Hi Andy, thanks for taking the time to chat. One of the things I admire about none60 is not only how consistent the quality of the releases are but also the fact that you seem to always release music from lesser known producers who are doing great stuff! Talk us through the process of how you go about finding and connecting with these artists.
It’s been a gradual change over the years. Initially we started releasing music by artists that we knew personally, I believe Sinistarr was the first release which wasn’t Silent Dust related and that was the 7th release, and it was still very much a vehicle just for our own music but over the last three years I’d say I’ve actively started to seek out new artists and thankfully new artists have sought us out too!
Talking of consistency, your releases are pretty regular. Do you aim to release a set amount a year?
When we started out our distributor advised that labels which release regularly will do better. It makes sense, I personally think some labels have taken that a little too far, but I’m always happier when I know we’ve got releases lined up and ready to go. I’d like to think we get the balance between quality and quantity just right.
We did a release per month in 2019 and I know a lot of people really started to pay attention to us so I guess the regular releases do work. This year I wanted to slow it slightly just to allow releases to breathe a little more. I sometimes worry that releases can end up overlapping and can actually detract from one another. This year will probably end up as one every six weeks.
The labels sound is always along the deep, autonomic, experimental sound waves within the 170 bpm range. Do you try to structure the releases so each release offers something different from the last?
I tend to trust my instinct rather than over-thinking it. You can plan things as much as you like but one thing that is common from talking to other label owners is that 90% of the time what you think will happen will not. I guess I’m quite lucky that my instinct hits more than misses as releases will often complement one another. There are a couple of curve balls in the catalogue (NSY016 – ugh) but in general they flow well.
Aside from the releases I always enjoy the unique art as well. Who does the artwork?
We made a decision early on that we would treat the artwork in a similar way to how we use samples in our music. We love found sounds and creating collages with our music so we needed artwork which would match that. Early on we relied a lot on Simon Buckley (a long-time friend of Dan’s – other half of Silent Dust) but over the years I started to reach out to collage artists I came across online in groups and on Deviant Art. Thankfully most of them have been enthusiastic about allowing us to use their work, one of them was even a drum & bass fan without us knowing it!
You’ve started a Ltd series of releases; 002 sees Jaskin & Uneven plus Lewis James returning to the label on remix duties! Can you give us some background into how this release came about?
Originally the Safe Edge EP was going to have five tracks but I thought “High Street Dub” deserved it’s own platform, I knew Jaskin & Uneven were big fans of Lewis James’ work so I floated the idea to them and checked in with Lewis and he was very happy to work his magic on “Lost Ends”.
Can we expect to see the Ltd series carrying on?
Most definitely! I’m really enjoying putting the releases together and it’s great to have another outlet. The next one has actually just been sent for cutting; it’s by DYL who I’ve been a fan of for a long time. He’s made two mixes of one track: the mix starts with the 2020 version, but the 1988 mix, if you think you know what a DYL none60 release will sound like then prepare to be surprised! Scott Metro designed the artwork (as he did for NSYLTD002) and it’s equally as brilliant! It’s quite liberating to come up with ideas for the artwork for the records as they don’t have to fit the template of the mainline none60 releases.
We also see that you’re using 1-800 Dubplate to cut your limited vinyl runs for both Ltd releases. Would you be tempted to cut some back catalogue that only saw a digital release?
Yeah, that was something I hinted at when the first release came out, it’s just a matter of choosing which tracks to do! If people have suggestions I’ll gladly take them on board.
From the perspective of a label owner why did you choose to mainly stick to digital-only releases?
If we were setting up none60 now rather than almost ten years ago then we would have gone the vinyl route for everything, the fact is neither of us were in a place in life where we could afford to do it. We opened the label with our album and two(!?!) 12″ samplers that all came out 3 weeks apart, speak to anyone that runs a label and they’ll tell you that is complete madness for a new label! As great as those 12’s were we struggled to move copies of the second one as quick as the first so that ultimately held us back and burned us a little on doing vinyl.
Last year saw the release of the Various Artists album “None of the above”. Any plans for a follow up?
Indeed, it’s not far off, and this time around there will be a Silent Dust track on it! It will be called “Audience Of None” and I’m hoping to release it around October/November time but we’ll see!
In regards to putting together a VA, I’ve heard many label owners comment it can be hard work putting it together because of dealing with numerous artists etc. What was your experience with it?
After releasing two Silent Dust albums ourselves I’d say doing a VA is actually a lot easier. With an artist album it all rests on you and you can end up disliking your own work because of it, but with tracks from multiple artists you can spread the load a bit and deal with it in stages. I don’t like to dictate to artists what they should do with tracks as that’s not something I enjoyed when making music as Hobzee & Zyon Base, but there isn’t often a lot of back and forth with artists that release on none60, they all get it in one take! Maybe we’ve just got lucky?
Let’s talk about the inception of the label. Can you run us through how the label actually started?
Our debut album was originally going to be released on Soul:R but due to some distribution issues that couldn’t happen (essentially Marcus had his own album and the first DRS album to consider), but thankfully Marcus had already contacted Om Unit and Calibre as potential remixers and, with what I imagine was some persuasion, they were still happy to do the remixes for what would become our own label.
