The music industry is full of gimmicks, short-lived trends, and one hit wonders, but for every wannabe DJ, there’s an equal amount of passion, longevity, and talent. One such artist who embodies the latter half of that sentence is Radio Slave, and his esteemed Rekids imprint.
The now Berlin-based label has seen vibrant house and techno releases from newcomers and veterans alike, with everyone from Len Faki, Nina Kraviz, Fred P, Robert Hood, Cromby, Hybrasil, and Peggy Gou making appearances on Rekids over the years.
We got to speak with Radio Slave on this months edition of Label Mates, where we had a chat about the early days of Rekids, how he looks for future releases, what advice he would give to an aspiring label owner, and more. Get the full discussion below.
You first launched Rekids back in 2006, what were some of the biggest hurdles you faced when planning your first few releases?
Looking back I guess I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve with Rekids before even launching the label. We had a release schedule, a logo which I’d designed and I’d been discussing the idea of creating ‘Rekids’ with friends and colleagues for at least a year before we launched, so the whole process seemed to take shape fairly quickly, And 15 years ago the industry was very different. We could easily still sell around 4000 copies of each release so the focus was on vinyl and making records was a lot easier.
But of course this changed rapidly as the digital market exploded with Beatport etc. and we almost faced bankruptcy more than once within the first few years as our distributor went under and then we later lost all our stock in huge warehouse fire in London.
And what are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the industry between then and now?
These days the focus is on social media and the individual. The ‘DJ’ is for some now considered an idol and with streaming platforms it’s difficult for labels to shout about new artists and I always consider Rekids to be a great place to nurture new talent and also to expose and shout about forgotten legends.
Back in 2005, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Colin McBean (Mr.G) through Andy Mac who was working for Skint Records in Brighton. Of course Colin was in the ‘Advent. The biggest techno group of the 90’s – but when we started discussing releasing music on Rekids, he wasn’t touring and it took a while to build his profile and I’m super proud to see where he is today.
Same with Nina [Kraviz], we met at the Red Bull Music Academy in Melbourne 2006 and later she booked me to play in Moscow and handed me two CDJ’s full of demos.
These were super interesting and completely unique and different to anything I’d heard and of course the rest is history but back then it was tough to promote a young female artist in this industry and it took years of hustling from Nina and I to get her foot in the door, and I’m just super happy to be a part of her journey.
Fast forward to 2021 and there’s now less options for promoting artists, their music and every release has an incredibly short shelf life.
There’s also less options for press, as the music media seems to be focused on the politics of the scene and there’s also hardly any places to find DJ charts so shouting about music from a label perspective is difficult and most of the promotion can come down to the artist and their followers.
You’ve previously released tracks from Marcel Dettman, Robert Hood, and Len Faki – among others, what are some of the main things you look for in a producer when considering them for a release?
I’m always looking for producers who have their own unique vision of creating music. The oddballs. The outsiders and nerds.
Has the pandemic changed how you filter through potential releases, as you no longer have the option to road test demos in the club?
That’s definitely an issue and I have so many tracks that I’d love to hear on a loud sound system and it’s just not the same checking demos on headphones but I can definitely spot a track I’d like to sign pretty quickly, even if I hear the demo on my phone, so that process hasn’t really changed.
We are going to have a huge amount of music to check in the clubs though over the next few years and 2020 was a great year for music so I’ll definitely be digging through last years releases when the clubs finally re-open.
And who else might we expect to see on the Rekids catalogue in the coming months?
This summer I’m super excited to welcome Joe Claussell to the label with his ‘Raw Tones’ album. This has been a long time coming and Joe actually remixed my ‘Machine’ album back in 2012, so we’ve known each other for quite some time. I brought him to play at Panorama Bar in Berlin and I’m still a fan boy – so this is a big deal for me.
We also have two albums planned from techno veteran Mark Broom and the first part ‘Funfzig’ will be out in July, it’s been a real pleasure and honour to work with Mark. He’s hands down my favourite techno producer and I love his approach to making music, he’s also super diverse and you’ll get to hear this on his album.
You’ve played a big part in the early successes of some of dance music’s most known names, including Peggy Gou, and Nina Kraviz, which names on the Rekids roster would you say has the potential to follow suit and do big things in a few years time?
Right now we’re working with some really exciting and interesting new artists and ‘Raven’ is doing super well. She has a great vibe and a very unique and different take on electronic music. She’s also an incredible DJ and we’re just about to put her next EP into production so look out for this later in the year.
What advice would you give to anyone that’s considering to launch their own label in 2021?
Keep things simple. Find what works for you and if you’re going to work with other people, or sign artists then I would recommend taking these steps:
1) Find a good accountant. This is paramount in running any kind of business and you’ll definitely need one if you plan on signing artists and selling your music through traditional distribution networks.
2) Never do deals without a contract. Even between friends and if they won’t sign a contract then don’t do it. As your label grows so will the artists and it’s best for all involved if things are agreed in writing.
3) If you’re going to make vinyl them make sure you do your home work. Reach out to people in the industry. It could be your local record shop owner. Get an idea of how things work and also the limitations and costs of producing vinyl. Making vinyl can be incredibly time consuming and it’s become harder and harder during the pandemic and we’re going to see a dramatic increase in the price of records over the next year.
4) This might sound super obvious but build your audience with social media. The days of getting noticed as the cool guy/girl who puts out obscure white labels are over.
5) As I mentioned before. Keep things simple. Start with Bandcamp and test the water with digital releases and see if you have an audience for your music or a particular sound that you want to push. It’s a good way to get noticed and you’ll also see if this is your thing. I know so many people who’ve started labels and stopped as it’s not for everyone and if it’s not fun then running a label might not be for you.
Do you have a favourite label besides your own?
There’s so many labels out there that I admire but ‘Apron Records’ is definitely one that I really love. It’s such a cool label and it has a such a unique vibe and I’m always checking every release.
Flug’s Austral Frames EP is the latest release from Radio Slave’s Rekids.