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Loose Ties Mix 002 & Interview

First up in a new column here at Loose Ties is label boss of Boe Recordings, Ben Parkinson. He has also been kind enough to record a deeper than deep all vinyl house mix.

What were some of your first experiences with house and techno?

When I was younger I got into dance music and DJing at about 17 years old. I didn’t really have a clue about the raft of fantastic music outside of my local HMV and cheesy record stores.

I guess my first proper experience with house was going to Hard Times at Nato in Leeds aged 18. It was the first time I had heard underground music and to be honest I didn’t really get it at the time. When I look back the environment was amazing. It was a dark, sweaty basement club with a cage for a DJ booth and hundreds of dancers just going mental to really percussive NY house and garage. Fucking brilliant.

I didn’t really get into house properly until I went to Uni and had been shopping at Flying Records picking up odd bits of US house sounds. I was a late starter in my techno education and I was quickly turned after witnessing Craig Richards spin at Fabric in 2001 on a trip to London.

When did you start producing music? I believe your remix on Elevation was your first release, correct?

Yep I did a remix of “David Duriez - One Drop Does It” a couple of years ago. Darren (Elevation) set up a remix competition and I decided to have a bash and enter. He loved it and it got released pretty quickly.

I don’t think I’ve actually started producing properly yet. i.e. churning tracks out regularly, I rarely get chance to work on stuff. I’m still learning a hell of a lot and I’ve only completed a handful of tracks. I bought a copy of Logic 7 in October 2005 and my first finished track was the remix that got signed to Elevation the next summer. I’ve done a few tracks recently that I’m quite happy with although I’m still finding my own sound. I hope to push on and get some more done this year and maybe cobble a release together for boe.

What was the determining factor that made you decide to start Boe Recordings?

Well, I’d been DJing for almost 10 years and I wanted to do something other than just be a DJ. I wanted to achieve something slightly different than just play records and setting up a label and putting out music that I was into seemed like a sensible option.

Were you afraid of losing the money you invested?

Yes and no. I was well aware of some of the pitfalls of setting up a label and I was prepared to lose a certain amount of money even though I didn’t really understand the whole business model at the time. Running a label certainly isn’t a way of generating a sound income, especially in the first year or so.

Do you plan on branching out beyond house and techno?

Not for the moment. The label is a one man band and I run it a release at a time. I toyed with the idea of doing a digi only label on the side but I’d rather focus all my efforts on boe itself.

I’m not sure if the label will grow into something large and diversify just yet as you need the resources to do that. One thing that does interest me is putting out limited edition 12”s with collectable artwork and unique design. The boe art has a current theme and I aim to build on that over future releases and as my resources allow.

However, I really want to do a little project that you can buy and listen to over and over again or frame on your wall. I also have a bit of a fetish for hand stamped 12”s, I just love the basic raw feel and it’s another type of design I’m interested in pursuing.

Any advice for anyone thinking about giving it a go? Anything you would have done a little different?

Don’t start up a digital only label! Nah I’m not going to preach about that crap. My advice would be the following: don’t rush into it. Understand what your brand is, what your sound is and no matter what it is, it has to sell to be a business. 10 digital download sales a month is not a business. Understand the costs and processes behind running a label. Don’t get too serious about it though because I feel labels should be run as a passion not as a money generating machine.

If you’re releasing vinyl, do your research into things like mastering and pressing. I’d highly advise any new label to press their own records even at the start. P&D deals aren’t worth anything in my opinion. If you press your own, you’ll have far more control over your business no matter how many copies you sell. You can be in total control of the final product, from choosing the inserts, the sleeves, who masters and cuts the record, who presses it and how many copies you want to do. This is all key to tailoring your product to how you want it.

Some P&D’s don’t allow any real control with over-inflated prices if you want specific numbers cut or fancy artwork.Get a good distributor! Not easy but if it takes time then wait for the right one. Find someone who understands your music and works on a level that you want to, i.e. has the connections to the key stores and importers who’ll be interested in buying your music. One thing I learned quickly was “return on no sale” deals with stores. This is where a store will return any unsold items back to the distributor. It’s avoidable with some larger retailers but it’s good to be wary of these things, it all ties in with your distributor and who they’re selling to. Pay your artists an advance no matter how small or large it is and ensure you create a contract. Be honest with your artists and pay bills to external bodies in good time. Let your artists know how the label works because royalties can take many months if not years to come to any fruition.

Through honesty you’ll forge better working relationships which are very helpful in an industry where everyone knows one another. It can be a key to a label’s longevity. Plan effectively, make sure you know when money is coming in and going out. Cash flow is really important to record labels pressing vinyl so be realistic with your timescales. Work with a good promotion company that suits your label and the DJs you want to target. Be prepared to give music out for free, it all helps. Strive for constructive feedback and don’t get upset if someone doesn’t like your music.

