null044: Love Love Records
Our latest podcast comes from a label that we have a shared a long history with, Love Love Records. Starting out as a net label in 2004 they’ve been collecting music from the widest reaches of electronics, covering ground as wide as breakcore, electronica, acid and techno from their most admired producers as well as their home grown circle of creators. We linked up during the net label years before null+void was a blog and myself (Kirsti) was putting on small nights around London when we went around calling ourselves Avoiding The Void Since 1984 hosting the label and their cast of experimental and rave focussed artists.
So it’s nice then that over 10 years on from their inception the guys behind the label are still pushing their sound and have grown it into a physical entity. Their first physical release homed Lakker’s Death Mask EP in 2012 catching the off kilter techno duo as they were on their rise before going onto release on the seminal R&S Recordings and most recently Digital Hardcore veteran Christoph De Babalon signed his latest long player to the imprint. The guys have also run their own string of raucous events, hosting other label signees Anklepants, Beatwife and Scrase to tear up success at Power lunches (we wholly recommend you head down to their next one this Friday night) over the last year further expressing their musical position.
It’s a joy to present a fresh mix from the crew alongside an in depth and honest interview about the core collective of Sam Fez, Henry Lynn, Keith Green, Vincent Vargas-Meinel story to date with an honourable nod to lost founding member Darren Kennedy (RIP).
Can we begin by chatting a bit about how the label actually started?
Sam: We started off putting on weird punk nights in Colchester that had bands and electronic acts on the same bills in 2004 and put together a couple of CDR compilations and a little EP of my own music called ‘Straight Edge Scene-Kid Sleepover’. At this time it was just me and some friends from school just putting on mostly local bands and having some fun at the infamous ‘The Cambridge Arms’. This was during the days of Myspace and we discovered a lot of amazing music through that and I ultimately fell into a more ravey electronic crowd during my first attempt at college and was completely blown away by stuff from Wrong Music and V/vm Test Records artists when they’d play at Colchester Arts Centre. As internet connections improved releasing free music online seemed like a really fresh idea and a good logical step to take.
In March 2011, Darren ‘Emo Hunter’ was murdered. I met Darren when I was 17 or so and him being a few years older meant he was not only a bit like an older brother to me, but he also really helped in terms of people taking us seriously and became a sort of front man to the label with his outgoing attitude. I played a lot of shows with him and he gigged extensively in the UK on his own with his remarkable vinyl sets with mixing so ADHD it worked completely amongst line-ups of live sets playing acid, IDM and breakcore and completely smashing it at drum’n’bass and dubstep nights. When he went missing he had about 6 or 7 shows booked, some of them quite high profile too. He had a few releases locked in his inbox as well including some bits for an amazing compilation he was putting together which had tracks from The Teknoist and early Culprate before he blew up. He was quite a chaotic guy at times so it was quite a strange time for us all when he died.
That was a really sad and shocking time, I remember when it happened and he just seemed to drop off the face of the earth and missed out on some great opportunities, undoubtedly it was the most hard to deal with for those closest to him like yourself…
Sam: I found it incredibly difficult to deal with a lot of things for quite some time and it changed a lot about how I looked at life and began to question EVERYTHING. I was finding it difficult to work on my own music and certainly for at least a year really disliked a lot of things about rave music and the lifestyle – certainly badly compressed tinny sounding breakcore that all sounded the same, had little depth conceptually and was definitely starting to damage my ears. Songs like ‘Hello, My Cock Is An Aardvark’ by Bong Ra are a pretty good example of how uninspired things were getting. I think this led to wanting to start something new, and to try a different approach with the label. I was pretty depressed back then, and had been taking a lot of drugs and it felt like most things in the 4 or 5 years previous had passed me by completely. Pop music was vastly different and the way people were digesting music changed as well after the novelty of downloading free music on the internet began to wear off. I rediscovered The KLF and began reading books by Bill Drummond which reignited my love for music in general and started making more effort to pick up music I liked on vinyl noticing how much more I cared about the music I owned on a hard copy. I also had a hard drive die on me around that time, so I lost all the music I had gathered digitally since I stopped buying CDs around the age of 15.
