This week’s Friday Forum Live featured another special guest from the world of electronic music, Mr Jamie Russell from UK label Hypercolour. Jamie co-owns Hypercolour with his partner in crime Alex Jones, together they’ve built it up into one of the foremost labels within house music. Last December they picked up the coveted Best Label award at DJ Mag’s Best of British, as well as being named Label Of The Month by Resident Advisor in May. This is all thanks to a slew of great tracks throughout the year including big hitters like Huxley’s Let It Go, Tom Demac’s awesome Critical Distance II, the Deetron remix of George FitzGerald’s Every Inch, two huge EPs from dance legends Groove Armada, Mosca’s excellent Eva Mendes EP and plenty more besides. Jamie also runs Sneaker Social Club, Losing Suki and Glass Table, so he knows his stuff when it comes to record labels and the business behind them. As an A&R he’s helped break plenty of new talent including one of our tips for 2012, BareSkin – who had his first release with Hypercolour at just 17 years of age.
Watch Jamie’s appearance below and make sure you tune in to the Friday Forum Live every week at 4pm (GMT).
Marcus: Hi there, welcome to Point-Blank Music School here in London where today we’re joined by the man behind Hypercolour, one of my own personal favorite labels. And DJ Max Best of British Best Label of 2012. Jamie’s here for another Industry Special Friday Forum Live. Over the past year, Hypercolour, his label, has been one of the biggest labels in the house scene with a slew of massive releases from people like George Fitzgerald, Maxxi Soundsystem, Huxley and plenty of other big-time producers. And young producers as well like Bareskin. Jamie’s also had a hand in several other labels which we’re going to speak about in a bit and he’s been running club nights and he’s a DJ himself. So give him a hand.
Just before we start this, I just wanted to remind everyone out there that’s watching that we’re giving away one of three pairs of Pioneer HD-J500 headphones. It’s your last chance today, to enter the competition. All you have to do is subscribe to our YouTube channel, so make sure you do that. We’ve got three pairs to give away, so a lot more chance of winning than if we gave away one pair.
Anyway, Jamie, nice to have you here.
Jamie Russell: How you doing?
Marcus: Not bad, it’s good to see you. What I wanted to start off with is your background, because obviously before Hypercolour came into existence you were a DJ yourself.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, I was. Yeah.
Marcus: How did everything kind of start for you? Where did you kind of get to grips with DJ-ing?
Jamie Russell: How far shall I take this back? I mean basically, I guess when first getting into music, in my sort of early teens, believe it or not was via my father who was a bit of a raver himself. And yeah, my mom and dad split up when I was quite young. That’s probably one of the big reasons as to why, because he used to tend to go out and spend a lot of weekends in fields. But yeah, sort of picking up on flyers and eventually tapes from him which I would take to school and sort of share around.
That kind of developed into eventually putting on parties in my early 20s. I used to put on a party called Playground at the Bulletin Arms pub in Oxford. A very, very small back room of a pub.
Marcus: Is that where you’re from then? Sorry.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, yeah. I’m originally from Oxford. And I eventually sort of moved to Brighton, but that’s kind of where I grew up. So yeah, just putting on parties. At the time, not really knowing much about music. I mean, some of the early flyers and bookings which I won’t go into detail about were quite laughable at the time, but predominately it was house that I was booking.
And I mean, actually putting on parties. I didn’t DJ at the time, so I was just putting on these parties. And I guess sort of seeing how much fun the DJs were having and putting on these parties and probably losing money on most of these parties at the time. So yeah, it just got to a point where I was like all right, I’m running these parties. I run these parties.
Ooh and the mic’s fallen off.
I run these parties, and I’m in a really good position to just basically put myself up to DJ. So it was kind of a matter of just going out and doing it myself.
That party eventually moved up to London. I don’t know why, I guess it was sort of London seemed like a bigger place, bright lights. And yeah, we were doing parties on I think it was Play Bar on Old Street. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember that. But then eventually went to Free, Free, Free and it was putting on the parties that kind of made me delve further into exploring music. I mean, we were quite fortunate that in Oxford we probably had one of the best record stores in the country in Massive Records.
Marcus: Yeah, I remember hearing loads about Massive.
Jamie Russell: And I used to go in there and you had Jay from Fear of Flying. I don’t know if you know Fear of Flying, the label, Jay Massive and Ben who is BLM both worked in the shop. And obviously have gone on to putting out really interesting music.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. They did some really cool stuff.
Jamie Russell: But you used to go in there and you’d see like Sasha in there on a Saturday or Mick Warren or James Levow, you know? And yeah, it really was the record emporium to go to in the UK. So we were really blessed with kind of having access to amazing music. And for me at the time, I perhaps was on my own journey of exploring and educating myself but the music that was being played at those parties was like Defected, early Defected, early Subliminal, Eric Ruwillow. Of course all the French filtered disco stuff, the Daft Punk which is eventually where my ridiculous sort of DJ name came from. And yeah, it was just about having a party at the time basically. But the party led me to meeting people. You know, eventually like Alex who I’m now run Hypercolour with. So it was just all about putting on a party and getting smashed I guess at the time, really, to be quite blunt with it.
Marcus: So at what point did it kind of start becoming more of a serious vocation for you?
