cymbalism recordings launch

Interview by Brent Crampton ~ Images courtesy of Cymbalism Recordings ~ Imagine a DnB record label that consistently put out great material, whether it be dance floor stompers or heady chill material. But instead of the usual big-named producers, it was a label giving exposure to stateside producers who put out material just as worthy as the industries most wanted. Attach the name of Cymbalism Recordings to the figurative label, and consider it done. A group of talented and determined DnB advocates have started a bold and daring record label. Tommie Emmi, the owner and founder of Cymbalism, has been the main pioneering force for DnB in Omaha and the surrounding area for years. Having played all over the midwest and along side top names in the industry, he is undoubtedly taking his largest step forward as of yet with this record label. Shawn Patrick has also teamed up with Cymbalism to actualize Tommie’s dream in starting this label.

If truth be told, Cymbalism is taking risks in starting this label, as Shawn says, “Allot of people count our Drum and Bass out because we are Stateside. Not only that but we are from Nebraska.” According to Shawn, “Cymbalism Recordings will put Omaha on the map!” The excitement in the staff and their love for DnB is quite obvious.

I took some time to interview Tommie about his record label, and here is what he had to say -

phocas: What gave you motivation to start this record company?

Tommie: I've had a love of music since I was a child and I've always been interested in starting up a label myself - more so after working at Drastic Plastic (local record shop). Seeing all the independent labels doing their thing and doing it well without someone telling them what to do inspired me even more. Plus, the output of drum and bass lately hasn't been very impressive in my personal opinion and I wanted to put something back out in the scene to make up for what I've taken from it over the past 8+ years.

phocas: What's the outlook/ideology of the label?

Tommie: The outlook for Cymbalism is this: introduce new names with music as quality as the huge names. In the upcoming months and years (hopefully), I plan on putting together a quality line up of artists that show massive potential to become the next big thing. I'm not necessarily looking for one particular style either, just good drum and bass - be it dance floor material or chill out material or abstract tunes - as long as its good, its Cymbalism worthy.

phocas: How did you decide who you wanted to fill the positions on your staff and production crew?

Tommie: As far as production goes, we're using a company out of Philadelphia who I've used in the past for dub plate cutting and they do a superior job, sound wise. They actually do the pressing up in Canada so technically its going to be imported vinyl.

Staff wise, at first I wasn't looking to have anyone help me out in this venture, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could use some help from some friends who have a particular quality that will help us in the long run. Putting Shawn Patrick into the mix was due to his salesmanship. Shawn is very good at talking to people, in the business sense, as well. Shawn has also shown his loyalty to me over the years and his love of the music, and that his heart was in it and not his wallet. We're doing this as a team to better the scene, not to get rich off of other people. Not to make money or gain popularity - strictly for the love of drum and bass. And I think that will show in the upcoming time we'll be doing this label.

phocas: What was the process like in getting this record label together?

Tommie: It actually wasn't extremely hard to be honest. The only hard part was coming up with the name and logo which would be catchy and stick in people's heads. I already had connections in getting the name of the label out by inhabiting message boards and knowing some key figures in the scene - so that was easy. I just wrote up a plan and started posting and calling people. Next thing I knew, I had 20 some odd CDR's in my mailbox with tunes for submission. Getting the artists lined up was probably the most difficult in the sense of picking tunes - but that's about it. Well . . . other than the actual capital to get it going but that's obvious.

phocas: What advice do you have for someone who would want to start a record label?

Tommie: Make sure you know about the industry and plan out everything in advance. When I say "know about the industry" I mean things like record pressing plants, mastering houses, contracts, common business sense, copyright laws, etc. There's a lot more to it than sending out a CDR or DAT and having a quality product come back. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The master you send out has to be prepared properly or it can cause problems - i.e. bad final mastering, poor product (you know those records you have in your crate that sound muddy - poor mastering). As for planning out in advance, technically "Get Down"/"Opus" (CYMB000) should have seen the light of day last year (December), but things kept coming up causing us to push things back which is okay because now things will run absolutely perfect and we're not running around, freaking out at the last minute.

phocas: Are you guys taking submissions of original material from artists? Where could they send their work to?

