Interview: Sinden on Grizzly Recs and, erm, 'Hutchface Sounds'
I've got lots and lots of time for (Graeme) Sinden. An illuminating DJ and genre-mangler, he's got a regular show on Kiss Fm; he ran a successful dubwise house night with Sinden, Get Familiar, at Fabric; he got some of that chart and mainstream success with pal Hervé as The Count & BEEPER BEEPER BEEPER Sinden; and now, not content with all of the above and with being generally awesome, he's only gone and launched his own label.
Grizzly Records is the name. And it's Grizzly by nature too, chopping up a variety of electronic-edged tropical, bass, global and native London sounds (2step, jungle, dubstep and other hippity hoppity club sounds).
But you can read a mahOOOsive interview with him and me and him if you click the link below. Go on; it's well good.
Hello Sinden. this the first label that you’ve set up yourself? "Yeah, it is. I did start a label a while ago with Switch, called Counterfeet, where we were putting out clips of our early releases. But that slowly petered out and I ended up setting up Grizzly at the beginning of the year. It's really just because I have access to good music – and there’s a lot of good music coming my way. And, also, I want to branch out and do solo productions as well. Having your own label as a modern DJ/producer is kinda a natural route."
It used to be, if you were a DJ, that you maybe had your own party. And then you started to make your own music, or get a radio show. And now it seems to be that having your own label is the next step after that? "I guess it is. If you look at most DJs that also produce, they have their own label for their own productions. I just think it’s the right way to go about things; being able to control the music. We also come across lots of good stuff on our travels and can get bombarded with demos and that sort of stuff."
Does it cement your position as a musical curator as well? "It does in a way. People look to us to bring them fresh music and having a label is just an extension of that. And having my radio show as well, means that I'm always trying to seek out new music. It’s just the way that it naturally fits. And also, having the infrastructure to do it now: having a really good team around me to make it happen is really important, so that everything runs smoothly. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and before was a little bit shambolic at times. But now [the label] definitely feels like a well-oiled machine."
What’s the overall concept behind Grizzly? What kinda of music does it represent? "It’s really just about new music, which isn’t restricted by any genre. Just good club music, with a sense of humour as well. Genre-wise, it’s going to be a bit sporadic, definitely reflecting my tastes as a DJ and what I play out. A lot of the tracks that I’ve been signing have a light-heartedness about them. Like the Brodinski release, 'Arnold Classics', is based around a sample of a burp, and DJ Sega's release is what I’d call like a bastard Italo track with a Nintendo bassline. The tracks on the label are just kind of fun, but the important thing is that they work in a club."
Is that fun element something that you feel has been lost in dance music lately? Or is it something that’s coming back? "It’s really hard to sum up trends in music. But I definitely think that music has gone back to being more serious, in a way. That's generalising, but I think that fun and entertainment needs to be central [to music]. You can’t just be playing for minorities, for just a few people in a room. You've gotta cast the net out a little further – obviously without dumbing down music or anything and without losing your integrity. It's about just not being too exclusive. And just believing in the music that you sign and put out there.
What can we expect from Grizzly’s overall output? You’ve got SBTRKT and Brodinski – are there any others on your roster? "There's a release out now, 'Arnold Classics', is by Brodinki. I think it’s going to be a one-off release because he likes to release tracks on different labels, which I think is really cool because [that way] he taps into lots of different sounds. Then the next one after that is from a guy called Wafa, who is a debutante. The track’s called 'Ewid Disco', which is doing really well. They haven’t really started promo-ing yet but it’s just come out on the Crookers compiation for Mixmag. I’m really hoping that that one – that one’s the really 'banger' track and I wouldn't say that all tracks that I’m releasing were ‘bangers’."
How do you select what to release? "That’s the one thing I’ve learnt over the last two months: the selection process of the tracks and not being too hasty about committing to certain things. It’s really difficult: you get all this music and you say, 'I'll have that, have that, have that', and you get a bit carried away. So you have to hold back and almost play it a bit cooler and ask yourself all these questions, like: 'Is it good enough?'; 'Does it stand out enough?'; 'Is that really something I wanna release?'. With lots of tracks that I get sent, I’d play them in a club but I wouldn’t release them. They’re fun club tracks, but I want a bit more longevity with the stuff I release. All of a sudden, everything you release now is scrutinised and, you know, you can put tracks out that will work in clubs, but they’re a bit more disposable and don’t have so much character. I think the sort of stuff I’ve picked has definitely got something to it – like a quirk, or something about it. I can’t put my finger on it…"
What format are you releasing on? "I’m doing digital and vinyl. I think it’s important to do vinyl. From the start, I said I wanted to release vinyl, just because I’m old school like that. I grew up buying vinyl. For me, a record label is records, you know? Not that I look down on digital-only labels, but I think that having vinyl as well is nice for the artist: they have a tangible product at the end of it, some wax."
