We chat to the UK techno icon as he prepares to relaunch his record labels following a six year hiatus.
Attack: You’re just about to relaunch Tortured and Electrix. Both labels’ last releases were in 2006. Did you close them simply because you wanted to concentrate on other things at the time? Was it a decision you regretted?
Billy Nasty: At the time I felt I was spreading myself a bit too thin what with two busy labels, a DJ agency plus a busy DJ schedule. The record industry was changing, vinyl sales were falling and it was clear that things were going in a different direction so having had a great run of ten years with Tortured and five with Electrix it seemed like a good time to quit whilst ahead and take a break to concentrate more on my own production.
In the time since, I’ve been lucky enough to have recorded tracks with Anthony Rother, Gregor Tresher, Marco Nastic and over the last two years concentrating more heavily on my new project RadioNasty with Keith Tenniswood AKA Radioactive Man. However, I didn’t realise at the time how much I would miss running the labels and now I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel again, label-wise.
Why did you feel that now was the right time to relaunch? Is it a response to something that’s going on in music at the moment or just that the time was right for you?
Five or six years ago there was a huge digital/minimal explosion, some of which was interesting but a lot of which was just pretty bland, but now it seems like the dust has settled and something a bit more interesting is emerging. There seems to be a bit of a digital backlash plus a resurgence in vinyl sales and a renewed appreciation of the analogue side of music, whether it’s analogue synths, valve amps or the warmth, colour and sound of vinyl records. Combined with the fact that proper techno and electro was starting to make a big comeback after a lot of clubbers had grown tired of being force-fed watered-down, sterile-sounding, one-dimensional nonsense.
I think now is an interesting time in dance music; there’s a growing number of artists around who are combining the best elements of all the dance music genres, which is creating some pretty exciting music.
The first releases on both Tortured and Electrix come from RadioNasty. Will the general ethos of the labels still be roughly similar to how it was before – techno on Tortured and electro and slightly more experimental stuff on Electrix?
Definitely. Tortured will release techno built mostly with the timeless sounds of the Roland 909 and Electrix is more influenced by the 808. Electrix will continue to put out a similar style of dancefloor-friendly electronica, electro-tech and also dabble in the more deep and dubby techno styles pioneered by the likes of Basic Channel and Brendon Moeller, which I’ve always been a huge admirer and fan of.
Do you have a specific agenda with the labels? What’s the mission statement?
I guess just to put out great forward-thinking club music, to help represent the super loyal following that both genres have. I’m extremely proud of what the labels achieved in the past so I want to continue that legacy in the same vein but at the same time move forward and embrace new sounds and styles, within the boundaries of techno and electro.
How important is it for labels to have a very obvious ‘brand identity’ these days? Do you think it’s easier for people to set up a label now than it was when you started Tortured and Electrix back in the mid 90s? Does that make it harder to stand out?
I think it was very important for labels to have their own identity back then and it’s just as important now. Obviously I hope to build on the heritage and reputation of both brands but there will be a huge audience out there who have never heard of either label so it’s up to me make sure the brands are clear about the music styles they are promoting and are recognised for putting out the very best music. I love the feeling when you see a new release on a label you love and you just know you’re going to adore it. Good music will always stand out.
I feel that it’s probably harder to start your own record label now as so many distributors have folded after being burned by P&D [pressing and distribution] deals. This is why you currently have loads of sub-standard digital labels around releasing similar stuff, which makes it hard for them to stand out. But thankfully great work doesn’t go unnoticed!