Andy Musgrave, an animated guy in his early 30s, is explaining his A&R philosophy. It's one he's put into practice very effectively with the label he co-founded three years ago, Crazylegs. This evening, in a noisy pub on Bristol's Stokes Croft, he's surrounded by evidence of his success.
Sat next to him is Ziro, the first signing to the label, whose latest EP slickly riffs on grime and features a Riko Dan vocal. Across from him is the London-born Gage, whose collaboration with ballroom vocalist Kevin Jz Prodigy, "Bad Bitch," was one of last year's most jaw-dropping tracks. And then there's Robbie from Welsh duo Island, who recently debuted on the label with Nokia, a post-everything panorama of fractured beats and glossy melodies. All three are several years younger than Musgrave, and have him to thank for some of their success.
Crazylegs' strongest affiliation might be with new instrumental grime, as demonstrated by records from Ziro, Gage and Bloom. But that's only part of its story. Its three-year discography contains underground pop gems from bassline producer TRC, a bubblegum ballad from Deadboy, the deep house of Tommy Rawson, and dJJ's Daft Punk-esque masterpiece "Just A Lil."
"It's never going to have a genre-based identity," Musgrave says. "The identity is going to come from the people involved. I think all the people whose music we've released are amazing, individualistic artists. I like people who are fucking weird and don't care what anyone else is doing. Everyone just wants to be in their own space. No one wants to be tied to a scene and be a part of a genre-based community. Because that's just temporary isn't it?"
Musgrave has been around long enough to experience this firsthand. He moved to Bristol to study about a decade ago and stumbled across the city's dubstep scene. He reminisces about Pinch's Subloaded nights at Clockwork, a now-closed club near to where we're drinking. "You're treading in two inches of liquid on the floor, beer and sick and whatever else. There's a load of guys sat in the corners smoking weed. No one's telling them they can't. It's a mad experience compared to the clean, commercial clubs you see in the city centre. You almost feel a bit out of place. Disorientated. I like that in a club."
But as dubstep began to disintegrate and other regional UK styles were thriving, Musgrave became frustrated by club music's tribal divisions. "There was such a variety of stuff going on but I wanted it all to be in one club. And it wasn't, it was all separate. You'd have to go to a dubstep night to hear dubstep. Certain things like bassline, you had to go to Sheffield, it didn't exist in Bristol. I wanted to do something where there was a whole bunch of things combined into one. It was about putting things together in new ways. So someone might come to the club to see one DJ but end up seeing another one they've never heard of and loving them. No purism, basically."
Julio Bashmore, Peverelist (2010)
Musgrave and his friend Jamie Morrison launched the Crazylegs club night in 2008, catching a surge of interest in post-dubstep dance music. Many beloved British artists were regulars; the 2nd birthday featured a secret lineup including Loefah, Slimzee, Jam City and Julio Bashmore. Eventually Musgrave joined forces with a large group of other Bristol promoters, reasoning that it was better to work together than split the city's crowd between competing nights. "That's one of the main reasons that the night became really popular," he says. "Because we had so many people working on it."
As post-dubstep became increasingly bankable, Crazylegs reached a junction. "We got to a point where it was really healthy, and there's two ways you can go at that point. You can follow it as it continues to get bigger and more commercial, or you can stay down here and try to reconfigure it a bit. My inclination is not to continue up there. I like to keep it interesting." The night's core artists ascended to Bristol's larger venues and promoters, and Crazylegs lost some of its momentum. "It got really big, and then it got really small again," Musgrave laughs.
As the night was winding down, he and Morrison—the duo's "sensible, grounding influence"—set about turning Crazylegs into a label. The idea, Musgrave says, came out of "the realisation that, just doing parties, you're not creating anything tangible. You can do useful stuff, but you're not really leaving anything behind, you're not contributing anything solid." At first they approached some of the bigger names they'd booked. But without a proven track record, they found it hard to gain artists' trust. And besides, that wouldn't have satisfied Musgrave's desire to help artists grow.
Like Musgrave, Ziro moved to Bristol to study. When he arrived in 2010, Crazylegs, rather than Subloaded, was his portal to the underground. "I used to work in a record shop but it was way out in the sticks," he recalls. "As I left there I was just hearing UK funky come around. When I came to Bristol Andy was championing it massively."
After spending his first year in the city making "bait pop edits and crap 2-step," Ziro came up with a track that he felt had legs. The first person he thought of was Musgrave. "I sent it off to him and he was like, 'Well, I'm thinking of starting a record label.'"
