As part of the KVA002 giveaway (which I’ll be posting about shortly), I wanted to do an interview regarding the Supertouch “Dreams”< release. The obvious interview choice would have been with Klute (the artist behind the release), and I'd still like to interview him sometime soon. Still, I thought it'd be cool for a change to interview Will from Sublogic Recordings, regarding his label and all the releases he's put out over the years. In my mind, Will is one of many "unsung heroes" who, rather than just producing tunes back in the early 90's (though he did a bit of that too), really pushed them in various ways both online and IRL through the 2000's, helping to buoy the scene when some of the original players might have been losing interest. For those who don't know, Will's Sublogic Label, along with 92Retro, were THE labels which kicked off oldskool represses / unreleased presings in the 2000’s, and were the primary influence in me starting 8205. Will has also been active in various other oldskool related stuff online, as a trusted secondhand seller (I’ve got some crazy vinyl from him over the years) and active on forums passing on information about tracks. He even wrote a guest post for this blog early on, featuring a super rare whitelabel I’ve yet to find a copy of. Will definitely has some interesting things to say about this music, releasing vinyl in 2014, and the online presence for these dusty old tracks – read on to find out.
First things first – quick background of your history with this music? The first thing I know from you is the awesome VENTURE FM EP which is a personal favorite 92/93 whitelabel. How did you get into rave , start making tunes, etc? what got you “back into it” after a certain number of years, or did you never leave?
My history with this music is probably quite similar to a lot of people who are still into it… around the last years at school (1991 – early 1992) when I was 17, 18 years old there was a pretty clear divide between the kids who were listening to indie and band music, and a smaller proportion who were into electronic music – everything from the more dance / electronic side of pop like New Order, Depeche Mode etc through to US and UK hip hop, house and of course the first copies tapes from raves that were doing the rounds when a Walkman and a C90s were standard. I don’t think it’s possible to pin it down to one moment or event but for whatever reason I found electronic music much more interesting than ‘live’ music. If there was one reason I can say for sure had a part in it, it would be computer music from the years beforehand – I was really into music from the first generation of home computers, especially the Commodore 64. I used to make tapes of C64 game music, almost obsessively, and had favourite writers… Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway and others and to this day I still think that given the severe limitations of the hardware what those guys did was incredible. The C64 music also got me into listening to Jean Michelle Jarre, Vangelis etc so I guess when I first started hearing electronic music, techno, house, early hardcore it felt like a logical progression really. Then there were certain rave tapes that started to do the rounds in 1991 that had a big impact on me too – early Dreamscape and Raindance tapes, and also DJ studio mixes, Hype, Mickey Finn, Slipmatt, all those DJs who were big on the rave scene in 1991. It actually all felt very accessible back then. You bought, borrowed or copied tapes of the DJs you’d seen on flyers, which then meant you heard tunes that you’d buy on vinyl which meant a trip to a record shop… where you’d get more flyers, hear of more events which you’d get tapes from, discover more tunes and on it went. The first events I went to – Raindance, Apocalypse Now at Rivermead Leisure Centre, a lot of the Fantazia events, were just mind blowing. It was like a confirmation that this imaginary scene lived through flyers and tapes was real and was happening everywhere, every weekend. I can still remember clearly the first tune I heard walking into my first proper big rave at Rivermead in 1991, it was Sykosis 451 – Hurricane and that was it, never really looked back from that point. Nostalgia aside, I think Hurricane is still one of the hardest hardcore tunes ever made. Still sounds so good today, 23 years later!
As for making tunes, that again was very accessible in the early nineties – messing around with samplers and sequencers didn’t feel like a big leap from messing around with home computers in the years before. It was pretty exciting to be using an Atari ST for something other than swapping and playing games, and they were very easy to get hold of. A lot of people had an old Atari 520 or 1040ST already, and that infamous cracked Cubase disc was doing the rounds everywhere. I remember the hardest thing to find was a proper high resolution Atari monochrome monitor, which made it much easier to work on Cubase for long periods. I bought an Akai S950 sampler, which had come down a fair bit in price when some of the more expensive higher spec Akais were available, and that was it – two MIDI cables and an old Roland PC200 controller keyboard and it was a basic but complete setup. The specs seem laughable by today’s standards but even with 30 or 40 seconds of total sampling time it was a lot of fun messing around with looping breakbeats and sampling bits and pieces from other records, from old VHS tapes of films, from old hip hop records, anything really. Some of the first things I did were “remixes” of some tunes I’d bought on vinyl. I did a few like that, just sampling the different bits of a tune and piecing it back together it in a new way – it’s probably for the best that I don’t still have any of them, they were pretty awful… but it was a lot of fun at the time. I do remember doing my own re-edit of Edge #1 that I was really pleased with, but the floppies have long since been lost.
