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In Session: Bou

Bou rolls through an hour mix of "exclusive tracks, remixes and dubs" and talks to Aneesa Ahmed about Gossip, working with heroes and 'DNB 4 Peace'

  • Words: Aneesa Ahmed | Photography: Jade Hannah Smallshaw
  • 16 February 2022

The style of drum ‘n’ bass Bou has crafted, submerging the dynamism of jump-up and jungle into the hypnotic momentum of a roller, has made him a contemporary champion in the d'n'b scene.

The 24-year-old DJ and producer enjoyed his most successful year yet in 2021. He headlined London’s Drumsheds for Hospitality’s New Year's Eve event, toured New Zealand, and played some iconic UK festivals like Creamfields and Bass Fest. Bou also launched his own record label, Gossip, and dropped a track with long-time idol High Contrast through the label. “I just really wanted some quality control, it’s about having more creative freedom and direction,” he says of his motivations for the imprint. More recently he released a remix of High Contrast’s ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, a project that he was “very excited to be able to work on”.

Read this next: How young artists are transforming drum 'n' bass

Bou has been producing music since college and DJing for just over five years. In this short time in music he has already earned six awards, including the Drum & Bass Awards 2021 for Best Producer and Best Track (for ‘Veteran VIP’ with Trigga).

Bou is inspired by his French heritage and Muslim upbringing, as well as his hometown and birthplace of Manchester. Last year he raised over £30,000 for Palestine through his charity compilation ‘DNB 4 Peace’, a cause very close to his heart and something that he has been pushing awareness for for years.

We caught up with Bou to talk about his label, the ‘DNB 4 Peace’ compilation, his dad joining him on stage at Parklife and current up-and-coming DJs and producers he’s championing. Check out his hour long drum ‘n’ bass In Session mix featuring everything from rollers to jump-up and the interview below.

Last year was huge for you, you did a lot in 2021 — what was your highlight?

Definitely festival season, it kind of happened really quickly but getting to play at places like Bass Fest and Creamfields was just really fun. The big crowds were just such a good time. Drumsheds also was a big one, playing on one of their big stages was such a highlight of my career overall. There were just so many good moments, like it was a weird year but it was still such a good year overall — released some really good tunes on my label too which felt good.

A few months back your dad got on stage with you at Parklife! That’s wicked, how did your parents react to your music career?

When I first got into d'n'b I would have been about 15 or something, I didn’t have an ID back then so I couldn’t get into anywhere. My parents also didn’t let me go to festivals or anything. They’re both quite traditional in customs but also laid back, they’ve never been enforcing or anything and they let me figure out what I want to do alone. They’ve always said that whatever I do to make sure I love it and that I put my all into it. They actually tried to get me to do all sorts, like even IT. I was always fucking up in college, even music I failed! So for them to be able to see that I'm doing well for myself is more than I could ask for.

Tell us more about the iconic Parklife moment with your dad?

It was mad, there’s this picture of me and him with our hands in the air. I love that picture it’s so great. I feel like it’s always your dream to make your parents proud and that, it was just great to see them proud of me. Like I said, I was failing everything in college so it was nice for them to see that I'm doing something with music right now.

Read this next: Goldie: “People never give props to drum 'n' bass for what it's done for electronic music"

How do the recent awards feel?

I got two in 2021 which was dope, but to be honest I don’t really put too much importance on these awards, but it’s always nice to receive one and feel my music appreciated. I guess with music everyone’s got their own opinions on what they like and what not — I don’t think it’s quite right to name one person as ‘Best Producer’ as what one person likes may not be the same as what another person likes. But still it’s nice to be appreciated and get nominated and sometimes win things like this, it’s very humbling and I really appreciate it.

What was starting your label Gossip like? How come you decided to start your own?

The label was mostly created to just be able to have creative freedom. It meant that I could release my own music, choose my own artwork, have complete control over releases and not have to wait for people. We started Gossip because of that. I’d actually been working on that tune with Link from High Contrast for almost two years — we finally got to put it out on my own label which felt so good man. It was really so I could consistently release my own music on my own terms. It’s also one of those things where if things go wrong, I really have no one to blame but myself so it takes away a lot of having to rely on other people.

How did the High Contrast ‘Don’t Need You’ collab come about?

We met at Let It Roll festival in the Czech Republic. Me and HEDEX were like “we should we go speak to him”, but then we were like “nah nah nah”; but eventually I went to go and chat to him and just asked him if he wanted to make a tune or whatever. I gave him my number and then we ended up linking up and we made ‘Don’t Need You’. We made another tune too but that never came out, but we’re going to go back to it and keep working on it. It actually all came about from me just being cheeky really, I’m that type of guy where I take the first opportunity I see. I’ll always just be cheeky and ask for it rather than not do anything about it.

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What was it like releasing that huge track on your own label?

It was good because I’ve actually just learnt so much about it, from working with PR companies or sending music out to radios it was really interesting to learn the ins and outs of how to do things properly. People who don’t know how to run labels properly won’t be doing stuff like this. For me it just felt really good to be able to do stuff on my own terms and get this track out the way I wanted it.

What kind of values and vibe do you want Gossip to have?

You know, I don’t think I really have any set “values” in mind when it comes to Gossip, but I do want to have a good quality control over everything we release and make sure it always matches the standard that we’re setting for ourselves. I want to make sure every track is always my best work, and that I’m proud of it and it’s always better than the last one. I definitely want to establish some sort of sound and branding, like having the art always drawn by the same art guy. I think we’re doing good with the type of music we’re releasing, but it’s just about quality control for me. We want to be picky with our selections too and only put out songs that match us.