I went back to college where I got to know Henry and his pals a lot more; we had met previously through liking similar music but never really hung out properly. It was nice to meet someone else who was interested in the more forward thinking side of electronic music who also had a similar background in aggressive punk music. He and his friends were listening to more bass driven music like the Hessle audio and Planet Mu stuff that was around in about 2009/10 – and there was a shared love of Lakker which made it easy for us to gel on a collaborative level as I had spoken to Ian (Eomac) about possibly releasing some of their music….as long as it was on wax! It felt like we should put our money where our mouth is and start giving the music we love a physical release like it deserved….and then, maybe when humans are extinct and aliens or AI are discovering what our society was like, there might be small amounts of evidence of our tiny little sub culture.
Keith: Well we had had the netlabel thing going for a long time by this point, maybe like 4/5 years or so. Over that period both me and Vince were pretty young (14 – 18) and so just maintaining the website and finding good unknown artists online took up the majority of our time and I was pretty happy with how it was going, I think mainly because I was so young; I never really held deep set plans for progression of the label until I hit 18.
It’s a few years back now that you took the leap from netlabel and started doing physical releases – why did you feel that was something you wanted to do?
Keith: When Sam suggested that we do a vinyl it was just the right time. We were starting to realise that anyone with basic HTML knowledge and a couple of tracks could start up a netlabel overnight and we wanted the world to know that we were serious about this shit! As well as that, up until that point I hadn’t been responsible for that much A&R. All the artists I wanted to release were unrealistic at the time, people like Richard Devine or Luke Vibert. Vinyl seemed like a way to take us closer to being able to put out records by artists that we held in high esteem and simultaneously identify ourselves as not only a label that’s in it for the long run but also one that genuinely values new and interesting music that doesn’t necessarily get as much exposure as it should. I think releasing vinyl was an unconscious inevitability in all our minds and so when it was suggested there wasn’t a single point where we thought it was a bad idea. Especially since it was Lakker; although all four of us obviously share a lot of interests both in and outside of music, Lakker was something that we unanimously considered to be good (happens less often than you think!) so we knew it was a solid choice. Plus I was soon to be off to uni and I knew full well that student loans could be put to better use than buying top shelf cereal so financially we would be in a good position, which was (and to some extent still is) unusual to us. So yeah, I think we felt it was important to do for the growth, identity and integrity of the label but also because the tracks were fuckin killer and we knew Lakker were ace and not getting the attention that they deserved.
Vince: At the time we just wanted to provide more for the artists who we were working for. We’d looked at CDs a long time ago sort of around mid-2009 and saw it was viable financially and relatively cheap but ultimately we weren’t quite ready to make the commitment back then and our planned incarnation of our debut CD didn’t get past a conceptual stage. These early discussions played heavily in us deciding to do our first record a few years later down the line. I think for a while we were waiting for the right music to emerge and when we decided to approach Lakker and they responded with the desire of wax we collectively felt that this was something that would be foolish to pass up and a great opportunity for us to take the next step and hopefully put out the first of many physicals to come.
” It symbolized a rebirthing of our whole operation, for me it represented a complete ascension to the next level in nearly every way.” – Henry
Henry: I wasn’t really involved in any decision making side of the label until the leap into doing physical releases in 2012 but I’d known the guys for a few years up until that point. I’d always been really into what they were putting out, especially Scrase’s stuff after hearing the ‘Silo Fin’ EP and Beatwife’s ‘Lord Cornwallis’ EP, but it wasn’t until the first LOVWAX vinyl was being developed that I felt comfortable getting involved on an equal level to the others, as they’d already had their own thing going for so long. It seemed like a good opportunity to join in when the label was about to change shape a bit and embark on new endeavours and the Lakker release was a really good crossover of our individual tastes up until that time. Sam came across them just before the release of their Spider Silk release came out on Killekill so it felt like a good time to step out as, being as small an entity as we were, we didn’t want to hold out on releasing them knowing that they’d be moving onto bigger things quite quickly. It was the long term plan that we were starting to formulate at that point that got me really on board with the whole thing. The fact that there were 4 of us able to work on putting releases together and raise money for projects gave me the confidence to think that putting out 12”s and CDs could be realistic.
Do you think it’s helped to solidify the label’s profile somewhat?
Keith: Definitely, as was said part of it was just the natural next step but another part was it was our way of proving that we mean serious business. I think it was a greater solidification for us internally than it was the public. Given that we’ve taken a learn-as-we-go approach to running the label, we didn’t really do the best PR job for the record and it sold poorly. Therefore we hadn’t grown on paper, if anything we shrank due to lack of return on the record but in terms of how seriously we took the label; releasing that record was a catalyst. Before that whilst we all talked about it seriously when we met up I think it was more of a ‘just something fun that we did on the weekend’ kinda vibe, at least for me anyway. When we did that record it was a strong act of magic not just in revealing to us how much we’d grown since the days of trawling through myspace accounts and trying to blag our way into local music venues but also the idea that when we all pitched in we could make something where the result transcended the sum of the parts. I remember crystal clear when I held my first copy of the first record we’d made. Shit was electric.
