Label focus – Richard Fearless tells all about Drone

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The release of universally acclaimed Richard Fearless album Deep Rave Memory last year truly put his Drone label on the map, but as we discover, from studio neighbour Daniel Avery to Michigan’s D’Marc Cantu, there’s a lot more to the stable than just Fearless himself.

WHAT’S THE NAME OF YOUR LABEL, AND WHO RUNS IT?
So the label is Drone and the label is run by myself and my wife Elaine Kin. It’s distributed by Kompakt.

WHEN & WHY DID THE LABEL START?
We originally started Drone to put out the Death In Vegas album Satan’s Circus. After I’d done Scorpio Rising, we handed in the album Satan’s Circus, which was all instrumentals. Subsequently, we got dropped as soon as the record label heard it, saying ‘what are we going to do with this?!’ We started Drone just to put out that album really – there were some acid versions of one of the tracks, so we put them out and then the album. That was in 2005, then we put it on hold. It wasn’t until about six years ago, in 2014, that my wife and I revamped it and started doing it properly. Originally I think it was more a thing where I was wanting to do something that was more reflective of me as a DJ rather than Death In Vegas.

GIVE US A BRIEF SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU’VE RELEASED SINCE THEN….
Myself, couple of releases from D’Marc Cantu from Michigan, Gabe Gurnsey, Von Haze, which is this sort of tonal noise drone album that came out a couple of years ago, which is a cracking record, myself with Daniel Avery under the name PSSU, Dan’s my next door studio neighbour. We put out the last Death In Vegas record too. Then in terms of remixes, we’ve had DJ Richard, Luke Hesse, Legowelt have all done mixes. Then we’ve been putting on parties as well, we did three at Tresor, we have a regular thing going on there which hopefully we will keep going when everything settles down, then we did one at the White Hotel in Manchester with Container, this American noise artist, as well. That’s an absolutely fantastic venue in an old garage in Salford, a great space.

WHAT QUALITIES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN THE MUSIC YOU RELEASE?
I do listen to everything I get sent and a lot of people are sending me music. There’s just this gut feeling you get when you hear something, it’s the same feeling I get when I’m buying vinyl as well, you drop the needle on and you normally know very, very quickly, within a few seconds, whether you want it or not. It’s very instinctive. I’m the sole A&R person and for me it’s a case of ‘would I play this out?’ or ‘would I listen to this at home?’ It’s very reflective of what I play out but the Von Haze album and some of the stuff we have lined up are different.

WHAT KIND OF VISUAL IDENTITY DOES THE LABEL HAVE (ARTWORK, VIDEOS ETC)?
My background is in fine art graphics and my wife is a visual artist as well, and just looking at them now there is definitely a thread that runs through them, but it’s more about the way we work rather than trying to make them all the same. My work tends to be more photographic, and there’s definitely a technique which is about the processes we use. A lot of re=shooting of images. So there’s definitely a style but it’s not a conscious thing. Then for the video for ‘Deep Rave Memory’ (the title track of Richard’s first solo album, released in late 2019) we worked with Dario, who was the assistant to Chris Cunningham for years and works under the name 241247. That was a very personal project and I used a lot of my artwork, he’s an incredible editor though, a real artist.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SELLING RELEASE TO DATE? TELL US A BIT ABOUT IT AND WHY YOU THINK IT WAS SO POPULAR.
That would be the Death In Vegas album Transmission, probably because DIV had a fanbase already. So that was definitely the biggest release. It’s interesting because we’ve done this white label series – well, two white labels I did, ‘Night Blind’ and ‘Sweet Venus’ – and they were big sellers. We didn’t do any artwork, the artwork is just a stamp. Those white labels were our biggest sellers, and their raw, one take, live tracks. Another thing that’s interesting is that both those tracks have quite different A and B-sides – ‘Sweet Venus’ is like a house track but it has this straight up 303 workout on the other side – which is something we’ve tried to carry on. If you’re spending X amount on a 12” it’s quite nice to have something different, an ambient piece or

NAME ONE RELEASE THAT YOU THINK DESERVED TO GET MORE ATTENTION THAN IT DID
I think the Von Haze album is a particularly beautiful piece, hopefully it’s one of those ones that will keep going through word of mouth and keep shifting. I’m really, really proud of that album. Von Haze are a couple in Los Angeles, actually my sister and brother in law. Originally they were performing it there’s this yoga guru in California who they’re friends with, he does these really huge shows where there are thousands of people. He got them to play while he was doing them, these drones to represent the seven Chakras, as he was taking the class. They did four of these and they were insane, people were weeping, it was this really out of body experience. They recorded it, it had the guru on it, and I got it and I was like ‘I’d really like to release this’. So I got them over and I produced it here, in the studio, in the metal box, and we got rid of the chanter and released it with just the seven drones.

IF YOU COULD SIGN ANY ARTIST, ALIVE OR DEAD, WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?
Finnish composer Mika Vainio, either under his Ø alias Philus moniker, For the reason that those records are fucking perfect, to me so ahead of his time, the purest most exquisite minimal electronics, techno in its best form.

WHICH OTHER LABELS DO YOU ADMIRE AND WHY?
Sähkö Recordings – Mainly concentrating on their earlier catalogue for their striped back minimal artwork and the Pan Sonic, Philus & Ø releases, properly some of the most crucial records in the development of techno.

Börft Records – Started out as a cassette label they then carried on that punk attitude releasing the Frakk the Frank Zappa of techno, in the later years some cracking reissues and they continue to put out an amazing wave of cassette releases

Tresor – I’m blessed to have my Drone nights at Tresor. The label manager Paulo has really continued the Tresor legacy and always awaiting in anticipation their next release.

Pudel Produkte – I’ve just released a record on the Golden Pudel’s label Pudel Produkte as Death Circuit. Having played the club a lot I now feel part of the family. The club has a unique approach to their programming and have carried on that aesthetic to their labels roster.
Brokntoys- A fantastic London-based label with an incredible string of releases of mutant electro

Clone/Dub – cracking records from the likes of Jodey Kendrick, Ryan James Ford, Like A Tim.

WHAT CAN WE LOOK TO FROM YOUR LABEL NEXT?
I’ve got another Richard Fearless album out next year, which is the follow up to ‘Deep Rave Memory’. I’m also working on an AV/live show for 2021, so that’s what we’re working on at the moment. We’ve got some other really strong releases, but I don’t want to give too much away right now.