When we talk legendary names in the game, any person with a deep interest in house music is sure to mention Jazz-N-Groove. The name has been quintessential in the underground music game for years now, and with so much music and experience under their belt, they've teamed up with Defected Records to show the rest of the world how dance music is done.
We sat down with the incredible legends to talk Soulfuric, surviving the digital era, Traxsource, and more.
Hi Brian and Marc - thank you for taking the time to talk to us. You have recently released your classic Jazz-N-Groove productions on Defected's ‘House Masters’ compilation series. It must have evoked a lot of memories for you whilst preparing the track selection, which tracks do you hold dearest and why?
BT- Yes, it was a very emotional journey going through all the work which we did over the years, it seems we have been so busy since we began it was one of the first times we ever paused long enough to look back at what we have done. A few which spring to mind for me are “Deliver Me” with Michael Proctor because it was the very first production Marc and I made from scratch together and the record made itself. “The Light” because that was a key moment in our sound when we finished our A Room Studio and it was recorded on the Neve console. And lastly, Donna Allen’s “He is the Joy” just because it was a real milestone for us production-wise using live strings, bass, guitars etc.
MP- Yes I can agree with those choices, but “Deliver Me” was the first time we saw our potential working together.
Having seen pictures of your studios, you can tell you are truly serious about your gear! Did you have a favourite bit of kit?
MP - We have been collecting gear literally for ages and the collection of synths and classic compressors etc is immense. But if I had to pick 1 it would be my Rhodes Piano which was used in many productions over the years.on many productions over the years.
Are 2 heads better than one? What were the pros and cons of working as a duo?
BT- In our case, I would say yes for sure. Mostly because Marc and I are quite different to our approach yet our skills and strengths complement each other. We work exactly the same now on Traxsource as we did back in the day on Soulfuric and our Jazz-N-Groove productions.
Your label Soulfuric had a huge vinyl output back in the day, yet you were one of the first to embrace the digital age of music and set up the Traxsource store back in 2004, what drove the decision?
BT - They say necessity is the mother of invention and this is exactly the case here. Traxsource was born out of a very basic need which was - How do we (as Soulfuric) fill this growing digital demand for our music? At the time (2000-2003), CDJs were just coming out and there was a lot of change happening in the DJ booth with software and technology but there was no way to sell CDs or to deliver a digital product of any kind. The entire industry was very vinyl focused.
For us, this was fine as we were selling tonnes of vinyl with Soulfuric and even pressed and distributed 15 additional labels, but we could see things were changing and we knew that something had to change in order to adapt. It was actually Axwell, who was a Soulfuric artist at that time and also quite a bit younger than us, who said:
“Don’t worry, someone smart will figure out how to make money from Mp3s”.
This was the seed which got us thinking about alternatives to the CD. We decided, If we cannot sell CDs, and the current distribution model is overlooking digital, and piracy is everywhere… let's just skip over all of what exists and sell our music direct to our fans. So we set out to accomplish this one simple thing - to make sure our fans could get hold of our product in a digital format. We never intended to start a digital download store (which at that time was not invented yet) we just wanted to make sure as a label (Soulfuric) we could supply our fans with our music. But this idea grew and grew and before we knew it - we had to call it something else…
MP- Yes, the transition of our industry from vinyl to digital was tumultuous, to say the least, and as Brian has explained we were literally in survival mode, 100% focused on our own artists and labels. Traxsource was born out of this.
You went from running a small team at Soulfuric Records to a huge global team at Traxsource today, how do the 2 compare and did running a record label stand you in good stead for the big move at the time?
BT - To be honest, Marc and I really work very much the same way as we did then, only now instead of our product being music which we make in the studio, it's a retail store on the web...and instead of being locked in the studio with a rhodes keyboard Marc is locked in his development office with his computer keyboard. Saying that... we have an amazingly diverse team who are situated all around the world. We have truly embraced technology running a fully remote team of talented people around the globe. We are 15 people who make up Traxsource now, I wouldn't say is huge...leaner and mean. We love our team, they are what make Traxsource great.
Do you feel it’s easier or harder for the new artists you see breaking through on your Traxsource store to be recognised these days, than it was for you guys and your contemporaries?
BT - It’s both in my opinion. No question, today it is easier to make music, I mean you only need a laptop as opposed to investing in an entire studio or renting expensive rooms with programmers etc. But, because it's so easy and the business model more tricky, it’s very hard to rise above the noise. This is where we come in...Traxsource is a store with the heart of a label, so we really work hard to find the new consistent artists whom are making a difference in their craft. Traxsource is the last place on earth where authenticity, quality and craft matter. We don't care about hype or how many followers you may have or whatever. We care about the music and that's all. In this world, you can buy everything but you cannot buy credibility.
MP - I would say it is harder to break through these days, as the natural filtering process provided by the cost of Vinyl & Distribution etc has gone away. But, the cream always rises to the top.
Traxsource has a very loyal following amongst fans of House music, but of course, House is a broad church within electronic music, and many labels and artists cover a range of genres. Where do you choose to draw the line between what is included on the site?
BT - We try to keep the quality up and our ear to the ground. If it’s hot, we have it...there’s not much more to it, quality control 101. Saying that, we let a lot more onto the site these days, and the quality control is what we feature.
Why did you choose not to support EDM music on Traxsource?
BT - Not everyone understands House music, but we do and in our opinion, EDM never had much to do with House or Techno. We always felt that it was a blip in time and decided to stay in our own lane and let it pass. People forget it was not long ago when all this was being embraced by most (including our competitors) but for us, we never even considered it.
Is it true that everyone who works at Traxsource is also a DJ? What insights do you think that gives all the people that work there compared to other places?
BT- Yes it is. We are a group of like-minded DJs, each with a specialty. This no doubt gives us the leg up, in this day and age you can literally buy anything from followers to press and streams - but one thing you cannot buy is Authenticity…
MP- nor Credibility.
You guys have literally just relaunched and rebranded Traxsource, tell us about some of the improvements that have been made to the new site, and why did you feel now is the time.
MP - We have been working on the new site for a while, it’s been a planned upgrade and progression for some time. Though, it took us a while to get it right. The main thing which you will notice is the mobile ready responsive design which is much more modern and streamlined, but the heart of the site is the same. Plus we have tuned up and added tons of new bells and whistles like fully integrating Dropbox into the downloads page for example. We are literally just getting started. More features are on the way to make the experience better and better.
You've pretty much journeyed through 360 degrees of the music business, what drives you and how do you keep your focus?
BT - Marc and I try to just focus on our own thing and keep our own vision of what is important. This sounds easy, but keeping the most important thing the most important thing is an art in 2017. We cannot change the world, or force people to listen to good music but we can work really hard at making our site and our circle as good as it can be. We are both very basic principled people and the standard we set for ourselves keeps us busy… Thanks for having us today!