Scotland's Alan Cowie has been releasing deep, atmospheric Drum & Bass under the name of LM1 for years now on his label, Offworld Recordings. With a sound blurring the lines between old school Jungle and the more liquid contemporary stylings, LM1 has managed to put together an outstanding operation over at Offworld and as such, managed to amass some outstanding talent.
Offworld's eerie and often paranormal leanings (through the artwork, atmosphere, and titles) gives them a distinct edge that has, without question, set their releases apart from many other labels releasing today. With Alan's vision, dedication, and sheer talent at the helm of the project, it is no wonder that it has become one of the most popular underground Drum & Bass labels around and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
I spoke with LM1 to learn more about his past, ideals, and what is in store for us down the line.
Prox: How did you initially get involved with music? Who were some of your favorite and most influential artists growing up?
LM1: I grew up loving music of all sorts such as Jean Michelle Jarre, Tomita, Tangerine Dream, and all the current Dance music like Progressive House, Psy, and Hardcore. It was after hearing an LP from Tangerine Dream called “Logos Live” that I thought to myself “I want to make music like that”. That really was the moment. I messed about with tracking programs on an Atari for years before I spent £2000 on a sampling keyboard and had no idea if I had what it took to actually make music and luckily I did!
My first true love was Soul music after discovering it by chance at a pub. After chatting with the DJ, I ended up playing there for years spinning all this wonderful soul music I hadn't heard before.
Prox: How much has Scotland influenced your musical and artistic tastes? What was the musical scene like at the time?
LM1: I started off making basic Dance tunes and Ambient tinged music before I really got into producing properly. I was DJing at a club and attending raves in the local “Hardcore” scene.
I ended up producing it not long before the Hardcore scene fell apart and clubs went commercial. It was an exciting time. I made music as “Siren City” and played in front of a jumping crowd at the FUBAR in Stirling and didn’t get booted off stage – a proud moment haha.
Prox: Almost fifteen years ago now you made the jump from Progressive House to Drum and Bass. What was the driving force behind this decision?
LM1: I’d gone through years of depression unfortunately and lost interest after being successful making progressive house as “Red Devil”. I’d always liked Drum and Bass and used to buy “The Progression Sessions” CDs each year but I really had no idea how big Drum and Bass was at the time.
Back then we had painful Dial-Up internet and I still had to send out demos on cassette or Dat tape. It was around 2006 when decent internet speeds were finally here and I went looking for some Atmospheric DnB mixes and found some that were current by the likes of ASC, Indigo sync, and Red Mist Radio. When I listened to them I was blown away. This was the sound i’d been looking for. I began remixing an American outfit called Celldweller under my old name `Red Devil` to wet my feet and this encouraged me to continue.
Prox: Why did you decide to start your own label? Was this the result of poor experiences in the past or something else entirely?
LM1: I seem to have this habit of turning up in a genre as it's losing popularity lol. Poland might hope I get into Techno at some stage! I was over the moon to get signed to ASC’s Cov Ops label but his distributor had decided to call it a day in that style of music, closed the label, and moved onto a different sound. I don`t blame him as he had almost single handedly kept the “Techmos” sound alive during this period. Other artists and similar labels were sporadic in their releases and I was getting increasingly fed up with the long wait times for tunes to be released so I decided to start my own label, and it was the best decision I ever made.
Prox: How did you come up with the name “Offworld Recordings”? Is there any particular reason why you geared the label towards outer space and the paranormal as far as the theme goes?
LM1: I agonized over choosing a name for the label for a long time but I felt it summed up the sound and direction of the label perfectly - melodic contemporary Drum and Bass with an occasional look back to the Atmospheric vibe.
Prox: What are some of the highlights and challenges of owning a label so far?
LM1: It`s been amazing how the label has grown with the help of like minded artists to where it is now. It has taken on a life of it’s own and we have fans all over the globe who send in lovely emails to say how much they love the sound. Meeting fans around the world donning an Offworld T-shirt and telling me how much they love the label really makes it feel special.
Owning a label means I can release music I personally love and feel it fits the vibe of the label.
Years ago, labels were seen as the gate keepers of quality but this was something I disagreed with as I saw many great tunes not even getting released or being held up as “forthcoming” only to be forgotten about. The challenge now is that there are so many labels these days (and anyone can set one up quite easily) that there is a flood, with some labels releasing far too much music in my opinion that can be at times poorly produced and has become a production line.
I’ve seen some small labels close recently which is sad but it is a sign of the times with so much competition these days.
Prox: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?
LM1: Silence Groove, Airstrike, Radicall, Actraiser, Future Engineers to name a few.
Prox: Who are some of your favorite contemporary labels?
LM1: I`m pleased to see labels such as Monochrome, Omni, and Cadence continue to release quality atmospheric Drum and Bass.
Prox: Favorite hobbies?
LM1: I'm getting back into music again after a break but I enjoy watching Starcraft 2 and Hearthstone tournaments on Youtube. I have a dream of doing the Mount Everest base camp trek with some Offworld music on the headphones.
Prox: Tips for aspiring artists and label owners?
LM1: For artists i`d say follow your own path, develop your sound, and do not target a label’s sound unless this is the style you really want to follow.
For newbies i`d recommend learning basic mastering – you will get better at it naturally and it`s very useful for sending demos and getting played by DJs. We get good demos on the whole sent over but some do not even attempt mastering. It`s a great skill to have and one that will serve you well rather than waiting on pro mastering to make it better.
For labels – keep the quality up musically as this is your far reaching identity. Take care of your artists and keep them informed.
Prox: Information on upcoming releases and projects?
LM1: There`s some exciting music coming up – I just released my own LM1 - Memory Alpha EP (Offworld047) on March 7th. After this we’ve got a blisteringly good 4 track EP from Radicall, 2 great tunes from a new signing called Edelways, the long running popular series Transmissions Volume 6, an EP from Airstrike, a new anthology series, and more great music from one of my favourite artists, Silence Groove. I`m aiming to get started on my own 2nd album this year as well so i`m looking forward to the future.
Prox: Final Thoughts?
LM1: It`s great to be able to look back and see that Offworld is still going strong after 7 years. If someone had said to me back then that it`d still be going amidst all the other labels, i`d had said they were mad haha. Many thanks to Prox for this opportunity, all the Offworld artists, and fans who make it all worthwhile.