Friday, December 6, 2013

Q&A :: Heath Looney [Warm Communications]

With the release this week of a new single from forward thinking American label, Warm Communications, we thought we'd get hold of owner, Heath Looney (also known as EHL), to find out how his year has been and what's up next for the label.

Hi Heath, thanks for talking to us. Warm Communications has been running for thirteen years now. What made you start the label back then? Are you happy with the label's progress over that time? 
Back when it started there weren’t that many independents pushing what I was into other than Good Looking, Moving Shadow and those kind of musical, atmospheric styles. So I figured I would take a shot at putting out my own stamp on things. Over the years it’s progressed into just a more wide array of styles representing what I’m into .

Do you feel like you've kept in touch with the values you set the label up on? How much has changed with regard to the way you run it? 
I still feel I’ve kept a really good grip on what I initially set out to do with the label. Provide music that is different with each release. I’ve never wanted each release from one to the next to sound the same. I want each release to sound different from the last and keep people on their toes. Regarding how I run it, I’ve just always tried to be as professional as possible and treat people fairly. There have been some bumps in the road occassionally, but that just comes with dealing with so many people. It happens and hopefully we all understand and come to a happy agreement. I love the relationships built within running the label. 

2013 has been a fairly prolific year in comparison to the past few. Was this planned or did it just happen organically? Can you see it carrying on into 2014? 
Yeah in terms of releases and the quality of those it has been one of our best. 2014 is set to be another great year. We have even more great releases coming by some of what we feel are amazing artists…very exciting to see what’s coming. Extremely humbled by everything that is happening. 

You've released a pretty diverse array of music this year, with the likes of Mako, Villem and Fields' Jungley banger 'Whatever Whatever' contrasting with Seba's smooth roller, 'Shades Of Me & You'. Do you have a favourite Warm Comms release from 2013? 
Yeah as I stated earlier, I never like the releases from one to the next to sound the same, so always doing a different 12" from the last is something I always strive to do. Regarding a favorite release this year….that’s a tough one and I’m going to give a horrible answer. I honestly have loved each one we’ve put out this year. They’ve each been so different in each other. Newly working with Mako, Villem & Fields was fantastic and we’ve become great friends. It’s always a humbling and great experience to work with Lynx (I just love his style and production). Seba is of course amazing and it was a complete honour to finally do something with Blu Mar Ten. Chris is a fantastic gentleman and very professional. 

We also saw the birth of the Umbra series this year which came with an interesting concept. Can you tell us a bit about that? Can we expect to hear more Umbra releases in the near future? 
The Umbra Series was just brought on by an idea of an anonymous series showcasing the music rather than “figures” as such. There is definitely more coming from that series, but in terms of the anonymity of it, it's hard to say. It’s really hard to sell records in this current market with unknown artists and digitally as well. 002 is coming and will still be vinyl & digital…so you’ll just all have to wait! 

You have another single on its way from Mako, who seems to be going from strength-to-strength at the moment. What can we expect to hear this time round? 
Correct and it’s out now on 12” & digital formats. This release is a stomper. A-side is a pure breaks fest being cut up, chopped and mangled into a growling dancefloor smasher. B-side is a sub bass half time number with rising pads and a very unique spoken word breakdown. Mako is always doing interesting things. You’ll see more from him on Warm. The guy is going to have an amazing 2014. Very happy to have him on. 

You've released music from some artists early in their career who go on to make big names of themselves; Mako, Resound and FD for example. Do you enjoy nurturing lesser known artists or would you say this is just a coincidence?
It’s probably more of a coincidence than anything. I just love a lot of different producers and what they are all doing. It’s always amazing to see them go onto do bigger things and hopefully one day warm communications will be the platform they are able to do that on. We gotta just keep on building, nurturing and putting out music we feel is great…[duh, isn’t that the whole point of a label]….you all know what I mean! 

What's next for Warm Communications? 
Don’t want to give to much away. Up again is the Mako release out now. After that sees a collaborative 12 by Need For Mirrors, HLZ & Mikal. Has a real tech step, late 90’s vibe to it. That’s about all I’ll give away for now, but trust me, we have some great music coming out in 2014 

Any final thoughts or shouts you'd like to add? 
Huge shouts to all the artists I’ve worked with and continue to work with. Always humbled by that. Massive shout to everyone at ST Holdings. Those guys are some of the most professional people I’ve ever worked with and continue to work with. They have true passion for this music and it’s amazing to be involved in that. Beau @ Masterpiece & Shane @ Finyl Tweek for always doing amazing mastering for our records. And big up to James @ Example, Jason Cook….you guys are a huge help to Warm! Lastly all the fans and buyers…you keep it all worth it and alive! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Q&A :: Deficit [AutomAte D&B]

We've been supporting the AutomAte labels since their inception last year and if you've been listening to our podcasts, chances are you've heard some AutomAte beats in there. With that in mind, we felt it was high-time we got co-founder, Deficit to put a guest mix together for our latest podcast and we recently got hold of him to find out how the last year has been for the him and the labels. Read on for the lowdown!

