Author Archives: antoniswid

A Chat With Steve Mizek (Tasteful Nudes, Argot, Little White Earbuds)

Steve Mizek runs Tasteful Nudes, its parent label, Argot and also Little White Earbuds. After hearing Argot’s latest on TN, we got in touch with Steve, who found some time for us in his busy schedule for a chat about the label, electronic music in America and some of the country’s most exciting new talents.

Steve Mizek

Hey Steve. Let’s start with an easy one. Who are you and what d’you do?

Hey. My name’s Steve Mizek. Presently I run the record labels Argot & Tasteful Nudes. I’m also the editor in chief and founder of Little White Earbuds dot com.

What’s the connection between Argot & Tasteful Nudes? Why have 2 separate labels?

Basically, because I strongly believe in sticking to mission statements. I started Argot specifically to showcase American artists, largely because it seemed like a lot of other labels especially from outside the US, were focusing on showcasing up and coming talents, whereas a lot of American labels were falling down on the job, or just being really specific to the group of people that they were working with. I felt as someone who had been involved in the scene for a while, pretty connected to the experience that a lot of American producers have – how difficult it can be to get art out into the world and be treated like artists of a similar profile in Europe are. So that’s how Argot came about.

But then people from overseas kept sending me stuff that was just really, really good and I didn’t want to break away from my stated mission with Argot, so I decided to make it its own thing. Then I could focus on giving a different set of artists with a different set of needs a different sort of product. Something that was maybe curated a little differently – the artwork was done a little differently, it was done a little more cost efficiently too. Argot is definitely not the most cost efficient label with the artwork and the way it’s pressed.

So Argot was for one thing and Tasteful Nudes was for another. And it wouldn’t have been born were it not for the fact that I was getting so many demos that I didn’t want to let anyone else have really! I felt that someone else would be having a field day with these tracks that I just didn’t want to turn down.

In England there’s this widely held perspective of electronic music in the States where it deserves a sort of respect almost out of default, but you really don’t hear much of what’s going on there outside of New York and maybe Detroit, particularly among the younger generation of producers. As someone who has released a lot of American music, can you offer us your perspective on electronic music in America?

What’s strange at the moment is that a lot of the powerhouse labels are based overseas – in Holland, Germany or the UK. A lot of the American labels that were really big at one time have either gone away or they’ve become so specific to what they are that if you’re not looking for that kind of thing, you just won’t notice it. Obviously there are still labels like L.I.E.S. that are pulling in a lot of unknown American talents, but also these days, Ron’s putting out as many releases from artists outside of the States as he is from artists in America. It was once a group of his friends and it’s now a group of people who send him demos. There’s nothing wrong with that, but how he’s going about things is just a bit less American focused.

But there is a lot of talent here, and the hardest part is just getting noticed. Unlike Europe, where you can have 5 or 6 tour dates and you’re only traveling a few hours to each by train or car, the States are so spread out that it’s hard to get the attention of a critical mass of people. Any 1 city only has so many people who are actually interested in underground dance music and we just don’t have the industry and appreciation for it that there is in Europe.

Although the scene is a lot smaller, the dedication here is very strong. There’s a lot of people who are willing to do this sort of stuff just for the love of it. But these are people that should not need to do it purely for the love of it – they’re just as savvy and skilled as anyone else, and I’m hoping that through the label I can at least expose some of these people to the international stage, where they can tour around and do things the way they want to do them.

The situation’s not helped by the fact that there’s very few labels that come to mind at the moment that are focusing on just American talent and not just on one specific sound. Which is why we’ve had techno releases, house releases, disco releases…the remit is pretty wide for us as long as the talent is there. And it really helps for me if I’ve had some sort of personal connection with the music or with the people behind it. There have been people I’ve worked with that I’ve never met, but eventually I’ve come to know everyone at some level. The family aspect is important to me, to be able to know what’s gonna come next from them and where they’re going.

Do you see it getting any easier for American producers in the future?