Jamie Russell: What, do you mean the label? The parties were never really serious. It was never really something that I kind of thought I could learn a living from. I mean, far from it. I mean, I actually used to just plunder all my wages into sort of putting on these big events where I might spend three or four grand on a line-up and a venue, much to my girlfriend at the time’s total dismay. I mean, as for the label, I mean I’ve sort of been doing . . . I’ve been throwing myself into music full-time now for sort of the last… I guess the last two and a half or three years? I had one bash about five years ago thinking I was just going to throw everything into it and see how it went and that kind of resulted in a relationship ending.
Yeah, but I think the last two and a half years really, I mean Alex has always had his DJ and production stuff. Whereas I’ve kind of steered a career for myself. The labels are going great and we’re on this sort of massive expansion of the labels because we’ve got quite a few and we’re quite consistent with production, so with that comes quite an investment.
So what I actually do now in order to earn a living, to run side to the labels, is I work as a freelance PR. It’s kind of what I do on a daily basis is shout about people’s records, which is great. And that’s going really well, you know? I’ve started a PR company. We’re working with some really interesting labels. And I’ve really just capitalised on the back of the label’s success in kind of utilising all these contacts that I’ve built up over the years who have shown interest in Hypercolour and the other labels and have used that to my advantage to kind of achieve the same results as some of the other labels I’m working with.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah.
Jamie Russell: So yeah, I’ve sort of built up this PR operation. I mean, it’s called HYPE Electronic Music Filter and it really is kind of my definition of me filtering what I consider to be cool and interesting.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. The stuff you want to get out there.
Jamie Russell: Yeah. And I think it’s going particularly well, and it sort of is . . . I think it has built up quite a reputation for being a trusted source for cool music.
Marcus: Yeah, I think so. Every time I get a little bit of HYPE stuff free into my inbox, I’m like “Yeah, cool.”
Jamie Russell: Thank you very much.
Marcus: So how did Hypercolour sort of come into being? Because obviously you met Alex prior to getting that all started. You’d become mates and stuff.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, that’s right.
Marcus: When did you kind decide within a sort of . . .
Jamie Russell: So I mean, Alex was making music, just making music in Logic at the time. And yeah, we just kind of struck up a friendship I guess. I was perhaps one of the few people that would bother to give him any sort of feedback on his music at the time.
Which kind of, it was good. I mean, he’s come on leaps and bounds now. It was good enough for us to think that we could start up our own label. You know, I think that was based on what we were listening to at the time and a lot of the music that was being put out. And we’re talking like this is when the minimal music was kind of at its peak, so labels like Minus and I guess the whole Get Physical thing which kind of further . . . you know, as that progressed, it kind of went into a house label. But yeah, I guess really just kind of based on what Alex was doing, we kind of thought we could compete at that level I guess.
Alex was also very good friends with Chris who was doing Glimpse at the time.
Jamie Russell: Who was doing the Glimpse stuff, sorry. He was doing particularly well, and he was putting out some really interesting records. They’re actually records that I would buy and Alex would buy. We were quite fortunate that we got the label off to a good start.
I mean, Glimpse did the first release which is still a record that I really enjoy. I listen back to that first release and I’m quite proud of it still. There’s some records through the catalogue, that perhaps were a bit iffy.
Marcus: It has been seven years.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, it’s been seven years man and our sound has definitely progressed and evolved. And I think where we’re at now is a kind of amalgamation of everything that we’ve kind of grown up listening to, and what we’ve been into as DJs as well. And that’s everything from those hardcore tape cassettes that I spoke about earlier that I got from my dad which I was exchanging in the playground at school, through to drum and bass, UK rave culture generally. Even now kind of the hip-hop’s come out of some of the labels I’m involved in. I mean, predominately the theme is house music and obviously techno as well. It’s pretty much based around those two as the key sort of sounds that we’re exploiting I think.
Marcus: And so the last year, especially 2012’s a massive year for you guys. Almost every release was like bang, another big release. Bang, another big release. How did you kind of get to that point? And was the previous year kind of like a buildup to that? Did you expect that last year was going to be as big as it was going to be?
Jamie Russell: I mean, without a doubt it was our biggest year to date. I’m just sort of in my head now thinking about how some of those records came about, and a few of them were actually purely about being in the right place at the right time. I mean, like the Huxley record.
Marcus: That’s got a good story behind it.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, that was Huxley, first time he played it was in an ice cream van at Glade Festival. He turned up late and he was really apologetic and I was really pissed off with him actually, excuse my language. And he sort of played that and I was like “What is this?” He said “It’s mine.” and I was like, “Okay, yes. Can we sign this?” And the Maxxi Soundsystem thing, it was actually I know Sam from Brighton having sort of lived there for the last ten years before moving to Bristol last year. And he was playing for the Future Boogie guys and yeah, I just went down to say hello to him and I pretty much caught the last 30 minutes of his set but it was probably the most important 30 minutes of his set because the last tune he played was that, “Regrets We Have No Use For”.
And yeah, we kind of went back to the Future Boogie/HQ after party and just got chatting with him and he was like “Oh, it’s unsigned.” I was like, “Yeah, we’ll definitely take that”, much to Mr. Harvey’s dismay. But yeah, I mean like . . . I mean a lot of the artists and releases that we’ve done last year, it’s just been a matter of sort of chasing down and contacting artists whose music we were feeling.
George Fitzgerald and Mosca in particular, I mean Mosca was somebody that we were in contact with pretty much after his Night Slugs release. Which I mean, anyone sort of listening to what I’m saying now is probably thinking well, that was nowhere near a Hypercolour Sound release. But there was enough. It was just new and interesting; I really liked it. And yeah, kind of have just been in touch with him since. But it wasn’t like we contacted him and asked him to do a house EP. I guess that was a product of the way things have gone in terms of everyone’s making house music now.
