Black Key Records have just dropped their third release in the form of Nottingham based Chamboché's Metacoma EP along with their brand new podcast series kicking off with Tom Sevinski. With a string of quality releases set for release we get under the skin of Richard Harmer, the one man army behind the label to find what its like to run a label on your own, the thought processes that goes into choosing a release and what the future looks like for Black Key. Plus, Chamboché provides us with an exclusive mix! Check it out!
How did the birth of Black Key Records come about? I guess it all came about through a passion for house music really; a cliche I know, but it's basically where it stemmed from. I've been djing and promoting parties in Brighton for a number of years and launching a label seemed like the obvious next step for me.
The house scene in Brighton has been a bit all over the place for a few years now, with no real consistency to crowds supporting promoters who take a risk on booking underground house artists. I used to be a lot more involved in promoting than I am now, mainly because I think the scene is fickle and regular party goers seem to follow the latest trend rather than actually being what I'd call real house music fans. Perhaps I'm just being cynical, but like many other places in the UK, the whole Hot Creations thing seems to have taken over and whilst I'm not anti what those guys are doing, I don't necessarily think it represents something which is sustainable, and it certainly isn't my cup of tea.
Moving away from promoting naturally moved me in a different direction and I was listening to more music, and most importantly listening to a bigger variety of music, most of which I found more inspiring than some of the more tech based house that I was in to for a while. I've definitely been influenced by some of the Nu Disco stuff which had a big resurgence in Brighton around 3 years ago, most of which was thrust on me by a good mate of mine, Paul Budd, who's been my DJ and promotion partner since 2007. Paul also runs the Unity Agency which is home to Andy Ash, Chamboche and Ugly Drums, all of which are involved with Black Key.
Anyway, I've digressed massively! So basically I'd be toying with the idea of launching a label early in 2011, and listening to so much good music gave me the motivation to just do it and in March 2011 Black Key Records was born. Like with many things, I totally underestimated the amount of work and time involved in getting things off the ground, hence why the first release didn't drop until November last year. The most difficult part, as you would expect, was making the decision on who to approach for the first EP. I was trawling through a lot of music at the time, but a track that really stood out for me was Jonny Cade's "Sanguine Lamb" which I first heard on a Loco Records podcast around April last year. I knew Jonny had released on Kolour in a collaboration with Huxley, so he was on my radar, but this track was a real melodic houser which, in my opinion, was produced very well. I approached Jonny and a few months later his "Groß Vater" EP emerged.
From the start I had wanted to get Ethyl involved in the label as I'd been a huge fan of Tim's (Ethyl) work since his first release with Flori on Freerange in 2009. I basically hassled him for ages and he eventually agreed to remix the a-side "Vertigoed", which I was chuffed to bits with. Tim's remix added a completely new dimension to the EP sonically, and also gave it some more weight from a promotional point of view. So that's how it all came about.
Can you tell us a bit about the team behind the label? The team is basically just me. I'd love to say that I've got an office full of A&R guys and a label manager, but that would just be a lie! I actually like it that way, it means I only have myself to answer to when things don't go to plan, but equally when they do, I definitely feel a lot of pride in creating something I think (and hope) people are in to, and knowing that I haven't compromised on any aspect of the label, especially the music. I'm also working full time, so there is some pressure on my time, but I'm one of those annoying people who likes to be busy.
Guide us through the tune selection process. What are they key factors that you look for in a track that makes you think “that’s right for the label”? I don't have a set process as such, I think that's quite a clinical way to select music. All 3 releases so far have been quite different from one another, which I think reflects my attitude towards selecting artists and tracks for the label. I see Black Key as being a deep house label predominately, but to me that covers quite a broad spectrum of music and still gives me plenty of scope to be imaginative in my selection. The disco influence I mentioned is definitely apparent in Andy Ash's "Broken" which is the a-side on BKR002, but equally Ugly Drums' remix of that track is a stripped back and fairly sparse deep houser, so the two are very different. I think it's really important to keep a good variety of music on releases, and not to be too obvious at any point. I'm listening to a lot of music at the moment, as you would expect, and running a label definitely changes the way you think about music generally. When I've got my DJ hat on, I'm thinking about tracks differently from when the label hat is on. Tracks that I would play in a DJ set, are not necessarily tracks that I would consider for the label. In fact, sometimes they are very different.
There is always a commercial element to selecting tracks too. Although I would genuinely never even consider releasing a track just because I thought it would sell, there obviously has to be a commercial consideration when making a decision to release music, which adds another dimension to the process. Having said that, I count myself very fortunate to be exposed to music which I think is excellent and should sell a few copies too, that's the ideal mix really. Ultimately, I'm looking to put out music that I like and that I think other people will like. That seems like a really obvious statement, but it's been my ethos from the start, keep it simple!
Chamboché’s Metacoma EP has just dropped, what was it about his sound that made you decide he was right for the label? I was first introduced to Sam's (Chamboche) music by the aforementioned Paul Budd. Sam is on the Unity Agency and Paul sent me a link to his Souncloud page - I went through a load of his tracks and liked what I heard. Sam has a really unique sound, and one that also keeps you guessing a bit, which I think is really hard to achieve and is a very endearing feature in house music. His tracks also have a certain rawness to them, which I love.