I think it could. Right now we’re at a period (or at least over the last 12 to 18 months) where a lot more American artists are hitting peoples’ radars. So it could easily get bigger. We’ve seen periods of time where American artists are very popular and playing all over the place and I think it’s certainly possible to return to a time like that. But I think it’s interesting that there are a lot of people in Europe -as well as in America- who are sort of aping the classic American house sound. So it’s hard to move forward. There’s not been a lot of crazy new developments that have seen people scrambling to book American artists overseas, maybe with the exception of footwork/ juke which was probably the newest thing that we’ve had recently unless you count some of the “outsider house” (please put that in big quotation marks!) that came out over the last few years or so.

I would like to say that it should be getting bigger and it will be getting bigger, but it’s hard to say. Obviously one of the biggest physical obstacles is the Atlantic ocean because a lot of people just won’t pay to get someone over for just 1 or 2 gigs, a lot of artists just aren’t big enough to justify that for a promoter. Most people just don’t have a huge profile like Theo Parrish or Mike Huckaby and you can’t guarantee they’ll sell tickets. I feel that a lot of people could do it, but it’s difficult to say. There’s a lot of room for it to pick up again in the States and I think that if artists here are smart in the way they work with other artists to set up labels and to promote themselves then it’s only a matter of time. It’s really a roll of the dice at this stage, but I’m hopeful. It’s gonna require a bit of hustling by American artists, but it’s possible.

I can say that as far as success stories go with Argot, the Black Madonna whose single I put out last year has been getting a few bookings in Europe, at Panorama Bar for example and I’m not taking all the credit for that, but it’s great to have contributed to her success in some way. Amir Alexander who put out our first release is getting a lot of praise from a lot of different places, and Gunnar Haslam has just left for a European tour. He’s got a lot of big things on the horizon. We’ve got records coming out from people too who are starting to reach that critical mass and hopefully we can push them over the edge a little bit. I’d really love to be spreading the Argot gospel overseas as it were, as opposed to just in Chicago which is really what I’m doing now.

gunnar haslam bera range

You seem to take getting bookings in Europe as an indicator of success?

It’s really hard to tell how successful a label is unless you have one of those mega hits, you know like Andres’ New For U, but obviously I’m not Andres and I didn’t put out New For U, so I can’t bracket myself that way. But it’s nice to reach a level of recognition where people overseas are asking for it and people over here are asking me to play outside of Chicago a little bit. With any luck I’ll be playing New York in July and hopefully Detroit in the next couple of months and a few more dates if possible. Hopefully I’ll be coming to Europe soon as well, I’d be looking to do a couple of Argot nights and a few Tasteful Nudes nights too. There’s nothing firm on that yet, nothing I can really announce yet, but I’m pushing for it.

There are some really healthy electronic music communities in the States that are really growing, Pittsburgh for example. But the crossover between places in the States is still very small. For example I brought Pittsburgh Track Authority to Chicago in late 2012 and no one’s brought them back since which isn’t to say they’re not appreciated here. So what’s really needed here is a way of linking up all of these states and all of these musicians in them so we could get some kind of collective bargaining going on here.

I think some kind of crossover from the underground into the mainstream would probably help the process along a bit. You guys have had that in the UK, with Disclosure. I was really surprised to hear them on a pop radio over here. I’m not saying someone has to make a pop single, but I think it’s gonna require someone to make it pretty big before people start booking artists here to play a little more and for that appetite to grow.

I said I wouldn’t touch on EDM, but I guess I kind of have to. There’s a lot of people going to these events at the moment and I think a lot of them are discovering that you can go to an event and hear club music without all the trappings of EDM.

So it’s like a point of entry for some people?

Yeah, I like to think so. I think that a lot of people do end up dead ending down that route, going down the rabbit hole without coming out into something better. But I have seen it transitioning a little bit, at least in Chicago, where some of the audiences are a bit more healthy. It seems like the gay scene which has been segregated for a while, listening to mostly Katy Perry and Lady Gaga has started to understand that there’s good dance music that’s worth checking out in places beyond gay clubs. So artistically we’re in this Renaissance space, but I think the audience has yet to catch up in some ways.

The scene has existed independently of Europe here for such a long time that it’s gonna take a while for it to reach its previous levels, but let’s hope that it does.

It’s all cyclical right?