What kind of sound are you trying to curate for Gossip?

I don’t think I want to push for a particular sound, sonically. But I do want everything to have a proper raw, club feel to it, that's the direct flow that I’m going for. I appreciate all styles of d'n'b, maybe we’ll see some liquid — we’ll see what type of sounds we get on there.

Read this next: The 15 best late-00's liquid drum 'n' bass tracks

What can we expect from the Gossip brand in the coming months?

We’re definitely going to start doing merch and events soon, that’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a bit. End of the day though, it’s quality over quantity, we’re not going to overdo anything and just work really hard on what we want to do. Right now it’s about putting out more music and getting a couple more artists on the label.

You champion a lot of blossoming and up and coming d'n'b artists, DJs and producers, who are you really rooting for right now?

That’s a good question; there’s a few who I’m a fan of right now such as Disrupta, and Kaz, who are both part of Inside The Night. There’s also this guy called Refracta, there’s Billa and Kenobi, so I’ve got my eyes on a couple of new people. But it’s kind of hard to find some new people nowadays as I do think a lot of people sound very similar sometimes. So these names I’ve listed are all people who to me sound like they’re doing something completely different.

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This was a little while ago now, but how does it feel to have worked on the ‘DNB 4 Peace’ project?

It was amazing, it started off with just me putting the idea out on my Instagram. I was in New Zealand at the time on tour and I was just seeing everything happening in the conflict on my social media feed - there were just so many videos. It really hit me because I thought we should all try to do something. Obviously it’s not as easy as just solving the conflict, but I thought even if it was just helping one family or one small community, it’s just good to be able to do something. I put the idea of this compilation out and loads of people were saying they’d be down, and it spread on people’s stories. Next thing we know is that there were so many people involved, we had around 60 be involved, and there were some huge names from Alix Perez to Voltage. It felt really good, and looking back like it was so good to see people just come together for a good cause.

What was the outcome of ‘DNB 4 Peace’ and how do you feel?

We ended up raising something around the £30k mark, which is insane just to even think about. I got the receipts and invoices and everything back and that money has all been used to build shelters, provide food and provide solar panels. From what I’ve been told it’s good. Just knowing we could help even a little and make a bit of a difference is good. Being able to see you can actually make a difference is rewarding, everyone can do it if they put a bit of effort in, if they want to do it, the whole thing was super rewarding.

Read this next: “This isn't about sides”: Palestinian artists call for music world to support 'basic human rights'

What are you excited about for the coming months or the coming year?

I’m actually just so excited for festival season, I love seeing everyone come out a bit earlier in the day and the sunshine and the fresh air, it’s just such a great time! There’s also some events coming up that I’m excited for, can’t say too much. There is a possibility of returning to New Zealand sometime, maybe not this year though but we’ll see.

What about the drum ‘n’ bass scene currently is exciting to you?

I’m excited to release music for starters, But like I was saying before, there’s some pretty good names and talent who are up and coming and I’m excited to see what they do. Always excited for drum ‘n’ bass man, like just wanting people to keep seeing people do what they love.

To finish, tell us about your In Session mix?

A one hour special of exclusive tracks, remixes and dubs from me and producers that I highly rate! Hope you enjoy!

DJ Fresh - Gold Dust (Bou & Used Remix)
Adam F - Circles (Pola & Bryson VIP Bootleg)
Bou ft. Haribo - Overthinking
One Eye Open (Bou Remix)
Bru-C & Bou - Streetside
Faithless - We Come One (Hedex Edit)
Bou & Serum - ID
Bou - Blackjack
Disrupta - In The Sun
High Contrast & Bou - Don't Need You
High Contrast - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Bou Remix)
Upgrade - Empty
Jubei & dBridge - Show Me
Alix Perez & Bou ft. Trigga - Back to Basics
Noisia & The Upbeats - Dead Limit
Dominator - Outta Control
Gecko - Overload (Matrix & Futurebound Remix)
Bou - La Kasba
Benny Page - Turn Down The Lights
Bou - Camels
Bou - Broke
Bou & Hedex - Do You Like That
Bou & Used ft. Becky Hill - Enough
Hedex - Decisions
Bou & Shy FX - ID
T>I & ZC - Search & Destroy
Alex Reece - Pulp Fiction (Benny L Remix)
Bou ft. Trigga - Champion VIP
Skantia & KY - Programmed To Die
Trex - Do Nothing
Serum - Lumberjack
Decimal Bass - Day After Day
DJ Limited - Sun ( T>I Remix)
Bou ft. Trigga - Veteran (Serum Remix)
High Contrast - If We Ever (Unglued VIP Remix)
AC13 - Ouija
Bou & Hedex - ID
Hedex & Bou - Pub Grub VIP
Taxman - Echo Vibes
Hedex - ID
Bou & Turno - ID
Hedex & DJ Fresh - ID
Bru-C & Tsuki - Dutty (Bou Remix)
Bou - Envy (Voltage Remix)
TC - Tap Ho (Hedex Remix)
Dominator & Nu Elementz - Spartanz (Bou Remix)
Bou - Poison (Hedex Edit)
Serum & Trigga - Phenemenon (Bou Remix)
Bou & Turno - ID
Jam Thieves - Criminal Thugs
Bou - ID
Bou & Mark XTC - Breathe (Sub Zero Remix)
Unglued - Secret Foghorn
Upgrade & TI - Shutdown
DJ Guv - Spinning Method (Hedex Remix)

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