Talking ten years of house and techno with Hypercolour co-founder Jamie Russell
If a week is a long time in politics, then a decade is an eternity in the rapidly changing world of dance music. Major props, then, to Hypercolour - a label that has successfully remained at the forefront of electronic music since slipping out their first release 10 years ago this month.
Back then, Jamie Russell and Alex Jones were merely enthusiastic young DJs operating at the fringes of Bristol’s emerging house and techno scene. The latter was also a budding producer, getting frustrated at the lack of interest in his tracks from established labels. So, on a whim, the duo decided to establish Hypercolour to champion the music being made by their friendship group.
"I remember Alex and some of our other friends not getting very far when they were sending stuff to labels," Jamie Russell explains in an email from his Berlin office. "We thought we could do this, and that we could contribute something positive to the scene. We were all looking for a way out of our day jobs as well, so we didn't need much encouragement to start a label really".
In hindsight, it was a smart decision. To begin with, they focused on a core group of artists, with Jones being joined on the roster by the likes of Glimpse, Tom Demac, Shenoda and Kris Wadsworth. Initially focusing largely on releasing records that sat somewhere between tech-house, techno and deep house, Russell and Jones seemingly had a knack for capturing the zeitgeist.
"At the time of starting the label, we were quite heavily into Ricardo Villalobos and would often visit Fabric to watch him play," Russell admits. "In short, we liked minimal techno, and that was the flavour of the month back then. Minimal gets a lot of stick, but there were many great records to come from the period. Naturally, though, something else came along and everybody moved on".
For the team behind Hypercolour, moving on was never an issue: out every weekend DJing across the UK and abroad, they were immersed in club culture. By the time another friend, Ste Roberts, came on board in 2009 to assist with A&R and label management, they’d already begun looking beyond their friendship group for material. This led to a string of underground hits from soon-to-be well-known producers, including Mark Henning and, famously, Maya Jane Coles.
"It felt like a big moment at the time," Russell says of that early EP from the now massive house hero. "We didn’t know how big she’d be at the time. We got a great EP out of her, which went on to sell loads and over the course of the next year or so her profile rocketed. Fair play to her - she works very hard".
That was arguably Hypercolour’s breakthrough moment. From then on, they’ve been able to mix releases from up-and-coming artists with EPs from notable names such as Groove Armada, Roman Flugel, Axel Boman, Seth Troxler, Luke Vibert and Laurent Garnier. The latter will be playing at the Bristol leg of the label’s tenth anniversary tour, which takes place at Motion on Sunday 6 November.
"Laurent has always been someone who took the time to comment on our records, and we could tell he was consistently bigging us up so we just took a punt and asked him if he wanted to do a release with us," Russell says. "Having him play for us at the birthday party in Bristol is huge. We were lucky to play with him at Fabric about 18 months back, and on that occasion I was that knobhead in the booth watching him work the mixer. I’ll be out in the audience on Sunday, though!"
The label’s Motion date is part of a larger programme celebrating their birthday, which also includes a sumptuous double album - simply titled Hypercolour 10 Years, and due to land in stores next week - featuring a dizzying array of high quality tracks from a formidable line-up of producers. Touching on everything from revivalist acid, rip-snorting dancefloor techno and Detroit futurism, to spacey electro, dubbed-out grooves and hard-to-define electronic fusions, it includes contributions from DMX Krew, Neil Landstrumm, A Sagitarriun, Matt Karmil and Matthew Herbert, among others.
"I think this really is a statement of where we’re at, and where we’re heading," Russell says. "It features some of the old guard, but mostly it’s a present list of who we love and who we’re working with moving forwards. I think we have something to be seriously proud of, and we can look back in another ten years time and feel good about what we contributed."
A decade in Motion
Sunday’s Hypercolour shindig at Motion is a significant date in more ways than one. It also marks the tenth birthday of the acclaimed Bristol venue.
The high profile club, which is based around a cluster of warehouses in a down-at-heel industrial area, began life as a skate park, before local promoter Rag Satguru - then the driving force behind Just Jack - suggested to the owners that it could be so much more.
"Originally we had parties around the skate ramps," founder and co-owner Tom KIlford says. "We used to have to put camo netting over the half pipe, and people used to be running up and sliding down. We just had a pile of speakers. It was pretty basic. Rag really believed in the space, and we’ve gradually expanded from there."
The club’s popular In Motion series, which runs for three months every autumn, has helped revitalise Bristol club culture, bringing some of the world’s finest DJs and live acts to the west country. At the same time, Kilford and business partners Martin Page and Dan Deeks have remained committed to what he calls "an underground booking policy."
This combination of hot bookings and an impressive environment has made Motion one of the most talked-about clubs in the UK. "Our ultimate aim is to make Motion the best club in the world," says manager Marco Bernadi, who will warm up for Laurent Garnier on Sunday. "Clubbers have already voted us the best in the UK bar Fabric, and we’re up against some great venues and spaces."
Words: Matt Anniss
Hypercolour 10 Years is out on 11 November. The label's 10th birthday party is at Motion, Bristol from 2pm-10pm on Sunday 6 November
Tags: Hypercolour, Jamie Russell, Motion, Alex Jones, Glimpse, Tom Demac, Shenoda, Kris Wadsworth, Maya Jane Coles, Groove Armada, Roman Flugel, Axel Boman, Seth Troxler, Luke Vibert, Laurent Garnier, Ricardo Villalobos, DMX Krew, Neil Landstrumm, A Sagitarriun, Matt Karmil, Matthew Herbert