Vince: It symbolized a rebirthing of our whole operation, for me it represented a complete ascension to the next level in nearly every way. Real effort was always put into the content we was putting out by our artists so by going for physical formats it was like us trying to return that favour by putting even more into making a great release, unlike digital content the risk was real but I think this only motivated us more.
Sam: It really helped us to secure a distribution deal with the State51 conspiracy, who are rare good guys and have played a large part in everything we’ve done since signing with them.
Henry: Purely as a music lover as well, it’s really gratifying to be able to have had a hand in the creation of the sort of physical artefacts I already placed a lot of value in. Slows the release schedule down a bit though.
Sam: We wanted Scrase – Heart to be LOVWAX01, but it took us until LOVWAX03 to get it out!
This year you managed to land an album from Christoph de Babalon which is out this month – how did that come about? Have you all been long time fans of Christoph’s work?
Henry: In the last couple of years I’ve found myself listening to more stuff from a decade or two ago more than music that’s being released now. I missed out on a lot of those things at the time having only starting paying proper attention to electronic music when I was about 16 in 2007ish so I’ve been finding that the older stuff I hear is often really fresh to me. When Josh (anklepants) linked us up with Christoph I went into his back catalogue retrospectively with the other guys and was really blown away by how early he was coming out with proper ground-breaking stuff. After making contact the album came together really fluidly as Christoph had loads of really good tracks to choose from and he gave us a lot of freedom in collectively putting together a really good showcase of his sound.
Sam: I had been aware of him through older friends over the years and came across things on Digital Hardcore being a bit of a goth while at school and being into Alec Empire/Atari-Teenage Riot etc but never really sat down and fully immersed myself in his work. My friends who were into him seemed REALLY into him though. We checked out his mix on Tom Ravenscroft’s Radio6 show which was really great and contained a nice interview which was quite insightful. Later we put ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’ on and some other bits of his on and agreed he was a really special artist with an incredibly distinctive and influential sound. Was good to get him over to London last December for the Anklepants shows where we had a chance to meet him and talk about the release. We got the tracks mastered at Springvale Studios with Mark Harwood in the same room that the infamous ‘Black Room’ by The KLF and Extreme Noise Terror was recorded in which was nice extra magick and a great day out!
Keith: I remember Henry was the one to introduce me to Christoph. When I heard “If You’re Into It I’m Out Of It” it was a really liberating experience; especially with the harder end of electronic music becoming much more shiny in its production values, as it has over the years. It was great to hear something with real grit to it, sounded much more warm & organic and resonated with me on a deeper level than other hard/breaky acts which were all super digital and lacked the imperfection of a human touch. Then I found out that some of the tracks were about 15 years old. Been a fan ever since.
Vince: I am actually a new fan of his too, like Keith my first taste of his material was also the 1997 ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’ Album, I was pretty hooked on his sound since then. Later on I gave a lot of his stuff a thorough listen over, his more refined sound in the 2012 album ‘A Bond With Sorrow’ in particular I really enjoyed its highlighting a slower feel. It’s great to see the versatility, endurance, abundance and innovation in his sound and I think we all see it as a great honour that we’ve had the opportunity to work with him for his latest CD – it’s an endearing endeavour for us.
I know you each have really hands on roles in the label and you handle the web design, design and production yourselves – can you run us through who holds what role at the label?
Keith: I think it’s fair to say that whilst we all have specific roles we’re not confined to them completely and ideas are relatively free flowing when it comes to putting releases together. There’ll always be an element of peer review in any bit of work each of us might carry out and I think that’s an incredibly important part of the process. Having said that we do have our specific areas of expertise. I tend to work on the website more than anything. It’s funny for me to look at the website now as the creation of it was essentially Vince’s and my way of learning to code. Which was a great experience but as a result the underlying source for the site is pig ugly. I really need to rewrite the whole thing at some point but I’ll wait until I get a site redesign from Henry haha.
