Working for two dance music institutions – Soho record store Phonica and influential Belgian label R&S – Nick Williams found himself in an ideal position to launch a label of his own. Meda Fury, however, was an accident, a series of fortunate coincedences recounted at length in an interview with The Ransom Note. Since accepting R&S’s offer to start a sub-label, Williams has embarked on ‘bringing new and established producers together from across the globe’, with ‘House music as a broad artform’ being the point of reference.
Compare the brash club tracks on OL’s ‘Scape Border’ EP to the synth-heavy, analog ballads on the most recent, ‘Remember Every Moment’ EP, for example, and the scope of Meda Fury becomes clear. The little ‘rules’ Williams has placed upon himself are not necessarily restrictions, but rather a constant source of inspiration. He has assembled a disparate group of artists who will remain the core of Meda Fury for the forseeable future. They each bring distinct takes on House music, which, with remarkable skill and A&R savvy, Williams organises into a coherent whole.
To get a better insight into his approach, we sat down with Nick to discuss the first six records and how they came about.
Hazylujah – ‘How Can You Hide From What Never Goes Away’ EP
Hazylujah was a typically great discovery you only get working in a record store. His first release that came into Phonica was on Delsin, which makes you take notice. It had an angular, jarring sound, and in a way similar to artists I’m into like STL. Hazylujah comes from Italy, from a Techno background but via Rock music previous to that. I felt a kinship to him in that he used to work in a record store. His sound definitely stuck in my mind as one to watch, and I remember sending him a message, literally just to say ‘nice one, love the EP’.
Not too long after this, just as I had been given the opportunity by R&S to start a sub-label, Hazylujah started sending me some completely different stuff. It was still abstract, but incorporating lots of field recordings and unusual samples, it was something I could imagine in an adventurous House set. If I was going to start a label I wanted to kick off with something a bit out-there, not the norm and memorable. It was exactly that.
To launch the first record and the label, I wanted to do a small, maybe even private, party. In the end it wasn’t private, but we got 100 people into a bar in Haggerston called Brilliant Corners. It’s an audiophile set-up there, so you can’t really do a typical house DJ set. The 1210’s have been modified with straight arms and there are no CDJs. I recorded Massi’s set, and it became his Hyponik mix a year later! It was great to meet in person and he will definitely be back on the label in the future. Maybe we’ll come full circle and release some of the noisy, more extreme stuff he was making when I first discovered him.
Did that first record define where the label went from there?
Yeah, it did a bit. Actually, because I confirmed the second record before the first came out, I would say the first two together helped to define what I’ve done since. Little things began to add up organically, for example, the different countries thing and the disparate versions of House music. Going forward that had to be the way to channel ideas and guide the sound.
Takuya Matsumoto – ‘Ram’ EP
This one began with a tip from a friend, Lindsay Todd (Firecracker). I was at his studio helping with some screen-printing and he asked if we had this record in at Phonica, something Floating Points and Move D had been playing in sets. It was released on Takuya’s own little label in Japan, and, like a lot of Japanese House music, was expensive and difficult to get hold of.
I contacted Takuya online about doing a record, and he was initially a little shy about it all. He had only done three records in ten years and there was a slight language barrier, so it took a bit of time and persuasion. He eventually starting sending me tracks, and then sent more, and more and more. I had about 50 to choose from for the first record, and every single one was excellent. He makes very deep melodic jazzy House – a bit like early Theo or Soichi Terada.
There will be another EP of his on the label in 2015, and there could be an album too. His music is very pleasant listening. He is also the most accessible artist on the label, and I do think that is one reason to approach an album, amongst many other factors. He has the potential to deliver a fantastic LP.
Damon Bell – ‘Hue-Man Made’ EP
I first met Damon Bell about two years ago, when I went to America for the first time. I was staying in Oakland and I realised that’s where one of my favourite labels operates from, Aybee’s Deep Blak. I sent Aybee a little message to let him know I was in town and asked if he was playing anywhere that week, he wasn’t but Damon was. It was at a monthly block party that goes down in San Fran, an arts funded street do with bands, clothes stalls, food vans, art etc. I went down to meet them, Damon was DJing on the back of a pick-up truck on this very long main road. I ended up going to see him again a few days later at his residency in a bar, and we agreed we should keep in contact. As I’ve always bought his records, it was pretty exciting when he started sending me tracks.
‘Hue-Man Made’ was a bit of a tricky EP to put together. There was one track I really wanted for the A1, that Damon had jammed it on the fly but realised after that he had recorded it wrongly, in the wrong quality for mastering. He said we had to shelve that track and that he would try to rebuild it for a later release. He sent me some more tracks and the eventual A1, ‘Hue-Man Made’, was one of them. We kept working at it until we got everything right and the EP did really well in the end. He seemed to enjoy working with a different label, and the music was picked up by a lot of DJs and national radio. It sold out in 10 days.
