Having a slogan such as “outside the industry” for a label is something that most would argue is the antithesis of their business. Klasse Wrecks meets this self-proclaimed mantra and does it with a captivating flair that delivers in such a way that makes one almost think that “the industry” isn’t even needed anymore.
Over the past decade, they’ve stood firm in the unapologetic, unwavering and individualistic way they run their label and all of its sub-brands without seemingly any look into or bother about their counterparts. They’re a label that runs solely on their own personal taste, dismissing trends and other’s preferences, resulting in releases unlike anything else, yet always captivating and compelling.
The duo behind this enigmatic outfit are Michael (Mr Ho) and Lucas (Luca Lozano), two artists who embody the spirit and ethos of Klasse Wrecks in all that they touch, be that in their marathon sets across the globe, their always wildly original music or the graphics and visuals for Klasse or other exciting projects.
Two artists completely in their own lanes joining forces on a label that is unlike any of its peers, offering fresh and innovative output seemingly straight from past decades. What they’ve built together over the years is so unique, and a glimpse into the minds of the two even more unique artists.
The digging these two do is second to none, with a tenacity for all things niche and obscure. Rave Mascots and obscure 90s producers, all the way to Venezuelan sound systems and UFO signage, all find a place under the expansive Klasse Wrecks umbrella. Never thought we’d love a book about the logos of early computer software, but here we are.
Henry Cooper got the chance to catch up with Michael and Lucas about their A&R process, what year they think is best in music, and the future of Klasse Wrecks.
Firstly, how did you guys meet?
Michael: We met DJ-ing and through mutual friends in Berlin about 15 years ago.
Lucas: Yeah, we had a common interest in music at the time, and our paths crossed regularly. I always enjoyed hanging out with Michael, and we bonded over a similar, warped sense of humour. He is always there to entertain my schemes, and we work well together.
How has the label transitioned over the years, and how did you come up with the name “Klasse Wrecks”?
Lucas: In its previous incarnation, the label was called ‘Klasse Recordings’. Things changed, and people came and went, and we decided to forge a rawer, more unique label from the ashes….thus Wrecks was born. Klasse is the German word for ‘class', and wrecks is a messy abbreviation for records.
Michael: In the last few years, we have tried to maintain a very regular release schedule for our music. Over the years, we have also expanded into doing apparel, books and other design pieces.
You operate in Europe and Asia, but where is your most loyal audience, and how do the two areas differ?
Michael: We have a bigger fanbase in Europe, for sure. Personally, I am always excited to hear from people in Asia that they know and support the label.
Lucas: Yep, as we started in Berlin so we have a good group of friends and fans in Germany. Interest in Asia is always growing, and people love seeing a label coming from Hong Kong. I personally don't think the areas differ too much; the world is a small place these days and information gets shared quickly.
All tracks you release always seem to fit the Klasse Wrecks vibe, no matter the sound. What’s the A&R process like?
Michael: Thank you. All A&R decisions are made by Luca and me, and we both need to agree on something before it's released.
Lucas: We’re always on the lookout for something different. If a style is popular, then we usually feel the need to move on and sign something else. I really love finding brand new artists and releasing their music, like Karlos Moran, for instance. I am less interested if an artist who has released on all the most popular labels gets in touch, even if the music is stunning, I’d much rather work on an unknown. I’m never looking for perfection when listening to demos. More of a vibe and a pure intention….I think it's pretty easy to pick up on those things, and I love to work with people doing things for the right reasons.
Has the evolving music landscape changed your A&R process?
Michael: Not really. If I may speak for Lucas here - we have always and continue to release music that we like. Some releases resonate more than others, and it's really difficult to know why.
Lucas: Yeah, I agree. As mentioned before, we’re not really trying to release what’s popular…we have a slogan at the label, “OUTSIDE THE INDUSTRY”, and it’s generally how we feel. I avoid listening to promos and swerve new music as much as possible. I don't want to be influenced by what others are doing.
Tell us a bit about the non-music side of Klasse Wrecks such as the apparel and accessories!
