Once upon a time, not so long ago and in a land not that far away, record labels shifted thousands of copies of a 'big' house release with relative ease. The world was a much simpler place back in the 90s. Every town had at least one record shop and DJs bought and played records. Twelve inch records. There simply wasn't anything else around, and people like John Ciafone and Masters at Work were underground superstars that could safely quit their dayjobs at the factory and live off music. The advent of broadband internet, file compression, CD players with pitch control, affordable digital production solutions and - finally - software to DJ for you, dramatically changed the landscape. However tempting it is to get sucked into a lenghty analysis of the merits and drawbacks of these developments, we in fact wanted to focus on just a small bit of today's industry instead: the extinction of the 'big' record. There's more music coming out than ever, and loads of it is actually really good. The record buying crowd's attention span seems to have shortened considerably though. It's very rare for a 12" record these days to really blow up and keep selling past the first 3-4 weeks after its initial release date. Over the past few years, the only record that would qualify as an underground hit is Andres' huge New For You 12" on La Vida, a record that topped sales charts at all the big independent shops for about a year. The exception to prove the rule?
To a certain extent we think it is. The never ending and ever growing stream of new music is making it incredibly difficult to really stand outside of the pop music industry. The buyer's money is spread over a much larger market than before, while the buying public itself doesn't seem to be growing any longer. Kids these days grow up with virtually any track just a mouseclick away. Why buy an expensive record when you can stream it for free on youtube or soundcloud?
Every once in a while though, everything seems to fall right into place for a label and that one release that's been put together with so much care and attention comes out at exactly the right moment and * boom *, it explodes. The guys from Kolour Recordings seem to be at such a junction with the Nathaniel X record that just came out on their Undertones sublabel. It's been flying off the shelves at shops worlwide and reliable sources have confirmed we're talking about 1000+ units pressed/pre-ordered/sold already. We've been pals with the Kolour crew for about a decade now and they helped us out in a big way getting Sleazy Beats off the ground back in 2009. We're also big fans of the music they put out on Kolour, Kolour LTD, Undertones and House is The Cure, so we're thrilled to see them doing so well. To celebrate their recent succes and find out more about what's going on over there in the States, we got in touch with Mike - one of Kolour's two bosses - and asked him a few questions about the label and their current projects.
Before reading on below, make sure to press play and give Nathaniel X's release a whirl
Kolour's been around for quite a while. What started out as a deephouse imprint morphed into an empire of sorts with various sublabels with a distinct sound. Looking back, how would you describe the development of the label and what made you decide to explore different avenues?
"The development of the label has always been a work in progress I reckon. It’s been almost 10 years for Justin and I now and if you actually take the time to go through our back catalog(s) on Kolour, Undertones, & even Kolour LTD now .. one thing you can definitely take away from it is that we’ve been a constantly evolving label as far as our “sound” is concerned. We would rather be known for a consistent quality rather than a consistent sound to define us. You’ll hear a plethora of music that covers just about every nook & cranny of underground house music and for the most part kind of “tells our story” so-to-speak."
You have two rather big releases that just dropped, one by Patchworks and one by Nathaniel X. Can you tell us something about these releases? How did they come about?
"Well, we’ve always been huge fans of Bruno’s (Patchworks) music dating back to the early 2000 era. This EP is simply a collection of previously released and since long out of print gems from various labels all compiled together for an encore appearance. To commemorate the occasion – we decided to press her up on a clear/marble-streaked vinyl and thus “The Collection” was born. As far as Nate’s release – well that was ultimately a product of the forging of a great friendship first and foremost. What that record essentially represents are two friends who share an unrivaled passion for music (of all types really) and decided to join forces in hopes of creating a timeless project together. Nate is truly one of the most enlightening souls I’ve ever met & will be a staple in our movement for a long time to come."
Both of these puppies are vinyl only. What made you decide to stick to ratty old wax here?
"Vinyl represents our heritage. To and through – it’s all we’ve really known and been able to readily identify with the most over our tenure. We decided to put the Patchworks EP on our vinyl-only Kolour LTD imprint basically because all of those tunes have since been made available as digital downloads over the years (did I just say that?). We felt very special to have the distinct opportunity to re-release this EP and a vinyl-only release was the only way forward with it for us. Nate’s release on Undertones is a different story though as we’ve always made our Undertones catalog available as digital downloads at some point down the line. The logic behind keeping it a vinyl-only release was simple; the tunes were envisioned and designed to be played on vinyl and that’s how we wanted to carry it out".
Times they are a changing as ever in the music industry. A few years ago disco was all the rage and all you had to do was label a remix as an edit and the records would fly off the shelves. Now we're knee deep in retro/90s sounding house. How do you feel about fads and bandwagons from the label's perspective?