What’s happening with the track you couldn’t master?
Recreating music is an interesting thing, it is obviously pretty much an impossible task. Damon would never have been happy with that first track coming out because of the sound quality, but it’s a subjective thing. I’ve had this issue with other artists in the past too. Because they are so close to the music, they can only hear the flaws in any recording quality. Whereas, I’m coming at it from a different perspective. It’s a bit like acting, where sometimes the first take might look a bit amateur, but it might also have some kind of raw/real emotional which, with post production, can be brought out in an interesting way. We’ll see what happens with the new version, it’s almost there!
OL – ‘Scape Border’ EP
This was the hardest EP to do so far. In between Takuya and Damon Bell we had problems with vinyl manufacture, everyone was in the same boat. There was a massive bottleneck; partly caused by Record Store Day, but also just because there are so many new labels springing up and the general rise in vinyl’s popularity that pressing plants couldn’t handle the demand. That gave me a lot of time to start thinking about what I wanted to do with the next releases. I became slightly wary after the first three that I was falling into an accidental pattern of very sampled-based, intricate and musical records with lots of live instrumentation. For the next record I wanted something a bit more upfront and in-your-face, but which still fell under the house umbrella.
I discovered OL in the same way as Hazylujah, via a 7″ that came into Phonica that blew my mind. Really fast, jazz-sampling house; like Moodymann on speed. I listened through some of his older stuff and you could really hear him evolving and discovering what he’s about. There’s all sorts of bass heavy sounds: Trap, Dubstep, Hip Hop and so on.
We were doing a Phonica club night not long after and wanted to get a couple of exciting new names down to play some sets, so we got OL over from Moscow and also Lo Shea from Sheffield. We stayed in touch afterwards and he started sending music, not all of it was for me but there were eight tracks that I instantly had to have. I noticed how short a lot of the tracks were and realised I could squeeze six onto vinyl and one more as the digital only track. Three tracks per side isn’t for everyone but I have no problem with that. Mixing a track within three or four minutes isn’t that much of a challenge. Anyway, the EP is kind of all over the place; there’s Dance Mania style Ghetto House, jazzy bits, deep Detroit flavours, definitely a strong black influence, but also shaped by Russian music. Some of my friends that are DJs were like ‘really?’, but I really believed in it. Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) recently told me he bought it, I think Martyn did too. It fits into that world. I’m thinking of doing an album with him, it could be really interesting as his sound is constantly evolving.
The description on the label Soundcloud, Discogs and Facebook pages makes it clear that Meda Fury is a House music label. I wonder if that might become too specific? Especially given the way you talk about OL’s music and the potential of Takuya’s album.
No. I think House, very broadly, defines what we will do. I don’t want to change the initial aim of the label, and having a few restrictions can inspire you and push out the boundaries. It’s transferable too, joining the dots. I have to do that in my day job – selecting records for customers just off “I bought this last time” or “I like this producer/label”. Also when I pick records for my bag, and join them together in a DJ set.
D-Ribiero – ‘Ghost Purple Dance’ EP
I first came across D-Ribiero’s music online. That prompted me to hit him up about some music. What he sent me, and even the order he sent it in, was pretty much straight away perfect. The EP came together really quickly and easily, which was a bit of a shock after the first few releases. He had made these tracks in one recording session, with the same feelings and influences. It was exciting, maybe even more so than the other records.
At the time, he was addicted to watching this cartoon called Adventure Time, and playing a lot of computer games. You can hear that, the melodies are very computer game-like and he’s even put little samples from the cartoon in the tracks. He’s also very into P-Funk, and it translates into this swingy, squashed sound. It’s similar in a way to Kyle Hall or Flying Lotus, who have this hip-hop influence too, but make something between Hip-Hop, R&B and House.
Pearl River Sound – ‘Remember Every Moment’ EP
The latest record is out! It’s by another Italian artist, a great young talent from Rome called Pearl River Sound. This happened differently to the other artists in that he came to me with demos. I’d never heard of his music before – he’d only done a couple of cassettes – but it really floored me. It’s very different to everything done so far. It’s like Legowelt meets early Aphex, maybe; retro, analog, machine-like but with enough clubbiness to play in a set. Definitely a winter vibe, so it’s a good time for it to be coming out. To me it also has a lot of Soul – if, like me, you can connect with it in an emotional way. Check out his two tape albums on Further and more recently Indole.
Pearl River Sound’s ‘Remember Every Moment’ EP is out now. Buy here.