Hi David, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Let’s start with a fresh face to the label in the form of German producer Modul8. Can you give us some background about how this signing came about?
Well, I knew Modul8 and his sound already through friends from Stuttgart but to be honest I didn’t know what gems were hidden on his hard-drives. Sun People played ‘Need You’ on his Sub FM show and, in what might be one of the longest threads on Soundcloud, people demanded this to be released! At first I wanted to sign only this track for a compilation I was planning, but after listening to an all original mix Modul8 did for Yorobi’s show on Jungletrain I discovered more and more tunes I want to sign, so the tracklist for the EP came together very easily, but it was fun to go on a “hunt” for these tracks I have to say!
Following on from the Modul8 release we had the beast of a digital-only compilation “Omega”. Can you give us a full insight into the project?
The decision to go digital only was made because I think the market has changed a bit (just take a look at labels who released vinyl only a few years ago and what they are doing now) and to shorten the production time. With the compilation it just was not possible to get all the tunes pressed on vinyl for a reasonable price.
I talked to Sun People about my plans and ideas on the future of Through These Eyes and he said 008 is not a good number to end it on and that it would be cool to round it up with a compilation.
For the tracklist I wanted to have as many tracks as possible from artists who already released on my label plus some more producers whose sounds I was feeling or who sent me demos but I couldn’t release them yet. I searched for a fitting title and thought “Omega” was the right name for the concept and the idea behind the compilation. Luckily some producers had some tunes which were signed to other labels at some point, but never came out, so I was in the lucky position to even had a premaster the moment I signed them, ha! The rest of the tracklist was coming together quite fast too. I am still proud of it, as the ten tracks perfectly reflect the sound of my label and took it even further by signing new artists with new influences and ideas, or working with an MC for the first time ever for example.
Staying with fresh and exciting artists., what I like about the label is it consistently signs music from artists who are making edgy and interesting music but aren’t necessarily really well known: Yoofee, Noh Vae just to reference a few. How did you go about linking artists and finding music when you initially decided to start the label and even through to the present day?
Thanks! I know some label owners complain about the demos they get sent or aren’t accepting any in the first place, but I have to say for Through These Eyes the situation is different. Of course I get sent some boring techno or dubstep that doesn’t fit to the label and its signature sound at all, but in most cases the submissions are really good and promising. Many of the releases on my label happened this way, with only a few examples from producers that I really wanted to release on my label (ILL_K or Digid for example). Noh Vae sent some banging tunes and from then on we planned his EP. Not really an interesting background story I know, I just want to encourage young producers to send their stuff out, although you might not hear back from the labels!
With the Yoofee EP it was a bit different. I was DJing at the Club “about blank” in Berlin with Fixate and a friend of mine said Yoofee sent him one of his tracks he really liked and he wanted to forward it to me. Of course I said, “yes” but I was thinking, “yeah, for sure this will be another track from a newcomer and it won’t sell!”. Plus this happened at a time where I had little time and money for the label/music in general and thought it would be better to quit. When I heard Yoofee’s track “Clart” it was crystal clear I had to sign it because I could not stand the fact that it would get a release somewhere else (you know, when I heard it first and had the chance to sign it) or settle dust on his hard-drive. His music really brought back my love for the label work and when I heard it I just knew it would work and get played because of its decent quality.Looking at him now getting attention from other labels I respect and follow I am happy that TTE played a little part in his story of success!
The name of the label definitely stands out to me. Does the name “Through These Eyes” root from your vision for the music you sign?
When I started the label I already had the first tune in mind that I wanted to sign (Digid “Levitation”). I wanted to have kind of a concept where you would have the original on the A-side and then “see” the track through the eyes of another producer on the B-side. I knew that I wanted to release on vinyl and already the name of the label definitely stood out to me. We designed a draft for a logo stamp where the inner part of the eye would be the hole of the 12″ so it would reflect the name. The name I had in mind first was “Through The Eyes Records”. The designer of the logo told me to change it to “Through These Eyes” because it just sounds better. The concept (original on side A, Remix on side B) wasn’t the most original idea at all and was dismissed after the first release already, but I still like the name and it stands out. I got bored of all these “sub” “bass” “deep” names in bass music and the meaning to “see” the music through the eyes of someone else still remains.
I’m interested in this quote; “this will be another track from a newcomer and it won’t sell!”. It’s another thing about the industry that I find really disheartening, so many talented newcomers in electronic music that no one wants to check for (apart from proper music hunters), usually only discovered when they release on a big label. Do you find that you have waves of enthusiasm from the perspective of a label owner due to this? It must be tough.
