With their first compilation in stores now, we chat to Superlux Records co-founder Mike Gill
February's Label Of The Month could well be a new name to many iDJ readers. Not because iDJ readers aren't a pretty clued-up bunch, generally, but because Superlux Records – a London-based label headed up by the triumvirate of Mike Gill, Nick Gynn and Johnny Hunter – are only four releases old, making them very possibly the 'youngest' label ever to appear in this slot. In fact, we only heard of them ourselves a few short weeks ago!
But then we heard Lost In The Future, the fourth of those aforesaid releases: a 14-track V/A compilation packed full of (mostly) 4/4 underground electronic goodness. Tracks on the album run the gamut from deep house to electro to full-throttle techno: what they all share isn't a sound palette, tempo or time signature, but rather a laser-eyed focus on the dancefloor, and a willingness to eschew big, obvious hooks – and the mainstream crossover appeal that goes with them – in favour of extended grooves built to keep bodies moving through till sunrise.
And – if you hadn't noticed, over the course of the past 21 years! – we're quite keen on that sort of thing round here.
The album is also the first Superlux release to be issued digitally, the first three EPs having been limited edition, vinyl-only affairs. That extra availability alone is likely to pick them up a whole raft of new fans… so never mind the fact they're only four releases old, we figured we'd best talk to them now, before every bugger else wants to.
Here's what label co-owner Mike Gill [pictured below] had to tell us…
When was the label set up, and why?
“We decided to set the label up just over a year ago – it’s actually coming up to a year since our first release next month. I had spent a couple of years living in Chicago and came back to London really inspired by amazing experiences. Nick and Johnny had been working hard in the studio writing some amazing new material, and there was a general musical buzz in the air that I hadn’t felt in London for a while. Everything just kind of fell together nicely and a label just felt like an organic move.”
How many people are employed by or involved in running the label?
“Nick and I do most of the A&R, with Johnny also assisting with artistic direction. We are very in-house, but we do also outsource a PR team and the marketing department.”
Describe the label's music policy…
“We really are about genuine music – all killers, no fillers and all that! All jokes aside, we're an underground label, which means the music we promote and advocate is music made for artistic expression. Making money is at the bottom of the priority list.
“The electronic music industry has become massively saturated in the last 10-20 years which has led to a lot of interesting music coming through, but also a ton of average material slobbered with overly elongated snare fills and cheesy drops. We wanted to press our music almost exclusively to vinyl because the overall standard of dance music released on vinyl is higher. This allows us to position ourselves in a slightly less saturated musical environment.”
Personal highlights so far?
“Signing Dawl to the label for our first release was a really big deal to me personally – he’s such a top level producer and his production is unbelievably tight. We got to hang with him at one of his gigs in Stoke Newington and traded a few records, and his collection is quality! His label partner Sween is also a total gentleman – big up Tonedropout!”
Does putting out your first compilation feel like something of a milestone?
“Definitely. Each of our releases is a milestone in their own way, but this one for sure has a selection of top-level producers and artists. It gives us a chance to really promote our sound and the sound of the (primarily) London-based underground music scene.”
On the press release for the album you say the label covers “house, techno, garage, breakbeat and everything in between”. Do you feel labels have become overly specialised these days?
“I don’t think you can ever really be too specialised – some of my favourite labels are very specific in their sound, such as OCB’s Casa Voyager which is almost exclusively an electro label. It’s all about the content, not the context. If you love a sound enough then it will shine through.
“At Superlux, we love to mix it up because we see ourselves as somewhat of an eclectic label, however there are many other labels who are way more eclectic, and in time we definitely intend to see how far we can push our sound.”
What experience, if any, did the three of you have in terms of running a record label, prior to setting up Superlux?
“None of us had a morsel of experience running a label before Superlux! I think that actually made the whole thing way more exciting from the get-go. Sometimes when something is totally new, you have a lot more energy and enthusiasm. I definitely get a massive buzz from it!”
