When Italian house label Rebirth Records opened for business back in 2006, its approach to releasing music was a relatively straight-forward. It was a platform for its owner Daniele Contrini, aka Shield, to put out records that, in his own words, followed his own ‘musical tastes’ rather than market logic.
Whilst this ethos might not be uncommon in any underground label’s stated aims, rarely are the results as impressive. In the seven-years that Rebirth has been putting out music, Contrini’s ‘tastes’ have delivered an incredible strike rate of hits, earning the label both a rock solid reputation and a dedicated following.
A glance at the label’s roster sheds some light on the label’s success. Home-grown Italian figures, such as NUfrequency and Robytek, sit shoulder to shoulder with international talent such as Freaks and Tevo Howard. Well-established producers can be seen next to up-and-coming talent (the label after-all, put out early cuts from both Leon and James Teej).
Yet, within all these variants is a unifying, common denominator: unfussy, well-produced house grooves. This is a label that is less about artist profiles or media hype, than the beats themselves.
2013 has been a vintage year for the imprint. The Andres remix of FLYlove by Chris Turner has been a serious hit, championed by everyone from Ripperton to Sascha Dive. The label have launched a new mix series called ‘Rebirth Sessions’ and put out fresh chapters in their ‘Rebirth Classics’ compilations. What’s more, the label has continued its focus on new talent, putting out records from up-and-comers such as Jesse Futerman, whilst also welcoming house legends such as Larry Heard to its fold.
I Voice got in touch with label owner Shield to quiz him about the label’s past, present and future.
Before we get onto Rebirth itself, let’s take a step back. Prior to launching your own label you were A&R man at Oxyd Records. Did that experience put you in good stead for running your own imprint?
I first started out around 1995 when I met the amazing Fabio Bacci who ran Heartbeat Records (which was a division of Media Records). That was when I began to understand the important aspects of the music industry and when I started to produce in the studio, flanked by Massimo Braghieri, aka Paramour.
A long time has passed since then and everything has changed a lot, but the spirit of that beginning remains the same. Sadly, a few years later Fabio died, which left a big emptiness. I owe so much to him.
At this time I was studying economics, but I still had a great desire to continue in the music industry. So in 2001, I started working with one of the emerging label in my area, Oxyd Records who, thanks to some good licencing, were spreading the house vibe in the Italian market.
Although I was not the owner of the company, I gave my all to the label to help it grow, working as A&R and promoter. It was wonderful and very satisfying to work there as the label slowly created its own sound and its records became played by the most important DJs and sold lots [of units].
You launched Rebirth in 2006. What prompted you to setup your own label?
Many labels follow the same path: when they begin they have their own style and ideas, but when they become successful they are overwhelmed by the logic of the market and revenue system, and most of the time this leads to their decline. When I began to have the feeling that this could happen to Oxyd I decided to break away and create Rebirth as a way to continue to follow my own musical tastes.
Were the people around you encouraging about launching a new house music label?
Yes, people close to me encouraged me, because they knew that I would not have been able to work with music that I did not feel was mine. My girlfriend Antonella, my parents and various collaborators, such as Robytek and Cristano from NUfrequency, were a great support.
What were those first few years running the label like?
I had two partners who have helped me during the label’s start-up, as there were many things I didn't know.
When you start from scratch, it is important to focus on how you’re going to get your music out to the public; it’s easy to get from feedback from DJs and insiders, but it can be really difficult to reach an audience.
Creating a fanbase that follows what you do is not an easy thing and, above all, it takes time. The quality of the music that label puts out is essential for getting this right.
We found early success in tracks like NUfrequency’s Go That Deep and Fallen Hero, Rennie Foster’s Devil’s Water, Freaks’ Concious and Bocca Grande's Procedere, all of which helped us establish ourselves.
At Rebirth we have always preferred to carefully select our releases, rather than 'throwing' them on the market with closed eyes. This is what has allowed us to gain respect and our reputation...What’s the music policy at Rebirth? What are you listening for in the demos you receive?
We are open minded and try to listen to everything we get sent. But listening to a tons of demos that all sound the same can sometimes be frustrating. To be honest I rarely sign anything that I receive as a demo. I prefer scouting and discovering artists myself, or developing new tracks from our own artists.
With the rise of digital competition and the ever-narrowing of revenue streams from releases, how do you justify continuing to put out vinyl records?
At Rebirth we have always preferred to carefully select our releases, rather than 'throwing' them on the market with closed eyes. This is what has allowed us to gain respect and our reputation. Whilst we do release digitally, Rebirth is still a vinyl label. The vinyl market, after having diminished for a few years, is currently rising again and whilst there is not a great income in the form, I’m an old school guy and we will continue to put out vinyl, not least because they are a great promotional tool. For instance, we have started to release some limited coloured 10” vinyl with exclusives mixes, the first of them being the Andres remix of Chris Turner’s FlyLOVE, which has been a great success.
One of the other things you’ve also launched is ‘Rebirth Classics’ compilations. What’s the idea behind that series?
The idea was to ask our artists to select some of their favourites tracks from the Rebirth catalogue and also propose some brand new unreleased music. This year we’ve also started the Rebirth Sessions compilations, already T-Polar, Menik and Trio have contributed mixes and the next one, set for release in November, will be compiled by Full Intention.
You’ve just put on a label party at ADE. Are label parties a big part of Rebirth? Can you remember the first ever label showcase?
I have to say that we haven’t sign with any agency yet, so for the moment we only put on Rebirth showcases at international events such as WMC, Sonar, IMS, ADE. It's always a great occasion and we really enjoy them. Hopefully we can do more in the future!
Thinking ahead, what can we expect from Rebirth records in 2014? What are going to be the big releases?
We will have the new singles from Wallflower and NUfrequency, as well as the new Freaks album and EPs from Tevo Howard, Corrado Bucci and a talented guy called Sander Molder. Plus, I hope I will have time to finish my first ever Shield single…
REB084 - Jesse Futerman – Betrayal (Love Is Misery)
REB083 - Triumph & Picazo feat. Valldeneu – Soyuz
REB025CD - Trio – Rebirth Sessions
REB082 - Full Intention – Icon / Madness
REBLTD001 - Chris Turner – FLYLove
MOST SUCCESSFUL TRACKS
REB012 - NUfrequency - Go That Deep
REB006CD - Rennie Foster - Devil’s Water
REB047 - Taras Van De Voorde – 1998
REB050 - Tevo Howard Feat. Tracey Thorn - Without Me
REB051 - Freaks – Conscious Of My Conscience
REB056 - Bocca Grande – Procedere 2011
REBLTD001 - Chris Turner – FlyLOVE (Andrés Remix)
Full Intention – Rebirth Sessions
Akra – Pure EP
New EPs from Tevo Howard and Corrado Bucci
Artifact, Bocca Grande, Chromatic Filters
Corrado Bucci, Freaks, NuFrequency
Rennie Foster, Robytek, Tevo Howard, T-Polar, Shield and More...