In the sweaty, overly-cramped forum that is the London electronic scene, record label Save You have managed to stand out from the crowd. Starting off as a platform for the sounds of in-house act DeadEcho, the imprint has gone from strength to strength, built from the ground up using nothing but instinct and a passionate DIY ethos. For the latest installment in our 'In the Groove' series, I Voice decided it was about time we had a good old chat with founder Rob Bradley to discuss the label's early beginnings, its future and just what the connection is between music and salvation.
Hi, so tell us a bit of Save You history. How exactly did you come to be?
I took time out of a busy London life to travel for a year in 2009 and had a bit of an epiphany. Having DJ’d from the age of 17, I realised that I was lucky enough to have a true passion and also realised a lot of people go through life not having this. It was then I thought why not actually try and go for it properly and launch a record label. So that aside from working 9-5 for the man, I had something else to excite me that could possibly even be a route out the rat race eventually. I always like to take the attitude - if someone else can do it, so can I. Once you realise this in life a lot of doors open up.
Set up wise, I was lucky enough to have help from a mate that works for Ministry of Sound (shouts to Carl Hanaghan) who had a lot of experience working with big labels as well as distribution. He was my original Save You partner but unfortunately was so busy with his own music that it caused us to part ways shortly after the launch. This left me running things solo until Adam Firman and Richard Hafez joined up. We didn’t really have a clue what we were doing. We just knew what music we were into and wanted to put it out – which is still the most important thing to this day.
Who are the team behind it and what role does each of you play in the running of the ship?
Adam Firman (who is also my partner in our DeadEcho production moniker) has always helped with the label but only officially joined the business last year. He is fantastic with the social media stuff as he has a constantly 'switched on' mentality. This has proven a very helpful quality where the label is concerned. Poor bastard has also somehow taken charge of managing the financial side which can be a nightmare. More importantly he has amazing ears and along with me does the A&R. This is surprising because if you saw his ears you would be really surprised he can hear anything. They're really small like that fancy orecchiette pasta. Google it. That is the exact size of Adam’s ears.Tiny.
I manage the day-to-day stuff – A&R, distribution, PR, artist signings and all that. Then there is Richard Hafez who has a lot of responsibility in his day-to-day life but just loves being part of it all and helps when he can. Both business-wise and party wise he is someone you definitely want on your side. He could sell air-con to eskimos and can party with the best of them.
Then Sara Shishkova, my very talented girlfriend, is in charge of artwork and the creative boss. She just undertook our rebrand which uses her illustrations combined with gently edited photographs for sleeves – we decided we wanted a slightly more sophisticated and timeless feel. We also have the super Robbie Jenkins who has done most of our weirder sleeves to now and is more graphically orientated.
Was the label originally conceived just to be an outlet for your DeadEcho material or did you always have larger plans?
We probably differ from a lot of labels here. You normally read how it’s a group of mates that all geek out over sequencers, smoke weed in their bedrooms and basically just want to get their music out into the world. Well, Soundcloud can do that nowadays and more people would will listen to your music there than on Beatport, amidst a million other labels fighting to get noticed without the broadcast capabilities and social community.
As I said earlier, we really wanted to give music a proper go and tried to do things properly from the start (emphasis on the try). This meant getting a big remix on the first release and working with a decent PR agency as well. We have been with Dispersion from the start and they have been a great help, also steering us with some guidance – good brains to pick. It just made sense to put a DeadEcho release out first as that was the music most available to us at the time. We naturally wanted, and still want, to give DeadEcho as much exposure as possible through the label to generate gigs too.
The only issue we found, was that doing it properly meant spending money. I had just come back from travelling and was living in a dodgy Bethnal Green estate with mold on the walls. The only money I had was on my credit card. So thanks Barclaycard, I think, you launched a record label.
What was the vision for what you guys wanted to do? What did you feel you had to offer that was different?
We have always had a bit of an aversion to genres. Our vision was to put out a wide range of electronic music and provide a platform artists could rely on to get their work heard and equally DJs could rely on for quality music. We also want to represent old and new – we have been passionate about house music for 10+ years so naturally, want our artists and music to represent that fact. Lastly, we have tried to take a holistic approach and I think we have just about achieved that. What I mean by this is that we wanted to DJ, produce, run a label and throw parties. Note that DJ'ing comes first – this has always been and still is the most enjoyable aspect of everything we do.
We also don’t subscribe to this whole "our label is just for friends" business. Why not make new ones? At first we couldn’t rely on just our friends. We easily could now though that would limit our output. Some of our best friends today have come from the label - working with new people we met randomly at parties and gigs.
Different, well, I don’t think we thought too much about being different at the beginning. We just wanted to be immersed in what we love. However, having ginger hair means I am automatically different. So through Save You I offer a ginger vibe to the house community. We are under-represented so this well needed. How many ginger DJs do you know? [Laughs]
Do you feel as if the label has turned out like you envisioned or has it morphed into something beyond what you first imagined?
We thought we would really struggle to get noticed and get anywhere at all to be honest. Saying that, this place we're at now is hard to make tangible as sales vary wildly and we aren’t a massive name. I feel we're at that stage where the industry digs what we are doing – DJs, press, clubs and fellow producers. Lastly, and most importantly, we feel the music we release is now the high quality we wanted from the start.
Quality control is the biggest issue in this scene. It’s amazing that this digital era allows anyone to set up a label. Save You included! I just wish the overall quality was higher on the 1000+ digital releases a day. Hence why we put out vinyl releases where we can – it gives you something to show for your work and means we invest in our artists and music properly and have more to show than just sales or chart positions. When we are 70 trying to tell our grandkids how cool we were back in the day we will have physical evidence.
