An Evening with All-Vinyl Record Label Grade 10
Written by Lewis Tobia // Photographed by Ibby Azab
Something that you notice about Grade 10 is that they are far more than just eight musicians. It’s immediately obvious that the components of the collective are more of a band of brothers; figuratively, metaphorically and quite literally. Comprised of Kollaps, Forever, Prayer, 8Ball, Unslaved, Classic Coke, Loosewomen and Nokia Boys the label and collective are made up of friends and family with its roots firmly based, but not exclusively sourced from, Leicester’s very unique and bustling music scene.
This week we were invited to join them in the studio at Radar Radio in London as they ripped through their two-hour monthly residency; although none of the members could remember if this was their 15th or 16th slot it was evident that these were a group of musicians that had honed their craft and were building proper foundations for a project that has no boundaries.
The last time we caught up with the guys was at the House of Vans in London late last year for OBEY’s Covert to Overt exhibition before they played a series of back to back sets when we invited Wellgosh, Leicester’s cultural hotspot and one of the finest independent retailers in the country, to share the stage with the crew from Norwich’s Dogfish for the launch party.
With a definite focus on integrity and a comradely, uncompetitive atmosphere they’re the opposite of smash and grab opportunists riding the wave of a burgeoning music scene; it feels like a group of musicians that want to do things properly. As I chatted to Dan, a Wellgosh veteran and one half of the house outfit Loosewomen, it was obvious that the Grade 10 family’s motivation wasn’t one of searching for success but just the opportunity to create and share their music with each other. As the conversation unfolded we talked through the label’s progression, from their first release in May 2015 to their future plans on getting everyone’s music a proper artistic release, it hardly came as a surprise to hear that they packed all eight artists and a couple more friends in two cars and drove the whole way to Croatia to play Outlook Festival last month. Grade 10 aren’t just doing this for the music – they do it for each other too.
As we pissed off the local residents talking outside the studio I caught up with two of the three (literal) brothers from the group, Danny, also known as sample based footwork artist Classic Coke, and Coops, one of the men behind grime/bassline act Nokia Boys and the soundscapey Kollaps, to chat about their hometown Leicester. Once you get through the madness and celebrations that have swelled the city over the past few months after Leicester City Football Club’s historic Premier League win you can tell there’s an intricate history and interesting relationship between the scene and the City. Coops recounted the journey from huge parties in his basement to eight-hour sets at ‘semi-legal’ raves to playing Outlook Festival and it seems like, even through the waves of trend, big commercial dub nights, and the saturation of suddenly-popular-nights within the city, Grade 10 just do what they want to. Whether it be hip hop nights in exclusively all white tracksuits or parties in skateparks, basements or radio stations there’s one overarching feeling that stays with you after meeting Grade 10; they make music for themselves and each other… and that’s all that matters.