EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Five Minutes With… Daniel Clarke

Daniel Clarke is the charismatic label boss and founder of NexGen Music Group. With over a decade in the industry, he has brought us releases from across an array of genres with his prolific label outputs – Migration Recordings (Dubstep/Bass/Future House), Affectionate Grooves (UKG/ House/Dance), and NexGen Records(Drum & Bass).

Having ridden the wave during an era when the information highway prompted massive changes within the music industry, NexGen Music Group has effectively stayed at the forefront of their game through innovation, forward thinking, and a genuine love of music.

We chatted to Daniel about his journey from teen music enthusiast, to head of one of the UK’s most successful record label groups…

Hi Daniel, could you introduce yourself in a few words, for those who might not yet know you?

Hello there! ☺

My name is Dan Clarke and I am the owner and founder of NexGen Music Group.

What was the inspiration behind starting your own music label? How has the experience measured up to the original ‘vision’?

Well, I grew up in a musical family. Both my mother and father were heavily involved in music, and they are still even to this day. I guess you could say that music has always been in my genes.

Quite early in my life at around the age of nine, I developed my own taste in music and began following late 80’s and early 90’s UK dance and underground music. I was lucky enough to be a firsthand witness to the evolution of early Dance, Acid House, Rave, Hardcore, Breakbeat – and later Jungle, Drum & Bass, and UK Garage. I spent a lot of time in my early youth and teens, tuning into London’s pirate radio airwaves such as (Kool FM and Upfront FM), hanging around niche record shops such as Bluebird (Bromley), Wax City (Croydon), and Nicky’s legendary Black Market Records (Central London), and of course raving/clubbing. I also became an avid vinyl junkie and had amassed over 20,000 records of mostly underground music before I migrated over to the US in the early 2000’s.

With all of this music around me serving as influence and inspiration, my idea and passion for wanting to start a label was pretty much there from day one. However, it wasn’t until Hardcore and Jungle evolved into early forms of Drum & Bass (which was the sound that totally blew me away), that I started my journey into music production and later setting up and running a label.

After running a record label solidly for over 10 years now, I often think about and analyze the second part of your question. Is running a label anything what I expected it to be? I’m not really sure, I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. But what I can definitely say is that boy have things changed from the day I first got started!

While I started the label in the UK back in 2001, NexGen became “official” in 2006, after I moved across the Atlantic to New York City in 2003. It was right at the time where digital and peer-to-peer file sharing was becoming a huge issue for the music industry, and right on the cusp of where vinyl sales were starting to go into a massive decline. When you sell 20,000 copies of your first release and then struggle to sell 500 copies by the fourth, you realize that a major shift is occurring – and you’re caught right in the middle of it! Since then we’ve evolved into our new age of online music streaming services (offering pennies on the dollar for plays – a completely off-topic subject, but perhaps worth mentioning). It’s all pretty amazing to see and feel the force of these shifts over the past decade and a half.

With all this being said, I was far too passionate and determined to give up my dream of running a label so quickly. So… I decided to ride the wave of evolution to see where I could take it, and here we are 11 years later!

How long have you been running now and how many releases have you had?

To date we’ve had approximately 80 releases across our three main labels: NexGen Records (Drum & Bass), Migration Recordings (Dubstep/Bass/Future House), and Affectionate Grooves (UKG/ House/Dance). Projects that fall outside of these main genres (of which there are many) are typically released under the label group name ‘NexGen Music’.

What is the ethos behind your label? Is it based strictly around a genre?

NexGen Music promises to deliver you deep into the four Human Intelligences; Mental (IQ), Emotional (EQ), Spiritual (SQ), and Physical (PQ).

The label group showcases an unlimited range of musical genres and styles such as; Downtempo, Chill, Nu/Future-Jazz, Drum & Bass, Bass Music, UK Garage, House, Electronica, Trap, Trip-Hop, Soul, Funk, Leftfield, Experimental (and the list goes on…).

We foster a philosophy of artistic growth, collaboration and experimentation, uniting promising new talent with established industry heads and musical magicians.

NexGen is all about love and freedom of the musical soul.

What do you feel are the elements an artist needs for you to sign them?

Hmmm, that’s a toughie. Keeping it short and sweet, for me you’ve got to have a sound that is just simply… special. It is really hard to describe what “special” is, but you just know it when you hear it – irrespective of the artist’s musical background and experience. I love it when you can tell that an artist is really “inside the machine,” and that they are taking the time to go deeper and wider with their sound. I for one love artists that record and manipulate their own samples, as opposed to producing with sample pack downloads and standard presets.

Ultimately, I would say that it is a combination of not only the production, but also the methods used in creating the composition. Another way of saying this is: the quality of the creation process is equally as important as the quality of the output.

In your opinion, what classifies as a good mix and a good master?

Hahaha! Nice try, but I respectfully decline to get sucked into this one… 😛

Within the camp I would say that we have the most incredibly talented and FUSSIEST group of music perfectionists. Almost all label “tea-cup throwing” is a result of some ultimately non-important difference of opinion regarding sound design, music production, mastering, or a combination of them all.

Mixing and mastering I find to be highly subjective topics, and I personally require the borrowing of as many pairs of label ears that I can tap into when it comes to the evaluation and finalization of the mix and master process.

Are there any releases on the label that were particular favorite projects?

No favorites I am afraid – I love all of our projects! They are all like my babies (but obviously not as cute hahaha). Seriously though, all of our projects are special to me in some way. Some are less special than others but still special nevertheless. Every release is part of our story and has helped to shape who we are today.

With NexGen the sum is much greater than the individual parts, whether that be a release or artist.

Can you share with us 3 tools you use for running your label that you can’t live without?

My ears
Rob Sparx (my partner in Migration and also my other set of ears)
‘Shane the Cutter’ @ Finyl Tweek Mastering (you are the best mate!)

Can you tell us about any of the upcoming releases in the near future on the label?

Ooh… Well, we’ve got a LOT of stuff going on this year across the label group, and of various styles and genres.

We are just about to drop a WHITE HOT Liquid Drum & Bass EP from one of our up-and-coming stars, Soulful Nature entitled ‘Memories.’

We have two new debut artists Impure and Boomdoc dropping releases on NexGen Music (‘Connect’ EP) and Affectionate Grooves (‘Lowda’ EP) respectively.

We’ve also got label superstars Kachina dropping at least another three EP’s on Affectionate Grooves, before the end of the year.

We also have a very special limited-edition cross-genre 12” vinyl project in the works, showcasing all of our current labels and featuring the likes of: Undersound, Qumulus & D.A, Rob Sparx, Kachina, Neveready, Soulful Nature, Earth Leakage Trip, Afua and Lyndsey Murray. This LP is going to be seriously FIRE!

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, it has been a pleasure. ☺

Peace – NexGen over and out!

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