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Jon, tell us a little about Boka, started in 2005 sometime, what made you start a label? I’m sure you’re very proud to have Distance as your 001.
Boka Records was originally started by Jono (Professor JS) back in 2005, I took over the label at the end of 2008, Jono retired early I guess and has gone in a different direction, travelling etc. so it’s been my first full year running the label. I went to school with Jono in Southampton although we didn’t really know each other at that point - I hooked up with him via S.T. Holdings where I work; they’re also responsible for distributing Boka among many other labels.
As a label owner it’s great to be involved with a label who have always been about uncovering and exposing new and exciting artists, Boka were one of the early Dubstep labels so I hope to think that the releases we put out there have a degree of authenticity. Distance has gone on to be one of the more high profile Dubstep DJs which is wicked.
Has the growth been exciting since you took over the label or has it been a struggle but with a light at the end of the tunnel?
Got into a rhythm fairly quickly once I took over the label, the first release I put out with Boka was the 16bit – ‘In The Death Car EP’, which in some ways was a risk at the time because it was an all-out aural assault, Boka has always been a little more subtle than that haha, but that was my aim with Boka once I took over, to vary the output and incorporate the heavier stuff as well as the lighter and deeper styles. This will become even more apparent in ‘10.
I guess you could say every release is a tunnel with a light at the end of it, my job is to make the tunnel as long and as bright as possible... that’s not a euphemism or a David Brent quote by the way haha.
Current excitement in the Boka HQ is the Chainsaw Calligraphy remix package. How did this come about? The original caught a lot of people’s attention back at the start of last year – one of your bigger releases?
Yeh... The Death Car release was big, the hype on the internet got a little crazy on that one, took me by surprise. I didn’t press nearly enough records for a start. There was always this thing with how to format the original release (‘Chainsaw Calligraphy’ originally featured on the now deleted ‘In The Death Car EP – BOKA018), I always knew that ‘Chainsaw Calligraphy’ was gunna be the big one so it kind of hurt to put it on the B-side on 33rpm, but the three tracks together as an EP worked so well and chainsaw seemed too short a tune to stick on it’s own on the A. The EP was a real strong showcase for them as producers at the time, these days they’re just about to go on their 2nd US tour which I’m stoked about for them.
The remixes of Chainsaw was inevitable, I suppose, just took a long time to nail em down. I was always gunna ask Jakes to do a remix, he was the obvious guy to remix the tune, coz eeez a sicko!! He’s given it that signature Jakes sound with a sick second drop so big ups to him.
16bit gave the parts to PropaTingz like a year ago, I didn’t even know he was gunna be doing the remix until he sent me his version, blew me head clean off, it’s epic, more of a reinterpretation than a remix, but releasing loads of remixes sounding the same would be pointless…
The Kanji Kinetic one was totally last minute, originally it was gunna be a Jakes remix with the re-release of the original on the flip but once PropaTingz delivered his it was decided to make it a 2 part release and get Kanji to do a mix on a 4x4 flex, he’s totally reinvented and reinvigorated the original tune! It works nicely alongside the re-release of the 16bit original mix on the flip, which has been re-mastered and cut loud on 45rpm due to popular demand.
I prefer 16bit’s deeper productions which some are rumoured to be forthcoming with Boka? Otako, what’s news with this?
16bit have got some sick deeper more minimal hip-hop and techno influenced beats, some of them were sent to me soon after chainsaw calligraphy etc, I think they worried that ‘In The Death Car EP’ would typecast them sort of, they are just as prolific with the deeper bits, check out their tune ‘Serum’ which I think is coming out on Mindset soon.
Otako should be coming out in March/April with either 2 tunes on the flip or a bunch more, possibly as a double pack.
There seems to be so many new labels popping up all the time, artists creating their own etc? What’s the advantage releasing with Boka?
I’ve had to ask myself this question and I guess from an artist’s point of view when sending music to labels they probably have a few labels that they aspire to release with or have been influenced by their back catalogue, so it’s great to receive music from these kind of people, Soundcloud is starting to annoy me a little though, I refuse to listen to demo’s that have been sent to over two thousand people….
But yeh, there’s a hell of a lot of labels around at the moment, and fairplay to all of them it’s not an easy job. I just hope that vinyl will survive through the massive influx of digital only labels and people will still want to buy tangible pieces of music. With labels like Boka and I guess people like Pinch at Tectonic and Mala at DMZ/DEEP MEDi etc etc artists get the opportunity to work with a label who captured that sound at an early point in its’ development and be apart of that history... and, hopefully make a stash of cash too haha.
Have you any advice for the smaller labels?
Just keep releasing music that you are passionate about and spreading your message, don’t turn your back on the physical product and push your artists and in turn the label in the direction they need to go.
How do you select what’s going to be released, do you approach artists or do they approach you. How would an artist not in the know approach you for a release? (Obviously not through Soundcloud as mentioned above!)