Marcus: Yeah, totally, totally.
Jamie Russell: And perhaps him just wanting to do something on a Hypercolour tip, you know?
Marcus: So did you not give him any sort of guidelines about what you wanted him to do when you contacted him to say . . .?
Jamie Russell: Nothing at all. It was just like hit us up with whatever basically. And Eva Mendes was the first track he sent over. I was like perfect. And then he sent us over a few dubs which we were kind of discussing about getting vocals on, and the end result was Robert Owens doing the vocals on Accidentally and I can now reveal was Ben Westbeech on Murderous.
Marcus: Oh, right.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, we couldn’t because he was in a deal with I can’t remember the label, strictly with them. So yeah, it was just a matter of him perhaps just doing something that was more relevant to what we were about. And I guess also, you know, he was on the receiving end of what we were doing via promos and stuff. I know he was a fan of Maya. He plays a lot of house in his sets and stuff now, so I guess it was just a natural progression really.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. For sure. So going from the time when you were throwing parties and stuff back in the day to sort of starting the label, how long did it take you to get to grips with the business side of stuff? Because I guess that must be something that’s quite hard to get your head around.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, yeah. Oh God, it’s a pit full of admin work basically. It’s still something that it’s sort of difficult to get your head round. But I mean, eventually get used to the protocol of the manufacturing side of things. And as the years have gone along, we’ve kind of stumbled across things like NCPS and PPR which are the various sort of collection societies for physical products and radio plays and stuff like that. So it’s kind of been a matter over the last few years of Google it and educate yourself on the matter. And we’re quite fortunate that we’re working with a label management company as well.
At the moment, I’m quite a busy chap basically. I’m obviously doing the PR stuff and sort of A & R-ing across six record labels. So yeah, we’re quite fortunate that we have a label management company to kind of take care of that stuff now, which yeah, it’s a very fortunate situation for us to be in. But we have gone through that whole stages and process of having to educate ourselves on the processes of putting out a record and dealing with distributors and digital distributors and like I said, the various collection societies. So yeah, we’re kind of up to scratch with all that but just in a very fortunate position where we don’t have to focus on that at the moment.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. It must take the pressure off quite a bit.
Jamie Russell: Absolutely. Yeah, but it’s good, man. As a label, we’re financing or we’re putting a lot of finance in what we’re doing. As you’ve probably seen, we’re pretty much averaging sort of four physical records every six weeks at the moment.
Marcus: That’s quite a lot man.
Jamie Russell: It is quite a lot. But I wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest. We’ve got a lot of music in the pipeline. We have had so for the last year or so. And it’s quite a good situation to be in and working with artists, because we’re not waiting around really. Years and years ago we were always at the mercy of the distributor. So when you’re in control of your own finances, you’re in a situation whereby you’re waiting for money from your distributor in order to pay whatever bills, remix fees, promotional costs or whatever. You kind of, yeah, you’re working on a release-to-release basis, sort of monitoring profits and losses that way.
Whereas where we’re at at the moment, the labels are sort of doing particularly well so we trust in the releases enough to actually not have to wait to see how well they do before just going for the next release. Some might say we’re doing too much. But I think as long as there’s a strong thread of consistency, which I believe there is, then I don’t think it matters. And I think that it’s no surprises that our incessant release schedule over the last year has got us to where we are at the moment.
Marcus: Yeah, no doubt. No doubt. And what about your other labels? Because you’ve got your hands in a few other labels apart from Hypercolour. Do you want to sort of . . .
Jamie Russell: Break it down?
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. Break it down for me.
Jamie Russell: So we’ve got obviously Hypercolour is the mother ship shall we call it. We also have a digital-only arm to that label, and that was initially setup as a sort of testing ground for new artists. I mean, it’s quite a big risk to put out a physical record from a relatively unknown artist.
I think vinyl sales differ very much from digital sales, and it’s a different market effectively. Some of these sort of old vinyl heads, they know what they like and they might not ever check out that new release from that new artist, you know? So with that in mind, yeah, we’ve used that as a testing ground really to put out releases from new artists. And we’ve nurtured quite a lot of talent through that. I mean, the first release we ever did with Maya Jane Coles was a digital-only release. And that kind of led on to okay, yeah, she sells good units so we can go on to a physical product now. So yeah, we’ve got that sort of digital-only side to the label.
We’ve now got Hype Limited which is, shall we call it pro-vinyl. I mean sound wise, I think it veers more towards a traditional take on house and techno so kind of references perhaps Chicago and Detroit, but with some sort of modern-day production sensibilities. And we tend to release the digital on that label sort of a good couple of month afterwards. So actually when we say pro-vinyl, we’re just giving the vinyl a sort of better opportunity to sell. We also have Losing Suki which is . . .
Marcus: It’s an interesting label.
Jamie Russell: Yeah. But that’s named after Alex’s Nan’s cat who went missing, hence the name Losing Suki.
Marcus: Did she ever find it?
Jamie Russell: No, she never found the cat. And that has kind of started to define itself as being very much a of UK sound I think. It references garage quite a lot, even drum and bass. Yeah, some really interesting releases we’re doing on that in particular. I mean, that’s kind of where the first Bareskin release came about. We just did a release with Forget Me Not, a new trio from Bristol.
Marcus: That was a really good release.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, a really, really good release. What else do we have? Glass Tables. Well, Glass Table is a bit of a vanity project I guess. I mean, I would say a loss-leader, but it’s not really. We manufacture 500 records. They are picture discs. I wish I had one to show you actually.
