Can you take me through your process on the basis of a release that's particularly dear to you? How do you decide to release it, what did you start with, what sources did you draw from for all tasks related to it and how did the finished product gradually take shape?
Ok - I’ve chosen the album One by Req. It was the 3rd album we released on Skint. I loved Req’s music, it used lots of elements I loved - old school hip hop breaks and phrases with techno soundscapes and atmospherics. It sounded like nothing else. At first, I tried to A&R it, but he recorded everything ‘in the moment’ so it was difficult to change things once they were recorded. Once I accepted that then I just had to trust Req and his judgement. He made lots of music and I chose my favourites and he did the same and we came up with an LP track list. After that it was important to present it right. Req is a great graffiti artist so that was always going to feature heavily in the artwork. We got him together with the designers to discuss the concept. He would paint a large piece that would become the cover, we also filmed it so in one afternoon we had the cover and a video. That was the cornerstone of the campaign. Req was never going to be our biggest seller but he had an audience that loved him.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do the label and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Before you asked I didn’t think I had a fixed routine but now I think I do. Listen to music, answer emails, look at the internet. Repeat!
Hopefully I can get time to switch off and get creative - be it music or art.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
This is a very tricky question and one I will always be asking myself. I’m happiest ‘in the zone’ - oblivious to all the distractions, be it the clock or the internet, but it’s hard to get there sometimes. I have learnt that it’s important not to force creativity, if it’s not happening do something else. My favourite at the moment is to learn things, there are a million tutorials waiting for me to watch them and that will help and if it doesn’t you’ve learnt something new.
How is listening to the actual music and writing or reading about it connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally?
Before Skint I used to be a journalist too. Originally it was a good way of meeting people in the industry but I realised it’s always good to analyse things - even if the conclusion is that it’s better to feel dance music than write about it! Scrutinising the things you love is always good, but it’s also good to know when to stop and just feel.
There has been an exponential growth in promotion agencies and there is still a vast landscape for music magazines. What's your perspective on the music promo- and journalism-system? In how far is it influencing your choice of artists, in how far is it useful for potential buyers, in how far do you feel it is possibly undermining your work?
I refer you to my earlier answer. It’s all part of an ever-changing game that you have to constantly analyse. Everyone is scrambling around trying to find the right answer but it should never influence the fundamental question - is this a good record or not?
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art?
Art is a constant, ever-changing, brilliant, inspiring & frustrating thing. I hope I will always be trying to create art in some shape or form. From doodling on a note pad to setting up a record label that is still going after 23 years!
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of labels still intact. Do you have a vision of labels, an idea of what they could be beyond their current form?
I agree, it is remarkable… I think labels are more important than ever, technology has made it so easy to make music that there is just too much of it, people need a filter that they can trust, be it a DJ or a label or a magazine or a blog. I think the process and shape will continue to evolve and change but ultimately it still comes back to - I trust this person’s taste I’m going to listen to their music.