Henry: I’ve been finding myself doing more A&R and general comms as time has gone by and we’ve collectively had more on our plate…. The aesthetic design and presentation of the label I’ve always thought very important and I’ve probably taken the most hands-on role in that side of things. I did the artwork for a couple of releases as well as our own Love Love graphics, flyer designs etc… But more recently I’ve been loving getting into the video side of things too having done some visuals for Christoph’s new release and previously for ‘Movon’ by Scrase. I’ve taken on the role of doing DJ Love Love Records for mixes and live shows in the last year as well. As Keith mentioned, any important creative decisions have to be agreed upon by all four of us so we’re always discussing what’s happening which is a good way of ensuring that we remain passionate about what we’re doing.
“There’ll always be an element of peer review in any bit of work each of us might carry out and I think that’s an incredibly important part of the process.” – Keith
Vince: Really it’s not concrete but we’ve always tried to balance our strengths and weaknesses with regards to the workload internally – couple this philosophy with one of open discussion and democratic decision making and we’ve seemed to stay pretty productive without many hiccups in the past.
Sam: I tend to do a little more A+R but I don’t do nearly as much of the mechanical side of things as the others. I make a lot of the phone calls….and make the tea. I do make a mean cup of tea.
What’s been your biggest challenges and rewards from running a label?
Keith: Our single biggest challenge is and probably always will be money. Rewards getting to see all the cool shit we’ve made lined up and gloat over it in the mirror.
Henry: Yeah having money seems like one of the biggest challenges in doing physical releases these days. Definitely more benefits than negatives though! I’d probably always imagined a label as something I might do when I was a bit older but realising I could throw myself into something sooner surrounded by good people on the same wavelength was really great. Hearing unreleased music from people you’ve never met before. The people from all over the world you meet through the mutual appreciation of good music.
Sam: Occasionally going without luxuries or even at times decent food to make something work whilst sticking to deadlines…Rewards, where to start? Being in the loop with a lot of music I’m into, the best thing is probably the amazing people I’ve met over the years from being involved in music. I’m most grateful for this.
Vince: I think our biggest issue will be and has always been the fundamental limits of time itself. The label isn’t self-sustaining financially and our time to grow it is limited by the acquisition of capital which is needed in order to expand it. It’s a fine balance and not one an individual always has full control over, our first record was a real challenge in this department but all we could do was find the cash somehow and get it in production. The rewards of doing what we do outweigh anything though, the biggest reward for me is when we go public with something new and exciting that we are all really hyped about – its more than worth the effort every time.
The events have been going real well and you guys even hosted a room at Bangface – why do you think it’s important to represent your label in the rave?
Sam: I’ve always felt a rave environment was the perfect place for weirder electronic music….a lot of avant-garde music is confined to fairly artsy crowds and venues which I don’t mind either but I much prefer an atmosphere where anyone and everyone can let their hair down and feel comfortable enough to throw shapes and dance like a nutter, or bury their head in a bass bin if they so desire…. Rave music has always been very important to me, my parents met at raves and I was born into to a soundtrack of acid house, breakdancin’ hip-hop and jungle hardcore and always felt pretty blown away by what I’d learnt and heard of the rave movement in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Bangface seems to emulate this very well and has a rare authenticity to its regulars. To me it’s amazing that some of our acts are able to play on the same line-ups as the real dons of innovative dance music like AFX, Squarepusher, The Orb, Hellfish, The DJ Producer, Chas & Dave etc. At raves, there is also a massive emphasis placed on the crowd being part of the show that you don’t get at as much at ‘gigs’. Again Bangface makes an effort to recognise this by putting the ‘Hard Crew’ on the line-up to every party who are basically the regular attendees of the night. I’d like to do more raves to be honest as its generally only Bangface who book us consistently!
“It’s immeasurably more inspiring to experience an artist in the moment, live, on a great rig and alongside people who are equally gratified to be in the moment, than just listening for personal usage at home”
Keith: Putting on live music is for me as important as releasing physical records. I remember pouring my 1st year student loan into Love Love nights in Brighton and then having all the producers and mates who came along back to my tiny room in halls. It was a logistical nightmare but the vibe was awesome. It wasn’t all fun though, still know one producer who will probably never work with us because he had to sleep on the floor outside my room as people still wanted to party when he crashed out. And there was definitely a couple of months where I lived on Aldi’s cheapest and got my dinner from the Christians who would hand out free toast to pissed up students on their way back to halls because we put on a night that completely flopped and basically bankrupted me. But even then I remember thinking it was worth it. As a learning experience if nothing else! Now when we plan a night it really is one of the most enjoyable aspects of job. One of, if not my favourite thing about music is that it brings people together from their various nooks and crannies of society and to have a hand in creating that scenario where people can laugh and bond and get fucked up in a relaxed atmosphere is something that I put an immense amount of value in. I just like to see people have a good time I guess, and if I’m in some way responsible for it then all the better!