Marcus: Yeah, the artwork’s really good.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, the artwork’s amazing, which all the artwork is done by Alex who’s an award-winning graphic designer, so he keeps telling me. So the Glass Tables releases, each release individually is a picture disc. They’re some sort of cool references to iconic logos and stuff like that. I won’t say publicly, I mean you can go research them, but some interesting stuff. And the sleeves as well are kind quite, how can I put it? raunchy, I guess. Lots of naked skin on them. But the whole vibe of that label, it literally references a table in Alex’s living room. Where for quite a few years me and him used to kind of go back to his flat after whatever, doing a DJ gig or a party or something, and we’d sort of sit around the table and get pretty smashed and dream about taking over the world, basically.
Marcus: It’s got a little symbolism behind it then.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. And the music that we put out is I guess quite reminiscent of what we would listen to around that table at stupid-o-clock in the morning. So it’s quite slow, quite sexy, quite druggy. So yeah, those are the labels I run with Alex. Aside to that, I run a label called Sneaker Social Club which has a big emphasis on sneaker art. I’m a sneaker obsessive. Always have been since I’ve been at school.
Marcus: Because the font’s almost the same. It’s the Night font isn’t it?
Jamie Russell: Pretty much, it’s ripped off the Night font.
Marcus: It looks good, though. It’s nice and bold.
Jamie Russell: It’s exactly the belief I get in the design, it’s just a rip-off.
Marcus: Make it look like Night?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, basically. And so I mean, that kind of references for me what I grew up listening to, what are those sort of tape cassettes I was taking to school. So it kind of references ’90s hardcore rave music. But again, it’s kind of brought up to date with the artists that we’re working with. And then we got off to a really good start. I mean, that first release from Throwing Snow is still to this day one of my favorite releases. It’s a double A-side. A really cool video that was done for it as well. So each release has an A2 poster that was individually designed by various sorts of artists that I find on the Internet and contact and say “Look, I’m doing this project. Would you be interested in getting involved?” And most of them are sort of open to it because it’s quite interesting and fun stuff.
There’s a whole world of sneaker art out there. Yeah, just Google sneaker art and you’ll see some really quite interesting and amazing stuff. And I think some of the posters we’ve done have been really cool. So yeah, so I’ve got that label and also a label called Space Hardware which is kind of in its infancy, on the third release of that. And I guess that’s more of a sort of headphone project really. I think as I’m getting older, I tend to sort of . . . I tend to buy a lot more electronic music that I perhaps wouldn’t play in clubs. Burial, being a prime example.
And there’s kind of a lot of this post-dubstep stuff and there’s lots of sort of electronica and experimental stuff from artists like Vessel and Tight Williams that is really weird, but I kind of quite enjoy it. You know? So yeah, that’s kind of followed on from me exploring and finding this sort of new area that I quite like. And yeah, I mean the last release was from an artist called Deft. It’s kind of on a bit of a Flying Lotus tip actually I think, and it has an incredible vocal from Om’Mas Keith who is part of Sa-Ra Creative that I think was signed to Kanye West’s label back in the late ’90s and he’s also actually just won a Grammy for producing Frank Ocean’s last album. So for me, that’s quite a coup to have him firstly say yes to this project. And he’s quite cheesy. He reminds me of early Slick Rick or LL Cool J, the vocal does. But I think it’s great, you know, he’s nailed it.
Marcus: It’s a massive track isn’t it?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, yeah. It really is, I think so. So I mean, it’s very different from the previous two releases. Actually, no, Deft was the second release. Placeholder was the first. So the third one I’ve got coming up is from Blacksmith, and is actually probably a bit more on a symphony, garagey tip. Again, it’s really interesting and it’s sort of really melodic. So yeah, I mean, I guess it’s like I don’t really know if there’s any sort of theme on that. Like I said it’s a headphone project to begin with, but actually that next Blacksmith release is probably something you can play in a club. So I guess I’m just going to follow my nose on that one too. So yeah, there you have it. Six labels; it’s quite a lot.
Marcus: How do you keep on top of it all man?
Jamie Russell: I think I have quite a healthy hunger for just finding new music. I think I get bored quite easily as well. Yeah, I don’t think I’m up for starting any more labels anytime soon. But yeah, I think they’re all very relevant in their own right and they all sort of cover a certain part or area of electronic music. I mean, as we know, electronic music now has kind of grown into multi genres. But it’s great. It’s a really exciting time for electronic music. The fact that Disclosure were number 2 in the top 40 last week . . .
Marcus: Yeah, it’s great isn’t it?
Jamie Russell: It’s fantastic, and it’s kind of for me, personally, someone who’s kind of . . . this is my life now. It’s an exciting time and it’s an exciting prospect to potentially be involved with that. I don’t know. I know whether dance music, is it going to get fully in the charts again? I don’t know. Like when we were kids . . .
Marcus: It was all over the place wasn’t it?
Jamie Russell: Yeah. Like Inner City, Big Funnel, Good Life was in the top 10 and the Detroit guys made a load of money from big UK majors signing their stuff at the time.
Marcus: The thing is now though, you get a lot of people that are really against it and want to stay underground whereas obviously I wasn’t there as an adult back then, but I can only imagine that these guys just wanted their music to be heard by everyone and they were cool with it going into the charts and cool with having videos made, and now it’s like “Oh no, Disclosure in the charts, they’ve sold out.” And you get all this kind of like . . .