Yeah I think so, I have no idea how long this cycle will be. I’ve talked with a lot of artists recently who think that Europe is really feeling them at the moment. Just a brief example of how Europe is caring more about American artists. A good friend of mine, Michael Serafini, who owns Gramophone Records in Chicago, which is pretty much one of the places that helped spread house music and has been around since the 70s. He was asked to play Panorama Bar even though he has no international profile, purely because he met Steffi when she played over here a couple of times. I think there’s definitely a hunger for an American perspective in Europe.

What’s happening in Chicago at the moment? I can imagine it’s difficult to avoid parallels with the old Chicago sound?

It can be. I think what’s nice is that a lot of the established people from Chicago: Chicago Skyway, Steven Tang, Hakim Murphy, Innerspace Halflife, Ike Release…a lot of these people take those sounds into consideration and sort of weave them into their aesthetic, but they don’t really feel obligated to represent a certain “Chicago sound.” It’s more part of the melting pot of their aesthetic. Something I said before, is that there’s loads of people making vintage Chicago house and Detroit techno and actually – you don’t even need to be from these places to be making music like that anymore. A lot of people in these places are still making music like that, but they’re not super well known like the people from the past. But a lot of those people aren’t even making music like that anymore. I mean you won’t catch Ron Trent making stuff that sounds like old Prescription or Chez Damier.

But you’re right – there is definitely a legacy that is like a shadow looming over a lot of Chicago people. But I guess a lot of people are trying not to play into that – they’re trying to show what else is out there. A lot of people I’m working with are just not really interested in doing something that sounds just like Chicago. But we all have that rooted in our heads.

Here’s a bit of a random example. There’s this place called Smart Bar – it’s where I spend most of my time as far as clubbing goes in Chicago. And in the booth we have pictures of these really great influential figures like Ron Hardy, Armando, Frankie Knuckles etc. So the history is like right in front of us all the time. And I think that’s what also allows us to not have to recreate it – it’s so present to us and it’s still such an inspiration to us that we know we don’t necessarily have to keep doing that sound. Cause these people when they started doing that, there was no Chicago sound. The Chicago sound before that was whatever was coming out of the remnants of disco. And that created a whole new sound. I think people are eager to do that, and not be beholden to the past.

One thing I’ve never felt obligated to do was to represent the Chicago house sound. I’d much rather represent Chicago artists, producers who are up and coming. I’m hoping that together we can move away from some of the more stereotypical representations of Chicago dance music and show the world all the other things that we have to offer here, that are new and exciting or at least different. New is a very difficult thing to touch.

Argot Tasteful Nudes

Who are your current artists to watch at the moment from the US that maybe we wouldn’t have heard of?

A duo who I’m really excited about at the moment is John Barera and Will Martin. They’re actually about to put out an album in September on Dolly. They’re exceptionally talented, they work really fast and there’s a really good chance that we’ll be working with them next year. There’s a young guy out of Detroit who produces as Community Corporation. He released a tape album a couple of months ago. His stuff is very influenced by Detroit but it’s not just a new slate of soundalikes from Detroit. He also will likely be working with Argot in the near future.

I’m always a big fan of Alex Israel, from Detroit. Really rather lowkey as an artist, he’s not trying to push himself into the world, but his stuff is always really interesting and really musical. In dance music you get lots of functional stuff, and he’s a bit different. There’s also a guy from Madison in Wisconsin, who produces as Golden Donna. He released a tape album on 100% silk maybe 2 months ago now which was a really nice hybrid of different stuff. It was pulling in a little from the UK, a few more classic tropes, there’s a bit of Aphex Twin in there…the stuff he’s made in the past spans everything from UK Garage to ambient to noise and Italodisco, so he’s really versatile and I imagine we’ll be hearing more from him in the future.

Someone who we’ve worked with and I’d really like to tip just because I’ve only seen him do good stuff is Chase Smith from Pittsburgh. He put out Argot 008, which was disco on one side and sort of 90s house on the other. He’s recently put out a release on R-zone. He is incredibly talented. He puts out so much stuff that’s different to the other stuff he’s done before, but it’s still aesthetically part of the same thought process. It’s just astounding. That’s something I see in a lot of these producers – they’re not just mining the same hole over and over again they’re making a lot of different stuff but it’s all still part of the same vision.

