Label Mates: Cleric / Clergy

The latest edition of our Label Mates series welcomes the esteemed Manchester-based DJ, producer, and label owner Cleric. The British artist has previously seen his own music come via imprints like Arts, Figure, and Soma Records, though it’s his work with Clergy that’s likely been the most impressive.

The Clergy catalogue has welcomed names like Dax J, Setaoc Mass, James Ruskin, and Albert Khirnov in the past, and the label has gradually developed into one of the go-to providers of lean, hard-hitting club productions, not just in the UK, but Europe as a whole.

We asked Cleric about the early days of launching the label, his method of road testing potential releases, what else we can expect from both himself and Clergy, and more. Read the full interview below.

You first launched Clergy back in 2015, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the very beginning?

I wouldn’t say I faced too many big challenges to be honest. The hardest part was trying to contain myself from starting new concepts and ideas before the first EP was even released. I came from a creative hair salon where we had new style collections with back stories each quarter. So, the idea of developing new concepts and projects felt like complete creative freedom. Obviously, I had to slow down and pick what I did carefully rather than jump at every idea, then regret the outcome in the future.

And since then you’ve released music from artists such as Albert Zhirnov, Dax J, and James Ruskin, what’s your typical process when it comes to signing new music?

I like to test out a lot of unreleased music during my sets. Sometimes you can’t really gauge how things will sound until you’re in that environment. I like to try and give opportunities to unknown talent as there is so much out there. Then we can work together on developing their profile in a positive way.

Who else might we expect to see releasing on Clergy in the coming months?

I seriously can’t wait to show the next releases we have planned. It’s an exciting moment as I have re-started the sub label, ‘Projekts’, that will focus on the groovier side of techno. I don’t want to say too much yet, but there will be new EPs from previous artists like Stef Mendesidis, Albert Zhirnov, and a few new faces. Then in August you’ll see my first solo Cleric EP in 4 years, which will also celebrate the 30th release.

Your own productions have also come via imprints like Figure, Arts, and Infrastructure New York, what lessons have you learnt from working with these kinds of labels that you’ve carried over into your own?

Be patient. It’s important to take some time on the decisions you make. I’m a bit of an over thinker when it comes to releasing music. The only projects I look back on now with some regrets are the ones I rushed into. For these reasons I never try to rush an artist on their releases. I like them to take their time on mix downs etc. because once its out, there is no going back. It’s cemented in time.

What’s your favourite label?

CLR was probably the most influential label to me. Around 2009-2010 I found their podcast series and it opened up a whole new side of techno to me. Now 10+ years later I prefer digging through their old catalogue. Arms & Audio Assault are also two labels from the past that I love the sound and direction of.

Then in more current times I’d say SK_Eleven. I’m really impressed with what Sam (Setaoc Mass) has built. We used to look up to labels such as Token, Dystopian, Polegroup, and dream of having a label as established in the scene as these. Looking from the outside, I think we’ve both been lucky enough to have achieved that now.

What advice would you give to anyone that wants to launch their own label in 2023?

Vinyl! I know the process is a lot longer and more expensive, but this makes you take your time on making important decisions such as the artwork direction or the music you release. Digital music is great for artists getting their name recognised in the scene, but I get the feeling digital has a very short shelf life. I think back to record shopping with Sam (Setaoc Mass) and the excitement you get when you find an old techno record from the ’90s or early 2000s. I don’t think people will get that same emotional attachment when they search back digitally in 20 years time and find something they’ve never heard.

Is there anything else you want to add before we go?

Fuck the tories!

Felicie – Art Of Detachment EP is out now on Clergy.