Originally published in the Spring/Summer issue of Faith/Strobelighthoney
We could fall back into cliche to write this intro, but instead of overanalysis, introspection and pontification let’s just say that Hessle Audio is one of the most exciting UK labels out there, putting out amazing music with frightening regularity. Faith caught up with the crew recently, and tried desperately not to say “blurring boundaries.”
You’re often talked about as a ‘dubstep’ label but to me you just make modern dance music. No one likes labels, but it seems that punters don’t hang on to them as much these days either, and that in itself has helped Hessle Audio gain a foothold.
David: I don’t think we’ve ever marketed ourselves as a dubstep label as such
Kevin: I’ve got no problem with being associated with dubstep at all, that’s where we came from. We didn’t market ourselves as a dubstep label but neither did we ‘future garage’ or ‘post dubstep’ or any of that
Ben: When we started out we were definitely considered part of the dubstep scene though. It’s not something that we’ve personally pushed, which has given us a bit more flexability than we might’ve had otherwise. The availability of music now has certainly helped both in terms of audience reception and how we’ve progressed as a label. My experience of things like Youtube, Discogs and Spotify is that it can immediately give you an insight into something totally unfamiliar. It makes it much less easy to be dismissive of a style or a sound as for me that’s tended to be just a symptom of a lack of exposure to that style.
Is the physical ‘artefact’ nature of vinyl a factor in the type music you put out? To me, there are no fillers on Hessle – there’s plenty of things that I couldn’t really play out but I NEED them because I feel they’ll still be great in 10 years time… in the same way a Boards of Canada record might be.
David: I don’t think that something has been properly released unless it’s come out on a physical format. A well mastered record played on a decent turntable through a decent pre amp sounds amazing.
Ben: We’ve not released any CDs or albums yet, and that’s partly down to vinyl being our preferred format. We’ve aimed to release music that stands alone or comfortably as part of a DJ set, and that’s something that isn’t always compatible with constructing a cohesive ‘listening experience’ for an album.
Faith have been to many a few parties/nights over thew past couple of years where there seems to be a reticence towards calling things ‘house’. It almost seems a dirty word in some circles. What’s your view? Personally I think Hessle is very house even if the output doesn’t fit a certain template.
David: I guess there’s a lot of bad house music, just as in any other genre! … and before the funky explosion some people were definitely averse to it. I think from an outsider’s perspective house can be seen as glossy / commercial, more about image that sound. Obviously these perceptions aren’t fully true, as there’s loads of great underground, raw house music out there. It’s just maybe the most visible music is the kinda hed kandi scantily clad women CDs they advertise on TV
Ben: There’s just a huge amount of house music generally. There are loads of misconceptions about it, which I suppose is understandable given the kind of stuff that’s forced at people in adverts or in bars around town. Funky’s definitely opened up house music to an audience that wouldn’t have dreamt of raving to it in the past though. There was a time when anything with a 4×4 kick drum alienated me completely so it’s been hugely important to me personally. It’s made me aware of how broad the music is, how rich the history of it is. It was a very liberating experience realising that there was 25 years worth of amazing music to start investigating.
FWD seems to have played a big part in the evolution of the label – what are your thoughts on the possible closure of Plastic People?
David: It would be terrible if plastic shut as without the club, the label probably wouldn’t exist. the soundsystem in there is a benchmark.
Ben: I met David at FWD>> and there was a time in my life when I was going to the club at least once a week. I’d be devastated if it closed. London’s supposed to be the clubbing capital of the world but Plastic People is really the only space of its size with such a fantastic sound system and that kind of vibe. The place is about music and nothing else, dubstep wouldn’t sound the way it does without it.
Kevin: Yeah exactly, I do wonder why a city as huge as London doesn’t have similar alternatives to what plastic people offers. A massive loss if it closes, obviously
In terms of your DJing styles, it’s interesting from an old fogeys point of view to hear things like old Nervous and MAW records next to new bits at 140bpm. Has the internet played a part in opening you up to the ‘history of house’ as it were?
Ben: Absolutely. These records are new to me and they’re new to a lot of the audience that I play to, it’s almost like having dubs except the tunes are 15-20 years old. I don’t feel the pressure to play totally upfront sets anymore for this reason – if there aren’t many unreleased tunes I’m feeling in any given month, I don’t feel like I have to compromise. I probably do more of this than David or Kev – the time they spend producing I spend on Discogs…
Kevin: I don’t really listen to much house at all, if any. I’d like to do some historical research at some point but I’m not really in any hurry. I don’t have much interest in playing house in my sets at the moment
David: I’ve been listening to house a lot longer than dubstep or drum and bass, but i’m not really educated on the history of it, and if anything I don’t really like the older stuff as much as I like the stuff from the last decade or so.
5 Hessle Audio Essentials