Tommie: Everything on the label is original material. So far we have releases scheduled from New York, Florida, Hungary, Vancouver, Omaha and also a new set of tunes from the UK. We've also had submission inquiries from Russia, Germany, Japan, as well as all over the states, so our audience, even though we haven't dropped a single release yet, is pretty broad. Submissions can be directed to my studio at: Cymbalism Recordings, c/o T. Emmi, 5054 S. 86th Pkwy #1, Omaha, NE 68127. We do listen to everything we get and we do reply to everyone, so if anyone sends material to us, make sure to include a contact e-mail address.

phocas: When deciding what tracks to put out on your label, what do you look for? What would you define as the Cymbalism sound?

Tommie: Originality and good tunes. I'm not going to limit ourselves to one style of drum and bass. Back when I started getting into jungle/drum and bass, it was all labels like Metalheadz and Moving Shadow and Reinforced. These labels are by far my favorite and the reason for that is the broadness of their releases. With all these labels, you never knew what you were going to get - be it a dark stepper tune or an ambient masterpiece or a dance floor workout. That’s probably what I miss the most about the labels out there today. It’s pretty bad when you can buy every track off of one label without listening to them and pretty much know what you're getting. It’s getting to the point where things are predictable. That’s what I don't want Cymbalism to be - I want to be able to put out tunes that are going to reach out to everyone who is into drum and bass. It would be nice to see someone who plays strictly ambient or intelligent drum and bass in the LTJ Bukem vein pick up a Cymbalism release and then have another person who plays aggressive hard stepping drum and bass in the style of Ed Rush + Optical pick up a Cymbalism release too. No limits pretty much - drum and bass for everyone.

phocas: Tell me about your first release. You must have chosen it carefully considering it is your first release. Why this track and not another?

Tommie: Technically we're doing a negative release for the "first" release. CYMB000 is two remix tunes, "Get Down" and "Opus". I chose these two tracks because of the constant pushing I've had from various people telling me they need to be out for public sale, as well as my personal belief that the value of the tunes themselves will appeal to the crowds who will be tearing up the dance floors when they hear them. We're doing a limited edition run of only 300 white labels for CYMB000 and a full release with artwork for CYMB001 (Rawtee "Ghostwalk" / Kaoss + Extract "Surfer Rosa") which will be out shortly there after, probably within a month.

"Get Down" is a remix on the Paul Johnson house anthem and "Opus" is a take on Opus III's "Its a Fine Day" which was a trance anthem from the early 90s. "Get Down" was produced last year, about this time actually, and "Opus" was done in 2000 with a little help from Omaha's Nujack, who recently relocated to New York and has another release on a hardcore label currently on promo at the moment. "Opus" has been sitting around waiting for about three or four years now to see the light of day. Both tunes are heavy on the dance floor and seem to always get that "Who is this?" question when dropped in a set. I couldn't tell you how many times I've been approached from people wanting a copy of "Opus" when they hear it - someone in Kansas City actually wanted to purchase my dub plate of it from me! And the flow of e-mails about "Get Down" has been rather massive as well. I'm nearly positive we'll sell out within a month of receiving the vinyl back from Canada. Might even have to do a repress later on down the road for those who miss it.

Recently we've had reviews from a UK drum and bass eZine called on CYMB000. Here's what they had to say:

Track: Get Down
Artist: Plan 9 Vs Paul Johnson
Cat #: CYMB000
This is a funky, fast paced mover with a build of beats in the intro going from wet to dry and a catchy, filtered guitar sample in the background. Then at the break the catchy classic house "Get get down, down down down down" sample appears, immediately uplifting the mood. Further along in the breakdown the pulsating bass, bongo percussion and break are singled out
and take a over for a mellow 32 bars till the guitar sample reappears to build up & down into the 2nd break. Definitely some happy, summery vibes in this track and it’s likely to appeal to the wider audiences simply for its commercial value.

Track: Opus
Artist: Plan 9
Cat #: CYMB000
Electronic sounds, very simple yet compelling and hypnotic draw your ear into a soundscape of epic proportions. Wait for the beat, then feel yourself swing to the melody… more tasteful synths and some unfussy edits adds allow for a peaceful break only interrupted by a buzz saw bass then a disjointed amen with a much more sparse break fitted over it.

phocas: What djs have you sent your tracks to and what has been your response?