Most of the artists on the compilation are more up-and-coming names, but there's one genuine old school scene legend on there in the form of Clive Henry. How did you come to hook up with him originally?
“We’re all friends through the music scene and Clive is one of the older musicians in a circle but he still likes to get down – he’s a super guy and a good friend of ours. If you meet Clive you’ll straight away notice his soft charm. He’s a true gent, and also a top quality musician who’s been a rep for the UK underground scene for years. The stuff he did as part of Peace Division is timeless, while also totally experimental at points.”
Your Soundcloud page talks about “curating a culture of music based on quality and longevity”. But how do you spot a tune that's gonna last, as opposed to a five-minute wonder – what are the traits or hallmarks you're looking for (or looking to avoid)?
“Longevity is readily tied together with passion, quality and individuality. A piece of music that somebody has put their heart and soul into will shine through because it’s on a level, almost a spiritual phenomenon of sorts. You can hear the love, you can hear the time the artist has spent collecting music, sampling it and/or perfecting his or her sound.
“On the flipside, you have artists who follow a very specific formula to sound like a track that is popular and sells to the masses. Poppy characteristics like cheesy melodies and vocals might sound bearable or even pleasing the first few times you hear them, but a truly classic track can be played on repeat and never get boring.”
I notice from Discogs that both Johnny and Nick have previously had stuff out on the Pleasure Club label, so is there some kind of 'family' connection there?
“Yes, definitely! Bobby the owner of Pleasure Club, is a really old friend of mine, and one of my best friends. He signed a lot of Nick and Johnny’s early music for his label. The scene we’re in has a massive family vibe with labels like Trouble Maker, Seven Hills, and Parasol Culture all being closely tied together by friendships and musical collaborations.”
What other labels are out there right now that you see as kindred spirits, or perhaps look to as a role model?
“There are so many awesome labels putting out incredible bits and pieces at the moment like Tonedropout, NorthSouth, Pleasure Club, Limousine Dreams, Haws, Klasse Wrecks, Art of Dark. However you obviously have the pioneers like Underground Resistance, Planet E, Trax, Peacefrog and all the UK guys like XL, Shut Up And Dance etc — the list could go on forever. Every label has its own place in my heart and is therefore somewhat of a role model.”
What mountains are you looking to climb next?
“We want to launch our own merchandise line at some point. That’s definitely going to be a mountain and a half. Getting some parties set up for post-Covid also feels like a bit of a way off but we want to start a series of worldwide events, due to the fact that we're half in Europe and half in the Americas. Some sort of tour could definitely be in the cards too.”
Can you talk us through your next few upcoming releases?
“We have a very exciting selection of releases all ready to come out over the next few months. After the Lost In The Future compilation our next release in April is from an artist who's very well known in the industry but using a new moniker. That's an exciting one to stay tuned for, definitely.
“Then we have separate releases from two young, up-and-coming artists followed by a true godfather of techno and breaks towards the end of the year. I don’t want to give too much away, but the level of music and artists wanting to get involved with Superlux keeps getting better and I couldn’t feel more privileged to be involved in putting it out.”
Finally, is there anything else iDJ readers need to know about Superlux or what you've got going on right now?
“Really it’s just the music coming out right now: we would love to say ‘come check us out playing here, there and everywhere’ but all we can do is hope that in time that might be the case once everything re-opens. Just give us a follow on Bandcamp and any of our other socials and we’ll let you know what’s coming up in the near future.
“We are also planning to release a limited number of dubplates through Bandcamp which will be an interesting mini-project! 2021 is definitely one to watch at Superlux HQ.”
Words: Russell Deeks
Lost In The Future is out now on Superlux Records – buy it here.
Tags: Superlux Records, house, techno, breakbeat, Mike Gill, Nic Gynn, Johnny Hunter, Dawl, Clive Henry, Subb-An, Tonedropout, Pleasure Club, Trouble Maker, Seven Hills, Parasol Culture, Peace Division