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Interview: Hotflush Recordings

interview_hotflush

With a slew of sought-after 12″ releases in its quickly growing catalogue, London’s iconoclastic Hotflush Recordings has emerged as a key node in the rapidly mutating dubstep scene.  The rolling thunder of Eric H’s “The Lights,” the breakstep innovations of Toasty and Distance, and, most recently, Scuba’s ubiquitous “Timba” are just a few examples of the label’s recent output.  We talk with Paul Rose and El Sid about forthcoming projects, playing abroad, and the label’s embrace of the mp3 format.

Riddim.ca – It’s been a big year for Hotflush. Can you bring us up to speed on some of the latest/biggest developments? I’ve read that you might also have a new look for your packaging and a video release in the works as well.

Paul – The last year has been really successful and we’ve started to break down barriers between scenes, which is what we aimed to do when starting the label. In the next 12 months we’re looking to widen the music policy even further, and bring through some new artists, which is what I think the scene really needs. I get sent so many CDs and there’s so much great music out there, but a lot of labels are scared to take the plunge with something new. We’re going to be putting our heads on the block and blooding a lot of new guys no-one will have heard of before, which is exciting for us and hopefully for everyone buying the records. There’s also the first in a series of remix releases coming very soon, featuring Vex’d and Toasty remixing a couple of old Hotflush favourites.

Riddim.ca – Hotflush has really led the way amongst dubstep-related labels in embracing the pay-per-mp3 distribution model. That’s been great for fans over here who can’t always afford or even find the stuff. Now other labels (DMZ, Terrorrhythm, Ital) are following suit over at Bleep. You’ve had a download-only release and HF 009 was pre-released online. What led you to take this route and what has response been like from artists and fans?

Paul – We decided to embrace the download thing from early on because we feel it’s the biggest revolution in music distribution ever. We didn’t have particularly high hopes for digital sales in the short term, and that has been borne out, but we felt that getting our foot on the ladder early would help later. There is always the worry that it will affect vinyl sales, and I think that’s why a lot of people were reluctant to do it initially, but we haven’t seen any evidence of that at all. I think the kind of people that buy our music recognize that it’s a tiny industry and everyone involved, from the artists to the labels to the music-buyers, has a responsibility to support it in whatever way they can. As a label we also have the responsibility to make our music as widely available as possible, and mp3 downloads are part of that.

Riddim.ca – Is the iPod set (IE: fans who aren’t necessarily interested in vinyl) your primary target audience or are you partly looking at laptop DJs using software like Ableton Live and NI Traktor? Have you heard Hotflush tracks in digital mixes?

Paul – I have heard of people using Hotflush tracks in laptop sets… We don’t really target audiences like that to be honest, we just try to get the music to as many places as possible and whoever buys it, buys it. I think, though, that individual track downloads are probably more accessible to DJs, just because of the structure of the music. DJ sets would probably appeal more to iPod heads, and that’s something we’re looking at.

Riddim.ca – The old ‘vinyl purist’ thing seems to come up anytime “dubstep” and “mp3” appear in the same sentence but obviously you can do things in the digital domain that you can’t do with vinyl. Really it’s just a different beast. Apparently Geeneus did part of his last FWD set using using Traktor. Is this something that either of you has any interest in? Have you experimented with it at all?

Paul – The debate between dubstep DJs seems to be more around dubplates and CDs. A lot of DJs will only play off dub, whereas others are happy spinning off a CDJ1000. Some producers hate hearing their music straight off a CD or mp3, others don’t. I suppose the laptop thing is an extension of that. Personally, if people want to experiment with DJing then great, as long as you do it well. I’ve heard a few laptop sets with some pretty shoddy mixing, and it makes you think: ‘why don’t you just use the CD decks?’ One of my favourite DJs is Richie Hawtin; he seriously pushes the boundries, but he always keeps it tight…

Riddim.ca – Your most recent tracks from Toasty and Distance actually seem to translate extremely well to mp3 because they’re quite focused on the mid-range whereas a dubstep track that’s all about the bottom and tops ends of the spectrum can lose a bit of its punch when it’s compressed. Have the constraints of compressed audio been a concern as you’ve begun to adapt your catalogue to mp3 format? Does it force new approaches to production, mastering or even the tracks you choose to release? Or is it even much of an issue in the end (why or why not)?

Paul – Nothing affects the Hotflush A&R process apart from whether me or Sid like a particular track. Then we fight! No, I actually think that the compression on a decent mp3 is barely audible, so it doesn’t make too much difference really. With mastering, the versions that make it to the download sites are the same versions on the vinyl. Maybe when digital sales improve a little we can master separately for mp3, but not now!