Tommie: So far the buzz has been pretty large for "Get Down"/"Opus" (CYMB000) - from overseas to here in the states the inquiries have been steady. We've had reviews written up overseas and loads of exposure stateside due to the web site and from myself playing it out at shows personally. Last year Dara heard it ("Get Down") and when I told him I needed to change a few things, his response was not to change anything. We've also sorted out Odi in New York and he reported back with people requesting it on his radio show. The owner of Offshore Recordings, DJ Clever (Brett) and also Psidream are currently playing tunes from oS ("808" and "Panama" - CYMB002 - and " Solaris" - CYMBEP01) as well as charting them. Robby T from Habit Recordings has also inquired on oS' information for future releases on their label as well (their first release has already gone through its first pressing - they are on their second pressing now and it only dropped maybe 2 months ago). Dara has also played CYMB001 (Kaoss + Extract "Surfer Rosa") at Konkrete in New York (actually 5 days after it was finished). He listened to it 3 times with me online and asked for a copy to play at the club that night - so there is attention out there from some major heads in
the scene stateside.

phocas: Where could I buy your records?

Tommie: Right now we're in the process of getting distribution through a couple east coast and west coast distribution companies as well as UK distribution and a few exclusive UK shops. So basically once that is sorted out, you should be able to order from any place who buys from these companies as long as the stores order our material. We'll also be selling them here locally at the Antiquarium and possibly Homers locations. Maybe also on Ebay and via our web site for a few bucks less than you would pay at a

phocas: Are you trying to get any big named djs to do remix work?

Tommie: Currently we have a remix in the works for oS' "808" from Psidream up in Vancouver, BC. Psidream (Jeff) and I go way back and when I played some of the tunes for him we have coming up, he picked one out and asked if he could do a remix for it and I said sure. Right now Psidream is blowing up on many different labels. So far he's been signed to Warm Communications, Breakbeat Science Recordings, Frequency, and a recent submission to Trace's DSCI4 label landed him a deal with them too. Extract and I are also going to be swapping tracks with Rawtee for a remix 12" of CYMB001 - where he'll remix our tune and we'll remix his - due out sometime in the summer. I'm sure more remix work will come up in the future, so expect big things to come.

phocas: How do you perceive this record company will effect Omaha's DnB scene?

Tommie: I'm not sure how it will effect the drum and bass scene here, but I'm hoping that it will put Omaha on the map as a place to be taken seriously for electronic music. Most of the time when you mention you're a DJ from Omaha, Nebraska, people look at you like you're crazy. But so far there has been no negativity from people submitting tunes or e-mailing me inquiring about releases. It’s all been positive. I think this venture will give Omaha some exposure as a budding electronic town. There's so much talent here in the DJ pool and upcoming producers that it’s just a matter of time before we're known for what we're doing and the jokes will cease.

phocas: Are you having a record release party?

Tommie: Actually yes we are - we have one lined up for April 16th at the Bricktop in Lincoln. I'm hoping to get 415 and Musique to help out with one also. Plus we'll have an all drum and bass night at Frolic sometime in April to support it. For the release of "Ghostwalk"/"Surfer Rosa" (CYMB001), we'll probably fly in Rawtee for a show sometime in May with him, Extract and myself for a show, depending on how well the sales go from CYMB000.

phocas: What are the plans for the future for this label?

Tommie: Right now everything is up in the air. What I'd like to do is get Cymbalism steady on its feet and then branch out to a down tempo label, a house label and a breaks label as well. I do plan on putting out a full length LP sometime in the future with a mix cd of the LP and maybe get more into the clothing line as we've already started it out and sold out of merchandise within 2 weeks. But that’s not as important as getting the music out first.

phocas: What's the most common mistake made when producing DnB?

Tommie: I don't think you can make a mistake when producing your own music because it is an expression of yourself. There shouldn't be any rule when making a tune other than the "dj friendly" rule.

phocas: What's the most common mistake when mixing DnB?

Tommie: I'd say it’s people not knowing their measures. I'm a real picky person when it comes to DJs and I know mistakes the second they happen (which sucks because most of the time it ruins the song for me when out at the club or parties). I just don't understand how people can't figure out when the measure changes or when the 1/4 is. This is probably my biggest quirk about this whole industry, yet people praise the DJs who suck and the ones hiding in their small cities go unnoticed because they haven't put out a record yet or played with someone important.

phocas: What equipment do you use for production?:

Tommie: Currently I'm just using Fruity Loops 4, Soundforge 6.0, and a Roland Juno 106 synth and various soft-synths and filters, effects, etc. I have other software like Reason and Acid and Cubase but so far I'm very happy with what the programs do that I'm currently using. It really doesn’t matter what you use now a days - it’s the end result of the track. There are a lot of producers out there that are using nothing but software instead of hardware now which only a few years ago was looked down on.

Be on the look out for lots of great releases from this label. To stay connected to what’s going on with Cymbalism, check out their web site at


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