Lucas: I always felt a label could be so much more than just music…who’s to say what we can do? The possibilities are endless. I am a restless creative and get my kicks from starting new projects and having silly ideas realised in real life. I want our label to stand out, be unique, and be remembered and to do that, I think we need to take risks and do stuff that others don't.
Michael: Luca is a great graphic designer so merch has always been an important part of Klasse Wrecks. More often than not, Luca will have an idea for a product and its design. Then we can see if it's feasible to make it.
And some insight into your in-depth zines on the most niche topics? My personal favourite is the ‘Rudeboys Unlimited’ series. Are these collections you’ve been building for years, or do you find a topic and do deep dives?
Lucas: Some collections I’ve built up and wanted to share for years. I’m a nerd and an obsessive; I work on a subject intensely for a few months and then drop it and move on to the next one. We’ve been lucky in finding people like Resampld to work with. They share a common passion for archiving and collating. Our zines wouldn’t be possible without the help and friendship of Moritz and We Make It Risograph printers in Berlin…he really helped with the vision and still prints our zines to this day. He’s been a huge help, and I’d like to thank him here if possible.
What are some of your favourite clubs in Asia?
Michael: Mitsuki in Tokyo, Precious Hall in Sapporo, Mihn in Hong Kong, Tag in Chengdu, Elevator in Shanghai... and many more.
Lucas: Yes, I have to shout out Mihn as well. I like B1 (now Studio 9) in Taipei, Bonobo in Tokyo and the spots in Osaka and Savage in Vietnam.
You always have incredibly striking visuals that always remain on brand. What's the inspiration behind them?
Lucas: It’s hard to distil what the inspiration is exactly. It’s all the things I’ve digested over the years…the things I love. I think the main intention when I make artwork is to make something that stands out in the perfection of the digital realm. I use traditional printing techniques to give the artwork an analogue feel…I want our work to pop out at the viewer when scrolling through IG or flicking through records in a record store. Again, it comes back to standing out and being outside of what everyone else is doing. These days, it's harder as a fair few more labels are looking like we do, but that just pushes us to do different stuff…without the pressure, we’d stagnate.
Artists are usually gatekeeping tracks, especially the deep cuts and white labels. You both take the opposite approach and seem open and happy to share your gems with the world, such as with @lozanorecordbox. Why do you think this is important?
Michael: I think gatekeeping is an old-fashioned mentality. That was from a time when I first got into music. I want to share knowledge, and I don't want to be old-fashioned. Plus, there's so much music out there that nobody knows, just waiting to be discovered. I also believe in sharing new music from current artists, it's one of my ways of showing support.
Lucas: I used to be really bad with holding tracks back. I would never share tracklists or even disguise record finds. These days, I’m more chill about it. For me, it’s because I’m established and no longer have to stake my claim. I still hold on to the belief that unique records are what makes the DJ, and if we all had the same finds, there would be nothing new and interesting. Most of the records I find and play are unknown and not expensive… It's nice to share that info with others, even if it does mean I’m less unique in my selection. That being said, there are still some gems I would NEVER share!
You both spent a lot of time in London, but does this influence you and Klasse Wrecks? Seems that the 90s rave scene has a part to play.
Lucas: I grew up in London and lived there again in my early 20s. It’s an amazing city with a massive melting pot of musical styles. It’s definitely shaped my tastes and I love the eclectic nature of DJs from London, and the early rave and breakbeat scene in the UK is deep in my veins. It has had a part to play in the label, but as Michael mentions, we jump from scenes and genres a lot, delving into super obscure things and dissecting them.
Michael: Both Luca and I get slightly obsessed with the sounds and aesthetics of certain scenes, not even just the 90s rave scene. We get excited not just about the music but the culture behind it. The obsessions kind of happen organically, from the tracks we've been digging to the images we see and the jokes we make. We don't have weekly meetings about what scene to get into next.
Can you tell us a bit more about Zodiac 44, 1.NFO and Graffiti Tapes, and how they differ from the main label?
Michael: Zodiac44 is more techno-focused, and there will only be 12 releases. 1.NFO is specifically about the Amiga Demo scene, where producers kind of put up their music as some sort of open source. Graffiti Tapes is music made by or in collaboration with Graffiti artists that we admire.