"Fads and bandwagons will always be present in any facet of music. Like it or not – it’s part of what drives music in the direction it goes. Justin and I both have our musical roots in much more than just house music. Actually it’s probably a little known fact about us – but we’re actually both huge 80’s music junkies. In-fact – in my house 80’s era music is still the most predominant music you’ll hear. From there it spawned a love for 90’s hip hop (the real shit) and as we made our way past our impressionable teenage years in the mid-to-late 90’s, we just sort-of “graduated” to the sounds of underground house music at that time & almost 20 years later it all seems to be coming full-circle again. As it is anyways - for the past few years .. anything retro seems to be “in” no matter what it is. From fashion, to music, cars, architecture, etc etc the whole retro-cool thing seems to be sweeping the globe at a furious pace. On one hand it’s helping me keep my youth (hah) .. on the other hand it does beg the question .. are we really that starved for new ideas? For me though, the more music & technology evolve – the more it makes me yearn to go back to the place that I came from musically. I guess it comes with getting older lol".
Also, how do you keep things interesting for yourself. You've seen and done it all now all over the years. Is there anything that still makes your heart skip a beat?
"Pressing something on vinyl is still the ultimate thrill for us. I still get giddy when someone sends us a batch of tunes or a remix for a forthcoming project - it still ranks right up there with one of the more cooler feelings in the world for me honestly. I suppose when it stops feeling that way for me then it will be time to hang up the boots."
Do you think as one of the few US based imprints you can benefit from the newfound interest in EDM in the States?
"HAH! I really don’t know to be honest with you. This newfound interest in EDM over here is really quite comical to me. There’s not enough adjectives to describe how terrible it is but what’s even worse is the mark it’s leaving on the ones that were supposed to “pass the torch” to. Their roots are being laid with downloads, computer screens, and flashing lights as opposed to record stores, vinyl, and the actual fundamentals of mixing. It’s tough to explain my music & what I do to someone who’s just asked me if I’ve ever heard of “Gangnam Style” so don’t even bother trying to do so."
I know running a label sounds like the coolest job in the world but we know from experience it can be a massive ballache as well. Any particular petpeeves or frustrations you'd like the share with us?
"Put another pot of coffee on because we could be here a while! No seriously, as you gents already know running a label can indeed be quite fun. It’s like anything else in life though – it carries its ups and downs and as great as the ups are .. you’re not going to be immune to the disappointment of it all either. The frustrations can come in many forms and range from delays at pressing plants, lack of communication and/or essentially being “shunned” from someone, to the release that just never took off quite like you thought it would. You’ve got to take it all in stride though because there will be releases that come together seamlessly, sound great, stay on schedule, have a nice parade of support, and really fly once they’re released. Those releases go a long way in absolving those pesky frustrations and generally serve as reminders as to why we love what we do".
Three records that will never leave the bag?
*Induceve remix of “Dust”
*Joshua – “Work it Out”
*Crazy P – “The Hit”
What else have you got cooking we should keep our eyes peeled for? And any new names you think are going to hit it big next year?
"I’m excited about what we’ve got in the pipes. Don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too early as they are releases planned for next year but I can say if you’ve enjoyed our most recent output – then you’re in store for quite a treat down the road! One thing worth a mention is our forthcoming (and final) release on our charity sub-label House is the Cure. The release will feature a collection of tunes by The Nathaniel X Project, Joey Negro, Patchworks, and DJ Leandre with 100% of all the proceeds donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation provides terminally ill patients the chance to have a life-long wish fulfilled & we’re proud to donate the proceeds from all the vinyl and digital sales to such a wonderful foundation. We’re going to dress the vinyl in clear attire and make the EP readily available digitally shortly there-after. Another project that I’m quite excited about is our collaboration with David Magnier of House of Disco. We’re almost set to release out “House of Kolour” collaboration – an 11 track compilation that features great tunes and remixes the likes of Medlar, Dead Rose Music Company, Sleazy McQueen, Heion, Casino Times, an absolute killer remix from our man Debonair of the wildly popular “Groove With You” that came out on Kolour LTD, and many more choice cuts. It’s currently at mastering and we should look to see a release on that bad boy by the end of the year. Other than that .. MUMS THE WORD FELLAS!!"
Check out samples of all recent releases by Kolour on their Soundcloud Page, where you'll also find links to shops that carry their music. As Mike already indicated, make sure to also keep an eye out for their forthcoming House is the Cure sampler, of which all the proceeds will go to charity. Buy class music AND do something good for humanity, what else could you wish for?