With the first volume of a three-part anniversary collection out now, we chat to label boss Chuck Daniels
Chuck Daniels' Sampled Detroit label (otherwise known as Sampled Recordings) is 16 years old in 2018. To celebrate, they're releasing a series of three V/A EPs. The first one dropped in March, featuring tracks from respected producers such as Jesse Rose, Antwon Faulkner, Hazmat and Piem; there's another coming later this month, and the third will be out just before the Movement festival in Detroit in May.
Despite the label's longevity, there have been only around 70 releases from Sampled Detroit so far - Daniels is clearly someone who believes in quality rather than quantity. And there's been no shortage of the former on offer, with the label having put out tracks from the likes Derrick Carter, Fast Eddie, Demarkus Lewis and Amp Fiddler over the years. A personal highlight, says Daniels, was Fast Eddie feat Ce Ce Peniston's Get To Steppin' (2016) - because "remixing two legends was such an amazing opportunity in itself, let alone having the release on Sampled" - while the label's biggest seller to date was Jeremy Joshua's Thinking About Your Face from 2015.
Surviving 16 years is no mean feat for any small, independent record label - let alone when those 16 years have seen the music industry landscape change almost beyond recognition. Yet Sampled Detroit seem to be not just surviving, but positively thriving - they recently started putting out vinyl again, for instance, having like so many imprints been forced to abandon the format during the bleak period in dance music history that was the back end of the noughties.
So we spoke to Chuck himself to get the inside story...
Congratulations on reaching your 16th birthday! Did you ever think you'd be doing this for this long?
"Thank you! I guess I really never thought about it. I try and live one day at a time, so things with the label have been organic. We've never been on a set agenda and the label has been more a labour of love than anything. Sharing music is amazing when it's from the heart. Our motto has always been simple, and that’s to try and share our friends' music with the world in the best way we know how."
What can you tell us about the birth of Sampled Detroit all those years ago?
"I launched the label in 2002 with a vinyl release during the Detroit Electronic Music Festival weekend (now known as Movement). The reason I launched the label was to have an outlet not only for my own music, but for all of my friends making music at the time who didn't have an outlet for it. In 2002 we didn’t have the resources to even give our music away so easily: burning a CD or pressing a vinyl record was really the only way, and both were costly. Now with the ability to give your music away through YouTube, Soundcloud or Bandcamp it gives artists a way to be heard at no cost."
Describe the label's music policy in your own words...
"I’m not sure we have a 'policy' for music: I sign the music I like and will play, which could be anything from house to techno and anything in-between. I guess you could say the label reflects my own musical tastes, and how they've evolved over the past 16 years."
How many people are employed by/involved in running the label?
"Running the label has primarily been a one-man show, although I have had tons of help from some of my close friends involved. Dimitri Max, Jason Hodges and Wally Callerio have always been there for me on many levels. I have always had a great graphics design team, and some great help from people like Deron Delgado, who runs a distribution company and is label manger for Dirtybird."
Looking at your Discogs page, the Sampled release schedule seems to have ramped up a bit in the past five years or so... was there any specific reason for that?
"No, not really. Running a label can be very time-consuming, especially today. The times of pressing a record and selling it to stores seem a bit prehistoric now, although it’s still happening. And if you're releasing music digitally, well, there is just so much to do and to know! There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to monetise, but it comes in fractions of a dollar and if you aren’t good at collecting those fractions it’s hard to make a living at it.
"Because I am still heavily involved, it may be time for me to take a break and focus on my own music, but until then we have lots of stuff in the pipeline for the remainder of the year."
How come the 16th birthday package is being released as three EPs rather than a compilation album - or is that to follow?
"Originally we were going to do a retrospective album of past releases, but my friend Jesse Coer at 1xRun inspired us to press some vinyl and things got postponed. Unfortunately we couldn’t press that many tunes, so we decided to do a three-part release, ending the project with some vinyl just before Movement in May. Jesse and one of our favourite artists from Detroit, Michelle Tanguay, helped us with the packaging and we are so excited with what they did."
Looking back to when you were starting the label, what ONE piece of advice would you give your younger self now, based on all that you've learned and experienced in that time?
"If you're thinking about starting a label, think about the purpose and what you want to accomplish before jumping right in. Running a label is a gigantic task, and to do it properly requires a team around you, and a lot of hard work.
"Also, if you own a label it’s important to keep in mind we are caring for someone’s art, someone’s creation. Music can be a very personal thing and I do my best to treat every release with care. Most of the projects on the label have some kind of story behind them, and that's probably why our release schedule hasn’t been so traditional. Many labels are too worried about a release every three weeks instead of looking for unique projects.
Finally, what else is going on with Sampled Detroit right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Sampled Detroit is not only a label, but also the name of our promotion company in Detroit. We've been throwing parties since the 90s and we will continue to bring quality events to Detroit and some other places very soon. This year during the 2018 Movement festival we will be hosting SAMPLED SIXTEEN, our anniversary party held at Marble Bar in Detroit. We have an all-star line-up in place with Riva Starr, Kenny Glasgow, Mark Farina, Harvard Bass, Andrés, Rick Wilhite and some of the Sampled family: Jason Hodges, Wally Callerio and Burning Bridges."
Words: Russell Deeks
Sampled Sixteen Vol 1 is out now - buy it here - with Vol 2 to follow very soon and Vol 3 coming next month
Tags: Sampled Detroit, Sampled Recordings, Chuck Daniels, Riva Starr, Kenny Glasgow, Mark Farina, Harvard Bass, Andrés, Rick Wilhite, Derrick Carter, Fast Eddie, Demarkus Lewis, Amp Fiddler, Ce Ce Peniston, Jesse Rose, Antwon Faulkner, Hazmat, Piem, Movement, Detroit