Jamie Russell: I think that’s a load of rubbish. I think also, from my point-of-view, considering the state of the economic side of music in terms of piracy and file sharing and stuff like that, I think any further opportunity to bring what we’re doing to a wider audience is great. And let’s not forget, the charts are awash with what I would consider to be horrid, EDM, sort of David Guetta type stuff. I’m sorry if I’ve upset anybody with that comment, but the Disclosure track is credible dance music. And the fact that it’s got into the charts, and also what was it, the Benediction as well? Sort of a month or so prior to that, and it’s just made it into the top 40. This is all credible dance music. This is all stuff that gets played in clubs that people go out to and dance to. So I’m all for it, you know? But then I would say that to someone who’s kind of put all their life into music and want to make something of it.
Marcus: Are you finding that you’re having any sort of . . . anything falling through from stuff like that happening, in terms of what’s happening with Hypercolour? Are you having an interest from bigger companies?
Jamie Russell: Not at the moment, but who knows what the future might hold? We’ve got some sort of potentially interesting prospects lined up for 2013. It’s all stuff in the pipeline, not stuff really that I can talk about at the moment. But we are an underground house label, and we will always remain so. But we’re going to be doing a few artist albums this year.
Jamie Russell: So I can mention one which is Luke Private, but he kind of comes from a Warps or Planet Mu background. He for sure won’t go into the top 40, but that’s a really interesting opportunity for us. We’re going to be doing something with Solid Groove which is Switch, or Major Lasers or was in Major Lasers. And I mean, until he delivers some tracks, who knows? The guy is living over in LA and is running his own production company and is producing music for the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna and Chris Brown and stuff like that.
Marcus: What’s he going to come out with?
Jamie Russell: Could he kind of apply that to house music? I don’t know. Solid Groove for me was probably one of . . . you know, five or six years ago, was one of those producers that was buy on sight.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. Completely.
Jamie Russell: Like this is sick and get on down and get your dub on. So I mean, that for us is a massive coup. I mean, this is an exclusive by the way. Not many people know that.
Marcus: Thank you very much. There you go.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, so I mean, depending on what he sends? I don’t know.
Marcus: How’d that come about anyway?
Jamie Russell: I’ve known Dave for quite some time. I used to, when I was putting on those parties, I used to get him to play for me a good two or three times a year. I loved him that much. And he was a great laugh as well. He’d sort of turn up and get involved and obviously it was all about getting smashed at the party at the time.
And I’ve just been emailing him relentlessly for the last few years. I remember watching an Accelerater interview of him about four years ago and he mentioned this sort of unfinished Solid Groove album.
Marcus: Right. I think I’ve heard about this as well.
Jamie Russell: That always stuck in my head, and I was kind of like what’s he doing with it? What’s he doing with it? So actually he got back to me probably two months ago and we had a good chat on the phone and it was really good to catch up with him and to hear what he was up to. And he was like I’ve been following Hypercolour, I’m really proud of you, and let’s do this basically. So yeah, he’s actually coming to London next week. I’m going to go meet him and have a chat. But it’s agreed that we’re going to do an album; we’re going to do the Solid Groove album, basically. So I think Hypercolour’s the best home for that at the moment, and yeah, buzzing basically.
Marcus: Quality. Congrats, man.
Jamie Russell: Thank you.
Marcus: And so just now you mentioned a few different labels and some of the artwork and sort of the extra visual and physical things that come with the releases that you put out. I notice obviously you guys have a YouTube channel. You put out a lot of videos and stuff as well. Obviously, that’s a really important part of running a label now. Even if you are an underground house label, it seems like a lot of other people like Exploited, Off Recordings and quite a few other labels out there are doing videos and doing this whole kind of repackaging stuff, like making stuff actually important to buy. Not just some digital file, but a piece of vinyl with artwork and all the stuff that surrounds it. When did you start really sort of realizing that that was an important thing to do with your label?
Jamie Russell: I think the aesthetic side of it has always kind of been important, and we’ve always tried to put out nice, physical products. But obviously the whole video thing as well, it’s kind of acknowledging that people’s listening habits have massively changed from the days of actually having to go into a record store to it being digital and BeatPort and to the piracy age where people just don’t bother buy the files anymore. They just go to YouTube and find a stream or rip the stream.
Marcus: Yeah, then play it.
Jamie Russell: So it’s just actually trying to capitalise on that, really. It’s to have . . . a lot of the videos we’ve been doing, I would deem it to be successful if it’s got 20,000 hits on it. That, in theory, is 20,000 new people viewing your music. So I guess it’s all done in the hope that these people might obviously buy the music or come to one of your parties or something like that. But yeah, our videos are always quite interesting. I think there’s a general sort of thread of toilet humor. A lot of piss taking. Sorry, I shouldn’t swear again but I kind of got away with it the first time. And that’s always been a theme throughout what we do, even the artwork. Alex is a complete joker so yeah, he kind of, I guess, leads the way with ideas on stuff like that.
But yeah, we tend to do it every release now. You can get a sort of really cool, nerdy kid fresh out of video college or whatever who loves to get involved with labels and music and stuff like that. So if people think that these things cost lots of money, yeah, it kind of reverts to that old saying where there’s a will, there’s a way. And it’s just, if you can get something done and there’s something in it for somebody else, it’s give-and-take basically.
Marcus: That’s it.
Jamie Russell: But yeah, my point being you can get videos done and they don’t cost a great deal and they still can look cool.