Sam's "Metacoma EP" was originally agreed around November last year after he sent me a load of unreleased tracks, so it's been in the offing for a while now. I'm really excited about this EP as I think it's different from Sam's other releases and it fits in perfectly with where the label is at this point in time. The 3 original tracks all offer something different from each other, which is great, and there's a bit of something for everyone. The remixes from BLM provide another angle completely, so I'm really made up with the overall package.
Sam's release (BKR003) has definitely attracted the most attention in terms of press/online coverage and DJ support, which to be honest is a massive weight off my shoulders as it means that the label has made some impact and been noticed. I had set myself a target of having made some decent progress by the third release, so I breathed a sigh of relief when I released the EP was getting the right sort of attention. I have to thank the guys as Dispersion PR for all the work they've done to help get the label off the ground - they really do have their finger on the pulse.
BLM has done a couple of remixes of the track ‘Mello’ on the release. Tell us how the relationship with him came about? I've been a fan of Ben's (BLM) music for a few years; I think the first track of his that I bought was 'Down Down', which was a collaboration with Pawas released early 2009. I'm also really into the music that Fear of Flying are putting out, so Ben seemed like an obvious choice to get involved for a remix. Ben's music has gone in a different direction over the last couple of years and although I was into the stuff he was putting out before, he's really turned the heat up and is making some sweet tracks which I rate very highly indeed. His track 'All Out of Place' on Tsuba's vinyl only imprint last year was, for a me, a work of genius and I've been canning it in DJ sets every since.
Originally, Ben was only doing one remix, but after we had agreed the first one (which is now the lofi remix), we got chatting on Skype and he just dropped into conversation that he'd also done 2 other versions. Obviously I took a listen and quickly realised that there was another nice little number which he'd put together and so we ended up agreeing on 2 remixes for the release. The second one would have never seen the light of day if it hadn't been been for that chance conversation! I'm chuffed to bits with the 2 remixes Ben's done.
You’ve just kicked off your monthly podcast with Tom Sevinski, tell us more about the new podcast series and what made you pick Tom? I've been meaning to get a podcast series off the ground for a while now, but it got put on the back burner with everything else that's been happening. I've managed to get ahead of myself over the last month or so, which left a bit more time to sort out the first podcast and get some sort running order arranged for the next few months. Chamboche will be up next at the end of April. Tom Sevinski is my eastern bloc alter ego who has a far more left wing political stance than me. He can also be very persuasive, and I got bullied into letting him do the first podcast. Make of that what you will! I think it's important to support the scene generally, and podcasts are an outlet for that. It's nice to have something which isn't 100% about the music on the label.
You’ve got a couple of events coming up this summer. What can you let slip about these? Paul Budd and I have been throwing a series of secret roof-top parties since the summer of 2010, and we're continuing those this year. We've been running parties together since 2007, but we took a break from the stuff we were doing jointly as the scene in Brighton went a bit weird and we also moved in a different direction musically for a while.
The roof-top shindigs are always on the Sunday over bank holiday weekends, from early afternoon onwards, with the venue remaining a secret until the night before. We're very fortunate to have built a great following since the first one in 2010, partly, I think, because we run them as guest list only events and we're very clear that wankers need not apply. The last thing you want on a roof terrace, mid Sunday afternoon when you've got a real party on your hands, is some arse hole kicking off. We've been quite strict about the door policy, not in a poncey way, just to make sure everyone feels safe and enjoys themselves (including us!).
The first one this year is Sunday 6th May, with Kid Who making a guest appearance, then we've got Ethyl confirmed for 3rd June, which I'm really excited about as Tim (Ethyl) can do no wrong in my eyes at the moment - I love all of his output. 25th August is Cosmic Boogie and then we'll finish the year off with a New Years Eve party. We've always steered clear of NYE, but we took a risk last year and it really paid off, so we'll almost certainly get involved again this year. There are a few other things planned, including Huxley who we've got booked to make his Brighton debut on Friday 19th May, at Audio, which is also my birthday, so that's pretty cool.
Jonny Cade, Andy Ash and now Chamboché. Who's next for Black Key? There are a few exciting projects in the pipeline, BKR004 will be a various artists EP with tracks from Flori, BLM and James Johnston, which I'm really pleased with. I'm a bit reluctant to go into much more detail on other releases as I think it might jinx them not to happen for some reason. I would definitely like to release an album at some point over the next 12 months, but who and when that will be is anyone's guess at the moment!
Chamboché Exclusive Mix Tracklisting:
Space Dimension Controller - mkzero900 [Unreleased]
Moodymanc - Clearmountain [CDR]
Bonobo feat. Bajka - Days To Come [Ninja Tune]
Casinoboy - Jobsagoodun [Jiscomusic]
Red Rack'em - How We Do [Bergerac]
Phil Weeks - Walking In The Dark (Instru 2) [Robsoul]
Deep Space Orchestra - Blindsided (Medlar remix) [FOTO]
Gerry Read - Crooked [Delsin]
Clouded Vision - City Thunder (Chamboché remix) [Forthcoming on Throne Of Blood]
BICEP - $tripper [Love Fever]
Mr Mathz - Preacher's Daughter [Urban Ridims]
Recloose - UHF [Rush Hour]
Aphrodisiac - Song Of The Siren [Rush Hour]
Omar S - Psychotic Photosynthesis [FXHE]
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