Updated: Nov 3, 2018
Bass Agenda is a name that needs no introduction these days. While the show and label haven't been around as long as some others perhaps, few can compare with the kind of energy and rapid success that Andy Barton has seen for his beloved project. From reviews and articles on staple media sources like Mixmag and DJ Magazine, to getting a chance to interview and release names like Dave Clarke to Bass Junkie and so much in between, it is no doubt that Bass Agenda is a pillar of constant support for the Electro scene. This powerful medium; by means of both the label and radio show, presents to the people, veterans and newcomers alike, the music we all love with a keen sense of understanding of the values we hold dear for it, but also with an adventurism that even challenges those of us who have been followers of the sound most of our lives. For our next interview on Electric Kingdom, we bring you an in-depth interview with the man behind it all, who shares his stories, vision and feelings on everything from life itself, to the music and the thing that ties it all together...the love! Let's get on with it.
Santino Fernandez: Welcome Andy! Huge pleasure to get a chance to do a proper interview dedicated to all the great work that you do with your radio show and label. Let’s start with your upbringing: where were you born in the United Kingdom, and as a child how did you find your way into music?
Andy Barton: Thanks Santino, the respect is mutual! I was born in the county of Suffolk in ‘75, but grew up in Essex. I lived in a fairly rural area, so wasn’t exposed to much variety in music I guess. It was pretty much whatever was in the charts, on the radio, on a TV show called Top Of The Pops...the days before the internet! My parents were not big music lovers but had records around: Rolling Stones, Elvis, that kind of thing. The good thing about the charts and "mainstream" music back then was that a lot of it was amazing Electronic music. Synths appearing on Top of The Pops like New Order, Depeche Mode etc. It wasn’t until senior school that I really started to take a real interest though, and then became gradually more obsessed.
I agree, mainstream music these days and for some time has been quite an embarrassment in my opinion. So much of it back then was really incredible and inspiring. Speaking of which, do you remember the 80’s Electro scene in the UK? How did it appeal to you as a youngster watching it all happen?
I barely knew it was happening to be honest. As I said my exposure was pretty much whatever was mainstream, so yeah I’d hear stuff leaking out from the underground onto radio sometimes, but I didn’t hear much. In that respect I’m quite envious of people who lived in bigger towns and cities where there was more variety in terms of people and music.
I know what you mean. That was in many ways my exposure to Electro, slowly but surely. What about the Rave scene later on then? I know you were part of that. What did it mean to you personally and perhaps even spiritually?
The Rave scene was something I was much more into yes. I found Electro through Techno. I had friends who DJ’d Techno. I went to Spiral Tribe Raves in London, local ones in Essex and later in Northamptonshire where I was at college. I went to a couple of the big organized things like Dreamscape, but most of my experience was squat parties and outdoor raves. I went to some festivals like Glastonbury a few times. The Prodigy was a local band in Essex and a friend of mine at the time played guitar for them so I went to a few of their gigs and I really liked the blend of Rave hooks and broken beats. Those days hold great memories for me and definitely shaped my DNA as far what kind of music I liked and for appreciating music as being way more than just sound. It’s ability to get people together, to strip out the stuff that divides us and to communicate what we can’t say with words.
Absolutely! That is exactly what drew me into Electronic Music, and why the Rave era also holds great memories and meaning for me. That erasing of societal boundaries like you speak of. Alright, let's talk about the founding of Bass Agenda, the show and label. How did it all come about?
Well, there’s a mixture of things that made that all start I guess. Firstly, I had loved Techno for a long time and was introduced to Dave Clarke mixes, radio stuff and early releases fairly early on. I heard Electro in some of his mixes and was curious about it, but never really understood it or recognized it as a separate genre at that time. I went record shopping at Spin-a-Disc in Northampton once and saw his Electro Boogie mix release, and grabbed it straight away because it was him, not because it was Electro. I played it and was like "Oh, this isn’t what is was expecting" I recognized a couple of tracks from his mixes and by the end of the first play through, I was totally hooked. That was a turning point for me.
So, I listened to Electro for a long while, but didn’t know many people that liked it. A lot of my friends were quite narrow in their musical taste back then; all Techno or all Metal or whatever. I just enjoyed this exposure to new stuff. I listened to it all. Anyway, fast forward a good few years and Soundcloud came around. I had been making mixes for myself for a while; to listen to while traveling, that kind of thing. I found mixes by others on there, like DVS NME's Dark Science Electro for example, and thought I’d upload some to see if it led me to meet other people. Back when Soundcloud had a bit more of a social feel to it than now. I came up with the name Bass Agenda somehow, and posted Bass Agenda 1.0 and made it a weekly thing; not so much to make it a podcast, but just because I had few mixes backed up and thought I’d spread them out a bit.
Early on I was contacted by Mike Ash who had heard one of the mixes which had featured a couple of his tracks. He offered to send me some tracks and we chatted a bit. That night I was thinking how cool it was to hear from someone whose music I loved, and it got me wondering how he got into it. I decided to ask him how he got into making it, what artists inspired him, and that was pretty much the beginning of the show’s format that people know today.
From Bass Agenda 7.0 I had a guest choose a few tunes and I hosted it. Later on I started interviews and here we are. It's been crazy and such an honour. I’ve spoken with most of my Electronic music heroes and am in touch with some of them regularly, not what I expected this to lead to at all. I’ve never been a DJ, I always used software to mix stuff for my own listening. I was keen to not be one of those people that pretends to be a DJ. I was big into radio shows hosted by John Peel, Giles Peterson and Dave Clarke. I remember hearing Dave’s show online in the days of 56kbps dial up and thinking how cool it was. So that’s why it’s more of a radio show format than a mix format. I think there are so many 1 hour mixes, etc. being put up, it's an important part of how Bass Agenda has evolved to not be one of that crowd.
Label wise, I was meeting so many people online once the show got going and discovering so much music and artists, I just felt compelled to do something that was a kind of a showcase release; also saying thanks to the guests that had been on the show in the first year, and thanks to people who had got behind what I was doing. "Bass Agenda Vol 1: The Fight Against The Mundane" was meant to be a one off release. At the most I was thinking I might do an annual release and leave it at that. I learnt a lot doing that release. I had never done anything like that before. That was 2013. Next month I put out the 75th release on the label. I guess I am hooked!