This is a hard part for me as well. When you release on vinyl and don’t have funding, as a label owner you can easily pay 2500€ in advance before you sell even one 12″. So this economical thought (“will it sell?”) is always in the back of your mind and bugging you. It’s disheartening, yes. For upcoming artists it’s a real struggle; how to get signed by a big label if no one knows you by now? Most established labels already have a roster and are not even accepting demos, like I said.
I was in the happy position to live in a city where you don’t need much money to afford a good life and I have a wife who supported me in every way, so the financial part wasn’t that much of a problem. The first run of 12″ I did sold out in a few days so I knew there was a demand for the music I wanted to release, but I was trying to do everything on my own so at some point I had to deal with 300 12″ vinyl of back catalogue at my home, which needed to be stored properly. That was the moment I decided to get professional help from a distribution service.
But to get back to the original question: yes, these waves of enthusiasm (especially when you discover a new artist that you didn’t knew before) are the reason why I just said, “fuck it, these tunes need to be out there and get noticed!”. As you said already: if my small label can be the reason someone from an established label decided to sign this artist I am more than happy about that.
Seems like day-to-day running of the label and signing music is a lot of fun for you, haha! Do you always make an effort to respond to each submission and also give feedback?
Yes, I love to do it, but it can be hard work, too! No one told me that running a label meant that you have to wait for something (premasters, masters, artwork, testpress, final copies…) 90% of the time, haha! To be honest I really do give feedback on every submission and tell the producer what I like about the track, why I won’t sign it, what could be changed, and in most cases I drop names of labels where this sound could fit or to who they could send their stuff too. I don’t drown in promos, so it’s not taking too much time and I think it’s just nice to give feedback, especially if it’s a tune by a newcomer. Many people helped me when I started the label so I try to give something back. It also helps to connect with the artists and to establish a relationship, and it comes back to you! Sun People and I regularly chat about his forthcoming releases (on TTE and other labels) and I give feedback on the music or decisions on the release in general and he has helped me a lot with his feedback on Through These Eyes too!
Let’s have some background on you. The label itself sits nicely within the bracket of “purveyor of 160 bpm groovy electronic badness” (that’s my own quote by the way, haha!) Away from label duties, what music do you listen to, and can you also give us some of your own musical inspirations?
I started DJ’ing dubstep in 2006 but I listened to a lot of drum & bass before. Many of my friends were drum & bass DJ’s, and living in a smaller town in Germany record shopping and DJ’ing in the same genre as all of my friends wouldn’t have make sense. When I discovered dubstep I finally found “my thing” and I really was into sounds at 140 bpm for quite some time.
The specific sound of my label kinda has references from dubstep, jungle and drum & bass and unites them perfectly IMO. On top of that I came to the realization that nearly all producers on my label used to make dubstep or still make dubstep, so TTE is kind of an exile for dubstep producers who are also good at 160/170, haha!TBH I listen to a lot of DJ mixes in my spare time and really love what DJ’s Like Om Unit, Bop, Doctor Jeep, J:Kenzo, or Sun People are doing. These are selectors, who present you various styles from 130-170 bpm without thinking of genre restrictions. It’s an approach I really admire and I hope it can translate to parties as well, so people won’t be so narrow-minded at parties and can enjoy music with lots of bass instead of dancing to one genre the whole night.
As someone who also likes 140 bpm I’d like to hear more about when you were immersed with 140 bpm vibes. Can you give us insight into artists/labels that you were loving then and even now?
I got in touch with 140 bpm through a Vex’d mix on Mary Anne Hobbs’ show, so they, and their album “Degenerate”, have a special place in my (music) heart. Planet Mu as a whole label has an incredible output (back then and now), other labels from the early dubstep days I really rate are: Boka, NarcoHz, Immerse, Black Acre, Skull Disco, Hotflush, Argon. Right now I really love the output from Subaltern Records, Infernal Sounds, Rarified, White Peach, Encrypted Audio, Innamind, and Trusik.
With you obviously having a large love for anything between 130-170 bpm music does this mean we can expect slow tempos below 160 bpm possibly moving forward for future releases from Through These Eyes?
