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[Naked Lunch]: Reverse Perspective

Sometimes, inspiration comes from the most banal situations. For Micky, owner of the [Naked Lunch] label, the decision to name his label after the infamous drug-fuelled William Burroughs novel came about because he happened to be staring at a rack of DVDs in someone’s apartment.

“I was thinking for a name for the label and I just happened to be looking at the DVD of Naked Lunch at the time,” he recalls. “I have never watched the film through to the end, but I have read some of Burroughs’ books. It was a spur of the moment thing I guess.”

Despite this inauspicious start to Micky’s label back in 2008, it has become one of the most consistent outlets for future-thinking electronic music. This is in no small part due to him being the polar opposite of the  typical, unquestioning, air-kissing DJ type and by his own admission to taking his cues from Omar S when dealing with the ‘industry’.

Micky’s  less than diplomatic, straight-talking manner has been shaped by over 15 years’ involvement with electronic music and his tolerance for scene politics and bullshit is notoriously low – more about that later.

From Ireland, he moved to Amsterdam to work as a welder in 1994 and only returned to his homeland in 2009. While he started collected records back in the early 80s, he says his second job in Holland, working in a coffee shop, turned him onto drum’n’bass.

“I did a weekly night in Mazzo for nearly three years. Through that, I got to know Martyn and he became a good friend. At the time, his drum’n’bass career had taken off, but one night we went to see Kode 9 and Spaceape and that changed everything.”

Having grown tired of drum’n’bass, Micky was looking for something different and with Martyn’s encouragement, he discovered a slower, broken beat sound.

“Whatever Kode 9 was doing had everything that I liked about drum’n’bass. I found the more edgy side of drum’n’bass in early dubstep releases on Digital Mystikz.”

Geographical factors also played an indirect role in Micky’s conversion to dubstep. “I was living in Rotterdam at the time, just a few hundred metres away from Clone’s record store. I was hanging out a lot there, listening to a lot of Deepchord, Drexciya and Detroit in Effect and that gave me a push to do something different.”

However, Micky hadn’t completely severed his links to drum’n’bass and the first releases on [Naked Lunch] came as a result of his connections to that sound, with Breakage putting out his first dubstep track and Instra:mental, whom he also knew, pitching in.

“That Breakage record never got the recognition it deserved,” he believes, but says the Instra:mental record did well in the shops. Never keen to repeat himself, Micky says that after a few releases, he got sick of dubstep. The Scuba record closed that chapter for the label and the next release on [Naked Lunch] was an EP by former Drexciya DJ Stingray.

“I had always checked his MySpace page and wasn’t sure how to approach it, but he was cool,” Micky explains. “He sent me a load of tracks, and it turned out to be his biggest-selling release in years.”

This is the beauty of [Naked Lunch]: unlike most labels, it does not adhere to a defined genre or sub-genre, and it is as likely to feature slow-motion house as it is to put out pacey Detroit electro or Jon Convex’s new school take on ghetto house.

But what is Micky’s own motivation? As a label owner who DJs but doesn’t produce, it makes it unlikely he can use it as a springboard for his own career, and despite healthy sales, Micky is hardly a fatcat impresario.

“Any money I make I use it for an advance for the next release or to do lovely coloured vinyl – I love vinyl as you can probably guess. There is some money to be made if you are a producer, but I don’t get shit out of the label,” he says.

“I do it because I want to put out music. It’s so rewarding and satisfying: you go through the process of listening to the track, listening for what will work, what won’t. The only thing is,” he adds cautiously, “it can’t be a flop. I always have that in the back of my mind.”

Despite the fact that [Naked Lunch] seems to be driven by wildly unpredictable A&Ring, Micky insists that there is a common bond and that he aims for all of the releases to share the same characteristic as the best bits of his own record collection.

“I am buying up a lot of old Clone releases at the moment, stuff from the past and they still all sound so fresh,” he explains.

“I know what I like and some of my own records have a timeless sound. That’s what I want from my own label too. I have between 7,000 and 8,000 records at home and I could happily just keep 800 of them, but there are some, like the Metalheadz releases, that I could never part with.”

While Micky says he enjoys the freedom to put out whatever he wants, there is also an element of outwitting other labels at play, and he tries to stay a few steps ahead of the curve.