Crazylegs launched with the debut Ziro release, a sleek garage-techno two-tracker, in the summer of 2012. From there, things didn't go entirely to plan. Musgrave announced a "quickfire series" of three further singles, but it took a year for their second record, Toyc's Ruffer, to reach the shops.
Musgrave laughs at their early mistakes. '"We didn't know how the fuck to do it. One, we didn't realise how much work it takes for each release. Once the first one came out, we just wanted to relax for a minute because it had been so much work. We were also waiting on this one Youngstar remix [of Toyc's "Keyframe"], which we didn't get right for months. At that point we were too precious about having everything exactly the way we wanted. That was the main holdup."
These days, Musgrave takes a looser approach to running the label. As with the Crazylegs nights, he's realised that it's best to share the load. "All the people who release on the label A&R it as well," he explains. "I'll send Gage's new track to Rob, or vice versa It just works better that way I think. It's good to have a community around it. I don't want to be the guy making the decisions. Who am I to decide what's worth releasing?"
Gage debuted on Crazylegs in 2014, but his history with the label goes back further. The London native was a year below Ziro on the same Audio Music Tech course at UWE in Bristol. A dubstep obsessive when he arrived in the city, Crazylegs broadened his horizons. He points to one 2011 party, with Julio Bashmore and Pearson Sound, as a turning point.
"I didn't really know anyone, so I was trying to meet people through music, and trying new shit," Gage says. "I went there and had a mad night. I went home and spent months and months obsessing, going through music constantly. Retraining myself on stuff I didn't know." Musgrave heard a Missy Elliot bootleg he'd made, which opened a line of communication. "I've been sending him stuff since."
The result, eventually, was "Telo," whose metallic concussions and neck-snapping rhythms reflected a growing interest in variants on instrumental grime. Belfast producer Bloom, responsible for scene anthem "Quartz," released his Hydraulics EP on the label later that year. Crazylegs' release schedule picked up drastically just as the grime wave hit. The releases remained as diverse as ever, but the label's proximity to innovative outlets like Gobstopper and Glacial Sound helped give it a context.
These days, Musgrave is keen to distance the label from new grime. As with "post-dubstep" before it, he feels that the sound has run its course, and Crazylegs is once again at a junction. "Even though to a lot of people grime is the new thing, to me it's fucking old again, man. We've already got this thing where you've got a million new producers recreating the same sounds. For the most part it's boring. I can't imagine us releasing any grime again. We'll release more Bloom stuff, but it's not grime, it's the sound of robots, or war. It's influenced by grime."
Instead, the label's output continues to broaden. Recent releases span from dJJ's jubilant "Just A Lil" to the moody grime hybrids of Ziro's Lionheart EP. For Musgrave, this diversity isn't a weakness. It's a product of his decision to prize individual artists' growth over any grand plan. "The label isn't meant to mould people or change what people do, it's meant to be there to support everyone. It's meant to be a network of creative people giving each other encouragement to do what they individually want to do."
The Crazylegs crew select 22 choice cuts from the label's colourful back catalogue.
Filesize: 132.3 MB
TRC vs Murlo - You & Me [LEGS003R]
Deadboy - It Did Not Feel Right [LEGS015]
ISLAND - E S Q [LEGS010]
Tommy Rawson - In All My Days (Imami Remix) [LEGS005]
ISLAND - VOLA [LEGS010]
TRC & Princess Nyah - Butterflies [LEGS018]
TRC & Princess Nyah - Butterflies (DJ Q Remix) [LEGS018]
Toyc - Keyframe [LEGS002]
dJJ - just a lil (extended mix) [LEGS014R]
dJJ - just a lil (suda remix) [LEGS014R]
Gage & Kevin Jz Prodigy - Bad Bitch [LEGS009]
TRC - You & Me (Beneath Remix) [LEGS003]
Gage - Telo [LEGS004]
Ziro - Lionheart [LEGS011]
ISLAND - J THEME [LEGS010]
Bloom - The Menagerie [LEGS008]
Ziro - Lost (ft. Trim) [LEGS006]
Ziro - Dun Talk (ft. Riko Dan) [LEGS011]
Bloom - Cold Grip [LEGS008]
Toyc - Keyframe (Bloom Remix) [LEGS002]
ISLAND - CYPHER [LEGS010]
Ziro - Distance [LEGS011]
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