Lucas: They are all sub-labels that allow us to release as much music as we can. I am particularly proud of the Graffiti Tapes series as I used to be a writer and still follow the scene closely.
What are some of your favourite other labels? Is there another label that inspires you, and why?
Lucas: I try to stay clear of what’s going on in the current scene…it’s overload, and it affects me too much. I am strictly stuck in the early 90s when it comes to music…sometimes to my detriment. The only guys that get me shook are the guys like Central and Sports from Denmark. They are amazing producers, and the labels they run are always on point. I also have to shout out Fett Burger and Sotofett. Those two are such an inspiration, and they really helped me get through some dark times in my career with music. I have endless love and support for Mr. Burger.
Michael: Any label with good art and a good sound aesthetic is an inspiration.
What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about Asia’s music scene?
Michael: I think maybe people forget that it's much less of an industry and established business than it is in Europe. This means that people who are part of this less commercial electronic music scene in Asia often do so with a lot of heart and less reward.
Lucas: I don't think people have fully woken up yet to the genius that is Mogwaa.
The 'Mi Yoyo' remix EP — why did you guys decide to release it much later? And what past releases of yours would you like to see a full remix EP from?
Lucas: The original track was released in the middle of summer, and the whole EP was very bright in sound and we figured people could do with a little sunshine as it was winter in Europe. Plus, the original track had so much potential, so it’s nice to hear some new versions of it. We’re constantly revisiting old material and remixing it, for us the music we released feels timeless… it's not something that just gets forgotten. We’ll actually be releasing a remix from Om Unit. He took on the smash from Mr. Ho…000Baby.
Michael: As far as albums go, the Joi Lau one might be cool to be remixed entirely.
That Edwin fashion collab is stellar. How did this happen, and can you tell us a bit about this elusive cassette tape with music created on Amiga computers?
Lucas: I’ve been in close contact with the Edwin guys since doing a project for them years ago. They are very interested in the electronic music scene, and we have similar interests. The range came about after a brief chat online during the lockdown.
The tape is a recording of a mix by DJ Kid Who, we have been working with him to release some music that was made by producers on Amigas in the early 1990s. For years, the music has been available online as .mod files but has never seen the light of day on vinyl. The mix is a representation of how much amazing music is out there!
How has Klasse Wrecks developed over the years, and where do you see it moving to in the future?
Lucas: I find it hard to imagine a world in which the label doesn’t exist. It will always be around in some way or another. Wrecks is really based around our friendship, so as long as we’re cracking jokes and being silly billies, it will be here to release music and more. I’m excited about doing more projects with clothing brands and exploring the relationship between fashion and music. I love fashion and want to do more in that realm. I guess, first and foremost, we’ll be releasing more music from ourselves. It’s become a mouthpiece for our own productions, and it’s amazing to have that freedom.
Michael: I'm extremely grateful to our fans and supporters for every purchase and every play of Klasse Wrecks. I personally hope that we can continue to release the music and products that we like, and that even more people get to share in our excitement.
You both seem to be constantly going back through past decades for fresh-sounding tracks, but what year do you think was the best for music?
Michael: Can't answer! Even the years that I thought were bad for music had great music. Also, tastes change and aesthetics change, as well as trends repeating and coming back.
Lucas: Yeah, it’s a constantly changing spectrum. I would have never thought I’d be digging into the Eurodance/Makina scene for inspiration, but here I am! For me, the years between 90-93 have a golden edge to them. There’s not much music I’ve heard that tops those years in terms of creativity and style.
Finally, can you share with us some insight into what’s in store for 2024 from your label?
Lucas: We get asked this question quite a lot and I don't like to ruin the surprise. When we release music, we usually do so without a promo campaign and don’t like to tease previews, so I will keep quiet on this one.
Michael: There are a couple of artists that we admire who will be making their debut releases on Klasse Wrecks, so I'm super excited about that.
Follow Klasse Wrecks on Instagram here.
[Images by James Winstanley]
Henry Cooper is a Writer at Mixmag Asia. Follow him on Instagram.