Although he admits to never going to clubs unless he is playing, he still feels that the Stingray record predates a swing back towards electro and says that because he felt that slow house would explode, he put out Instra:mental’s  “Vicodin”. One of the next releases on the label is a sexually explicit ghetto track from Jon Convex, but the reason for this is much more random. “I listen to a lot of ghetto house so I thought ‘fuck it’, I’ll go with that,” he says.

Micky avoids the local Irish scene whenever possible and prefers to play abroad instead of doing gigs at home. This isn’t a negative reflection on local clubs and has a lot more to do with Micky’s own experiences. “After so many years of being involved in so many scenes and all the politics that goes with it, I purposely keep myself away from it,” he explains. “When I was still living here in the 90s I was going to Sir Henry’s in Cork, but I don’t really go to Irish clubs anymore. It’s the same no matter what country you’re in, I just couldn’t give a fucking shit about it –  I do my own thing and keep away from it all.”

Like some of the best label owners – Serge from Clone and Zip who runs Perlon both spring to mind –  Micky isn’t a producer. While he has been given the opportunity many times to make a record, he was never tempted and enjoys the background role of curator and collector.

“My role in any studio has always been to make coffee or the dinner,” he laughs. “At this stage, I have had so many opportunities to do it, but I just don’t have the patience, even though I am very good at computers and it is a great way to make money. I am a DJ and have always been.”

Unlike many DJs however, Micky is a DJ without productions to his credit and he’s happy not to be part of what he sees as a problem –  the phenomenon of the producer as a DJ. “Nowadays the DJs who get the breaks without making records, the Ben UFOs and Jackmasters of this world, are one in every 10,000,” he says. “It really is the right place at the right time for people like that, but mostly nowadays we have producers who also happen to be DJs. It leads to a lot of drabness.”

In many ways, Micky and his label are old-fashioned. He is avowedly pro-vinyl, doesn’t go in for the incessant email promoing that has become commonplace and tries not to get dragged into internet flame wars.

“I try not to go on internet forums. I did once and got a lot of hate mail because I dissed MP3,” Micky laughs as he recalls one of his rare online posts. “I feel no attachment to MP3s because they have made music disposable. People associate what I am doing with Britney Spears or Coca-Cola, but I come from a pre-internet age.”

The other notable aspect to the [Naked Lunch] approach is its small catalogue. In four years, it has released just 10 records, and Micky has no plans to speed up the schedule just because it’s in the spotlight. Indeed, it feels like [Naked Lunch] operates in a reverse manner to most labels in that it sits on music for a long time.

“I just wait for the right tune to come along and for the right time,” Micky says cryptically. “I waited for Boddika for ages to come up with a good tune and Kowton was meant to be the label’s second release, but we’re only getting round to releasing one of his records now. The scene changes fast and if your tunes are two years old then there’s a chance they won’t appeal any more, but I like to listen to records to death before I release them. Anyway, all of the good labels don’t release a lot of music.”

The label’s refusal to hop on the nearest bandwagon meant that it missed out on the opportunity to release an EP by Skudge – Micky is happier that the Swedish duo have done a remix for one the label’s forthcoming releases – and [Naked Lunch]’s low visibility promo has actually helped its sales.

“Stefan Goldmann was right in that article he wrote [for] …people want to form an attachment to something without it being shoved in their face,” he believes.

“I used to send DJs test pressings, but since I stopped that, sales are up. I hope that the label is becoming bigger than the artists and that people are buying it on sight.”

Despite this popularity, [Naked Lunch] continues to take the road less travelled. It has set up a webstore via its distrubutor, ST Holdings, which allows it to received a bigger cut on its vinyl sales –  the label even gives away WAVs for free with every vinyl purhcase –  but Micky isn’t following the foray into the compilation market that other ST Holdings-distributed labels like Hessle have made.

“It makes me laugh when I read label owners saying ‘we got this idea to do a compilation’. No you didn’t, your distributor found out that bundled music sells more on iTunes,” he says.

“I got the same phone call, they are pushing everyone to release a compilation, but I’m not bothered. I don’t want to be left with a load of A Sides that need B Sides,” he adds. “I have had a Martyn tune ready for release for three years now, but I still need a B Side.”

While he waits patiently for an accompanying track to materialise, Micky can comfort himself by the fact that he also has releases by Boddika and Jon Convex in the pipeline for [Naked Lunch]. He is also trying to sign a jam between Stingray, Moodymann and Shake, and there is also an Urban Tribe tune that he “really wants”. However, Micky has been at it long enough to know that he who waits longest will get the biggest rewards.

Richard Brophy