It's been around a year since we spoke to you last. How have things been progressing with AutomAte? Are you happy with where the labels are at this point? 
Very. It’s easy to forget that AutomAte as a label is only 12 months old. In our first year, we’ve put out 9 releases totaling 20 tunes, every one of which has been well received. We’ve had Radio 1 airplay from Friction, Bailey and Nihal, as well as exposure on well-loved dnb-specific stations such as Origin FM, Kane FM, Rude FM & Kool FM. I think the Drum & Bass Arena podcast deserves a mention and we’ve even been approached by Hardcore Underground to have an AutomAte track featured on one of their DJ-mixed CDs, which will ship over 10,000 units. 
We’ve been overwhelmed with support. Some really positive feedback has landed in our inbox from a variety of people, from DJ Hype, Kenny Ken and Nu:Tone to bedroom DJs from the other side of the planet. I value it all equally, it’s what makes this worthwhile. I pride myself on doing things properly and professionally and this seems to have made a big impression on the people we’ve worked with so far. This works both ways, all we ask from our artists is dedication to the cause and to push themselves, which has resulted in the most important thing of all - wicked music! 
Nuff said I think man! We’ve laid a sturdy foundation which we can build on. Priority numero uno for us in year one was to show that we’re serious, we have what it takes and we’re here to stay. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved so far. 

You have three labels running under the AutomAte umbrella. Do you have a favourite so far or is that like asking a parent to pick a favourite child? 

That’s a hard one to answer. I probably shouldn’t in case I hurt the feelings of the other labels, haha. AutomAte Deep will always have a special place in my heart because it’s my own experimental playground, it’s very personal to me. I try not to play too heavily on the segregation between the three labels though, it’s not meant to be pigeon-holey. Some people will just think of all the labels as AutomAte and that’s cool. Other people will have a favourite sub-label, or realise over time that they like the blue ones best, or whatever. 
I think of AutomAte as neopolitan ice-cream. Sure, the chocolate is the best bit, but I’ll sit and eat the whole damn tub. Probably in one go. And if I’m feeling picky, well I can just buy a tub of chocolate ice-cream and to hell with the other flavours. You still following me? I’m not… 

We've been seeing a heavy focus on the Drum & Bass long-player in the last year or so. Any plans to break into this market? 

The short answer is not at the moment. 
There’s two main types of LP. One is the artist album, which I feel would be a bit premature for us. We do have several artists on the roster from whom I think an album, when the time comes, would fit nicely into our catalogue. Releasing a full-length artist album is a big responsibility. The amount of blood, sweat, tears and soul that is poured into one of those means that we would need to be in a more powerful position than we are right now, in terms of fan-base and promotional clout, to do it justice. When the time is right though, we will rise to the challenge and make sure the artist gets what he or she deserves. 
If you’re talking about various artist, compilation type LPs, I’m not a big fan of those. There doesn’t tend to be much vibe or common thread about them. When a label’s been around for a while, it makes sense to put the classics, or best-sellers, or just a selection of relevant tunes on a compilation and give them a second wind. But I don’t believe it’s the best way to release new music. I’d rather put out an EP series, I remember how excited I got in the vinyl days when the next Ram Raiders or Hardware Chronicles was out (though in both of those cases, the best tune was on the first volume!). Hence the Depth of Vision EP series on AutomAte! 

What else can we expect to hear from the AutomAte camp in the near future? Are there any artists you're particularly excited about? 

