Night Shift Sound has ben on our radar for a little while now, and one of our favorite compilations of the late spring/early summer season was their recently released Night Shift Sound's Northern Power House Vol 2 Compilation. The compilation, along with the label itself offers a look into the Northern rave music scene, and brings their local music scene onto the global scale.
We sat down with the label to learn more about the past, present, and future of the record label!
How did the record label start, why did you start a label, and do you feel that since the initial decision to start a label your overall goal has changed?
Fundamentally the label was set up to bring UK-focused, bass heavy house music to the world, as at the time of setting up operationally we felt there was a lack of this sound in the clubs. From our past experiences as touring DJs and producers (as HeavyFeet - Black Butter, Bingo Bass, Champion, etc) we always known that clubbers have a love for this sound and whilst in 2014 when we launched there wasn't as much of a climate for this sound as there now is, we were always super positive about re-connecting with the more bassline- focused house movement, along with the likes of Zinc, My Nu Leng, Shadow Child, etc.
What prompted you to name the label Night Shift Sound?
In a lot of ways, Night Shift Sound is less about a label and more about a way of thinking and doing. The concept of a 'sound' derives from the Jamaican use of the word within sound-system culture. The way we see it is that a 'sound' essentially is a group of people all working together to meet a goal, with a shared way of operating and conducting themselves. From the '40s onwards, the term 'sound' is often more associated with defeating another sound-system through the format of a soundclash (which we're also all about - down the line!), but if you look a little deeper, more sounds are also about a shared way of getting something done.
The idea of 'doing the night shift' also has a few different connotations, but fundamentally, for us, we see the 'Night Shift' aspect of Night Shift Sound as being about being out in clubs, through the night, as DJs, but more importantly, as fans of the culture. Ultimately, we're a collective of people with a similar outlook, all involved in making music for the night time industry, hence Night Shift Sound.
What would you say are the biggest challenges in managing a label?
Amongst our early adopters we were always given props for maintaining a very high threshold when it's came to quality control, something which we've very much worked at to maintain. In an era when anyone (literally) can set up some from of online label, with distribution to all the major stores, quality control has to remain high. From the compositional ideas of the tracks and what they're doing arrangement-wise, through to production, mixing and then of course mastering, this is something that takes up a lot of time and energy. That said, we're lucky to attract quality producers to our roster, based on the first handful of releases which were largely from our mates (which allowed us to manage the quality control aspect pretty easily), which then attracted the attention of additional producers wanting to work us, based on the content we'd already put out and the way in which we were operating and communicating.
To go along with that, were there unexpected obstacles you ran into in creating the label at the beginning?
When anyone sets up a label, if your first few signings are relatively unknown/new to the scene, it's a hard slog to get people engaged with what you're promoting, but that's largely about perseverance and patience over the first few years of what you're doing. The attention comes slowly and as the artists you work with grow, the label's reputation grows and additional opportunities come knocking. We've been fortunate to have personal relationships with a lot of influencers in the bass-heavy side of house music, since our HeavyFeet days, but even relationships need maintaining, so there's always work to be done, whatever it is!
Where do you feel the label going from now? Do you have personal goals looking forward towards the future of the label?
In short, the music we are sent will determine where the label goes, within reason. We have a strong idea of what we're creating musically, but in many respects, if an artist we're working with sends us their own Rudimental 'Feel The Love', IE something pretty not what we're known for musically, we're not going to get all moody and underground on the artist. Good music is good music and if it makes us feel something, chances are it'll make other people feel something. We just signed a '92-style breaks VIP of a Trutopia track ('Lose Control') because we just fucking loved it when it landed in our inbox - and we believe others will love it too. In our book, that's what good A&Ring is. Music has to excite you. Going back to it, if you look at how much 'Feel The Love' affected Black Butter as a label at the time, it took the label from being an amazing, UK underground label, to a label that was suddenly on the lips of every A&R in the country and whilst that's not something we necessarily crave, it's not something we're not adverse to either. Bottom line; sign good music, do a good job of releasing it and ensuring people engage with it... and repeat.
The music world can be daunting. What advice would you give those that are looking to make their own big break?
First impressions count, whether in person, but probably more importantly in 2017, digitally. If you hit us up with some good tracks, half a social media profile and terrible communication, we're not going to work with you (and probably most other labels aren't), it's that simple. For us, you need to be able to communicate like an actual human being. If you're only capable of using IM to communicate and every other word is 'lol', that's going to need to change if you and your music is going to be taken remotely seriously by anyone who can help your career. If you're speaking to A&R people (us included) in their late 20s-early 20s, you're going to need to be able to write semi-formally, via email and have a handle on replying quickly and professionally. Whilst I'm not aware of other labels that have this specific policy (or at least publicly acknowledge it like we do), our vibe is 1) send us great music that is appropriate for our label (requires some research/prior listening - not just BCCing a load of labels into an email, that is a surefire way of getting ignored and reported as spam) and 2) be a good communicator. If you stick to those rules, labels will engage with you... well, we will, at least.
What can we expect from the label for the rest of 2017?
No doubt you'll get more outspoken opinions about the political landscape and the music industry in general across our social media... but on a more specific musical note, they'll most likely be some more crazy trips to European cities with our artists, possibly some limited run vinyl releases, the development of existing and new artists on the label, more live radio shows with export strength lager and an audience of friends, another Northern Power House compilation, plus of course, a digital release every 4-6 weeks. Here in Manchester, it's all go!