Cause4Concern, one of the most consistent names in dark, techno-inspired D&B, celebrate 20 years of releases this month. We call up the duo to look back over the last two decades…
Rewind: it’s 1999 and drum & bass is in the midst of a devilishly dark turn, as a stronghold of sonic scientists peep perilously over the sonic precipice and push the genre to its technical and dynamic limits. Acts like Cause4Concern, a UK foursome who tore into the game in 1999 after several years of releases under different names. With a new name, concept and their own eponymous record label, Cause4Concern would go on to forge a sound that would quickly go onto inspire a whole new generation of techsmiths. Including Noisia, as Thys from the trio revealed on this very site.
Alongside the likes of Ed Rush & Optical, Bad Company, Fierce, Trace and Skynet, and labels such as Renegade Hardware, Metalheadz, Virus and Audio Blueprint (to name but a few), Cause4Concern were pioneers in the movement that would, in time, go on to form the foundations of what is now known as neuro… although every artist and label listed above would undoubtedly denounce any type of subgenre limitations. In their vision, it’s all just drum & bass. Stinking, gutter-chomping, innovative, hit-you-in-the-gut drum & bass at that.
20 years later, and now a duo, Cause4Concern are still stinking, innovative and gutter-chomped. And rather than looking back and getting all dewy-eyed and nostalgic to celebrate their major milestone, they’ve celebrated this month with a massive 39 track/50 act-strong album, imaginatively entitled 20 Years and featuring brand new cuts from some of the most exciting peers who continue to push the sound Cause4Concern helped found in the first place.
We caught up with them at Optiv’s Switzerland studio HQ to look forward and back with their own Top 10 of personal game-changing moments.
Take us back to the start. Cause4Concern began as N Code and Troubled Mindz, right?
"That’s right. We took the name from an old piece of vinyl we'd been sampling from, it was written as Cause For Concern. We’d been producing under those other names previously for other labels, and I guess it was a line in the sand with the other alias. We moved on with the next chapter in our musical journey.
"The vision had always been there, so it was all about stepping things up to the next level. The label was an integral part in making that happen.So, because we’ve been going on for longer than 20 years, the main celebration is for the Cause4Concern Recordings label."
Yeah, tell us about the album...
"The idea for the album came from us wanting to acknowledge the milestone achievement. It was a thought we discussed nearly a year ago and we focused on it through the whole of 2018.
"We started to approach friends/artists about the project and asked if they wanted to be involved in it in some way. The response was overwhelming and everyone was very keen to be a part of it. It was a crazy year, working with over 50 artists to bring the whole project to life. It was pretty tough but a very rewarding process seeing it all come together in the end. We’re immensely proud of what was achieved."
Nice. In terms of your own productions, both as CZA & Optiv and as Cause4Concern, this has been relentless. Most acts take a year or two off the merry-go-round for a bit but there hasn’t been a year when you haven’t released music…
"The main focus has always been about being active and representing the sound we fell in love with. We work hard at what we do and have never felt we need to take a hiatus from that, having a continued vision helps with the motivation of what we still strive to achieve.
"But it’s totally understandable why people do step off for a bit. It can be difficult to find a vibe, especially with how the industry is these days. We’ve just never felt the need to do this. Long may that continue!"
Give us a Cause4Concern high. When life couldn’t get better…
"A few highs spring to mind – as you can imagine there have been many over the 20-plus years! Setting the label up and having our first release as a physical product was really cool. That whole process was amazing: from going to have the tracks mastered to seeing the artwork being designed, to then seeing it released into the public domain as a worldwide release.
"The other very proud moment we remember is when we had Peep Show signed to Virus Recordings. It was one of the labels that we had always looked up to, so being a part of that movement and sound was a very special moment for us."
Give us a Cause4Concern low. When a 20-year anniversary seemed improbable…
"The 20 years anniversary was definitely the biggest project the label had undertaken, and as we mentioned before it did take a lot of work arranging the compilation with the 50 artists just so we could hit our deadline for the January release date. The January release was very important to us as that was the month and day that C4C001 was released: pretty crazy but a great way to start 2019."