What are your plans for Tasteful Nudes & Argot in the near future?

I’ve been really happy with the reaction to the Royer release. He’s a great young producer and I’m hoping we can work with him again. The next Argot is Eamon Harkin from Mister Saturday Night. We’ll take a break for the summer cause it’s a real crap time to be putting out records. September, we’re doing a record with Community Corporation. That’s not quite finished yet, but it’s getting there. I can also announce Anaxander, a French guy who’s had some really great releases on Love What You Feel from Pittsburgh and also Quintessentials -that’s a great one- he’s gonna do one for us which is a little harder I guess. Influenced by Chicago house but not really Chicago house. It’s also a bit more DJ friendly than most of what we’ve put out. A lot of it has been quite songwritey I guess. I really appreciate tracks that build and evolve and these tracks do that as well but they’re slightly more playable. I’m stealing a bit of inspiration here from Running Back and releasing some DJ tools, having a little bone that I can throw to the DJ.

royer tough questions

You need a balance between a completely functional record and something that you can listen to at home.

Exactly. That’s something I’m trying to strive for a little bit more. While I’m still in love with everything that we’ve done, some of it is purely musical and I’m trying to take the dancefloor into consideration a bit more, while still holding true to the idea that when someone sends me really good music that’s what should matter first and foremost.

That’s probably it as far as releases go for now…that’s probably as much as my wallet can handle! Of course it does depend – if one record does really well we’ll put that back into the pot. Already for 2015 I’ve got sort of 4 or 5 releases in the can. I think the total for this year will be 8 records for this year across the 2 labels, which I think is a good number. Anymore than that as a small label I think is excessive. If you want to be putting out more than that you’ve gotta be doing it full time or you just don’t do it at all! If you’re running like a Ron Morelli production schedule with 16 releases a year it takes a lot more than most of us have in us. But we’re trying to stay in peoples’ minds and put something out every other month.

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Hoping For A Repress 06

Ché – The Incident (Track Mode – TM005) 1996

Discogs Asking Price: £19.99 – £61.51

Don’t you love overpriced Discogs listings, especially when they come with descriptions of the record that just really hit the nail on the head? Here’s what “luv-club” who’s priced this one at over £60 has to say about it:

SUPER RARE RARE!! and super lovely to deep to groovy oldschoolish garage trax with a super sexy speaking

Cheap shot, I know. Anyway, this record from 1996 carries 4 different mixes of the same vocal track by Larry Heard. The vocals will cut through pretty much anything you’re playing purely because of their lyrical content. Have a listen for yourselves below, just bear in mind the record comes with a health warning that I feel compelled to repeat. It goes out “To all penetrators and penetratees…always wear a condom when ya’doin’ya’do.”

You might see it as a bit gimmicky what with the vocals, but if you want peoples’ attention, this track will get that for you. The “Wet Dream” mix for me is the best on the record; it’s got a real nice groove on top of a syncopated beat, the other versions sound interesting, but on the “Wet Dream” mix the dark groove works as a bit of a counterpoint to the vocals, making it the one I’d play. £20 for one track though? I’m not on that kind of money. We remain hopeful of a repress, as this record was reissued in 1999. 15 years later and as you’d expect it’s shot up in price.

Logic – The Difference/I Got Somethin’ (Strictly Rhythm – SR1217) 1990

Discogs Asking Price: £15 – £35

Strictly Rhythm is one of those labels that I’ve always felt like I should really dig into. I’ve heard some great releases on there, but the sheer scale of the task has always put me off. There’s 1,323 releases to flick through and listen through + another 20 or so on the UK sister label. Added to that, much of the catalogue is pretty average at best.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of real gems in there – house music like it’s not really made anymore, with a fat kick, a proper breakdown in the middle, one of those vocals I can’t really describe – but you know the ones I mean – and those synths that seem to be everywhere in house records from that era.

This Logic record is exactly like that. Good vibes on wax. The A side leads with The Difference, which has one of those vocal messages on it. A2 is a version without the vocals, so depending on your preference, you could play either one.

