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Shifting: somethinksounds

Kazim Rashid & Andy Lemay are the duo responsible for London/Berlin record label, somethinksounds. The idea was conceived at a sunny rooftop party in Leeds a few years ago and was inaugurated in November 2010 with the release of Eliphino‘s ‘Undivided Whole’ 12″ EP; quickly garnering support far and wide.

What has been interesting to observe is the different fields in which the approval has arrived. From Radio 1 stalwart Benji B, to Jamie Jones, Skream, Gilles Peterson, Soul Clap and a number of figures in-between, they’ve managed to hop the fence between ‘bass-music’ and more traditional house circles. As they approach the end of their sophomore year the label roster now includes Eliphino, Lucky Paul, Black Orange Juice, Bwana and more recently Wolf+Lamb regular, Gadi Mizrahi under the Baby Prince guise. When not releasing records, you can find found the duo holding down their label-night residencies in Berlin, Paris and London.

To accompany their Hyponik interview they’ve kindly assembled a mix for us. We’ll leave them to introduce it themselves: “As with our DJ style, there isn’t tonnes of thought that has gone into the selection, but packed with vibes. We have avoided keeping it too clever, and it is basically a collection of songs we have been playing this summer. There are some new bits, some old bits and of course some selections from our somethinksounds label.”

As we understand it, somethinksounds is an arm of a creative collective that also included the now defunct somethinkblue magazine. Could you give us the full picture of what you guys do?
K: somethinksounds, somethinkblue and any other somethink we can think of is basically all part of one big idea. The idea is simply, a crew of creatives dotted all over the world, coming together to make things which they believe in. Be it music, video, magazines or whatever we decide to turn out hands at.

When did the record label come into play?
K: The record label was launched about a year after the first iteration of the online magazine.

What’s the overall mission statement?
A: Keep the dream alive I guess! We came up with the idea for the label on a sunny rooftop party in Leeds a few years ago it was a pipe dream thats taken off and we are having a lot of fun. We are pretty proud of the back catalogue and the artists we have worked with, if each record released is more successful than the last that would be nice too.

What are some of the main things you have learned along the way, plus any key advice you would give to someone starting out with a similar business venture.
K: I don’t think you ever stop learning with this game, every day something new happens which turns your head. If I had to pick a few choice bits of advice it would be to ensure all the elements of your eco-system are all working for the same goal and on the same page. That includes distribution, press, marketing, artists and everything in-between. If you all want the same things, then eventually with enough work you will get there. If you have different ideas, or goals – you’re gonna struggle to get anywhere.

So you guys operate in London and Berlin – how are things split?
K: It’s a little bit more chaotic than that I’m afraid. We don’t really have clearly defined roles, however we do naturally gravitate to the things we are best at. Often we tend to sign particular artists individually, then we will lead that project but we tend to work all hands on deck for most things. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Skype is our silent partner, we probably spend more time speaking to each about label stuff than actually doing label stuff.

What is it that links Lucky Paul, Black Orange Juice, Bwana and Eliphino, making them all right for somethinksounds?
A: I think just that we love their music in all its various forms. We set out to deliberately not be pigeon -holed as a ‘UK-bass label, house label, etc etc. It would be too limiting for us. As a result the artists we sign and the music we put out is quite varied and that’s what makes it right for somethinksounds.

Your next release is from Gadi Mizrahi aka Baby Prince, can you talk to us a bit about the artist and the release?
K: We spent the whole summer basically together in Berlin, at festivals, Glastonbury blah blah blah. He shared some music which he had been working on in private and felt was a little too weird for his scene, the whole hipster house thing. Anyway, we signed a bunch of tracks and we are finally releasing our 2 favourites. The interesting things here are:
1) How long stuff can take to get out sometimes.
2) How we as a label sit between the whole ‘UK-bass’ scene and the US/European house scene – it’s a nice position to be in. We have had everyone from Jamie Jones and Soulclap to Jamie XX and Skream play our music which is amazing to us.

Can you tell us a bit about what the next 12 months has in store for the label?
A: Ah we are really excited about the next 12 months, we have a bomb from Artifact lined up for release after the Baby Prince EP and then the Black Orange Juice follow up EP. We have just got Joe Goddards remix for that back which is pretty special so that could be a big release. We have a few projects on the go at the moment, one with a singer out of Brooklyn, and some more live based projects, but we are constantly on the lookout for new music so get your demos to us too!

What do you think of digital only labels and how important is the physical product to you?
K: I think digi-only labels are the smartest “mofo’s” around. It is no lie that for labels like ours vinyl is for pleasure, status and attention. We don’t sell records to make money, any money we make comes from digi sales or events.

The truth is we love vinyl, and are personally only satisfied when we pick up our wax. That’s not to say we wouldn’t explore releasing music on other formats and developing artists without releasing vinyl.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry, particularly in our realm of electronica? Any significant shifts you can see arriving over the coming years?
A: I think its amazing, mainly because no one has a clue what’s going on! You have heard everyone moaning about illegal downloads etc etc which is a obviously not ideal but it also throws up opportunities. Also people shouldn’t moan too much, I read that statistically the people who illegally download the most also buy the most music legally anyway. As a result traditional independent labels, booking agents, music PR, radio pluggers managers, promoters and other related industries are become less clearly defined with collectives forming that offer many more services, I think this will continue and is something we are looking at.

The major labels and big agencies are pretty entrenched but I definitely feel there needs to be a shift in the music industries structure, it’s pretty outdated, probably starting with record labels… shit! Musically its amazing, young guys coming up are referencing the legends and originators in their sets and people seem so much more eclectic in what they play out, I love that long may it continue. We are just back from Dimensions Festival and if the djs there represent some of the best in elecrtonica, we are definitely in good hands.

You guys are down at the FOUND series at Hidden this Friday. What have you got lined-up?
A: We have man of the moment Ossie coming down with Black Orange Juice, who will be doing their live thing which is something else, not to be missed. Dusky are headlining so that will be dope too, we may even have a few special guest dropping by, we are really looking forward to it.

Finally – tell us something funny…
A: What do you get if you cross and Elephant and a Rhino. Answer: Eliphino…

Catch somethinksounds hosting Arch 2 of Hidden in Vauxhall this Friday (21st September) as part of the FOUND series. Head here to snap up the remaining tickets.

Words & interview: Josh Thomas