Marcus: There’s a lot of things that work like that in the music industry aren’t there? You do someone a favour, they do it back for you, and you both kind of help each other up on the way up.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, absolutely. With a lot of my clients that I work with in the PR company, I’m very considerate to the fact that there’s . . . I’ve been in that situation basically where you’re waiting for payments and stuff like that. So sometimes I might drop my price if it’s a label I really want to work with. Or I might have to sort of be quite chilled about waiting two or three months to get an invoice paid. But yeah, like I said, having been there you just have to be quite open minded to that so I am.
Marcus: Yeah, I think our industry in particular is kind of built on relationships like that.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, and 28-day invoice payments.
Marcus: Tell me about it. And another thing I wanted to really focus on with you is you guys have brought through a lot of youngsters, and there seems to be a real sort of emphasis on bringing through young producers and giving them a chance like Bareskin and all those guys we talked about just before we started filming.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, no, I think that that kind of boils down to the fact that we do listen to most demos that get sent. If we marginally hear something that we like, then we will strike up a relationship and we will kind of . . . we will give some feedback and give the time and energy to sort of say what we liked or we didn’t like. And in the example of Bareskin, his initial bunch of tracks that he’d actually sent over were pretty wild, really. They’re quite out there. I guess we’ve kind of gone through this process where there’s been a lot of backwards and forwards. It’s also progressed into him coming out to his first party at the tender age of 17 and 290-something days, I don’t know. We sneaked him into the club, him and Jake, and then he came to his first festival at Glade. It’s kind of resulted in him, I mean, actually Eyes was the product of . . . he wrote Eyes the week after going to Glade festival.
Marcus: Oh, really?
Jamie Russell: And it’s quite funny seeing him and his mate, Jake, who is J Wiltshire, we’re also doing a release with. Just sort of stood in the speakers, experiencing techno and really good house music on an excellent sound system. And yeah, I guess kind of inadvertently being sort of mentoring the pair of them to get them to this stage. The same with Last Magpie as well. He’s a friend of Steve’s and I think someone who has got quite a lot of talent. And the first three releases we’ve done with him I think have been amazing. And yeah, I mean Maya was probably one of the early examples.
Marcus: Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Jamie Russell: To be fair, she was well on her way anyway and had done a few releases for Alex Arno’s [sounds like 00:41:55] Dogmatic. But yeah, I think the best music is coming from the kids at the moment.
I see certain labels, the way I see it is they perhaps get a bit lazy in they’ve got their crew artists they’re working with. They play their parties. And they have this “We’re not accepting any demos.” policy because they’re happy with the artists they’re working with. But from my point-of-view, in terms of thinking about the future of Hypercolour, the music that Shenoda, Tom Demac or Alex is making now might not be cool in three or four years time. I don’t know. But it always seems to be that the kind of fresh and interesting sounds do come from younger artists who are perhaps inspired by different stuff.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. For sure.
Jamie Russell: Or artist kids or whatever on their own music journey, and kind of slowly educating themselves one bit at a time. So yeah, I think we just kind of certainly look out for any sort of new and interesting music. So any budding producers out there, by all means, send your demos.
Marcus: Send your stuff in. So you listen to all the demos? Or you try to listen to them?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, between the three of us, we do. Yeah. We kind of have this . . . there’s me, Ste and Alex. I’ll be honest, we don’t listen to every single thing now. There’s a sort of filter in place. When somebody sends you an email and says “Here’s my latest deep house demo”, you kind of instantly know that it’s probably not going to be suitable for us. Some people who can’t be arsed to actually tell you any information about themselves. “My name is Yif Ginny, here’s my demo”. Probably not going to listen to that as well, you know? I’m not stereotyping here at all, but if you want my word of advice, any producers, if you’re going to send a demo in, it’s quite simple. Do your research on the label. Give a bit of information about yourselves, and obviously leave your contact details.
But yeah, we’ve kind of got this crew around us who we do try to listen to as much as possible. You can kind of get a feel from literally somebody writing an email to you as to whether something’s going to be good or not. And I can generally tell in the first 8 to 12 bars, that’s how it is, if it’s going to be something that’s going to float my boat.
Marcus: Yeah, it’s funny how your ears kind of, or your mind gets trained into sort of just going yes, no, yes, no. It’s being really decisive.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, I think we’re all particularly fussy now about the house music that we put out, and I think that’s probably down to the quality of releases that we’ve put out. I think we’ve kind of set ourselves quite a high benchmark which is obviously just great for the label. The releases that we kind of consider, they’ve got a lot to live up to basically.
Marcus: And how are you sort of managing to maintain that high level? Because I guess there must be moments where you’ve got a bag of stuff, and you’re like is this going to be as big as the last one? Or is it sort of a worry?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, certain chains are kind of big on different levels I guess. Like Huxley’s Let It Go, Maxxi Soundsystem’s Regress, they kind of have a sort of main room appeal. But I think if you’re into different stuff, then perhaps maybe a sort of . . . have you heard the [indecipherable 00:45:53] release for example?
Marcus: Yeah, I really love that.
Jamie Russell: Really super, incredible, sexy deep house. And to me, that’s as strong as those tracks. But they’re different. They kind of appeal to a different demographic potentially. So it’s just keeping up the consistency levels across these sort of small areas of house music that we tend to cover.
Marcus: Good use of R&B samples on his release wasn’t there?
Jamie Russell: Excellent use of R&B samples, yeah.