Promotion and hype are king but in the end good music should sell. Get mates to help you out, if you have a designer friend ask them for a favour to do the artwork, if a mate builds websites ask them to set you a basic one up for cheap. And last but not least, be prepared for the dull admin, chasing people up, posting promotional messages, accounts, etc… you can’t get away from standard business activities.

Who are some artists or labels putting out new music that you're digging?

Loads! Smallville is on top form at the moment and you can’t knock the Dial/Laid camp either. John Roberts is one to watch at the moment, his latest one “Blame” is great. Sam (Izmo/Brawther) is putting out some great stuff, I prefer is Brawther guise, proper techy deepness. I’ve been a big fan of Dubbyman and Deep Explorer for a long time, their music just seems to get better. There’s also Yore, Andy Vaz’s label. Kez YM’s City Soul EP was one my faves this year. Kolour and the Undertones guys are really motoring along and putting out great music. Undertones in particular, the Smith and Hall EP was special. Story records have had two stonking releases so far really can’t wait for the next instalment. Makam is making that Dutch sound but with his own twist which is refreshing. There’s quite a lot of that Dutch tech-house around at the moment and his nicely breaks the mould. I absolutely love all the Mojuba, Styrax stuff as well. I love the truly unique design for their releases. The French label, Eklo has had some terrific music out from a whole host of top current producers. Kris Wadsworth is obviously doing very well and hopefully he’ll be doing some more stuff for me in the new year. Nils Anthes is one that caught my eye recently. He has his own percussive house sound with some serious swing. Iron Curtis is another fave of mine and his last one on Morris was great. I’ve got to plug my own guy Ladzinski who’s making classic Chicago influenced deep house, a bit of a cliché at the moment but his sound is a little different to most. His debut on boe will be out mid October so look out for that. I could go on for pages here but I think I’ll stop now!

Who are some musicians or groups that you like outside of house and techno?

I like pretty much all genres of music apart from Indie and commercial Hip Hop and R&B. Anything commercial doesn’t get a mention basically. I’m not being snob, I just think it’s shit. When I’m at home and not on my decks I tend to listen to anything other than house and techno. There’s no way I could just sit there and listen to house and techno all the time. I do check online mixes and podcasts but there are very few on my iPod that I’d listen to over and over again. I tend to listen to quite chilled stuff. From Al Green to Cinematic Orchestra and Belle and Sebastian to Little Dragon. I pick up new bits all the time, the other day I found this really cool instrumental hip-hop album by a group called Quetzal and grabbed some old dub CDs by Augustus Pablo and The Scientist which I’d wanted for a while. Rough Trade is just round the corner from my flat so it’s really tempting to nip in there and check out all their latest albums. I’m massively into dub music although I don’t profess to know much about its history. My New Year’s resolution for 2010 will be to grow a decent dub record collection.

Any thoughts or motivation behind the mix?

I’ve recently returned to buying vinyl after DJing digitally for 18 months so I wanted to do an all vinyl mix with mostly new stuff. I also wanted to record something that was quite slow tempo, warm and groovy to fit in with the end of the summer and with a “backroom” vibe to it. It’s a general nod to the deep house I’ve been buying, the parties I’ve been playing at and the ones I’ve missed out on (i.e. the Croatian festivals).

Any upcoming gigs you'd like to mention?

I hold my regular boe party at Roadtrip near Old Street in London every second weekend of the month and I think it’ll be happening every month from October onwards. The venue is opening up a little sweat box club underneath the bar so that should provide a really nice environment to have a proper knees up. For October 9th I have Nils Anthes (Be Chosen) coming down to play whilst he’s in London so really looking forward to that!

Loose Ties Mix 002 - Ben Parkinson (Boe Recordings) - I Wish I Went to Disco3000 by adamm


Soulphiction & Move D - In the Limelight [Philpot]

Lady Blacktronica & Mattski - All These Good Feelings (Ddubbyman & Above Smoke Remix) [Deep Explorer]

Alex Agore - Cafe Au Lait [4lux]

Iron Curtis - Peoples (Ekkohaus down with the sax mix) [Morris Audio City Sport]

Baaz - Don't Mention [Quintessentials]

Vegas Gas - Baby and the Drums [Claque Musique]

W & P Hgg - Funk Start [Cornuta Sound]

Taron Trekka - Kopsalle [Brut!]

Makam - La Fem [Sushitech]

Chris Carrier - I'm in Love Today [Silver Network]

Head Nodding Society - Nudge Up [Paper]

Motor City Drum Ensemble - Raw Cuts 3 [Raw Cuts]

Slowhouse - Slowhouse Three A2 [Slowhouse]

Two Armadillos feat. Barbara Alcindor - je suis differente

Blaze - Moonwalk [Funky People]

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