On the B side you’ll find I Got Somethin’. B1 is the “Extended Mix” which has got a real killer breakdown in it. The “Deep Mix” takes the track in a different direction, away from the classic NY house sound and towards more of a “heads down” vibe, with the unabating kick drum and the nice bongos that join it as the track develops into those drawn out synths.

Melchior Productions – Let’s Go Deep (Playhouse – PLAY054) 2002

Discogs Asking Price – £39.94 – £99.86

Thomas Melchior, who’s put his name to so many quality productions, came out with this one back in 2002 and it’s probably my personal pick of the bunch. It’s Melchior at his best – groove, complexity, loads of different textures and of course it’s pure vibes all the way through.

The A side kicks off with Come Closer. There’s a dub version of the same track on the B side, which appeared in Craig Richards’ Fabric CD. It’s a good track (I’ve only heard the dub) but it’s the other two that really do it for me.

Let’s Go Deep on the A side has a laid back feel to it, although it’s not as slow as you might expect. It’s a bass heavy track complemented by the twangy guitar sounds and the highs that come in, drop out and then come back in again. On top of that, there’s chords, vocals and other sounds that it’s difficult to place which make up the detail in this track and keep the driving bassline and ducking beat interesting.

On the B side you get I Believe, which would fit in really well to a set at any hour. It’s quite fast, although I reckon pitched down it would still work. This one works around a full beat, a dominating bassline and drone-like chords, the way they change ever so slightly over the course of the track. If I had this one, it would get a lot of play, which I’m sure is true for a lot of people wanting this. With 526 wants on discogs, keep an eye on the repress, it’ll fly off the shelves.

Record Watch: Tames – Vivid Elements (Galdoors – GAL004)

This big release came out last week, read on to find out just why we like it so much.

Galdoors 004

Galdoors returns for its fourth release, this time from its co-boss, Tames. Its his first release but if he hasn’t much practice in putting together good releases, you really can’t tell. The A side holds the title track and it’s a real strong opener. It’s got that melancholic melody in those synths and those rattling snares which give it a bit of structure above and beyond that subby kick. Early set, peak set, warm up set…whenever you hear this tune it would work. Check out the Until My Heart Stops mix for RA from Leif and Joe Ellis for a longer snippet and also to hear how it sounds in a mix.

The B side opens up with the more restrained feeling Episodes. It’s lighter in every way from Vivid Elements: the beat is softer, the synths less sharp and the bass notes less prominent. The EP finishes off with Squeeze, a proper acid warbler. The acid sound is made to sound fresh by being combined with hi-hats and a high pitched note which emphasises the kick as well as generous layers of reverb. We’ve all heard those acid tracks that are just a bit boring, not adding anything new to the genre, just rinsing that 303 sound. Squeeze, fortunately, is not one of these, sounding like exactly what you’d expect, but also sounding fresh and memorable at the same time.

A strong debut release on a solid label. Expect to hear this one a lot, especially the A side.

Hoping For A Repress 05

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, perhaps because there’s been loads of tasty represses since the new year, from Kerri Chandler to Chez Damier, Ron Trent and Mood II Swing, to name but a few. There’s always more records that we’d love to get hold of though and so we’re back to our repress requests.

Ark & Dolibox – Be My Baby (Karat Records – KARAT 40)

Discogs Asking Price: None Available

This is a great record – collaboration of the highest order from Ark & Dolibox and probably my favourite release that either of them have put out. There was a copy on sale for £20 towards the end of last year but it’s gone now – presumably the seller realised this one’s just too good to let go. Okay yes – it’s on Beatport, but sometimes that just doesn’t cut it.

That’s on the A side. I love the way it develops from this stop start beginning into more of a roller while keeping that glitchy feel throughout. The vocals are manipulated to perfection and for most of the track there’s just that one chord breaking them up. This one sets up for the B side very nicely, hinting at a deepness that is just on the other side, but taking on more of a dancefloor filling complexion than you’d normally associate with deep house.

On the B side you get Deep At All. This one for me is a perfect blueprint for deep music – slow development, lovely detail and all kept interesting over the track’s 10 minutes +, allowing you to drift off while being kept firmly tied to the dancefloor.

