hitting huge success with club DJs. Releases such as ‘Jazz Note’, ‘It’s A Jazz Thing’ and ‘Set Speed’ all absolutely represented the fresh drum & bass sound that had been spreading through the UK underground like wildfire and are all considered classics to this day. Meanwhile V Recordings’ offshoot Philly Blunt had been catering for the ragga influenced sound with Roni Size, DJ Die, Jumping Jack Frost and Ray Keith all stepping up to deliver quality breakbeat anthems such as Firefox & 4-Tree’s ‘Warning’ and Leviticus’ ‘Burial’.
Riding high on the success of the Bristol connection, V Recordings had also begun to work with local London producers like Dillinja, Lemon D and Ray Keith who fit the V Recordings mould perfectly. As the media and record buying public started to pick up more and more on the underground sounds coming from these young talents’ studios so the popularity of the label burgeoned to the point of bursting with fans from around the globe flocking to buy their releases.
The natural evolution of both V Recordings and the drum & bass scene in general began to move from releasing single after single into full album projects. This progression was an easy transition for V as the label had built a massive collection of anthems in their catalogue and an impressive pool of production talent to draw from. In 1997, at the peak of drum & bass’ popularity, V Recordings released their first LP project ‘V Classic’, a combination of some of the finest tracks to grace the label and a selection of outstanding new music. Coming as a 5x12” set with a triple CD, ‘V Classic’ was a triumph and cemented V’s reputation as one of the leading labels, not just in D&B, but in electronic music as a whole.
Meanwhile Bryan G and Jumping Jack Frost’s DJ careers were in full swing with bookings from around the world flooding in. With this in mind V Recordings began to investigate the possibilities of running their own night and, spurred on by the huge following the label had garnered they started Movement, a drum & bass event that is still the longest running in the history of the scene and ran weekly for nearly twelve years! As well as their weekly event Movement tents could be seen at festivals such as Homelands, Lovebox and the legendary Skol Beats in Brazil.
Just as it seemed that the label, the events and the D&B scene as a whole was reaching boiling point, Roni Size & Reprazent signed to Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label and scooped the coveted Mercury Music Prize, offering both them and their affiliates exposure on a scale that was completely unprecedented. With drum & bass’ popularity now at fever pitch, V Recordings unleashed their second album project. Pulling out all the stops was the only way to ensure they could top ‘V Classic’, and so they went to work.
Stacking up the anthems, ‘Planet V’ was a defining moment for V Recordings, and for the drum & bass scene. Featuring the biggest artists around such as Adam F, Ed Rush & Optical, Ray Keith, Peshay, Ram Trilogy and, of course, Roni Size, DJ Krust and DJ Die, ‘Planet V’ was another incredible success. Not only did the album involve the most respected producers in the game, but also offered up some of the best examples of their work spread over an incredible 8x12” vinyl set. Despite all of their previous successes though, the best was yet to come for V Recordings as they made a connection on the other side of the world; Brazil. While on holiday in the UK, a Brazilian DJ and promoter by the name of Patife visited Movement and was so inspired that he wanted to bring the clubnight to Brazil. After emailing the crew it was agreed that Edo, one of the leading members of the Movement crew should head to Brazil and check out the Brazilian scene before they jumped into anything. Within a few days Edo rang Bryan and told him he needed to come and see this for himself.
Stepping into a Brazilian rave and seeing a DJ commanding some of the most intense crowd reactions he’d ever seen, Bryan knew that he would need to bring his strongest game in order to compete with the local resident, DJ Marky. Drawing on his biggest dubplates, Bryan represented the V crew properly, but he was entirely impressed with the local scene and the DJs. From there the Movement crew officially opened the Brazilian connection and began to work closely with Patife, Marky and XRS.
Starting slowly by bringing Marky over to the UK, the connection grew and as V Recordings began to release some of the Brazilian inspired music that the collective were concocting the rest of the drum & bass scene started to catch onto this new sound. Soon everyone was raving about (and to) the sunshine vibes and Brazilian drum & bass became all the rage. In 2002 that sound came to a head with Marky & XRS’ version of Jorge Ben Jor e Toquinho’s ‘Carolina Carol Bela’, otherwise known as ‘LK’. Featuring Stamina MC on the vocals ‘LK’ hit the UK charts and received widespread radio coverage. Once again drum & bass was fashionable, in part thanks to the vision and business acumen of V Recordings.
As the world reeled from the incredible direction V had pushed drum & bass in, the crew continued to keep their eye on the game and push the boundaries. In 2004 they launched a brand new imprint to keep their hand in the currently exploding liquid funk sub-genre. Liquid V struck gold with releases from Calibre, D-Bridge, Artificial Intelligence and some early work from Commix, Logistics and Nu:Tone. Yet again V proved they had their finger on the pulse, and all the while Roni Size was preparing a return to the label which had spawned his musical success.
‘Return To V’ smashed into the public eye (or ear) in the same year, featuring collaborations with beatbox world champion Rahzel, dance music legend Jocelyn Brown, UK hip hop star Rodney P and R&B diva Beverly Knight. The latter collaboration with Beverly Knight and Dynamite MC entitled ‘No More’, a politically motivated song centring on street crime and inner city problems, hit the UK charts and led to Roni touring the album extensively around the globe and the group being invited to perform on BBC’s Later with Jools Holland. Over a decade after they started and V Recordings had brought back the artist they’d discovered and who’d subsequently changed the face of drum & bass foreIn the last few years V Recordings hasn’t slowed down either. Concentrating hard on Liquid V and their ‘Club Sessions’ compilations, V has been bringing the fun and the funk back to parties, while Movement resident Ruff Stuff has taken the lead with Chronic, bringing together the ‘Big, Bad & Heavy’ album, packed full of the biggest dancefloor smashers around.
With an eye on the future, V will continue to bring through some of the most versatile producers the underground scene has to offer. Picking up on the regeneration of the original rave mentality – everyone raving to different styles of music all under the same roof – V Recordings intends to branch out with different styles of music, but always following their sound and being true to themselves.
In a scene where too many labels fall by the wayside, it’s inspiring to see one with so much history and with so much to offer the future.