Ahead of the debut release on his new label ‘Le Chatroom’ this Friday, I spoke to London-based producer Kouslin about his unique take on bass music and the importance of promoting musical diversity.
Sam Ross-Laye, aka Kouslin, is part of the new wave of artists experimenting with and innovating UK bass music. His productions over the last year have incorporated a variety of world music samples while still maintaining a dark, bass oriented edge.
Speaking to Kouslin it is clear that his unique, hybridised approach to producing informed his decision to launch his own label ‘Le Chatroom’. “I was having problems finding labels that I’d want to release on”, he explains. “Obviously there are labels that I like and I look up to but I wouldn’t feel at home. I had the idea to start my own label for a while; it started going a bit too far and I thought ‘fuck I’m actually doing this now”.
Despite few official releases, the distinctive sound that Kouslin has honed over the past year has earned him support from the likes of Toddla T and Ben UFO. His track ‘Suga’s Drums’, featuring a bongo-led rhythm and chanting tribal vocals, got a particularly good reception.
Originally, when Kouslin produced ‘Suga’s Drums’, he was just looking to experiment with percussive elements. Discussing the inspiration behind the track, he explains: “Where I live is in the middle of Notting Hill Carnival and every year I wake up to drumming, jungle music, everything. So I wanted to make a tune for carnival and started searching for Jamaican drumming to sample”.
Once Kouslin had produced Suga’s Drums, he started to incorporate more world music instrumentation and vocals into his tracks. ‘Maasai Voices’ features vocals by women of the Maasai community in Kenya and ‘Harrar Flutes’ is led by an Ethiopian flute melody. Yet both tracks still maintain a dark vibe with low-end, heavy percussive rhythms.
Kouslin had always listened to a wide range of music but really started delving into different styles of music over the last year. He cites ‘Afriquoi’ as a key influence, a London-based group who combine African traditional music with elements of house and jungle.
He also began to broaden his search for samples, and mentions Honest Jon’s in West London as a favorite spot to find records. “Initially for Suga’s drums and Massai voices I was searching for samples online but then I really started to enjoy the whole experience of going into a record store and finding something a bit more random that’s better quality to sample.”
With the launch of his new label ‘Le Chatroom’ Kouslin hopes to continue in the same vein, releasing hybrid tracks that incorporate a variety of world music influences. The debut EP on the label, released on Friday, features tracks from Galtier and Sheik as well as Kouslin. Kouslin is clear that the label’s ethos will be very “open-minded and experimental”. “I want to release tracks that blend a lot of different sounds and cultures”, he explains. “Although obviously the main theme will be club-oriented music”.
Before long our talk turns to the importance of promoting “unity between cultures”. “I feel like it’s important now to be sharing different cultures and showing respect”, says Kouslin. He hopes to use his label as a platform to counter the intolerant ideas and attitudes that have gained traction recently. “I also think it has a personal relevance to me growing up in France and England and living in different areas”, he points out.
While Kouslin has set out a distinct direction for ‘Le Chatroom’, he is keen to make sure that the releases on the label do not become ‘formulaic’. “I still want to keep it quite fresh and evolving”, he says. Despite the original spontaneity of his decision to launch the label, Kouslin is looking forward to releasing more tracks and mixes from a variety of artists over the the next year.