The track amalgamates all sorts of disparate vocals into its patchwork and slots them beside a deep, almost dubby bassline where they sit comfortably alongside a hesitant beat, melancholic acoustic guitar, jazzy piano and the occasional string crescendo and saxophone blast. The result is that it sounds both organic and electronic with that high note every few bars keeping everything in place.

Omniverse – Venere/ Antares (Antima Records – ANT 004)

Discogs Asking Price – £16.40 – £164.16

Classic release. It sounds just as good today as (I imagine) it did in 1991.

Across both tracks jacking beats, chord stabs, bits of female American vocals and soft melodies in the background combine to create two tracks that make you think of 90s era house music. They don’t sound clichéd, tired or imitated, they just sound great. This Omniverse release has endured for over 20 years because it came before there was a formula for house music. These are the sorts of tracks that had a big part to play in shaping perceptions of how house music should sound and has been imitated countless times with never the same result.

Vinalog – Relative 002 (Relative – RTV-002)

Discogs Asking Price – £28.72 – £41.03

A great release you might recognise played by all the big names in big room techno. That doesn’t take away from it at all though – it’s everything big room techno should be: a wall of low end, a pumping beat and an eerie vibe on top of it all. None of the tracks are too fast, so you can even bring them in to a slower set than you’d usually associate for playing techno bangers. These would cut right through most of the records in my collection in a blend.

The A side boasts Military Field and The “Do” Trip. Both are guaranteed to get a reaction, especially Military Field with its frantic looped vocals. The “Do” Trip is more melodic and haunting. Just a great slab of wax to have. The B side I’ve not heard as much of, but the record is worth getting for the fantastic A side alone.

A chat with…James Priestley & Giles Smith (secretsundaze)

The summer has traditionally been the domain of secretsundaze, so just before their first UK party of the year, we sat down with James & Giles to talk shop.

It’s clear that they haven’t lost any of their enthusiasm for what it is that they do, and that they’re still very much dedicated to their craft, so we gave them a few nasty questions about the past, the future and everything in between. These are the results.

Summer looks like it’s secretsundaze’ busiest time of year. What are you most looking forward to this summer?
In terms of our UK activity, it’s definitely the busiest time of the year with events. We have 2 parties in May, 1 in July, August and September. Our next party is something we are really looking forward to on Easter Thursday at Electric Brixton, with Derrick May, Deetron, Livity Sound and Arnaldo. This should be a killer. The 2 May dates should be huge both being day and night time events over 2 locations. That has the likes of Rolando, Mosca, Joey Anderson, Wbeeza, Steffi, Martyn, A Sagittariun and Virginia amongst others. The birthday is in August on the bank holiday and we are working on announcing details of that soon. Of course we are doing some great international events too. We are touring the states in the next few weeks, we have a new 3 date residency at Tresor in Berlin and and of course our huge off Sonar party at La Terrrazza in Barcelona in June where we also do 3 dates over the year.

(Details and tickets here).

Your first event of the year features Derrick May alongside Arnaldo. How important is it to you to match these established names with the less well known DJs?

Very important really.. whilst we obviously love welcoming elder statesmen of the scene such as Derrick, and everything people such as him bring to the table, we also really like giving younger artists or ones earlier in their careers the platform to do their thing on a bigger stage. Plus for our own interests, it’s often these artists that are really turning us on as DJs or individuals – there will always be a balance of cutting edge artists alongside more established names at secretsundaze. We’ve often taken risks on breakthrough artists, booking many people over the years in the UK for the first time, from people like Joey Anderson through to the Cassy’s of the world.

secretsundaze

Since you started putting on events 13 years ago, you must have seen a lot of changes in dance music. Which of these have struck you as the most significant/interesting?

I seem to get asked this question a lot recently. In terms of doing parties – there is much more competition – there are many more promoters putting on similar nights so it’s like a scramble for DJs and we are having to book them 6-9 months ahead. I do feel like this has taken the fun out of it a bit and we can’t be as reactive to new things as we used to be. Another major point would be just the growth and commercialisation of dance music. This really is a huge thing now and it’s developed in ways which I see as both positive and negative. There is a new professionalism in terms of some events that are put on – people have more experience etc. at running events but on the negative side I’m quite saddened by how much the hype machine has come to affect this scene and it’s a little less meritocratic than it used to be or based on say how good a DJ you are and as much about your image. This has always been true to an extent but its now hitting new heights. Musically things are always evolving but its nice to see some of the great house and techno from the 90s being introduced to a whole younger generation who were not able to hear it the first time around.