Have you been inspired by any other labels in particular? "When you set up a label people usually have a reference point or a model, like, they know what they want like their label to be like. And I don’t know if I do… If there’s one label in particular that I can compare it to, it would be Diplo's label Mad Decent, I guess.
With those kind of labels, like Ed Banger too, it seems that the label roster becomes more like a family unit. They all play together and create a soundsystem for parties. Is that what it’s about having a label is about these days? About cultivating a family? "I think so, yeah. Some labels are lucky to be able to have their artists exclusively to them and these labels are really clever with the branding and about it being more than just an outlet for releasing music. It is more, like you say, a family unit. The way that your label gets out there is the solidarity that the people in it have; it's a strength in numbers thing. And it's good for people who go out as well: you know that if you're going to a show where there's 10 DJs on the same label, that you can get involved and really get an idea of what that label's about."
It’s also that cross-pollination thing. I suppose my reference point is your mates' former label Dubsided, where you and Switch (aka Solid Groove) and Jesse Rose and Hervé etc were all doing separate things and recording together under different aliases and it all feeds off each other as other people get more popular. "Yeah, I reckon. We definitely had a really strong unit back then with Dubsided. People kinda get into it, don’t they? It’s like when I first got into the Wu Tang Clan and there were all these members and characters, who were all doing offshoots and solo projects and collaborating with each other and it was really fun. I mean, I can only think about short term, but I’d like to get the artists that I do have working with each other and trying to promote that more."
I know we touched on this earlier, but it’s quite interesting how, well, you don’t exactly get hordes of indie bands starting up their own labels. But with DJs, it definitely feels that way. And particularly at the moment there’s seems to be a lot of big DJs, influential DJs, such as yourself, Erol, Kissy Sellout and Simian Mobile Disco, all setting up imprints. Do you see this as kinda greater trend too? "I’m just trying to think who hasn’t got a label now. I think everybody has. I can’t think who hasn’t. Fake Blood has got a label as well, but that's just word on the grapevine. I just think that with the way that the music industry is, people realise that being independent is the way to go. I mean, who else is going to take care as much as you are with your own music; who understands this world better than we do? I don’t think any other major labels do, so I think it’s about taking control and you know, doing justice to the music that there is."
Are there any downsides to releasing on your own label? "You do end up scrutinising it and paying [your music] a lot more attention than you should. And definitely in the last few months there have been so many questions, and I’m quite indecisive, so I’m uhm-ing and err-ing a lot, which is never good. I think only time will tell really; the first six to eight months are a learning curve. I don’t even know how these tracks will sell, or if they have an audience somewhere! I just hope people will enjoy them as much as I do. But the feedback has been really good so far."
Brilliant. What’s the most important thing that you’ve learnt since starting Grizzly? "I think the selection process has been quite important, filtering out what’s good and what isn’t. And also: scheduling. I’ve never really been that organised and now I have to think about six to eight months ahead!"
It sounds like it's been quite a large learning curve, then! "Yeah, it has. And I think I’m just going to learn more and more in the next year as well. And probably make a few errors along the way, but hey, that’s what it’s all about."
Do you have any plans to do any Grizzly parties or anything? "Yeah, there will be. I want to get some releases out there first, and then think about parties here in about eight months. I think in the future, especially because I’ve got such an international roster – especially a lot of French producers coming on the label – there'll be a lot of collaboration in Paris too."
Starting a label certainly seems like the hip cool thing to do. I might just start one! "Yeah, you should! What would you call it?
Hutchface Sounds. "It should definitely be a pun on Hutch."
If you’ve got any ideas, let me know. "I will, yeah. Coming up with label names is not easy."
Not your favourite thing to do? "Nahh. The thing is, I was trying to choose between Grizzly and Cowabunga Dude. I told my management about the second one and they weren’t that into it. They were like, 'Cowabuga Dude’s rubbish. It conjures up all these awful surfer and stoner-dude images'. I just wanted to have a big slice of pizza as a logo.""
I do agree that Grizzly much better. "It’s got a good attitude."
It's more pun-friendly too. You can work loads with that! "I think the tagline should be 'Bear Attitude'."
I like it. "That would only work in the UK, though, wouldn’t it?"
You’d be introducing all the French kids to London's street lingo. "They love it over there in France. I found like a whole new scene – like kids who are actually into Rinse Fm. One of the French DJs I was just talking to makes funky garage stuff, so I think that could work."
From France? "Yeah, it’s amazing. I found quite a few kids over there who are really, really influenced by the new post-dubsteppy and garage kinda stuff."
That’s so interesting. You don’t tend to think of stuff like that, but obviously the Internet speads these sounds so far and wide. "That’s the weird thing! Especially in Scandinavia and places like that, you get these pockets of kids that just love southern rap and music ike that."
It’d be like really interesting to map out the most unexpected music scenes across the globe. "Yeah yeah yeah! Curveball countries!"
You're gonna help me write that then.
To be continued…
Brodinski's 'Arnold Classics' and Sinden & SBTRKT's 'Midnight Marauder' are out now on Grizzlywww.onmygrizzly.tv