I was very aware that there was a whole world of proper recording studios, high end kit, mastering and so on – but it was so far apart from what you could do in your bedroom with a sampler and an Atari that I think it actually strengthened (to borrow an Ibiza Records term) “Straight From The Bedroom” hardcore as a music in its own right. Real studio time and serious outboard kit was so expensive and so out of reach for most people that it wasn’t really a threat at all. It certainly wasn’t a reason to not make music in your bedroom. That was the great thing about even just having one Akai sampler – the mixdowns and mastering might not have been up to much, but you really could make tunes that sounded, perhaps naively in retrospect, as exciting and fresh as the studio produced dance music of the era.
Venture FM Presents Summer Rush EP
The story behind the Venture FM EP was probably like so many other bedroom releases of that time. I’d finished a handful of tracks, some on my own and some with my friend Dushan, and I just wanted to get a vinyl record released – it really was no more or no less than that. Every independent record shop was full of one-off productions with rubber stamped white labels, it was that easy. No publishing, no contracts, just loads of small releases from anyone who fancied giving it a go. I rented a DAT recorder and proper rack mount equaliser for a day, bought a blank DAT tape, recorded the tracks and took the DAT into JTS Studios in East London. At the time they were doing incredibly cheap deals on vinyl, you just dropped in your DAT, and they did everything else – a couple of weeks later you paid and collected your boxes of white labels. I remember at the time being almost a bit disappointed at how straightforward it was, I thought getting a record pressed would be a bit more glamorous than loading up the back of a car in the rain in Hackney but that was all part of the charm really. As for the EP itself, it was called the Venture FM EP as a friend was running a pirate radio station at the time, of the same name on 105.9 FM. In those days of endless white labels being produced, you had to at least try and give your EP a name, and I think we played a few of the tracks on the station from cassette tape before the actual vinyl was pressed. Selling the record was as simple as walking with boxes of stock into the usual London shops – Blackmarket and Unity in Soho, Mash Passion on Oxford Street, Zoom in Camden, from memory you didn’t even call up first – anyone could just show up with a box of tunes and walk out with a sale-or-return receipt. Wait a week, go back and see how many had been sold and walk out with your money. Or, in my case, spend it immediately on other records, rave tickets and tape packs in the same shop that had just paid you!
I made a few more tunes after that EP but never released any on vinyl. By the time mid – late 1993 came around, the music was definitely changing – getting darker, harder in some ways but also more dilute and less raw in other ways compared to the ’92 bedroom stuff. I pretty much lost interest in making tunes by then, but started to buy a lot more vinyl. Those were great times for buying tunes, especially late ’93, ’94 and ’95. You could pick up so many ’92 and ’93 tunes for pennies, the bargain bins were full of it as the new racks started to fill up with happy hardcore and jungle releases. Obviously being pre-internet, pre-Discogs etc it was always brilliant to dig the racks and discover classic ’92 and ’93 tunes you’d only ever heard at raves and on tapes – and picking them up for a pound or two! Years of listening to the London pirates like Touchdown FM, Pulse FM, Rush FM and loads of others was a big influence on buying records too. I used to record a lot of pirate radio to tape, and the DJs often mentioned tunes by name which again, pre-internet days, was a lifeline in discovering label names, track names and so on. I do miss those years more than any other, even though the jungle / drum and bass scene from 1995 onwards was very special too. In answer to your question though, a combination of nostalgia for those years and a genuine love of that music meant that I never really felt like I had got “out” of that scene, or that stuff like starting Sublogic Recordings meant that I had got back into that scene. Even now, nearly quarter of a century later, old skool still makes me very happy! People are still discovering unknown tune IDs, turning up old sets and unreleased tunes and so on. To me it’s all still fascinating. I think there are major parallels to other DIY music scenes from the past – UK punk, northern soul, Belgian New Beat and so on. I’m hoping that enough time has almost passed now that cultural historians might dig a bit deeper into the significance of this music and the progress and innovation that came from it.
Aside from putting out a record in 1993, you’re also one of the first people I know (along with Dave Elusive / 92Retro) involved in unearthing unreleased and/or impossibly rare oldskoolfor vinyl press. Sublogic was definitely one of the very first labels I know of doing oldskool reissues outside of compilations of popular tunes or labels just reissuing their own back catalog. How did you first get interested in doing these type of records? Were there any people/labels I may be forgetting who were doing it previously and were in turn influential to you?
