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How your favorite label came into existence

The stories behind some defining imprints

  • 12 April 2017
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Crosstown Rebels

Damian Lazarus was once A&R for British label City Rockers (The Sunshine Underground, Felix Da Housecat, Tiga & Zyntherius), but left with a career in record production in his sights. Although he'd cleared his desk at City Rockers, he couldn't leave his former employers behind completely and wanted to keep the initials for a label he was launching himself. "At that time in 2003, I was travelling around the world quite a bit, starting to understand that there was a growing global audience of people into underground electronic music who were being connected by rebellious parties and music making ideas," Lazarus says. Many hours of piecing various bits of paper and words together, the house and techno label came to fruition.

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Defected Records

A close brush with redundancy was what inspired Defected boss Simon Dunmore to launch the much-loved house label. "In 1998, Universal bought Polygram Records, where I was working at the time, and there were a lot of redundancies," he told us. "I managed to survive but I felt like the next time something like that happened, I may not be so lucky. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.” 10 years of working with major labels and building up a lengthy list of contacts most definitely worked in his favour.

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“In this neighbourhood in the lower Haight area of San Francisco there was a tiny movement happening," owner Barclay Crenshaw says. "You could hear it seeping into the nightlife every single night. Originally I was just going to be the label guy and Justin Martin was going to be the artist. He was really getting popular with a much more quirky sound than what was around at the time. I wanted to start a label so I put all my energy into capturing this vibe and getting it out into the world. It took me a while, but I finally got a German distributor (nobody in the USA would take us) and then it all started rolling from there.”

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Back in 2002, Solomun was throwing a party called DIY. Around that time he met H.O.S.H. who was making music on a similar vibe to Solomun's material, but finding that "it didn't fit to anything as a label". Another Diynamic regular, Stimming, soon arrived on the scene with a trove of unique music and they knew they had to launch a label.

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Ed Banger

Starting out as Daft Punk’s manager in 1995 after randomly bumping into the duo in London, Pedro Winter, aka Busy P, founded Ed Banger in 2003 as a division of Headbangers Entertainment. He told The Journal he used his Daft Punk experience when starting his label. “I got to know the right people from the right clubs and festivals, and that’s a pretty invaluable know-how to have. It makes it easier for me to navigate in the jungle of promoters, clubs and festivals when my label mates and artists are touring.”

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Get Physical

"The day we moved to Frankfurt and met DJ T was love at first sight," Get Physical co-founders M.A.N.D.Y say. Along with Booka Shade, who Phillip and Patrick of M.A.N.D.Y knew from university, the six were able to realise a "dream" and launch Get Physical, the name coming from a wish for the label to push a "very physical and danceable sound". That was all able to be tested out at DJ T's club MONZA, where the M.A.N.D.Y guys had a residency.

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Hessle Audio

If it wasn't for pioneering London club night FWD>>, we may never have been treated to the dubstep-bass-techno concoction of Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound's Hessle Audio output. Pearson Sound befriended Ben UFO in the queue during his first FWD>> visit in April 2006, as stated in this RA piece, and he later joined Ben, who was living with Pangaea, at university in Leeds. Soon after, Pearson Sound had been sent some work by Romanian producer TRG (now Cosmin TRG) and suggested launching a label, named after the Hessle Avenue road they were living on in Leeds.

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Hospital Records

Hospital bosses Chris Goss and Tony Colman, aka London Elektricity, had been colleagues for three years before the drum 'n' bass label launched in 1996, working together at Tongue & Groove, a label founded by Colman in '92. Mid-90s trip-hop killed the acid jazz imprint off, though, leading them to spend nine months in the studio working towards their newest venture. "The final label name was nothing more special than one-too-many lagers by the river," Goss says. "Growing with classic rock records, both Tony and I liked concepts. Stumbling across the word Hospital finally gave rise to an immediate list of theme, puns, designs and visuals." The original piece of paper used to brainstorm their ideas includes the terms 'stethoscope', 'prescriptions' and 'blood pressure'.

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