Marcus: Because I was getting to a point where I was getting kind of bored of people using R&B, and then I heard that EP and I’m like yes, somebody’s done it properly.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, yeah. He’s kind of . . . he doesn’t overdo it. And yeah, it’s just sort of a few times. I mean there’s like three tracks I think that use kind of what are quite obvious R&B samples, but they’re used with finesse I think.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. Bang on. Bang on. So how’s Alex getting on?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, he’s great. I spoke to him before coming here and I kind of said I was a little bit nervous about doing this interview but he said I couldn’t have done any worse than him. But I thought he did all right, actually. I mean, he got a lot of stick on the comments on YouTube, people kind of saying “This guy can’t produce”. But I’d like to see what a lot of these other people who have commented are doing with their lives.
Marcus: Well you just have to listen to his music. His music is spot on.
Jamie Russell: He’s doing great. He’s got a little side project which is smashing it at the moment. I’m not going to say the name, but most people kind of know what it is. Yeah, he’s doing great. He’s traveling around, doing the likes of Panorama Bar and Fabric and yeah, everything he’s sending me at the moment music-wise is incredible and it’s really good to see your friends kind of hitting this point where they’re actually the artist whose music you would go out and buy, if you didn’t know them. You know?
Marcus: Yeah, yeah.
Jamie Russell: So that’s exciting. It’s really exciting. I’m happy for him; really happy for him. And the same goes for Tom Demac, Shenoda. You know, yeah, I think if I was coming across all these records 12 years ago when I started buying music I would definitely buy Hypercolour records.
Marcus: Yeah, they’d be in the bag.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, I would obviously say that.
Marcus: But that’s the thing, isn’t it? That’s the whole point of making a label is that you’re releasing music that you would’ve bought before you even started the label.
Jamie Russell: Absolutely. I think the last couple of years, this might sound crazy, but I guess it’s kind of the way the label’s evolved. I don’t think, I mean I wasn’t confident enough to play our music in clubs as a DJ beforehand and pretty much when I DJ out now, the vast majority of my sets consist of Hypercolour and the subsidiary labels which is a good feeling to play what you’re releasing and sort of see how well it goes down. Most of it goes down very well.
Marcus: Yeah, I can imagine. I can imagine. And what’s going on with you DJ-wise? I guess you play out quite regularly?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, I’m pretty much one of those guys that once someone asks me to play a party, I just say yes. And then the fee doesn’t generally concern me, obviously. I’m not a jobbing DJ. It’s not something I do for a living. I really enjoy DJ-ing. It’s kind of I would say my entry point, but actually running parties is my entry point. But it’s there, thereabouts . . . yeah, I still really enjoy DJ-ing and I’m still buying records and I still enjoy playing 12 inch records.
But yeah, I play at Fabric for the Hypercolour parties and I was lucky to sort of play at Space and Ibiza in 2010, Dimensions Festival at Croatia last year. But we’ve got a really exciting sort of summer schedule coming up which is going to take in Garden Festival in Croatia, Dimensions. It’s looking like we’re going to be a mainstay in Ibiza for this summer, but I can’t really say much on the subject at the moment.
Jamie Russell: But yeah, I think Hypercolour will definitely be over in Ibiza for the summer. And yeah, we’ve kind of got a few London parties happening. There’s one on March 2nd which is taking place at Village Underground and we have Tom Finley from Groove Armada playing. We have a special guest. I can’t say who it is.
Marcus: You guys love your special guests don’t you?
Jamie Russell: It’s actually an artist who . . . it’s not like we have a choice of it. It’s an artist who is playing a few days before they come to London, so we can’t announce it.
Marcus: So you’ve got to keep it under wraps, yeah.
Jamie Russell: Last Magpie, Shenoda, Ste Roberts and myself. So yeah, that’s at Village Underground. Yeah, we’re doing our parties up in Leeds and Manchester.
Marcus: So it’s kind of gone a bit full-circle for you, going back to doing parties as well.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, yeah. Getting paid to go and play at parties as opposed to putting on parties, spending all your wages on it and losing money. God, yeah. Just thinking back, the sort of head state I was in after some of those parties. Was just like why am I doing this? But it seems to have paid off in the end.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. For sure. Was there ever like a time when you were really struggling with Hypercolour, and thinking that maybe you were going to knock it on the head or maybe you had to sort of reconvene and try and think of a new not game plan, but a new way of approaching things? Or was it just an ongoing learning process?
Jamie Russell: I mean, it’s never been something that we’ve considered knocking on the head. I mean, we had a rough ride straight from the off, the actual day our first record came out. So we was with Intergroove in the UK. So you had Intergroove Germany and Intergroove Distribution in the UK. And the actual day our first record came out, Intergroove UK went into liquidation. So this is like shit, This is us putting our first record out, we’d kind of put a fair bit of cash into it as well. We manufactured a thousand records which I think ended up just getting taken by the liquidators and probably burned. We don’t actually know what happened to those records.
So we then went to Intergroove Germany and everything was fine from there. But it’s really just developed from being an expensive hobby, which is kind of what we saw it being for the first four or five years I guess? Opting for a yen’s bond remix for 500 Euros as opposed to maybe buying food that month or something, you know? But we’ve never thought about knocking it on the head. It’s kind of always been a vehicle for me and Alex to have some serious fun.
So even in those early days, we got the opportunity to go play in Germany and various sorts of places in the UK as well. So yeah, it’s always just been something that we’ve always got a lot out of. Not financially, you know?
Marcus: It’s always the way though, isn’t it? There’s so many people out there running labels, especially within this kind of area, and they’re not making a whole lot of money. But the love’s there and what you get out of it is the fun and enjoyment of putting music that you love out there.