What about London? The city’s constantly evolving, do you think it would have been harder for you to start to do today what you did 12 years ago?

In many ways, no, not really. London is an amazing place to start up new enterprises, whether they be music led or something completely out of the creative sphere. As long as you have a passion and a plan (not that we had much of a plan), there are opportunities here. If anything, the advent of social media and digital marketing has meant it’s easier to start things up I’d say. We had more of a rogue edge when we were younger, and certainly used to get away with a lot more in terms of some of the legality of the parties we were putting on, which we certainly wouldn’t get away with now. So the city as a whole has sadly become more awash with people with money and attitudes to boot. You only have to look as far as what has happened in Shoreditch and incredibly quickly in Dalston in relation to the backlash to the late night economies there to illustrate that. The scene is very developed now, which may make it harder too, but at the same time, I’ve not witnessed the level of interest in this music since we started back in 2002 so in that sense, you could argue there are plenty of people to go around.

Do you ever go out these days to parties where you’re not on the bill? It looks like there’s a very healthy community of promoters in London at the moment putting on smaller events with innovative lineups and amazing residents in unusual places, such as Undersound, Frontroom, Night Moves, World Unknown…although I was a bit young at the time when you were starting out with secretsundaze, these promoters’ approach to putting on a party strikes me as similar to yours back when you were starting out.

I have to be honest and say for myself but also James, we are playing a lot abroad, doing our own events and on a night off I’m looking to do something different than go to a club. However I’m really aware of most of the nights you mention and know that they do good stuff from the heart. ReviveHER! also do some cool stuff out in Hackney Wick and the Make Me guys curate some nice line ups. Yeah, I feel that DIY ethic is never far away from the heart of London.

You’re fortunate enough to be invited to play in loads of different places beyond the UK. Do you have any favorites? You seem to spend a lot of time in Japan?

Japan is certainly a favorite. I’ve been fortunate to be touring there as a solo artist since 2005, and then under the secretsundaze banner a few years later. The country, especially the cities (I’m not so familiar with the countryside), the culture, the people, the food, the nightlife and the record shops are something else.. I will never tire of travelling there and still get the same level of excitement as I did 8 years ago when getting on the plane. There are a lot more white / western people there now, and some of their traditions seem to be sadly waning but it is still an incredibly unique place to play and visit. Going the other way, I love spending time and touring around the states. There is so much that is wrong about America but they also have got a lot of stuff right. Closer to home and in Europe, as far as actual clubs go, then Robert Johnson in Offenbach is perhaps my favorite place to play, we do at least one annual party there on the Sunday of the Easter weekend and have done for 5/6 years now, as well as various other dates there over the years. That place is the finest specimen of the perfect small club, certainly that I’ve seen anyway.. hopefully, long may it continue..

Do you ever feel that there’ll come a point when you’ll feel that you can’t take secretsundaze any further? Do you think you can continue topping what you’ve achieved before?

I don’t over analyse that too much at the moment. We still really enjoy what we do. The brand has grown to incorporate the agency and the label so there are different facets of what we do and the music is the main factor that still binds us to this.

Shazam x Juno: Our thoughts

Last week, Shazam & Juno announced that the Juno catalogue (which in our experience is pretty thorough, covering both the big releases and many smaller ones) will be available to users of the app. What this means in practical terms is that you’re out and you hear a track, you wave your Shazam equipped phone in the air and within a few seconds you’ll know exactly what it is and be presented with a purchase link on the Juno site.

Shazam Juno

Whereas before this service was restricted to Beatport’s digital catalogue, this new development now means that people with smartphones (which is most of us nowadays) can find most tracks that you’re likely to hear out, unless you’re listening to a set full of whitelabels and dubplates. We don’t see this as a positive, and we’ll go on to explain why.

