First off! Let’s start with the name, “Distant Worlds” what made you choose that?
I took inspiration from the soviet space programme’s propaganda there with their promise to “open the distant worlds”. I loved the aesthetic of the programme and what with the added bonus of resonating on a hauntological level with its promise of a future never quite reached… it wasn’t too far removed from the promises of the so-called golden era of techno.
That’s quite possibly one of my favourite explanations for a label name! Are you some sort of soviet propaganda expert yeah?
Haha – well it’s good to have a perspective on it as the modern world seems to thrive on propaganda in one way or another. I could recognise a direct link between the utopian idealism of classic techno and the soviet propaganda, they seemed to go hand in hand aesthetically. I mean to get people to live under a communist dictatorship you better be rocking some decent propaganda at the least.
So the conception of the label… Talk us through how it came about and why you decided to focus on techno…
Well, I’ve been buying records since the very early ’90s and have always kept a foot in various scenes one way or another. Wanting to play a part after many years on the fringes I gradually found myself exploring the idea of starting a label. At the time there were a lot of artists I admired that didn’t seem to be getting as many releases as they deserved and I thought I could remedy that. I remember speaking with the guys in Subwax, Barcelona and they gave me enough encouragement for me to think it a reality. Then I met John Shima at a B12 night in Camden, got chatting, the rest is history…
Although just a few years old you have been consistently releasing quality music and from artists that a lot won’t be familiar with, how do you go about finding the artists/ music you release?
Pretty organic process really, when I first started the label I approached 3 of my favourite producers and each one got back to me positively. From those beginnings I began to approach the people whose music I thought shared a similar feel, with a foot in the past and one in the future so to speak. So mostly you could say i just listened back through my record collection and assembled my dream team from there.
The latest release features an artist, Castel, who stopped producing nearly 20 years ago, however. I discovered an old tune of his that had only seen a CD release on one of CK’s radio shows, put out feelers everywhere to find the guy, eventually came up trumps after leaving a message on a Youtube video and he got back to me and sent me a folder of his old productions to go through.
Pretty refreshing to see someone approach finding music this way, did you have a short list before you officially launched the label of artists to approach? And how much forward planning went into the label before it’s launch?
Originally I approached 3 artists and didn’t really have much thought beyond those 3 releases. After the first three people agreed I approached another handful, full of confidence this time and on we go. As for the planning, a lot!! Well over a year of behind the scenes stuff, reading up, approaching cutting houses and studios, finding distribution links, financing etc – all the boring stuff.
As a fairly new label I’m interested to know how you go about promoting yourself and getting your name out there???
In all honesty I have been pretty lucky on this front, having done very little promo compared to a lot of labels out there. I always liked the Bill Hicks adage that if you’re in marketing you should kill yourself haha. I chuck a couple of Test Presses out to people I know will play them (big shouts to Damo B who has smashed every release on his Outta Limits radio show). make sure journalists get the release in plenty of time to negotiate their deadlines. The last release got premiered on a few platforms like Ballacid and Les Yeux Oranges with much larger exposure than I have. Building relationships with like-minded people that will want to play the music is important. The odd horse’s head in the right place can do wonders…
You have chosen to be vinyl only, which is an interesting decision considering how easy it is with the digital formats etc, talk us through why you personally decided to be vinyl only …
Simple answer – I fucking hate digital. I am a true Luddite in that the digital revolution left me behind. I never stopped buying vinyl, still buy books, don’t understand apps – personally I have no need for digital so why would I want to sell it. The majority of people that do sell digital (in my scene at least) tend to see their digital files available on these free pirate sites before the release is even available in the shops, what is the point in that? Much easier to entice an artist to release on a physical format than a digital release that is likely to drown under a sea of digital files. Vinyl, to me, is putting your money where your mouth is, THIS release deserves a vinyl release and I am willing to invest capital in getting it out there to a wider audience. An artist can release his or her own digital releases easy, where’s the need for a label?
Some very interesting points that i totally agree with! it’s fair to say that although digital does allow you to release music at a low cost/risk it also makes for it being sort of disposable too maybe in some aspects , would you agree?
Very much so. I have a collection of music for the Ipod and people regularly send me digital promos and demos and stuff like that but I find it all far too easily forgotten whereas I can be pretty Rainman-esque when it comes to physical records despite having thousands, I pretty much know where a particular record will be, where I bought it, who I was with and stuff like that. Files just don’t seem real in the same sense, more representation, facsimile. I fully concede that this is a generational thing and good luck to anybody doing their thing with digital and I’ve seen some amazing things done by DJs with digital but it just ain’t me.