What’s cool about 20 Years is the range of serious talent. But the label for a long time was a vehicle for your own productions, with Red Light being the label for new talent and mates, right? Can you pinpoint the moment when Cause4Concern the label became a wider platform with other artists on board?
"That’s right, the labels C4C Recordings and C4CLTD were originally set up just for our music, with Red Light more frequently being used for new talent. Over the years we’ve started to release other productions from artist whose music we love and respect. It’s great working with so many like-minded people who share the same passion and vision as we do. We find ourselves in that lucky position where amazing music finds us, and as a label we are more than happy to represent that and give people a platform to evolve as the talented artists they are."
Amen! Where will the 20-year celebrations take us next?
"We aim to tour the 20 Years album worldwide and play the music we love! The labels will continue with their output, with new albums from ourselves, Impak and Mean Teeth with a new EP from Mizo as well. Plus, this year is really going to be about us writing again, we’ve missed that.
"Meanwhile, C4CLTD has a full release schedule also, with lots fresh new projects from Transforma, The Prophecy, KarmasynK, JayVee, Fragz and Bad District. In fact, both labels are now stacked up until 2020! BOOM!
CZA & OPTIV'S CAUSE4CONCERN TOP 10
Phat Cap (1999, Cause4Concern)
"This was the A-side of our very first release. It had loads of support and was one of the tracks that really got us noticed by the scene. Doc Scott played it at The End where we were in attendance. That was a great experience for us."
Epox (1999, Cause4Concern)
"Our second release on C4C. This is one of the tracks we get asked about the most. It was also one the quickest tracks we’d written! We had the track finished in a few hours after heading back from a Metalheadz night at the Blue Note and feeling inspired. That place always had that infectious vibe!"
Research (2000, Renegade Hardware)
"Even though this track was released as Cause4Concern it was in fact mine (CZA) and Edd Optiv’s first ever collaboration track. It was quickly picked up by Renegade Hardware and was featured on their Aftermath (Essential Rewindz) compilation. This was another track that really helped reinforce our sound within the scene. We still hear it in people's sets to this day, even after nearly 19 years since it was written."
Vapourspace (2001, Metro)
"This track was born initially from hearing the main sample that was very inspirational in its sound at the time. The writing process for this track was great fun and we were amazed at how well it was received, with Pendulum picking it as one of their all-time classics on BBC Radio 1."
Cause4Concern & Fierce – Carrier (2003, Quarantine)
"We were always a big fan of Fierce productions, so we were thrilled when he contacted us because he wanted to do some collaborations. We seemed to have a great rapport in the studio and have never smoked so much weed and laughed so much in our lives! Carrier was one of a few classics to come from that session. It’s one on those cold rollers that mixes with pretty much everything, and it's always a favourite to play out in any set!"
Skewer (2001, Renegade Hardware)
"This was another track that came out on Hardware via our Symptom EP. After we had written it, we were constantly getting phone calls from DJs at Music House requesting to cut it to dubplate, which was great honour. As was hearing Andy C open with it at the Knowledge Awards that year!"
Peep Show (2001, Virus)
"The moment we wrote this track, we knew we had something special on our hands. It wasn’t long before Optical gave us a call and asked if he could put it out on Virus, so with Virus being one of our favourite labels and Ed Rush & Optical being heroes of ours, we were very happy to say the least! Still has the same response when playing it in our sets as it always did.
Dream Killer (2008, Cause4Concern)
"This is one the main tracks on our first album Pandemic. It was one of those pieces of music that just seemed to write itself, and one that people responded to the most. We remember it being featured in most DJ sets all over the world and we also had a really cool video done for it."
Never Acid Again (2008, Cause4Concern)
"Another track from the Pandemic album that people always spoke about and requested to hear in our sets. We love the vocal in it. That was an integral part in the writing of the track and how the finished version sounds."
Journey Inwards EP
"This was our first EP as Optiv & CZA and marked the first steps into establishing our collaboration projects away from Cause4Concern. This was a very important record for us, as we were able to explore different styles and techniques. Our first LP is scheduled this year, and we look forward to sharing the results with everyone."
Words: Dave Jenkins
Cause4Concern's 20 Years album is out now on C4C Recordings. Buy it here.