It’s rare that a label in the digital music lasts for more than five years and ten years is unheard of these days. Excepting the rarified few who have the will and intestinal fortitude to operate what is essentially a lost cause for nothing more than a tiny bit of adoration and the self-satisfaction of sharing your music with the outside world.
According to Bradley, “The label was really inspired by the UK deep house sound coming from what I would consider to be the 'key' deep house labels in the UK from the mid-late 90s, so the likes of Paper, Toko, Shaboom, 2020 Vision, Glasgow Underground etc; these labels I feel really created a particular vibe which was different than the US deep house labels.
Particularly in the North of England - I am originally from Manchester & had spent most of my formative clubbing years in the early Nineties in Manchester and Leeds and was living in Manchester when 3AM was initially launched - there seemed to be something of a 'family' vibe amongst these labels, all looking to push each other along and create something different, so that ethos & spirit was the catalyst for the launch of 3AM.”
3AM has remained a relevant UK house label over the past decade, surviving even the great vinyl downturn by reinventing itself as a very successful digital label whereas so many of the label’s contemporaries have long since shuttered and faded into the obscurity that comes with time.
Bradley credits the longevity to some key fundamentals, “I think personally it's just a feeling of wanting to be involved and continuing to be excited by new music… Also, I think it is key to have certain artists/acts which are your predominant ones, so people associate them with you; this was another thing the likes of Paper, 2020 etc all did particularly in the early days and it gave those labels an identity. There are so many labels now all doing the same thing musically, sometimes it's hard to tell one from another, so if you have some key artists who can be the flag-bearers for your label, that's a real bonus.”
What are Al Bradley’s personal favorite releases from his label?
“Now that's a tough question.” says Bradley. “There are different ones for different reasons really. Ciudad Feliz "Buenos Aires Burning EP" which was TAM001, naturally, as that got everything moving along.
Alex Moran's "New Fish To Fry" from TAM009 in 2004, that was played on Radio 1 and had outstanding feedback from right across the DJ spectrum, but fell just as the distributors were really struggling, so I believe that was a 'missed opportunity' for a potentially big release…
From the more recent releases, I would have to say Nick Devon "So Addicted" taken from TAM066 last year. Nick was someone I got talking to just as his first release came out and I quickly got him onboard, so when he sent his tracks for his EP and I heard "So Addicted", that feeling of excitement & thinking ‘How amazing is THIS?’ rushed through me, in just the same way as when I first started buying house records in the late Eighties.
So yeah, definitely, "So Addicted" of the recent bunch, I guess also because Nick was still relatively new at that point and I believe that EP has been a springboard to him now being picked up all over the place, which is always a nice feeling.
A special mention also needs to go to Makka & Howard Sessions "A Mild Cigar" too from TAM044, which is the most Paper Recordings-like of the entire catalogue and is a personal favourite of mine, a glorious slice of smoky deepness which gets played at most of my gigs.”
Where does Bradley see himself in ten years since he didn’t except to be running the label in 2013 after the vinyl market collapse that killed so many popular labels of the era? He offers some interesting insight on what it takes to run a label and the cycles of the marketplace that only comes with longevity, “I really just want to keep sticking to the ethos which I always have tried to with 3AM, namely championing new artists who are perhaps getting ignored elsewhere, alongside established artists who have already proved themselves over time.
I'm also really excited about the recent interest which vinyl seems to be getting; while I have no doubt it'll never reach the heights it had 10-15 years ago, because it is now more of a novelty almost, there seems to be a groundswell of younger DJs who are looking to push vinyl DJing, instead of laptops, so I am looking at the possibility of some small run 12"s again - I never thought I'd say that, but it's nice to be thinking about it again, almost like things have moved full-circle since the label launch.”
Started: June 2003
Soundcloud Mixes: soundcloud.com/3amrecordingsmixes
TAM079 - Howard Sessions - Dusted EP
TAM078 - Poussez - Fourth Warrior EP
TAM077 - Jota Wagner - Saturday Love EP
MOST SUCCESSFUL TRACKS
Rob Clarke & Al Bradley "Apache Communications Remixed EP"
Nick Devon "So Addicted EP"
Poussez "Fourth Warrior EP"
Ruben F "On The Dancefloor EP"
Audio Units "Sample The Example"
Makka & Howard Sessions "The Re:tweak Remixed EP"
Nick Devon, Al Bradley, Carlo Gambino, Howard Sessions, Roland Nights