I don’t think there was any other label that made me think “I want to do that!” and start pressing up rare or unreleased stuff. Like you say, there were a few reissues on various labels I had bought, but those were generally put out by the same original labels that had released the tunes first time around. There were a few vinyl compilations that were an influence though, stuff like the Classic To The Core albums, and the United Dance Anthems albums. But these were more of a frustration than an influence – too many tracks per side of vinyl, quiet pressings, too many obvious anthem choices. Those compilations were great and had some legendary tunes on them but I just wanted to dig much, much deeper and make the best old skool vinyl possible both in terms of content and quality. I remember buying a lot of those bootleg series records though, stuff like Knights Of The Turntables, and being disappointed over and over again with poor quality audio, obviously bootlegged, and on low quality pressings. I suppose that more than anything made me want to do it differently – and do it legally – with Sublogic.
It seems like the online “community” for hardcore/jungle has changed significantly over the years – from the early pre-www days of internet mailing lists, to early angelfire and similar static web pages, to web forums and youtube, and now through to massive facebook groups etc. At what point did you get involved with this kind of music in an interweb capacity? Any thoughts about the plusses and minuses of any of this / what has changed over the years with how people interact with the music based on the technology at hand?
It has changed massively, in both good ways and bad. Before the advent of the internet and all the valuable resources we now have like forums, Discogs, Roll Da Beats etc, it would have been very hard to find likeminded people outside of the actual rave scene and your own circle of friends. Being able to connect so accurately and so easily with likeminded people anywhere in the world is incredible, and without that it would have been far harder to discover, sell and promote stuff like the Sublogic releases. Like with the first vinyl I did, the Everyday Child 12”… that sold out in a matter of hours on B2VOS. How on earth you would have found those buyers pre-internet is beyond me, and in fact the whole bedroom label scene these days is entirely dependent on being able to make online connections and how that leads to online word-of-mouth hype and interest in what you are doing with a label. The bad side is that the internet also gives people a sense of entitlement to music for free… the Youtube DJs / rippers, the Soulseek and torrent downloaders and so on. It’s an argument that has been done to death, people saying that it makes no difference to vinyl sales if people pirate the tracks online because the people doing it had no intention of buying the records anyway – so it doesn’t translate into potential sales that are now lost. Maybe that is true, but there has not been a single vinyl release of the nearly 30-odd that I’ve done, where someone completely random who I don’t know has asked for MP3s for free because they “don’t use records any more”. As I always politely reply, just buy a copy record and I’ll chuck in a CD-R with some 128kbps MP3s for free. Unsurprisingly, nobody takes me up on that offer!
Ultimately though, the target audience for the small run vinyl pressings I sell is incredibly passionate about vinyl as a format, and without online connections I wouldn’t have access to that audience so it’s a brilliant thing that people use the internet to interact with this music. The good outweighs the bad many times over, I think.
To me it always seemed like Sublogic was on a roll, releasing tracks even by some big deal artists I would never expect mere mortals to license from (the no u turn related tracks for instance). But then there was a break a few years back where you slowed down significantly…. what sort of stuff made you decide to take a break from releasing, and what got you back into it?
Sublogic was on a roll, but between the mid to late 2000s things naturally slowed down – there are only so many people you can track down about back catalogue. And from those people, there are only so many who want to license it to you. And then from those people, there are only so many who still have their DAT tapes, and then from those DAT tapes there are only so many which are undamaged, and from those tracks there are only so many that are worth releasing due to rarity – so the numbers get small very quickly! I think I was lucky to be able to get as many big tunes as I did for Sublogic. And in terms of numbers and financial viability, to do them the way I was doing them just became impossible. It was never about making money, but stuff like heavyweight vinyl, label art, professional mastering, license fees etc start to add up very quick, and you end up having to do over 200 copies minimum just to break even. I probably could have gone on doing releases in these 200 – 300 copy quantities but it would have been at the expense of cutting corners on the finished product quality, and that is not something I wanted to do. The artists I did release tracks from are, in this scene, big deal artists – but in my experience, as people they have all been lovely to deal with. They’re just normal people, some are still in the music scene and some aren’t, but it’s been great to work with them. If there’s one person specifically to whom I owe so much of the success of the label, it’s Beau Thomas, who most people will know from Intense and Babylon Timewarp. I first got to know him when I did the SLRV004 – Durban Poison release. Since then he has not only put me in touch with countless other artists and producers, but has also engineered and cut to perfection nearly everything I’ve done on vinyl (almost 30 releases now). As anyone who has bought some of the Sublogic back catalogue will know, his mastering skills are phenomenal. He’s also given me so much advice and shared his knowledge of everything to do with making records… I owe him a great deal for all his help over the years.
