It’s a great honor to welcome Athene and Kristopher on Electric Kingdom Magazine. We rarely interview label owners, so let’s take this opportunity to speak about how hard (or not) it is to manage an Electro label, and how the music industry is today. Their emerging label is one of the most interesting over the last few months, with quality releases including the upcoming 3rd release on Subapical by none other than The 15 Dead Minutes. Let's begin!
Chris Nexus 6: Since some of us don’t know you yet, could you please tell us more about you and how you got into music? What were your main influences as a kid? Tell us more about your background, in particular your electronic music roots. Introduce yourself a little bit.
Kristopher Hall: I was into music from a young age, collecting records from charity shops as a child. In my teens I was into alternative bands and played bass and guitar in various bands. I grew up in a sleepy seaside town, so first became exposed to electronic music when I started going to clubs in London in the early nineties. I started DJ'ing in 2001 and started collecting records again. I first got into Electro through Andrew Weatherall’s Haywire Sessions club nights. I was a punter in clubs for many years, not really doing anything apart from partying. I started being involved more in the scene in 2013 when I co-founded brokntoys. Me and Athene started Subapical last year.
Athene Knüfer: Music has been a focal point of my life since I was young, and I’ve always had a pretty eclectic taste. As a teenager I was mainly into punk and grunge bands, but at the same time also listened to classical, and got into Drum and Bass for a bit when I hit 15 and started to go out to local electronic music nights in North Germany. I didn’t discover Electro until I moved back to London aged 19, and remember being drawn to the eerieness and dark and emotive atmospheres. That’s around the time I started collecting records and a few years later started DJ'ing. Within electronic music, I’d say my favourite artist and curator is Andrea Parker. I’m a huge fan of her productions, as well as her labels Touchin’ Bass and Aperture. Her output is one of few where you can look back at the discography and see a forward-thinking progression and eclecticism of sound. Kris and I have known each other for about 7 years now and started working on music projects together before starting Subapical last year.
How does your city, London, or surroundings influence your musical choices?
KH/AK: We’ve both lived in London for a long time, the city has been the centre point of our adult lives and we’ve seen a lot changes to the music scene in our time here. There’s been a big shift in nightlife, it’s become harder for venues and nights to sustain themselves as the licensing doesn’t work in the favour of promoters. There are still promoters who persist and try and push good line-ups, but it’s a tricky business as there is no guarantee for good turnout despite living in such a huge city. We were both exposed to a lot of the music we’re into in London years back, so it’s definitely been a strong influence.
From my french eyes, the UK scene; in particular in London, suffered and still suffers a lot from the Criminal Justice Bill act in the 90’s (a law to control parties). Is it still the case today or have you noticed changes in the way people can party in UK? Is there more freedom than ten years ago?
KH/AK: Restrictions on parties in the UK exist in a multitude of ways and often depends on the goodwill of the local council. Licensing is still a big problem in London, for example warehouses are usually only granted a certain number of late licences for events in a given period. There are a lot less warehouse parties now then there were 10 years ago, but there are still some illegal raves and squat parties going on; particularly in South London.
Let’s talk about something more cheerful, Subapical. How would you describe the artistic line of your label, its concept and philosophy?
KH/AK: Our main goal is to release music that isn’t purist or firmly within one genre, instead straddling the lines between genres such as Electro, Techno and Industrial, but that still shares a similar aesthetic. We both listen to a wide range of music, electronic and not, often veering towards darker sounds, so most of the music we release shares that.
We’re still a young label and we’ve come across music through a combination of being sent music and also approaching artists who we felt would fit the sound of the label. Soundcloud is a great tool to find hidden talent and we are always active on the platform checking out artists.
"You’ve got to focus on building a sound that will give the label longevity, so that people will pick up on your earlier releases as it grows..."
So dark music is the most representative of Subapical’s DNA? Why?
KH/AK: It’s definitely a big part of it, but what’s more important is that there is a level of depth rather than just darkness.
Speaking about dark sound, could you please introduce your last outing, "Bio-Evolved" by infamous The 15 Dead Minutes?
KH/AK: The 15 Dead Minutes is a project currently involving David Froud and David Campbell, both two great producers in their own right known for their Electro outings as Heuristic Audio and Delinquent Dialect. Heuristic Audio has previously released on Satamile, while Delinquent Dialect used to run the UK electro label Templedog. We initially approached Heuristic Audio and got talking about their new tracks, as they were taking their project into a new direction. The A-side is representative of this new sound, while the B-side is composed of slightly older tracks. Overall, we think the EP is diverse and showcases their talent at stamping their own sound on different musical landscapes.
Amen to that ☺ Their sound perfectly sticks to Subapical IMO! Your label fits to ears thanks to great musicians, and to the eyes with nice artworks. Would you agree if we say you consider the container as important as the content? How do you select people who are working on the covers and artworks?
KH/AK: We’ve worked with the same London-based illustrator for all our artwork so far (and plan to for future releases) - Yamako King. She’s a good personal friend and we’d admired her eerie and weird work long before the label came about, and had always hoped we might be able to get her involved in a project in the future. In the end when we started Subapical, we asked whether she’d like to work together, as her darker work captures the sound of the label visually and it’s been a great collaboration. Artwork isn’t essential to run a good label, but to us it’s important to have a unique identity.
I couldn’t agree more as a graphic artist myself for various labels. What’s the secret to create a much anticipated Electro label? In a digital era, how hard it is to manage a mainly vinyl imprint?
KH/AK: Perseverance and a strong sense of belief in the music you release and a common thread throughout. A lot of labels don’t make it past a few releases and it’s definitely important to keep pushing and be committed. You’ve got to focus on building a sound that will give the label longevity, so that people will pick up on your earlier releases as it grows.
How do you feel about the resurgence of vinyl, do you personally see it?
KH/AK: While the figures say that record numbers of vinyl are being sold, this doesn’t necessarily mean there is a vinyl resurgence in the electronic music scene overall. Many labels are still only pressing a few hundred units, and it’s doubtful that many labels are actually making any money from vinyl releases. So it remains a labour of love for those involved.
Plus I would say vinyl djs tend to disappear. I personally know a handful while there were hundreds in the 90’s. In your opinion, what is the state of our music. Is it progressing, or regressing in your eyes?
KH/AK: With the recent interest in Electro there will always be music that is derivative of sounds that were pioneered by others in the past. That’s to be expected, and so the music that stands out and will stand the test of time has to show originality in other ways. There’s less room for completely new genres to evolve, but there are plenty of artists who are molding genres together to make unique and interesting records. Overall, electronic music will always be progressing and genres need to be able to adapt their identities and accept new directions.
What are the forthcoming musical projects on Subapical?
KH/AK: Our next outing will be a second EP by SC-164, the Electro alias of New York-based Techno artist Donor. He did our first record and we’re very happy to have him back for another release in a few months time. Also in the pipeline is an EP by London-based producer Junq, which we’re very excited about.
Junq!!!! Are you kidding? I’m a big fan of him. Count on us to review his EP when it’s out ☺ Thank you very much for your time, guys!