It had been pencilled in for Soul:R for so long that we didn’t really consider trying to demo it to any other labels, so knowing that we had those great remixes we went about getting a distribution deal (some of them didn’t actually believe we had remixes by Calibre and Marcus Intalex but that’s another story). We’d released a lot on Fokuz as Hobzee & Zyon Base so we approached Triple Vision for distribution and 40-odd releases later we are still going!
Why did you call the label “none60”?
The majority of our first album was all 160-170 bpm and was quite a departure from our Hobzee & Zyon Base material, there seemed to be a shift to slow the tempo (thankfully) across the scene and it coincided with the autonomic movement too, where artists were taking more chances and not having to stick to the format as much. We started to feel that the obsession with tempo was nonsense and that idea stuck; we combined nonsense with 160 to get none60. So it’s like, yes we make music at 160, but why care? What can I say, we were younger and had the egos to match.
As someone who’s been running a label for nearly ten years, what advice would you give to anybody thinking of starting up a label?
Have a theme or mission statement, something that artists and DJ’s can get behind. If you get that then great music will follow. I think we stumbled across the none60 look and sound by accident and circumstance in some ways but we made the most of what we could do. We only really had one rule (which still stands): no text on the artwork. It wasn’t something we had a grand design for but it probably comes from our love of Factory Records and also the Microdot artwork for the early Oasis singles, our logo is also not unlike the Oasis logo (and therefore Decca Records logo), again that wasn’t a planned thing!
Hard not to mention it so let’s talk COVID-19. Has the pandemic had any effects on the label?
Initially I thought about going on a hiatus for a bit as I just couldn’t predict the impact it would have. I can take a release not doing well as long as we tried to give it the push it deserved. I started to question whether or not we’d be able to do that and I just didn’t know. I then had a chat with Oliver Yorke who basically said I was being defeatist and reminded me of none60’s loyal following, so you have Ollie to thank for none60 not disappearing off the map!
I think getting press coverage has become an absolute nightmare throughout the period, there aren’t really many outlets to go to already, but when some of them have scaled back their operations and furloughed staff that makes it twice as difficult. I’ve also not got involved in any of the “lockdown” trends so maybe that’s hindered things. I’ve got massive respect for people that have raised money for charity but the path between philanthropy and self-promotion is a tough one to walk.
I actually came up with the “Audience Of None” title late last year but it’s actually taken on more meaning now when we’ve got all these empty clubs and dance-floors.
Interesting what you said about “the path between philanthropy and self promotion” as its always been a subject that I think about when I see online activity as it’s an extremely tough one! When I first started out blogging, etc. I was always conscience of not being too pushy and letting content reach and connect organically with people (even if it takes longer!). Do you have your own set game plan in regards to label/artist promotion?
I’ve always believed that good music will always win out but i’m not really sure if that’s the case anymore. I think we’ve seen a shift from the time when we initially started releasing music as Hobzee & Zyon Base to today. We’ve got more sub-genres, and to be completely honest I don’t even class some of them as being drum & bass anymore when I hear them. I think a lot of the more mainstream stuff is closer to EDM than the music I fell in love with 20 years ago. I think you can actually benefit more by staying within your lane as it were now and making the most of your audience rather than trying to reach an audience that likely won’t give a shit about your music. Our podcast is probably a great example of that; it has grown in popularity since it began but It’s still pretty niche and I’m happy with that. I’d rather have a dedicated small audience that appreciate it rather than a larger audience that will just skip through a mix to hear a couple of tracks.
How do you see things being in the scene moving forward?
The creative and underground scenes tend to be the most resilient since we all do this as a passion rather than being financially driven. I think it’s going to have a big impact on the venues and promoters but the ones that innovate will come out the other side of it in a better place. I’m hopeful that we’ll see inclusive line-ups once the events start being planned as this period should have allowed some time to re-balance that.
Music-wise, as the dance-floor has been removed for the time being I would expect to hear some more experimental music from some of the more established names and labels but I won’t hold my breath!
Circumstances behind the label actually forming is pretty mad to be honest. I can bet a lot of people don’t know about the Soul:R release that never was, devastating! I’m a huge Soul:R fan and seeing that album come out then would have been DOPE!Do you feel looking back that you guys used that disappointing turn of events to drive you to make your own imprint work even moreso?
Yeah definitely, Marcus and Lee (ST Files) were a big help whilst we were making the album too as about a third of it was made after we had given Marcus the demo version – one track being our first collaboration with DRS which would never have happened without that link!
It was an incredible label that had an identity and was instantly recognisable. I think for any label that’s something to strive for.
Let’s talk about the label showcase. How did you go about selecting for the tracklist? It must have been tough.
Yes, it was! I purposefully left out any Silent Dust material, apart from remixes and our collaboration with Dominic Ridgway from last year, as none60 is far more than just that now.
Initially I wanted to have something from each release but that’s a lot of music and a lot of choices to make! Ultimately it was about putting together some good blends and moving through the styles that we’ve released over the years as well as showcasing some of the music still to come this year.
If you have released on none60 and your track didn’t make the mix don’t take it personally. Maybe we can do a sequel at some point?
Finishing up, what can we expect from the label for the rest of 2020?
We’ve got a fair bit lined up! We have an incredible 5-track EP by Sorse which will be up next, another single from Jaskin & Uneven which acts as a follow up to their Safe Edge EP from last year, and then we’ve got a second EP from Wagz which includes the track “Old Habits” from the mix – I loved it from the moment I first heard it, it’s a real early 2000 throwback, I could just imagine Fabio playing it on R1 back then!