Riddim.ca – I think the first time I heard the Toasty and Distance tracks was on the ‘Dub n Breaks’ mix from earlier in the year and they really caught my attention. Sonically – with that deep churning mid-range – they brought to mind something like My Bloody valentine or early Swervedriver mixed with Torque-era No U Turn. I think Nick Gutterbreakz compared it to Joey Beltram making Sabbath-influenced techno in the early-90s. It’s a really exciting and energetic sound, and it seems to be quite unique in the current dance production world. Where are these guys coming from in terms of influences and previous work? What were your first impressions of their style? Is it a sound that’s more prevalent on the breaks side of things?

Paul – Joey Beltram vs Tony Iomi! Nice. I really have no idea what twisted weirdness those guys listen to at home. Although I know that Distance is a reformed metaller, so that might be where the Sabbath sound comes from… Actually there’s a couple of tracks he’s done recently which pretty much sound like heavy metal played on soft-synths (which is better than it sounds). I guess ‘1 on 1’ is the most straight breaks track we’ve released, but I think it’s got a lot more to it than 99% of the bassline breaks stuff out there. It’s not really a typical Distance track though, most of his stuff is a lot more out-there. As for Toasty, a lot of people put him in the breaks category, but everyone seems to be into his stuff, from DnB heads to electro nutters.

Riddim.ca – You’ve also just launched Scuba with a tracks that have been getting battered by the likes of N-Type. Is Scuba set to be a full-fledged sub-label with a more specific grimey-dubstep focus? What can we expect from the imprint in the future?

Paul – The Scuba thing isn’t a sub-label (despite what was said on the website), we just gave it a different cat number because it was a bit of a departure, musically, from the stuff we’ve put out recently. There’ll be at least two more Scuba releases in that form, one of which will be out before the end of the year. It was Hatcha’s input that got the whole thing started really, he was playing Timba last year!

Riddim.ca – Unless I missed it Scuba’s still ‘the mystery producer.’ Do we know who he is yet? (I was thinking ***** for a while, now I’m pretty sure it’s *****) Any hints on who it is or what’s to come?

Paul – Yes, it’s still an official secret, although I’m sure a bit of net-hunting would reward the more curious dubstepper…

Riddim.ca – Now I’ve just checked the Boxcutter (HF010) clips on your site and that’s a whole other monster altogether. “Brood” sounds like early Dillinja track being torn apart at the limbs with some Bizzy B-style darkside hoovers thrown in for good measure. Then the flip, “Sunshine,” is this ecstatic bass and flutes workout. Can you tell us a bit about the latest upcoming producer you’ve signed? Do you have a release date for this yet?

Paul – Boxcutter is a very talented guy called Barry Lynn, who writes insane music. He sent over that Brood track a little while ago, which is obviously sick, but it was when we got hold of some of his more dubby stuff that we realised how good he is. Some of his production tricks and melodies are just amazing! And he’s got a live set, which I have yet to witness, but if it’s half as good as his tunes I’m expecting to be blown away. The Brood/Sunshine release will be out in September, and we’re putting together another one at the moment.

Riddim.ca – You guys have been doing sets on Pyrotechnic Radio for a while now and you’ve been travelling a bit as well, playing sets in Hungary and elsewhere. Can you fill us in on where you’ve been playing, people you’ve met and the receptions you’ve had away from home?

Sid – This year I’ve had the honour and pleasure in taking the dubstep sound abroad – namely to Hungary, Croatia and forthcoming in September, Holland with Digital Mystikz. On my travels, I’ve met very enthusiastic people – those keen on bass influenced dance music from London! It’s been positive vibes all the way and a learning experience for me as a DJ. Breakbeat is very popular on the continent I was amazed at how well it goes down, they’re still not completely hot on the dubstep, purely because they haven’t really heard anything like it – so its an education thing really!

As for radio – yeah we’ve been doing Pyro for around 2 years now and are particularly looking forward to it going digital – replacing BBC 1xtra as the true station for underground urban dance music – it’s no contest really, just look at the lineup we’ve got! We occasionally guest on pirate stations here and there. Paul is just about to start a monthly on Barcelona-based webstation Dostrece Radio (www.dostrece.net). Check out the website and blog for more details.

Riddim.ca – Can we look forward to Hotflush dates or a North American tour anytime in the near future?

Paul – There’s talk of something, but nothing concrete as yet. Promoters are more than welcome to get in touch – we’re pretty cheap!

Web: www.hotflushrecordings.com
Contact: info@hotflushrecordings.com

Interview by paul autonomic

Category: Interviews

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).