Label Mates: DEAD CERT. Records / Jack! Who?

Since launching his DEAD CERT. Records imprint almost a decade ago in 2013, British DJ and producer Jack! Who? has hosted productions from established names like Alex Dolby and Holldën.

The label has delivered some seminal underground techno gems over the years, and with their 10th anniversary coming up in 2023, they are seemingly stronger than ever.

We welcome Jack! Who? to our Label Mates series this month, where we talk all things DEAD CERT., including his approach to signing new music, what advice he would give to aspiring label owners, and more. Get the full discussion below.

You first launched the label back in 2013, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the very beginning?

I think one of the main challenges for anyone starting a label is to be taken seriously, especially when you dedicate your life to studying techno music, DJ sets, and club culture for example.

Sourcing tracks can pose difficulty too, but we already had discussions underway due to my successful deathtechno project taking shape a few years after I stopped running club events. Luckily there were some friends and artists that I was in contact with who began sending demos and we slowly built some releases over many months and decided the label concept.

We then contacted some notable remix artists we loved such as Audio Injection aka. Truncate, Heron, Miss Sunshine aka. Insolate, Hans Bouffmyhre, Rich Jones aka. Operator, and Eomac to really kickstart the catalogue. Planning things properly can take a while, but it’s always worth the wait to get things right as once things are released it’s cemented in time.

And since then you have released music from names like Alex Dolby, Juan Trujillo, and Holldën, what do you typically look for when signing new music?

Right now, I have a mantra of would I play it as a DJ, which keeps the standards very high. It’s easy to hear a track and think that’s cool, but unless it blows you away and you adore it, then what I find is the impact it has on me is mirrored to others who discover it.

I also listen for a feeling wrapped up in a track, as this is also picked up by DJs and music lovers, sometimes not straight away, but a lot of the best tracks for a DJ to hear is something they don’t grasp instantly. It might be heard in a certain context in a random mix or someone playing it to a dancefloor that gives that eureka moment, as I know this happens to me.

What’s one of the most difficult tasks in running a label that most people might not be aware of?

I think there’s not just one, as a label consists of so many factors working together and each can prove difficult representing links in the chain. Finding unsigned music is one of the most fun jobs, but also has a trade off. It’s very time consuming, as most of the stuff listened too doesn’t make it to release, even storing lots of files has its own issues if you need to find something later, so being extremely organised will help you. Keeping on top of graphic design, promotion, and social media are all thankless jobs but are absolutely necessary for growth.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to anyone that’s thinking about launching their own imprint?

Be ready for hundreds of hours of behind the scenes admin work. Having a dedicated label manager is probably not a viable option from a cost perspective either. Be open minded, as things definitely won’t go as you planned, but in contrast, things will happen down the line you never dreamed of, which is really exciting and motivating. Trends never last, always aim for authenticity and above all you will learn through mistakes.

2023 will mark the 10th anniversary of DEAD CERT. Records, do you have anything planned to mark the occasion?

There’s a few things in the pipeline at the moment, our fourth vinyl only limited release from Paris legend Electric Rescue which includes Sweden’s Grindvik with an outstanding remix should be out early 2023.

I’m aiming at curating a ten track various artists release to include friends of the label and deathtechno. There’s also an EP with Colombia-based producer Saurio, who has dropped a couple of well-received tracks on our Ubiquitous VA’s such as ‘Algerian’ and ‘Cheap Metaphysics’.

Do you have a favourite label? Besides your own of course!

It’s impossible to name only one as I love and follow so many labels who I think are key to modern quality techno. I’m always impressed when I hear what is cooking on Kr!z’s Token, Ben Klock’s Klockworks, TWR72’s Float, Temudo & VIL’s HAYES, Shlomi Aber’s Be As One, as well as Mexico’s ANAØH, Detroit’s Blank Code and the Dutch-based [R]3volution.

Thanks for answering our questions, is there anything you want to mention before we wrap things up?

Thank you for digging deeper into our plans and I hope to give people inspiration and motivation to step up to certain challenges and keep pushing forward with their plans and dreams no matter what gets in your way.

I’d like to mention the newest branch of my projects which is a record label called MÉTIER, the name of an activity pursed as a calling and outstanding talent. It began through lockdown 2020 to experiment with varying styles that I’m drawn to, like deep techno, dub, electro, and beyond, similar to Warp Records or Sven Väth’s Cocoon.

It has released music by Shifted Minds aka. UBX127 of Len Faki’s Figure, the newest EP is by Sejon, and in early 2023 we will have an album by returning producer AX15 aka. Alex Dolby, called Horizons.