South Africa has produced a few successful techno acts in the past two years, including Audiojerk and STAB Virus, who are gearing up for their much-anticipated performance at Awakenings this summer. Their success has been an inspiration for many young techno DJs, keen on replicating the main stage sounds of their heroes. It’s been healthy for the scene in general, but few possess the knowledge or experience necessary to push beyond the paint-by-numbers techno heard just about everywhere around the country.
D_Know wants to change that.
A prominent name in the South African techno scene, Cape Town’s D_Know has released on Berlin-based imprint GND Records and local powerhouse label Do Work, and will be making his debut at the legendary TOYTOY this month—a solid thumbs up from Johannesburg’s techno elite.
Now he’s embarking on a new journey with the launch of Knowledge Recordings, which will “showcase the darker, more leftfield sounds of techno—something which I feel is largely underappreciated in South Africa,” he says.
Starting a new record label can be a daunting task, so we caught up with Dean to find out more about how he plans to make his label stand out from the crowd.
Image by Aidan Tobias
What will Knowledge Recordings represent for the South African techno scene?
At the moment it’s focussed mainly, but not exclusively, on my own productions. I feel that producers often feel that the only way to be heard is to push all their material to international labels, but this often leads to disappointment and can become demotivating due to the long processes involved. There’s so much good music being made locally at the moment, so I’m just trying to showcase what I do within the scene and having my own label allows me to do this within a consistent and streamlined framework. Stylistically I’m looking to showcase the darker, more leftfield sounds of techno—something which I feel is largely underappreciated in South Africa.
Independent record labels are tough to maintain over the years, how will Knowledge be making sure it stays afloat?
This is true, but I’ve been trying to push my mindset in a positive direction. The label was by no means a spur of the moment decision as such, I have at least four months worth of releases to put out. I think consistency is key. I’m not planning on giving up making music any time soon, so there will be enough output to keep the label going for a while. I don’t expect the label to find immediate success (not just in a monetary sense), but having said that, I feel like it is still a good learning experience and also forces me to keep making new material, which is vital.
Image by Jono Jebus
The techno boom is very much evident in South Africa, but is already slowing down in Europe, to an extent. How do you plan on keeping audiences interested in the label once another genre becomes the “in” sound?
The very fact that I don’t focus on the “in” sound is what will keep the label interesting. Although I make “techno”, I don’t feel that what I do fits into people’s common idea of what the genre and the culture is about. In fact, when I was in Europe a few months ago, I felt like the scene showed no signs of slowing down—if anything, people seemed more open to the “less accessible” sounds of electronic music. Of course there are certain trends that come and go along the way, but I feel that projects with passion and artistic integrity are the ones that manage to transcend these fickle fads, which is what I aim for Knowledge to do.
Are there any artists you plan on featuring on the label soon?
Indeed! For the next EP scheduled for mid-May, I have South Korean producer Messiahwaits doing a remix of one of my tracks off the release. He got in touch with me a while ago after I released on Berlin-based imprint GND Records, a label that he also writes music for. He seemed like a nice guy and has always been supportive of my music, so I wanted to get him on board in some capacity. I’ve also got some material from my good friend and forward-thinking techno-head JED. I’m really happy about this, because he has been one of the few South African techno artists to start producing the kind of sound that I like. I have seen his production improving over the years, so I felt it would be fitting to feature him too. Finally, I have a remix coming from Brooklyn-based producer Klienfeld as well, but that will only be release quite a few months down the line.
What do you think the next step could be for South Africa’s techno scene?
People here are starting to understand techno culture in a deeper manner. Once the ‘trendy’ end of the market is no longer desirable, people will gravitate to the stronger, more cerebral sounds that the broad genre has to offer. I already see a lot of big promoters looking for more unique techno artists, which is a really positive thing in my opinion.
What is the end-goal for Knowledge Recordings?
To put out good music that is reflective of the sound I like. I would like to hear more South African producers bending the rules, and I’m hoping that with the label I will be sent some stuff that makes me feel positive about the growth of the scene here. At the end of the day, support is the best reward. So if I can say that the tracks that I have released on the label are being played by some of my favourite artists, I would have reached my goal!
D_Know’s “Unknown Forces” is out now on Knowledge Recordings via Bandcamp. Listen below.