So hopefully we have morphed into more of a polished outfit than I originally thought we were capable of with our lack of knowledge and contacts at the start. We are still a good few miles off where we want to be though!
As one of the most vibrant scenes in the world, London dictates a lot of new trends. How hard is it not to adhere to the buzz when a new exciting, fresh sound comes along?
Good question this. It’s actually very hard and something we deliberately avoid! We dip our toes into trends but never go up past the knee. A good example would be our recent Grant Dell release, which we believe fits with this whole garage/90s UK house revival going on right now. We met Grant through another hero, Jay Tripwire, and thought to ourselves, why not actually get the real deal on board - a proper respected old school London house head. So we did exactly that and as expected the music he delivered was sick: - proper old school but still fresh and better than the vast majority of the modern takes in our opinion.
Nitin’s EP is another good example. He runs one of the most successful labels out there - No.19. A label we view as hot but equally pushing boundaries. Thus we were eager to work with him. Also his track for us ‘All the things’ is more electronica than anything else and very hard to put into a box. So, here we have someone that’s ‘so hot right now’ but equally treading their own path. Voila! Perfect for Save You. Hopefully lifting the skirt and pinching the tanned bum of a trendy from Miami whilst still slapping the pasty white bum of our fellow East Londoner.
How would you describe the kind of record that will have Save You HQ frantically scrambling for their cheque books?
I actually think it takes about 20 seconds to know if a track is right for us. Unless it takes a turn and suddenly goes from techno to drone-core. Yeah drone-core exists. Go listen to a band called Sunn O)) - That shit will blow your mind, but in a good way.
We need something different, some sound or vocal effect we haven’t heard before. It needs to be rooted in the underground and at the same time cannot be attached to what is cool now - all that 'buam buam' bassline stuff can do one. Lastly, it needs to sound professional! Proper programming, proper sound design and a proper mix-down. Refer back to my ramblings on quality control earlier.
You're yet to work with an artist on an LP. Is that something that you'd like to do in the future? Any nods as to who?
We absolutely 100% want to release LPs, however feel that we need to wait until the time is right. To us an artist album is an amazing thing, we know how hard it is to construct quality music and the time it takes to formulate that work into a structured album form. Thus we have the upmost respect for those that complete full albums in this scene.
When we do go about putting out an LP we want to do it in the right way – double vinyl, CD, proper PR - resulting in an album that is not just a body of musical work but also a stunning package with the artwork to match. Someone that works that hard deserves equal treatment with the release.
On that note, a silent nod to Marc Ashken, who is actually an unofficial creative input on the label and also a big influence to us in general. Marc is a great friend and true artist in the full sense of the word who could actually deliver to us just what I have been talking about here - a true creative piece. I like to think that next year we will be in a position to run with something like this!
Save You is a bold name. On a deeper tip, what is it about music that has the power to have such an impact over people's lives, do you think?
The label has, in many ways, saved us from a mundane lifestyle so the name "Save You" is an extension of this thinking. What is the power of music? Hmm, I'm gonna have to get my philosophical hat on here. I love words. But sometimes words can’t say it all and speaking to your-self in public isn’t advised. Music speaks to people in a different way. It motivates them to get out of bed and do something with their life. It brings back memories of someone no longer here. It starts revolutions. It makes you go to a warehouse and dance like there is no tomorrow with 500 other people that you share the experience with. It bonds life’s experiences together.
Finally, tell us what you've got coming up over the next few months.
We are all super excited right now. We have a masterful Ben Rau single (which is doing the PR rounds now) featuring a proper heavy and amazing remix from Jordan Peak as our next vinyl release. We also have a big V/A showcasing new hotness from Marc Ashken, Ste Roberts, Nitin, hoito, DeadEcho and various others. Then we're outing our first DeadEcho EP since the My Favorite Robot release we had last year featuring a wicked remix from another hero, Tim Xavier. Gonna have our Robot friend James Teej rocking with us soon too. Oh and lastly, we have a couple of brand new signings. Firstly Rowlanz, a dubbed out house head who has a fierce passion for writing beats. Very excited for his EP to drop as well as his first single which you will be able to catch on the VA. And also another sound lad and wicked producer, Will Berridge. He has an ear for the deep rawness and has a very special EP dropping with us later this year. Don't sleep on these boys, they're definitely both ones to watch!
|Save You Records
Started: July 2010
Web site: www.saveyourecords.com
SYR021 - Grant Dell - Enough for Everyone EP
SYR020 - Rapscallions V A
MOST SUCCESSFUL TRACKS
Jay Tripwire – Do me this way (Pezzner Remix)
DeadEcho feat. MarcAshken – She’s All Over Me (Original Mix)
MarcAshken – Feeders (Kris Wadsworth Red Tape Remix)
Nitin – On the Edge and Into the Darkness (Droog Remix)
Jay Tripwire – Salmon Man (inc Alex Nagshineh, Michael McLardy and Unai Trotti Remix)
Ben Rau – Zieglers House (Inc. Jordan Peak Remix) – VINYL
DeadEcho – Spark Plug EP (Inc. Tim Xavier Remix)
Various Artists with Ste Roberts, Nitin, Sebastian Voight, MarcAshken
James Teej Single
DeadEcho, Nitin, Jay Tripwire, Marc Ashken
Ste Roberts, Carreno is LB, Ben Rau, T.W.I.C.E.
Kris Wadsworth, Youandewan, Clement Meyer, Jay Haze, Droog, Tom Demac, Pezzner, Shenoda