Most tunes these days come either through aim or to an email address, try to listen to everything, but that isn’t realistic a lot of the time. I’d obviously approach artists direct if there’s a particular tune that I’ve heard from them.
I prefer to receive max 4 tracks of an artist’s best material especially from those I’m not familiar with at the time, sending a zip with like 20 tunes inside gives the wrong impression generally, I’m more of a fan of artists who employ the belief of ‘quality over quantity’, if you’ve got 20 top class tunes then that’s different, but a well-respected producer is unlikely to have 20 unsigned dubs on his/her computer unless they’ve been tucked away in a shed for four months grinding it out without any external stimuli...
You can catch me on aim at ‘bokarecords’, and the generic email is ‘info(at)bokarecords(dot)co(dot)uk’.
Views on Vinyl vs Digital?
I’m still a vinyl junkie but Boka also releases digitally, usually to coincide with the vinyl release. It has to be done these days, if you don’t you’re a mug because apart from anything else people will try to get the tracks for free and the label owes it to their artists to pay them properly and cater for everyone’s buying habits.
And... piracy, this must be a label owner’s biggest fear? With digital becoming more and more dominant and file sharing like it’s a teen rule to be cool – how do you cope? Artists and others can argue that the main revenue is from playing out so the more people that know their name and come to the shows the better but...
The problem right now is that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to sustain a small underground label, it’s totally do-able and artists make a return but not nearly as much as they would have say a decade ago, if people want labels to release music they are going to have to support it, but I suspect there’s quite a lot of people don’t care who releases the music and it’s all about the artist themselves which I suppose is fair enough, but I don’t really want Boka to be ‘one of those labels’.
I do get offended when certain sites post up 320s of Boka releases without asking permission, that’s totally out of order but I guess it’s the culture we’re in, people want things instantly and meanwhile there seems to have been generated a hive of people who earn status points for uploading and downloading other people’s pieces of work.
Artists who are used to making a living from their music may find they aren’t able to do that anymore and are forced to either do something different, treat it purely as a hobby OR sell their souls to satan and produce a style of tune purely because it’s popular at the time, which causes the saturation.
If a record label was an Art Dealer you probably wouldn’t walk into an exhibition and walk out with a painting, unless you’ve either bought it or stole it. But at the same time there’s an argument that people who steal music would never consider buying it in the first place, you just gotta cater for everyone’s buying habits and do the best you can for the artists.
Since you’ve released a couple of Emalkay EPs, three in fact – was there any talk of 'When I Look At You' being a Boka release?
Emalkay spoke with Gary Caspa who is responsible for Dub Police, Storming Productions and Sub Soldiers - he’s built up something great there and I have full respect for him, Emalkay is going on sick right now and congratulations to him for the success of ‘that tune’. So, No, is the answer to that one ;)
What’s your favourite Original/Remix of 2009? And, any artists to look out for in ‘10?
Yeh probably ‘Maybes’ by Mount Kimbie that came out on Hot Flush, that was an absolutely sick EP, also ‘Terror Planet’ by Truth on Aquatic Lab that was a rough beat, I’ll be working with them on a release this year. Anything by Falty DL he’s been my favourite producer this year.
As for next year, look out for DJ Madd, he’s been making waves recently but I hope 2010 will be his year. Orphan101 from Bristol is gunna be big next year too, he’s got some bits forthcoming on Apple Pips and Saigon Recordings soon. And look out for Addison Groove, he has got some sick beats forthcoming on Loefah’s Swamp 81 label, sounds like a cross between El-B and early Loefah.
With some massive releases already under your belt, what can we look forward to in 2010? Any artists you’ve got your eye on?
Chainsaw Calligraphy Remixes parts 1 & 2 are both out on January 18th, on vinyl and digital so go cop that. Then soon after will be the ‘Jack Cates’ EP from JSL who’s based in Denmark and co-runs the Kraken Recordings label, three tracks on that one, all heavy hitters. After that will be some Von D and DJ Madd collaborations, something a little lighter but still bass-heavy. There’s another 16bit EP in the pipeline, a release from New Zealand’s Truth, and a cheeky Ikonika remix of DJ Madd’s ‘Flex’d’ which I’m excited about. I’ll also be working with Vista & Presence Known on a release and Matt-U & Riskotheque, plus a whole lot more I’d imagine... I’ve got my eye on a few artists, but I’ll continue to view them from afar with binoculars and a fake beard for the time being. Haha!
Anything else to add?
Y’all can check out the Boka Blog to keep up to date with goings on and recently I’ve also started a Facebook group, which you can find here. I’ve started doing mixes showcasing new releases as well as tunes that have influenced Boka and keep my passion alive for the music, available on the blog first, next one should be coming in Jan/Feb, and it would have been earlier if my computer didn’t crash right at the end of an hour long mix the other day...
Big up the Hush House.
Thanks Jon, keep doing what you're doing, we love it!