Vince: It’s important because it represents a very direct connection between artist and audience. It’s immeasurably more inspiring to experience an artist in the moment, live, on a great rig and alongside people who are equally gratified to be in the moment, than just listening for personal usage at home – it’s the ultimate hugbox experience and it’s a great thing.
What events have you got upcoming, do you think a return to Bangface is on the cards?
Sam: We have a show at Power Lunches in London coming up real soon on the 20th of November!…with Beatwife, Scrase, The Abominable Mr Tinkler and an outrageous rapper/politician/religious leader called ‘The Prophet Zebadiah Abu-Obadiah’ from the Al-Zebabist Nation of Ooog. I’ve played a couple of jungle sets with him at Bangface this year and they were a real hellride! He’s going to be doing his grime thing at this show though. Naked noise myth-makers Jez North will also be making an appearance too which I’m very excited about. We’ll be putting on some shows in our hometown Colchester at a wicked and relatively new venue called The Waiting Room next year. It has very DIY ethics and puts on a lot of great hardcore punk, psychedelic rock, alternative comedy and other off-kilter events so it seems quite fitting to do our nights there as well now most of us are back in Essex for the time being. Our first one is an Anti-Valentines night on the 13th February. In terms of Bangface, I think there’s a chance we will be at the weekender in April :)
Henry: Yeah we really want to increase the regularity of our shows so we’re going to do some monthly pay-what-you-want nights in London as well as the ones in Colchester with cheap overheads and an emphasis on good vibes and good music!
What’s next in the release schedule can you fill us in on what we can look forward to?
Sam: We will be releasing some early works from Qebrμs [who is actually an alien]. I’m looking forward to getting this out and hopefully working on some fresh releases with him in 2016 as it’s some of most out-there music I’ve ever heard! I’m really looking forward to working with some bands next year; a lot of them will feature on a compilation with a general musical freedom theme. There’s an album from 70’s porno connoisseur Duran Duran Duran in the pipeline which should no doubt be quite bombastic! And there’s Beatwife’s third instalment of the Cornbrail Acid series which is guaranteed funky acid pop lushness! We’ve also been working with The Prophet Zebadiah on something for next year which I don’t want to talk about too much….you might have noticed we have him booked for a few shows already. If you haven’t seen him live yet, I’d thoroughly recommend it!
Me and Keith are getting a punk band together too which I’m dead excited about. We’re called ‘Sod Off!’
Henry: Christoph’s album will most likely be our last one this year but we’ve actually got 2 releases ready to go at the start of next year including the Qebrμs release Sam mentioned as well as the next very special 12” in the LOVWAX series from a drum n bass kind of producer we’ve all been big fans of for a long time! There’ll be lots of diversification next year too in our output which will mean branching out more extensively into things we’ve only touched on in the past. There will still be a lot of familiar sounds with follow ups from some of our existing artists but we’ve never wanted to sacrifice being able to release anything we want to. So alongside the predominantly electronic stuff, we’ll be introducing some bands to the roster following up from the compilation Sam mentioned and there are also plans for a chill-out focussed compilation, somewhat inspired from a few tips Mixmaster Morris gave us since he played at a couple of our nights in London.
And finally can you tell us a bit about the mix you recorded for this podcast like how did you approach the track selection and what gems from the label are included in it?
Henry: As always, the mix is pretty varied with quite a lot packed in – I made a lot of edits and rearrangements to the tracks placed in there in order to enhance the flow of it. There are a lot of producers we’re big fans of and musical friends in there as well as a broad selection of Love Love material like the more recently released Lenkemz remix of Anklepants and Dave Monolith’s remix of Scrase from last year which are both really special – but also a few older tracks that have been staples in my sets for a little while. I wanted to capture solid snapshots of the pretty wide array of stuff we put out but also include the broader field of what we’re into generally so it’s a bit schizophrenic. There’s a newer Cardopusher track from THEM who have just started releasing records but were booking Sam for shows back in 2008 and are really sound guys and a track from DJ HVAD who we’ll hopefully be working more closely with in the future. The mix leans a little more towards the jungle side of things in the second half so I could slip in a track from Christoph and a sneaky teaser of one of the tracks from the next 12” we’re doing too. There are even a few jungle tracks from Sam and Keith!