Being able to identify vinyl tracks through Shazam effectively undermines DJ culture. The previous Beatport deal did so as well, but its impact was restricted. Extending its reach from the CD wallet to the record bag is more of an issue because 90 second clips and YouTube rips were previously the only digital footprint of a vinyl only release.

A DJ is only as good as the records they bring to a party. A good set is a combination of track selection and technical ability. Making track IDs available to everyone with a smartphone removes the mystery over the track selection. If you’re a DJ, the chances are that you’ve spent a great deal of your time digging – either in a basement somewhere or with your laptop on your knees. Given the amount of time spent on this, it’s only natural that DJs want to preserve an element of mystery in their sets. Reducing them to performers pushing buttons and stroking records is a resounding negative.

Having the musical knowledge required to play a standout, unique set is not something that comes for free. It’s earned through years of dedication to finding that one gem that very few people will recognise. It comes from listening to ten shit tracks to find that one obscure gem. Shazam’s partnership with Juno removes that essential step from the equation, which is a bit of a slap in the face to people who have put in that application to digging, listening far wider than looking for a single track ID invites you to.

The point that we’re trying to make here is that music and musical knowledge is something that you have to work for. For us at least, when you hear a track and you nor anyone with you knows what it is, it embeds itself in your audio memory and remains there until you find it. If you dig for long enough and in the right places, you will eventually find it. Shazam has reduced the process of obsessing over a track and digging for it to a matter of using your phone. This instant musical gratification is not a good thing. It will, in our opinion, cause higher still Discogs prices and make it harder to get hold of records that you’ve had your eye on for a while and this is why it bothers us.

Perhaps the more concerning issue that Shazam and Juno have raised is the potential for infringement on the rights of the record labels who stock Juno’s warehouse. There’s a reason besides a preference for vinyl as a medium and its aesthetic qualities why much of today’s underground music continues to be released on what was once thought of as redundant technology. Music released digitally is far harder to control; it has the potential to spread far beyond its intended environment. Releasing music on wax is a way of ensuring that your records will reach their intended listeners. Electronic music is a fundamentally underground thing, and releasing music on vinyl is a major part of this. Record labels will now have to opt out of Shazam’s track ID service, which is at best a hassle and at worst an infraction of their rights.

Of course, in many ways Shazam’s announcement can be a great thing for small, independent imprints: it will expose their music to a greater audience and should result in more sales for them. But to say this rather misses the point that it should be down to the label how their music is discovered, distributed and sold. The internet is something of a double edged sword for music; on the one hand it can give you the possibility of achieving a solid musical education and invites communication and creativity like never before, but on the other it leaves music open to over exposure. Shazam and Juno have taken a big step towards the latter by removing the element of the unknown from vinyl.

Subsoil Mix 02: Drei Farben House

As spring comes in and it’s getting pretty toasty here in London, the Subsoil mix series comes back out of hibernation with a mix from our interviewee from January, Tenderpark’s Drei Farben House.

It’s an hour long vinyl mix from the man from Berlin and it’s what you’d expect from him: melodic grooves on top of a laid back vibe. We get the feeling that Drei Farben House -much like ourselves- isn’t a man in a rush, and this is evident in the tone and mood of the mix he’s made for us. It languishes at a leisurely pace – exactly the kind of vibe that’s working wonders for us at the start of this week following a heavy weekend.

Drei Farben House has been kind enough to provide us with a tracklist so you can scope out his track selection without getting your hands dirty. This mix includes a few cuts from the forthcoming Tenderpark release from Tilman, the label’s first of 2014.

Remind yourself of our interview with Drei Farben House.

Listen and download via our Soundcloud.

Moomin – Doobiest

Ivano Tetelepta & Roger Gerressen – Time

Simon Weiss – Yesterday Is Around

Cellule Eat – Panda (Drei Farben House Remix)

Borrowed Identity – Dans La Nuit

Tilman – Whip Me Up

Drei Farben House – Tapered Layers

Alex Agore – Memories

Tazma Funk – Bob’s Trumpet (Trumpa Dub)

Mood II Swing – Move Me

Tilman – Whip Me Up (CMAT Remix)