Battle Trax is one of those labels that feels like a privilege when you get a hold of one of their records, an honor if you will. While many work hard to compete in who can get the most releases out in one year, others work hard at simply standing out of the crowd once that year! These labels put out what become rare gems, and for it over time they become legendary in their own right. They seem to almost follow an agenda of sorts, but one carefully thought out, and with the patience and determination to bring you timeless classics that redefine the music with each record. One of those labels is Battle Trax.
Founded in 1996 by Phil Klein (Bass Junkie, Kronos Device, Gods of Technology) as a means to release some of the harder edged material laying around in his studio (primarily his "Battle Systems" alias), Battle Trax would go on to become one of the most widely recognized Techno Bass (Electro Bass) labels in the world, bringing forth such iconic releases as Industrial Bass Machine's "Industrial Bass Machine Vol. 1", and Kronos Device's "Ravager Of Planets". All of which are still highly sought-after classics, and were incredibly influential to the development of the Techno Bass sound in the '90s, as it continued to evolve away from its Electro Funk roots and into the eclectic and space age sound it is today.
The first release on the label, Battle Systems' "The Killer Instinct EP", would be centered around the influence Klein's local scene of Industrial Acid Techno would have on him back during the '90s Rave era in the UK. Hard, sinister, and fast paced, this one would not be for the faint of heart; and perhaps not even for the Techno Bass purists, however, in the atmospheres found within this record, we would begin to see where the unique approach for the label's music would come from. With the 2nd release, I-Borg's "Borg Collective EP", we would hear this genius unfold into what would eventually become Kronos Device and Cybernet Systems, but it is also where we would hear another key influence that had long played a role in the development of Klein's music, and that is Miami. A city that for some time had already been a second home to him, having signed to Dynamix II Records back in 1993, as the iconic label had not only caught wind of Klein over the years through several demo submissions, but had also been a big inspiration to his work early on. As he explains: "Dynamix were one of my main influences musically, and the early work they did along with the Unknown DJ's X-Men project inspired me to make similar music."
It would be in 1997 however, where the big catalyst would occur, not only propelling the label to international fame, but also bringing us a project that while short-lived, is still considered one of the most influential in the history of the sound: Industrial Bass Machine. A collaboration between label founder Phil Klein, and Dynamix II former member Scott Weiser, the fusion of styles witnessed on this release was something not heard before, although it was a sound beginning to become apparent in some of the later productions of Dynamix II, and even Klein himself. Between "Industrial Bass Machine EP", its subsequent follow up on Joey Boy with "A Taste Of Armageddon", along with releases like "Atomic Age" and "We Are Your Future" by Dynamix II; not to mention the founding of the legendary duo Jackal & Hyde (Weiser, Todd Walker), Battle Trax Records found itself in the middle of a revolution of sound that would help lay the foundation for the new generation of Techno Bass music that would begin to carry the music into the 2000's and beyond. A especially important evolution as Detroit's Techno Bass scene was beginning to lose some its steam at the time, with labels like Direct Beat beginning to shut doors.
Since then, the label has enjoyed a great deal of success, even as the scene keeps re-inventing itself as it begins to find its own identity in a world that seems to somehow have forgotten its roots. Releases like Gods Of Technology's "808s And Altered States" (2010), or perhaps the collaboration between Klein and long-time partner Simon Brown aka The Dexorcist and their "Battle Cry EP" (2008), have not only helped to carry the sound forward through what seems like storm after storm, but have continued to set the bar always a little higher, always standing firm as a solid pillar of inspiration for the younger generations that have risen out of the ashes to bring us to a point where Techno Bass music is truly shining for all it is worth...the evolution of Electro Funk into its future self!
While there was some talk that perhaps Battle Trax had closed its doors some time back, Klein mentions he is actually quite excited as he has plans on bringing the label back with a new Kronos Device release coming our way. "If things go well, it may lead to further releases, but we will have to see", shares Klein about his feelings on continuing forward with the label. "I will consider this the 3rd phase of Battle Trax, the second being when I relaunched it with new artwork and the group Kronos device in 2001 for the 6th release." So for now, stay tuned, and if you haven't caught up on your collection of Battle Trax releases, check out Discogs where you can find many of the highly collectable 12" releases this label has to offer.
Written by: Santino Fernandez