Now into their 13th year, the German label keep on coming up with the house goods time and time again. So how do they do it?
Dortmund-based Kittball Records is one of those labels that needs the traditional "little introduction from us by now". Since 2005, the house imprint has put out over 160 releases from the likes of Robert Owens, Zoo Brazil, Timo Maas, Hector Couta, Ida Engberg, Gui Boratto, Wally Lopez and many more, with label founders Tube & Berger's Milan Euringer collab Lovebreak the label's biggest seller to date.
Tube & Berger may have set up Kittball in the first place, but Juliet Sikora was soon taken onboard as a third partner and, as you'll read below, is largely responsible for running the label on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps when it comes to running a label it's a case of "three heads are better than two", because the label continues to go from strength to strength, putting out a constant stream of quality singles and EPs from right across the house spectrum.
But Kittball don't stop at simply delivering floor-burners for the clubs. They've also put out two It Began In Africa albums, compilations which raise money to support the African Children's Choir. Set up in Uganda by human rights activist Ray Burnett, the African Children's Choir is what it says - a choir full of African children. But not just any choir: since 1984, their tours around the world (they've performed and recorded with Queen, Wyclef Jean and Annie Lennox, and sung for Nelson Mandela, at Live8 and on American Idol, for instance) have raised the funds to build numerous schools and children's homes right across the African continent, as well as farms, medical centres and other vital infrastructure. You can read more about the choir here.
So with EPs out this month from both Juliet (The Get Down, in collaboration with Flo MRZDK) and Tube & Berger (Cure, in collaboration with Alegant), Tube & Berger's rework of Junior Jack's classic E-Samba tearing up clubs and a third It Began In Africa collection in the pipeline too, what better time to find out a little more?
When was Kittball set up, and why?
Tube & Berger: "Kittball was set up in 2005. Basically, we wanted to have our own label and be free with our decisions. It was essential for us to have a platform where we can put out the music we like as fast as possible, without significant discussions."
How would you describe the label's music policy?
Tube & Berger: "Wide-ranging, from deep house to house to tech-house. We release what we love, and what we like to play."
How many people are employed by/involved in running the label?
Tube & Berger: "The heads behind the label are ourselves and Juliet Sikora. Most of our employees are freelancers and part-time workers. We outsource the PR, booking and the administration part - we want to focus on the music, our label showcases and taking care of the artists we've signed. Administration and paperwork are essential, of course, but we've realised that we need to find more time for the creative side of things."
So how did a duo from Dortmund, Germany and a solo DJ/producer from Strzelce Opolski, Poland come to hook up in the first place?
Juliet: "Mr Berger called me and asked if I’m a singer, they invited me to their studio, and the rest is history."
Tube & Berger: "Juliet had already worked for a record label before, so she knew what to do! She cleaned up the mess..."
Dortmund's not really known as a dance music 'hub' in the way that Berlin (for example) is, so what's the scene like there?
Juliet: "Ha ha, correct! But don't underrate this city: we have several electronic clubs, pubs and bars, plus a very active underground and illegal rave scene. Of course it's not as big as in Berlin, but exciting things are happening here."
Tube & Berger: "Absolutely true. But we think nowadays it doesn’t make a big difference where you are based, thanks to the internet. We work with people from all over the world. Our graphic designer is from the Dominican Republic, for example."
As there's three of you running the label, who does what on a day-to-day basis?
Juliet: "I do all the label management stuff, A&Ring, communication link-up, accounts, etc."
Tube & Berger: "Yes! Juliet is our one-man army. A&R decisions are made by the three of us, and we help some of our artists when it comes to production or music-related questions and try to come up with new ideas. Some of those ideas are even actually useful!"
You've now put out two It Began In Africa albums - will there be any more in the future?
Juliet: "Funny that you ask, we’ve already started working on Part 3. The release is scheduled for late 2018/early 2019."
Tube & Berger: "In our opinion, this was the best thing we ever did. Seeing the results of our work in the form of smiling kids making music in Africa is absolutely fantastic. Our dream is to fly over and actually help to build a new music school down there. We really hope there will be many artists supporting this project."
All three of you continue to release music on other labels, so how do you decide what goes on Kittball and what gets shopped around?
Juliet: "Gut instinct."
Tube & Berger: "Kittball will always be our home base, but of course we are fans of other labels, too. It would be a bit rude only to release on Kittball, don't you think?"
If you started in 2005, then 2018 is your 13th year - is it looking lucky or unlucky so far?
Juliet: "If I’m honest with you, 2017 was a year with a lot of in-house changes. 2018 is the year where we are more focused, we added a new company structure and new, fresh artists found a new home on Kittball. So the prediction is 100 per cent up!"
Tube & Berger: "Juliet is right, it was the year of significant changes, and we are feeling very good with what we have achieved this year. So it's definitely the lucky 13."
Words: Russell Deeks
The Get Down EP and E-Samba are out now. Tube & Berger and Alegant's Cure is out on 24 August
Tags: Kittball Records, Dortmund, Tube & Berger, Juliet Sikora, Junior Jack, Alegant, Flo MRZDK, Robert Owens, Zoo Brazil, Timo Maas, Hector Couta, Ida Engberg, Gui Boratto, Wally Lopez, Queen, Wyclef Jean, Annie Lennox