We have a little trick up our sleeve, release-wise, for Halloween, followed by another big remix on AutomAte Tech. AutomAte Deep has a new recruit (from the other side of the planet, not deliberate but I do love how Deep seems to attract people from all corners of the globe). Actually, come to think of it, Deep has 2 or 3 new recruits! 
We also have an EP in the pipeline for Deep from a duo that I’ve been supporting for several years now and who have also recently caught the ears of Ink/Architecture and Loxy/Cylon. I was hoping to have a release date set for that EP but unfortunately they blew up their sub while making it, haha, so that’s delayed it a bit but at least we know there’ll be plenty of bass! 
We’ve also started work on Volume 2 of the Depth of Vision EP. The first one was very well received so I’m really looking forward to the challenge of following it up and officially making it a series.
Artist-wise, I’m immensely proud of everyone we’ve represented so far. But if I must single some out, Philth & Wreckless are killing it, Fearful clearly have a bright future and I love Ortokore’s distinctive style. D.R.O.P.S are very promising too and PRTCL has had a great Summer. 
Vince Grain came out of nowhere with Roswell Eyewitness, and what you hear is exactly the demo he sent me (apart from the mastering of course). There was no discussion or tweaking, one take, job done. Now THAT’s German efficiency for you! 

Current top five tunes? 
Current top 5 tunes or top 5 current tunes? Haha. 

Philth – Overload [AutomAte Tech] 
Fearful & Keosz ft. Black Louis - Scars [Citrus] 
Ruffhouse & Clarity – Persecute [Critical] 
Vince Grain - Roswell Eyewitness [AutomAte] 
Raiden – Roentgen [Architecture] 

You put a guest mix together for our latest podcast. Can you give us a little insight into that? 
To be honest, I really went to town on this one. Blackdub have been very supportive of us from day one so I wanted to pull out all the stops. 
I thought about the words ‘black’ and ‘dub’ and the original idea was to go in really deep and dark but, as with all my mixes, I wanted to show off a range of styles and eras – it ended up spanning 20 years, from 1993 – 2013! Then I heard Wreckless’ Face of the Deep EP on Peer Pressure and just had to use the title track as an intro, I love that monologue. I wanted to represent a little bit of all 3 of my labels without being a stereotypical label man and turning it into an AutomAte dubcast. A bit of Raiden always finds its way into my sets. You’ll notice a slightly disproportionate quantity of Ram classics in there… they recently put their back catalogue up for sale digitally and I couldn’t help myself, even though I already own every Ram tune in this mix on vinyl. 
This is the first mix I’ve ever made in Ableton Live, which is my weapon of choice for production these days. With the label workload plus starting my own engineering business, I haven’t had a lot of time to make my own music these past 6 months but I did buy Live 9 and Push on release day so this seemed like a good opportunity to go in balls deep, do something new to me and get to know the new Ableton a little better. 
There’s a long, boring, endless debate that goes on about the death (or not!) of vinyl, whether new technology takes the skill out of performing etc etc. I’ve been DJing for 12 years now (8 years of vinyl, 4 years of digi – time flies) and I remember being scared of switching from vinyl to digi because I was so comfortable on the 1210s. But you can’t push forward and keep things exciting if you sit firmly entrenched in your comfort zone. And it turned out the Pioneer CDJ1000 was a marvelous piece of kit, I fell in love with it instantly. It’s the same with Traktor, Ableton and whatever comes next. Sure you can use new technology to do the same old shit quicker and easier than ever before, but you’ll quickly be overtaken and eclipsed by those that push themselves and take things to the oft talked-about ‘next level’. I won’t be selling any decks or doing the majority of my mixes on the computer from now on, nor will I be turning up at a club with a laptop anytime soon, but this has opened a new door for me and the possibilities fascinate me. 
I’d need 4 decks and more arms than an octopus to pull this mix off on decks, and even then some of the effects I’ve used aren’t possible in real-time. Most of it isn’t really obvious in-your-face FX like you’d find on a DJ mixer, it’s more about chopping tracks up, lots of layering and blending different aspects of 3 or 4 tunes together in a way that sounds natural. It’s more of a techno attitude to mixing than D&B. I wanted to really ‘produce’ a studio mix. I sure hope you enjoy it now I’ve talked it up!

As always, do you have any final thoughts or shout-outs you'd like to add? 
My partner-in-crime, Esion. Our resident computer whizz (and wicked DJ) Nathan E. And my girlfriend Julie, without whom life would be meaningless. 
A special mention to our mastering engineer, Chris Jarman (aka Raiden / Kamikaze Space Programme). That man has the magic touch, I’m tellin ya. 
Flexout Audio, Peer Pressure and Fractured Foundation crews. I love hanging out with those guys. Philth can eat twice as much as me and never puts on a pound. Git! 
Katie Taylor (aka Shiny Biscuit) for helping us on the PR / promo side of things. 
All the artists that have worked with us, sent us music or shown an interest. And everyone who’s supported us by buying or playing our music, spreading the word or just offering encouragement. You know who you are. 

Philth & Wreckless :: Poison (The Sect Remix) / Poison (Fortitude Remix) is out now and you can grab it by clicking this link.