Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Just ask AC Slater. He’s been one of the hardest producers and DJs in the dance music underground for nearly a decade, and while his dark, brooding, booty grooves may not top charts like Kygo, they’ve earned him the respect of his icons, made him a hero in the eyes of up-and-comers and garnered a growing fandom of discerning music lovers with a loyalty akin to those of Dirtybird and Holy Ship.
On Friday, AC Slater will release his long-awaited debut LP, Outsiders — a title he says is indicative of his place in the music scene.
“I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider in music and this is my first time having a platform that is mine completely to fully represent 100 percent what I like,” he tells Billboard. “Here’s what I do, if you don’t like it, it’s all good, but anyone can come with me and follow along.”
Outsiders is versatile, expressive and decidedly cool. It’s also a very personal amalgamation of his influences, featuring collaborations from those who have touched his career from beginning to present.
Slater’s story begins in 2008 when got his start in the taste-making crew Trouble & Bass. Those days saw him do a lot of touring in the U.K. and the country’s wobbly mix of rave, drum’n’bass, grime, dubstep and garage left an indelible impression on his point of view.
“When EDM was coming up in the U.S., it was hard to find where I should be playing,” he remembers. “My music just didn’t really fit. People were into it, but everyone was playing Avicii and pounding EDM shit. That’s cool, but I just wasn’t into it.”
In 2014, hungry and frustrated with Los Angeles’ bottle-poppin’ clubs, he struck out on his own. He created Night Bass, a monthly party where he could experiment with his own sound, mixing in tracks by like-minded producer’s who pushed similar dark grooves, while taking a financial risk on booking whoever he wanted.
“I was a bit lost creatively and I just started messing around, going back to my old sound from a few years before but with a little bit more of an update,” he says. “It came really naturally and when I started doing the Night Bass parties, I was having people headline who had never even been to America. People would be like, ‘Who? Don’t do that,’ and I’m like, ‘Nah, trust me.’”
Within a year, Night Bass was successful enough to take its act on the road. A few one-off parties in Miami, New York and other major markets gave him the confidence and resources to expand the brand into a record label. In the years that have followed, Night Bass has been tapped to curate stages at EDC Las Vegas, Electric Forest and HARD festivals. The label has released tunes from Jack Beats, Wax Motif, Chris Lorenzo, Shift K3y and more.
Night Bass hit the road on tour in 2015, adopting the practice as an annual event called Summer Phases in 2016. Night Bass hits major markets across the States, packing each venue with a different lineup that aims to expand fan’s musical horizons while staying true to the brand’s sonic ethos.
“When I grew up raving and the late ’90s and early 2000s … you went out to hear unreleased stuff,” he says. “I wanted to bring back that culture of getting exited about new music. I want kids to have that experience, because, for me, one of the most exciting things about going out was hearing and discovering new music. We’ve fully created that and people are really hungry for new stuff. People aren’t stupid. They wanna be stimulated and educated.”
This belief in fans’ capacity to respect the U.K. roots of AC Slater’s sound and the exciting work of those who follow in his footsteps has imbued Night Bass parties with a certain magnetism. People go to these parties expecting to sweat. The crowds are clusters of roars and cheers. People stand on the furniture. They move in unison. They also go home with arms full of merch.
“I think because it started so small, the people who originally supported it feel like they’re a part of it and, even now, the new people coming on feel a part of it,” Slater says. “The whole crew that we work with, and even a lot of the DJs that I book from other countries, I would like to think that most of us are friends. I just wanna do cool stuff with cool people and I think it trickles down with the people who come to the events and support the records. Everyone feels like it’s a big family, or a movement and that’s what I really wanted to accomplish when I set out.”
As Night Bass is an extension of Slater’s own tastes, the slow-build and steady growth of the brand has been beautiful validation, and the release of Outsiders on his home-grown label is the sweetest step in the journey so far. It’s the distillation of a decade’s worth of experimentation and sonic theory. It doesn’t hide its U.K. influence but merges that grime and groove with a distinctly American attitude, tinged with hip-hop brashness and soulful house tones.
“I set out to capture what I do in the club,” he says. “I wanted to put in a few bangers. I wanted to satisfy that side of it, but then also go a little bit further and show a more melodic or groovier side and just work with some cool vocalists and writers.”
Outsiders makes a strong intro with “Ring The Alarm,” a tune about demanding attention as much as earning it. It’s sleek and raw on “Dealer” featuring Tchami and Rome Fortune. It’s slow and sexy on “Taking Off” with Shoffy. It’s both grimy and futuristically bossy on “All About Paper” with Bassboy and Scrufizzer and it celebrates those who dare to do their own thing on “Misfits” featuring Herve and Purple Velvet Curtains.
“A lot of the people [featured] on the album, we all come from the same mindset,” he says. “They do what they want and not what other people think you should do. It has Herve and Sinden, some older cats and OGs and then new school guys like Chris Lorenzo and Shift K3y. It runs my whole experience of building and a lot of people that have touched my career.”
As a body of work, it speaks for itself. It’s quintessentially AC Slater and he’s pumped to hit the road in support of the LP. Because Night Bass’ Summer Phases 2017 tour just hit so many of the big city markets, he’s focusing on supporting Outsiders tour in smaller cities that don’t usually get such underground talent. It might be a little risky, but Slater isn’t daunted. After all, he didn’t get here by playing safe.
Outsiders is out everywhere via Night Bass. Listen in full below.