Feature – Swamp 81, a 7 Year Retrospective

The Gryphon Clubs investigates the roots of the infamous label ‘Swamp 81’ in the run up to their upcoming Beaver Works takeover.

Orchestrated by one of the pioneers of dubstep, Swamp 81 has risen to become one of Britain’s most established underground bass music labels. Dubstep’s demise has coincided with Swamp’s ascendency, as Peter Livingston – better known as Loefah – felt frustrated with the genre’s limitations and moved away from his 140 BPM roots to create a label that channeled ambiguity. Since its conception, Swamp have released numerous vinyl records from artists such as Boddika, Mickey Pearce, and garage legend Zed Bias, whilst managing to secure a primetime spot on Rinse FM. Morever, last September Loefah announced that the guys at Swamp would produce a secondary label, simply entitled 81, that would release monthly digital copies of records. This is something entirely different for the label as they had predominantly released records only on vinyl, and at random times.

Rewind seven years, and Livingston was at the heart of the ever expanding Brixton-led dubstep scene that grabbed underground dance music by the neck, and changed it into a completely innovative genre that caught the attention of many wanting to jump on the bandwagon. Being one third of DMZ, the label that catalysed dubstep’s success, Livingston had the world at his feet, releasing classic 12-inches and throwing massive parties. Livingston had the opportunity to run with the genre like fellow dubstep compatriots had done but rather he wanted to move away from the scene. Likewise, Skream has more recently taken the blade to dubstep’s back and become more associated with the house and techno scene – rendering Livingston’s dismissal of Dubstep somehow premature.

Livingston was floating in musical limbo unsure where his music interests lay and inevitably wanted a change from the very genre that he helped to create. Precisely at the time of dubstep reaching its peak, the cracks began to show. Even though Livingston was living the dream – touring the world with his best mates, playing the music he produced, Livingston didn’t identify himself with that crowd any more, and his growing frustration led to the desire for a label that would release music that he could appreciate. His musical limbo lasted for a couple of years, until he started working with Kryptic Minds, and listening to Addison Groove’s Footcrab. Livingston had finally found his feet, and felt settled with the new simplistic bass and drum style he was creating, despite it not reaching popularity for a couple of years.


This was the beginning of Swamp – with its name originating from the Brixton riots, and only releasing records on vinyl – Livingston had created an independent label that would release music that he approved of, and appealed to an alternative crowd. There was a marmite reaction at first, but as dubstep eventually died, peopled turned to the new and refreshing take which Loefah was offering. The influence of Zed Bias has been instrumental in the label’s development, as his experience in the business gave Livingston the knowledge he needed for making Swamp a success. Zed being primarily based in Manchester, also resulted in Chunky’s influence, who is now the touring MC for Swamp and co-hosts the weekly Rinse FM show.  Unfortunately Livingston doesn’t release his own music on the label, and leaves that space for current artists such as Mickey Pearce, who released March Up West for free last March, and more recently Instructions, with some of the tunes on the album being dropped by Livingston at the Zed Bias Retirement Tour last month.

Despite some dubstep pioneers turning their back on the genre in order to jump on the generic house and techno bandwagon, Livingston and Swamp have continued to release music that inspires him rather than producing tunes that the people want to hear. Livingston’s persistance of only releasing records he approves of is incredibly refreshing and sets Swamp 81 aside from other labels in the scene as you never know what their next production may consist of.


Swamp 81 will take over Beaver Works on 6th March as part of a collaboration with Brotherhood Sound System. More info coming soon…

[James Bate]

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