A TALENTED 24-year-old music-lover from Penarth has spoken of how the town has, in his eyes, become the capital of drum and bass in Wales, thanks in part to his own surprisingly rapid success.
Zak King was 21 when he realised he wasn’t going to make it as a musician, but after spending much of his childhood and teenage years growing his passion for drum and bass, he knew he needed to do whatever he could to get into the industry.
The former Ysgol Gymraeg Pen-y-Garth student started his own record label that year, called Incurzion Audio, and he’s since gone from strength to strength.
With 12 drum and bass musicians across the UK now on board, the company became the first ever Welsh record label to make Drum and Bass Arena’s top 10 Newcomer Category in 2019, and Mr King repeated the feat in 2020.
Explaining why he is sure Penarth is the capital of drum and bass in Wales, and possibly the UK, he said: “We believe at this stage we can say we are the biggest drum and bass record label to come out of Wales. It is judged on those awards and the quality of your signings, and we’re proud we’ve managed to gain that title.
“Penarth is also home to drum and bass clothing brand Concrete Junglists which has become known worldwide, and High Contrast – who is a drum and bass icon – was born here.”
Talking more about how he got into the industry, Mr King said: “I always wanted to be involved in the industry and realised by 21 I wasn’t going to make it as a musician.
“It just wasn’t coming together and didn’t feel like it was me.
“It’s something I’m really passionate about but it started off as quite a light-hearted thing just giving away free music.
“Then it started to grow slowly and some people started to approach us, and then in 2019 it just boomed with the top 10 acclaim. We started getting lots more people approach us, and we’re now in a great position. It’s been surprising.”
A host of top DJs including Miaszma (Steve Mason) from Florida, and Austrian duo Division (Fabian Gleiss) and Secula (Dorian Grassl) have signed up to the label, and Incurzion has grown exponentially in Florida, Austria, Germany and Russia.
But strangely, Mr King says, he doesn’t think the label is known about by many people in Penarth.
“I feel we’re starting to get rewards now for the way we’ve tried to really stand out in what is a saturated market,” he said. “We feel we’ve done that by trying to offer a different sound and brand.
“Our style is deep and dark drum and bass, dark branding and graphic design – almost like horror.
“But most of all it’s about bringing on board top quality musicians, and that’s what we’ve managed to do.
“It’s been a massive shock to see how much interest our music is getting from Florida since Miaszma signed. It’s really exciting.
“I don’t think people living in Penarth really know about this town’s standing in the drum and bass industry. It’s quite unbelievable for a small town to have such a big connection, and I think it needs to be celebrated more.”
As lockdown hit last March, so did all of Incurzion’s events, which kept Mr King busy every week.
He believes musicians have been ignored throughout the pandemic, which he worries may have caused a mental health crisis in the industry.
“As live events go we’ve been absolutely decimated,” he said. “The financial impact of that on venues and on companies like ours, as well as individual musicians, has been unbelievable.
“But fortunately for us our digital sales have been through the roof. That might be because people have more time on their hands at home to explore different genres, and it’s great they feel they want to purchase our music.
“But the major thing for this industry is the live events, we’re nothing without those, just like every other label and performer.
“The funding has been awful, and the impact this will have on mental health seems largely ignored.
“This is what we do every single week, and to have that stripped away from you for so long is difficult. It’s also our place to network, so to not have that space will have long-term ramifications.
“I know venues in Cardiff that have had next to no support, and if it carries on you can’t see how they’d survive.”
With cases going down by the week, he hopes the music industry will be able to start up just in time for those venues and for musicians.
“We’re obviously very eager to get back to life as it was, and to pick up where we left off.”
To find out more about Penarth’s Incurzion Audio, visit https://www.incurzionaudio.com/.