Haha, a lot of people ask me that question! I was thinking about this a lot too because, as I mentioned earlier, almost all of the artists on my label produce music at 160/170 and 140! So of course I get sent a lot of dubstep/140 stuff. I already thought out a concept for a sub-label dedicated to that sound but didn’t finalise it because I have many friends who already run good and established dubstep labels, so I always encourage the artists from my label to send their stuff to Subaltern or Sub Audio for example.
In addition you also operate the music blog Robyn Thinks. Can you give us some background on that?
I was writing for a German/Austrian drum & bass magazine called Resident for some years and really enjoyed that. After their last issue was published in 2008 I still felt the urge to write about, and of course share, the music I love, so I started my blog and it’s still active 11 years later. I never cared about numbers or money and just published stuff I really liked, but of course it helped a lot to build a fanbase for the label.
Can you give us a little more insight into Robyn Thinks? Give us some examples of labels or individuals you reported on and some of your favourite pieces.
As I said I tried to recommend and push music I love and that in my opinion could be shared more. I really liked the interview I did with the Paradise Lost team (https://robynthinks.wordpress.com/2018/07/05/interview-paradise-lost-the-gates-of-charon-compilation/), Kabuki (https://robynthinks.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/interview-kabuki-v-recs-new-forms-frankfurt/) or the Take Ten category, where I chose ten influential records from my favourite record labels: https://robynthinks.wordpress.com/category/take-ten/ .
Staying with the Robyn alias, you’ve had a few DJ mixes out recently: one self-released and another guesting for the second time on the Vykhod Sily mix series. Does DJ’ing feature a lot for you? Playing out at gigs and a home setup, etc?
As I am not a producer I have to represent and define myself musically as a DJ, so I take a lot of time preparing mixes and thinking of concepts or tracklists. It’s fun and I love to do it. DJ gigs are really important to get the stuff from your label heard and to present it to people, so in the past I tried to organize gigs for artists from my label or label nights. At the moment (that decision was made before the Coronavirus lockdown) I took a break from DJ’ing as there is too much else going on in my personal life so I don’t have enough time for it.
I was pretty sad to hear about the complication with the Apollo pressing plant and its effect on your schedule this year. I personally looked forward to buying your releases on wax! Currently have all but 001 (which is on my want list!) How is this going to effect your schedule moving forward?
Yeah, vinyl has its pro and cons. I was able to publish the Modul8 tracks very fast this time, which was really good because I think his music fits really good to the current sounds in the 160 bpm scene. Vinyl would have meant to wait even after summer to get them finally out. The Omega compilation has ten tracks on it, there was no vinyl release planned. So all going by plan right now!
In regards to vinyl, at the best of times it’s a tough industry anyway, how are your sales of vinyl? Seems to sell well from my perspective.
I started with a run of 100 pieces of #TTE001, which sold out too fast plus a run of 100 vinyl is commercial suicide, haha! So I did 300 for #TTE002 and didn’t change it since then. Some releases are completely sold out, others are still available through the distribution service at Unearthed and for some I still have a good amount here at home. I know that it may look like a sold out record means pockets full of money, but as most people might know in most cases you only break even. Even label chefs like Plastician or Blackdown said on Twitter that’s not really possible to make money with vinyl. There is a very good blog post by Blackdown called “The Case For and Against Vinyl in 2018”, where he is discussing this issue: http://blackdownsoundboy.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-case-for-and-against-vinyl-in-2018.html
Let’s talk about the showcase mix: great example of what the label is about, wicked energy and vibes as expected. Can you let us know how you went about putting it together?
Thank you! Yes, I think it represents the vibe of the label really well. I kinda planned it around the ten tracks from the forthcoming compilation and spiced it up with as many unreleased tracks I could find on my HD so you have a fresh listening experience. Just when I finalised the tracklist my mastering engineer Max sent me the final masters, so I was very happy to replace the home masters with them and have a punchy mix! The tunes in the mix that are not released on Through These Eyes are by close friends and accompany the signature sound of the label really well.
What can we expect from you and the label for the rest of 2020?
To be honest I haven’t got anything lined up for the label at the moment. Other aspects of life are taking up more time and energy right now and I don’t want to rush out a release here and there just for the sake of it. So, I decided to take a break from the label for a moment until there’s more time again. But artists from my roster and new fresh talents already sent me some really good tunes again which made the decision to pause really hard, lol! At the moment I try to forward them to befriended labels like Defrostatica, Rua Sound, or Unchained for example, or get them a release through the label of my DARK REAL DARK crew, so as I said, “taking a break” sounded easier then expected.