Jamie Russell: I mean, we invested a lot of money into the label out of our own pockets in those early years. Yeah, it was just we didn’t really give it a second thought. It was like this is what we want to do; we’re going to do it. And yeah, like I said, I think it’s paid off in the end. I think those early days of like I said kind of struggling for food and being unable to pay the rent and annoying girlfriends, not annoying them as in they annoyed us, but us annoying them. Yeah, it’s kind of like I said eventually paid off.
Marcus: Which labels, going back to when you were going down to Massive and Oxford and everything and picking up those records and stuff, which labels really have influenced your, not your approach to Hypercolour, but have really sort of inspired you to run a label and to make the label what it is? I guess you must have a few labels.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, I guess from an aesthetic point-of-view, would be kind of a lot of the Warp stuff. Sort of Aphex Twin albums and Town Crier and Square Pusher and just seeing these really amazing products and thinking “Wow, I’d really like to put out something like that.” But I guess on a sound-wise, it would really be those early Defected and Subliminal records.
Marcus: They were so influential, weren’t they? They still are. They still are to this day.
Jamie Russell: They were. Yeah, yeah. Like the Kings of Tomorrow stuff and even sort of the Span and Charisma and DJ Disciple records. But yeah, let’s not forget Mr. Eric Ruwillow. I don’t know. I mean, all those guys, I don’t know what’s happened to them. Defected are cool. They’re doing particularly well and they’re still putting out incredible house music. I don’t really know what Ruwillow’s doing. But that was quite influential for me, and they were kind of quite tough records. But then you’ve got like, I mean a classic music company like Derek Carter and Luke Solomon’s label. NRK, Nick Harris’ label. Probably one of the labels I have the most records of, actually. It’s classic.
Marcus: A strong label.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, and he was putting out just really interesting deep house stuff from like Nick Holder, like Jamie Russell Anderson back in the day as well and King Brit remix. Stuff like that. But yeah, I guess they’re actually the four labels that probably I have the most records of in my collection.
Jamie Russell: And I think perhaps Hypercolour maybe is the modern day equivalent of that kind of house sound, really. I mean, it must be in a sense because like I said, it definitely influenced what I listen to now. I mean that mixed in with the rave tapes and drum and bass and techno stuff. So yeah, I had a strict mindset on what I was buying then. It was purely just to play at clubs. I was one of those DJs that liked to please, so I would pull out those big vocal house records and stuff.
Marcus: Are you still like that now?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, I just use Huxley’s Let It Go or Maxxi Soundsystem’s Regress. Yeah, I like a good vocal house record, definitely.
Marcus: Oh yeah, because Huxley’s got a new release coming.
Jamie Russell: Yeah, Bellywedge EP. Bellywedge has kind of got a bit of vocal in it, but it is definitely a club banger. I mean, that’s kind of what he does best. And the flip little thing is kind of a bit of sort of ravey, garagey tip. But yeah, once again, he’s kind of . . . yeah, he’s made his mark, you know? And just based on the feedback and stuff, it’s quite apparent that it’s going to do particularly well.
Marcus: Quality. And so just to finish up, I just wanted to ask you, obviously you’ve kind of given us hints here and there there’s a lot of stuff going on this year. But is there anything concrete that you can kind of just fill us in on?
Jamie Russell: Yeah, yeah. I mean there’s EPs coming up from like I said, [Indecipherable 00:58:53] part of the label, Arcist Uncommon which is a really, really cool sort of proper deep house track that sounds like Pepe Braddock [sounds like 00:59:05] stuff to me. We have an EP from Axel Boman who is one of our favorite artists. We have sort of EPs on the way from Elefino [sounds like 00:59:18]. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his stuff?
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. Quality stuff.
Jamie Russell: That release, Something Sounds, last year was probably one of our top ten singles. We have a double 12 from West Norwood Cassette Library which kind of spans a few parts of house music or genres, shall we say. Album-wise, I mean we’re going to do an album with Tom Demac, Kris Wadsworth, Solid Groove as I said. And on Sneaker, I’ve got some interesting stuff coming from Neil Landstrumm who, like Viber, is a bit of a legend I think. I’ve got lots of his releases on like Peacefrog and Planet Mu and stuff like that.
What else do we have? There’s loads. I mean, Bareskin, new Bareskin EP coming. A couple of releases from Alex as well, the label heads. One of them features a really, really cool Maya Jane Coles remix which we heard earlier this week.
So yeah, that’s kind of all I can disclose at the moment. But yeah, I think bigger and better things basically. I think certainly with the Viber stuff and Neil Landstrumm in particular, I think we’re going to jolt people’s perceptions of what they might expect. The Viber album, for example, is pretty much him just pulling out the 303 and yeah, I mean it’s really accessible believe it or not. A lot of people who know his stuff know he’s quite experimental. Anyone familiar with the Carrier District stuff, and really enjoyed that, will thoroughly enjoy what we’re going to put out from him as well. So for me again, he’s one of my heroes. So for us to be able to put out an album of his, I’m pretty excited about that.
Marcus: Quality, man. Nice one. Well thanks a lot for coming in.
Jamie Russell: Thanks for having me.
Marcus: Much appreciated.
Jamie Russell: No problem.
Marcus: Just to remind everyone once again, we’re giving away free pairs of HD-J500 Pioneer headphones. So if you want to be in a chance of winning them, subscribe to our channel. Make sure you turn in every Friday for the Friday Forum Live. We’re here 4:00 p.m. every Friday. Thanks a lot for tuning in.