Thinking back over all the people I’ve been in contact with, you can usually tell very quickly the people who are going to be good to work with and who are supportive of what you’re doing with a label. I won’t name any names, but some people I contacted and who I never managed to license tracks from were very resistant to the idea of reissues – the usual reason for not wanting to get involved was that they were planning to do it themselves. This is a real shame when it happens, as in nearly every case they don’t end up putting the tracks out themselves and nobody gets to own them. Of course, it’s their music and 100% their call if they want to do anything with the tracks, but it is frustrating when this happens, especially when you have a proven track record and know you could have done a first rate job releasing them and made a lot of people happy. But everyone who has done stuff on my label has been brilliant, I’ve made some really good friends, heard some amazing stories and learned a lot just from the privilege of working with them. And hopefully made a lot of old skool vinyl buyers / DJs / collectors happy in the process. With the previously unreleased stuff in particular, it’s a great feeling to enable it to see the light of day finally.
I guess I got back into it because after a while not releasing anything on Sublogic, I just missed the whole process and the satisfaction (and the smell!) of opening boxes of freshly pressed vinyl! I decided to start doing the KVA releases because they were so small, and entirely pre-order funded, that there was just no stress involved in doing them. It’s all the fun of digging for a rare tune and releasing it, without the pressure of trying to make any money from it.
With the new releases being labelled KVA / “Keep Vinyl Alive”, you seem to be targeting a much more white-label look and feel, versus the early releases which had nice professionally designed art etc. Are there any other differences between the two labels, how you run them, etc? What do you think has changed about releasing records like this now versus 2006 when you and Dave were first starting sublogic + 92retro?
As above really, the KVA stuff is just about the music. You don’t need professionally designed art when you’re selling 100 copies to genuine enthusiasts, it’s like the market has shrunk in size from the Sublogic / 92 Retro days when you could sell several hundred, and with that smaller market comes the real dedicated buyers who just love this music. Also it’s just fun to do white label style releases, with the rubber stamps done by hand. It’s not trying to pass them off as old records at all, if anything it’s just a bit of a nod of the head to the bedroom release days of the early 90’s. You can’t sell as many copies of a new release these days, but what you can sell will sell (and usually even sell as preorders) like wildfire – I’m sure you’ve seen how many tiny releases are popping up on forums, and how well they are doing… it’s healthier than it’s ever been, even if it is smaller. The pressing plants are struggling to keep up with demand, and from my conversations with them, a huge amount of their work is small scene releases. Someone I was speaking to the other day called them “microlabels”, which is a term I really like.
Klute, as with almost all the other artists I’ve had dealings with, was incredibly helpful, just a very nice guy and a pleasure to chat to. I owned a copy of the original Deep Red Recordings pressing of “Alive”, and as well as being a superb tune and a big personal favourite, I was aware of how rare it was and how in demand the original pressing was too. I just messaged him on Facebook and got chatting about my label, and just asked if he would be interested in letting me re-issue “Alive”, and of course if he had any remixes or unreleased tracks from that era. He had a load of unreleased stuff archived away – the other tracks we put on the KVA002 pressing, so we just got on with it and got it pressed. Klute is a big old skool enthusiast, and is really into the whole ethos of the white label home made hardcore of the early nineties, so he was very receptive to doing a release with me. Klute’s also one of my favourite DNB DJs and producers of all time, so having an opportunity to put out some of his unreleased music was a real privilege. His production is just on a completely different level to so many other producers, it still seems almost impossible that “Alive” and the other tracks on the EP are from ’93 and ’94!
Any upcoming releases you care to spill the beans on (or at least drop subtle hints about)?
There’s something very special in the pipeline that I’ll be doing soon, alongside Dave from 92 Retro – there’s been some details on the Back To The Old Skool forums but for anyone who hasn’t heard about it, it’ll be a nice surprise.
One last thing I wanted to say is that if there is anyone who reads this who is either a producer from back in the day, or knows any of those artists – please get in touch if you think they would be interested in releasing any old rarities or unreleased stuff! I’m really enjoying putting out vinyl again with the KVA series, so any ideas or suggestions are always gladly received! Oh, and thank you very, very much to everyone who has let me release their music, and of course to all the vinyl diehards who have bought it!
Thanks to Will for the interview, be sure to nab a copy of The Dreams EP on Discogs or try your luck at winning one of three copies in a soon-to-come competition post. Also, you can grab one of his officially licensed LEGEND RECORDS shirts here: https://sublogicrecordings.bandcamp.com