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Tumble Audio's Oli Gibbons on the Sounds That Make Him Tick

11 September 17 words: Eileen Pegg
illustrations: Cameron Bain

Notts lad Oli Gibbons of Tumble Audio has had his imagination captured by soundsystems. From attending raves like Misst, Futureproof, Rubberdub, Basslaced and Detonate in his teenage years, to running the go-to label for guaranteed dancefloor madness, his involvement and dedication to the culture has led him to spawn his own musical powerhouse, right here in Notts...

While Oli’s first tastes of beats and rigs were on home turf, a thirst to delve deeper into the soundsystem world saw him seize the opportunity to head up north to Leeds in 2008, where the scene was well and truly thriving. Here, he hit up iconic events like Sub Dub and Exodus, held at the West Indian Centre.

“All of those nights were pretty amazing. The Iration Steppas soundsystem is what made it. It’s still the loudest, most bass-heavy soundsystem I’ve ever heard,” said Oli. “I remember when DJ Youngsta played Skream’s Meta-Lick at the end of one night, when the lights came on. It has a third drop, about five minutes into the tune. I didn’t know about it because it was a dubplate at the time, and when it got to that point, it felt like the world was going to end.

“Another favourite memory was when The Bug played with Warrior Queen and Flowdan at Exodus vs Room 237. They sent the place absolutely mental. I just remember thinking ‘Nothing will ever get better than this.’”

Enjoying success through 2010/11 as part of dubstep duo Goli & Ashburner, with Michael Ashburner, Oli regularly returned to Nottingham. The pair ran a joint label, For The Win Records, holding residencies at their label’s nights at Brownes and the much-loved basement of Dogma for three years, alongside securing gigs overseas in Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Poland and America.

Blessed with an audio education from the soundsystem nights up north, and with hefty production, DJ and promotions experience under his belt, Oli came back to his home city with plenty to give, but unsure where to head next.

“At this point, dubstep had gone crazy,” says Oli. “It wasn’t the same any more, and I was starting to DJ music I just wasn’t into, because that’s what people wanted. I guess you could say I felt lost.”

Mimm founder and close friend, Nathaniel Wilson, ended up handing him the reins of his brand’s label, Mimm Recordings, which he managed from 2011 to 2012. In this role, Oli says he was exposed to music that may have otherwise missed his radar, with streams of UK funky, house, and techno demos from both local and further-afield producers. And while nurturing a specific sound for the label, some tracks sent to him weren’t the right fit for Mimm, yet undeniably required an outlet.

“Majora and Killjoy, as well as Sergic and Lyka, were sending me some great stuff,” says Oli. “More grimey, housey, bassy ‘hype’ 130 bpm tunes that weren’t right for Mimm, but it gave me a push to try something new.”

And so, in 2012, Tumble Audio was born.

“There’s no set ethos as such,” Oli clarifies. “It’s not planned. We don’t say ‘OK, this month we’ll focus on UK garage, then next month it’s grime.’ If someone sends me something amazing that makes me want to dance like no one’s watching, it doesn’t matter what the genre is to be honest; if it’s quality, we’ll release it.”

In an industry that can sometimes be over-conscious of itself, it’s refreshing to clock an organisation that’s motivated by dancefloor energy. Oli’s open mindset towards the label’s sound is echoed in the productions he welcomes, and he uses Tumble Audio as a platform to support local talent. It’s something that remains at the core of Oli’s aim, with Nottingham names such as Killjoy, Sergic and Lyka still featuring heavily on the imprint.

“I like to keep the door open, in a ‘grass roots’ way: taking the music of producers that people may never have heard otherwise, and trying, where I can, to help build a scene,” he adds.

Undoubtedly, though, there are many who’d associate Tumble Audio with its events, over the label. Since March 2013, Tumble Audio held much-loved nights at The Bodega for three and a half years, before heading to The Irish Centre and now, The Maze. “The only venues that will let us set up our own soundsystem,” says Oli.

When it comes to promoting, Oli’s been at it for yonks. His first event was a metal night at The Old Angel, aged only sixteen. Armed with his own catalogue of cuts, it made sense to continue doing what he knows best.

“Labels I love, like DMZ, have always had their own nights. I think it’s important,” explains Oli. “You need a platform to play the tunes you’re pushing because, at first, who else is going to? When you’re producing, it’s hard to tell what effect it will have on the dancefloor, so being involved with a soundsystem and playing them is the only proper way to find out.”

Beyond its own events, Tumble Audio shares tunes through collaborations with other local nights, all connected by the same love for soundsystem culture. Over the years, the label has teamed up with Rubberdub, as well as hosting takeovers at Nottingham’s famous bass music promoter, Detonate.

“Rubberdub had a huge part in helping us with promoting, soundsystems, and also DJing at our parties. They’re very good friends of ours. Also, Mimm have always been very supportive, and we do a lot of t-shirt collaborations with them now.”

On the subject of clobber, it’s impossible not to mention the label’s “Corbyn For Anti-War Dub” tee: a collaboration with Notts-based line The Tribes. The t-shirt features a picture of Corbyn holding up a copy of Digital Mystikz’ Anti-War Dub, and a percentage of the money raised is being donated to the homeless charity, Crisis.

“People just went mad for it,” laughs Oli. “It all started as a bit of a joke when I came back from Glastonbury, but I managed to finally convince The Tribes to get involved by drawing us a design, and the whole thing went viral. It’s hilarious, but I love it. As long as people are enjoying it we’ll keep on producing the shirts, as well as supporting the charity.”

Dub-fuelled politics aside, Tumble Audio will be joining forces with Rubberdub at Broadfest this September, playing at The Angel Microbrewery.

“Broadfest is just a huge celebration of that street, and I love it. It’s got one of the best cinemas in the UK, Mimm is there, and the whole area is full of creative people who are inspiring each other. I’m looking forward to it.”

Catch Tumble Audio on Saturday 2 September at The Maze with One Puf and Durkle Disco, featuring Snowy, Arctic, Denham Audio, Unkey and lots of other Nottingham talent, and a Funktion-One Soundsystem confirmed.

Look out for Tumble Audio’s latest release, TUM030 Burnie - Black Mist, with remixes from Italy's Lorenzo BITW, Nuvaman and Boycott, out now.

Broadfest takes place on Saturday 16 September, in Broad Street venues, from 6pm.

Tumble Audio on Facebook

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