How many vinyl do you press per release?
This changes on a release by release basis but there’s no real point in pressing fewer than 300 I feel. I am not averse to repressing if demand is there. For example last year the Stephen Lopkin EP sold out in a couple days and the repress was in the shops within a month to meet demand. I want people to be able to access the releases easily, not keen on exclusivity for exclusivity’s sake – the point of a record label is to expose as many people to your music as possible.
What sites can listeners find your releases?
Juno and Redeye always stock my releases in the UK, as does MyVinylRecordBox, ColdCutsHotWax, Japhy, Rekkids, Decks in Germany, Technique in Japan, plenty more I’m sure I’ve forgotten too.
You referenced being a vinyl collector yourself previously, can you give us a few examples of your most treasured plates??
As you can imagine I have a fair few classics and valuable records in the collection but they are rarely the ones I would say are my most treasured. It’s funny when occasionally I will have a look through discogs and see these old records I haven’t played in years going for hundreds of pounds but just because you know their monetary worth adds nothing to them really – in fact if I haven’t played it in years I will most likely sell it. My most treasured are simply the records that I have never stopped playing usually or a record that meant a lot at the time. For instance I was very late to the internet (being a Luddite) and about 10 years back I mentioned to my other half a tune I had been after since 1993 but had never seen in any shops. That Christmas as if by magic Santa brings me the tune – I was blown away. Having no concept of discogs or ebay or any of that stuff I just could not fathom how she could track down a record I never had been able to. That record was DJ Crystl – Drop XTC by the way.
Let’s talk artwork.. Always quite eye catching! Who deals with it?
The artwork is very important to me. In lieu of a logo (in honour of Mr Hicks once more), the artwork becomes the identifying factor for the label. I have been lucky to work with some fantastic artists for these releases who all share a similar aesthetic and technique. All the artwork for the artist EPs have been hand cut collage works (in honour of my anti-digital standpoint hahaha) and I like to think they all share a sense of the otherworldly – psychedelic, spacey, futuristic yet rooted in the past by virtue of the methodology.
So far with the label you’ve maintained the same style of music but would you ever think about releasing different tempos in the future?
I don’t think that I would with this label as it has built up a following within a certain niche and, I hope, if you see one of my releases in the shops then you know what you are gonna get – I wouldn’t want to jeopardise that. However I do have a few ideas for the future for another label COMPLETELY removed from this kind of music. I do have an idea that may come to fruition next year where I would like to invite some modern Jungle producers to remix some back catalogue. There was always a healthy cross pollination of jungle and techno in the 90s via artists like Crystl, Wax Doctor, Photek etc so I would like to revisit that area maybe…
Sounds like an exciting prospect and definitely another outlet that’s right up my street! Do you already have an idea of how you would approach marketing the new label given that it’s in a new direction from distant worlds?
You know how I feel about marketing! Same approach really, I’m lucky I know a few heads in both scenes so would most likely bully them into supporting. May test the waters with a small run first (especially if Disc World goes ahead down the road from me) and progress from there. If the product is good enough you don’t really need to market it too much. Only shit needs marketing hence the proliferation of adverts for McDonalds and suchlike. Every sales pitch, every marketing device detracts from the value of any product in my opinion.
Aside from the style you push with the label give us some insight into other genres of music that have influenced you and also you enjoy listening too…
I have always enjoyed a real broad range of music. Early Hardcore/Jungle is what i grew up with and so will always have a place in my heart. I still am buying up things I missed first time around there. Also I have always loved good guitar music, slightly left of field stuff like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, Sonic Youth I would say are probably my favourite band of all time. That whole autonomic movement meant the world to me – a real crossover of the D&B i grew up with and the techno scene that i fell into. A lot of that stuff was way ahead of its time, I remember Instra:Mental clearing the floor at a Phonica birthday bash. a lot of people just weren’t attuned to it at the time. Since digging through some of my more obscure and underplayed records to play at The Deptford Esquire a year or so back I have been pushing a lot of down-tempo trip hop kinda stuff since – probably the age though, BPMs go down as the years go up!
So the mix you’ve done for us, its a wicked journey… can you give me some background on how went about putting it together?
Pretty simple really, I knew what track I wanted to start with, knew what I wanted to end with and the rest just flowed. I tried to put 2 tracks from most releases in there and I seem to remember smashing it out pretty rapid although pretty sure it took a second attempt.
Last off, how about the label moving forward? Talk us through anything you have in store and what we Can expect?
Man makes plans and God laughs but 2020 shall start brightly with an EP from CIgnol on the acidic/electro tip and beyond that you can check out now!