Sunday, 29 November 2015

deepArtSounds: Part One

YOU can do things the right way, or you can do things the wrong way. And then you can do things proper. George Boutopoulos does things proper. For George is the face of Swiss label deepArtSounds, an imprint that has come a hell of a long way in a short time – well, kind of – and found a very special place in the hearts, minds and record collections of many a serious head.

It’s been done with a total commitment to, as well as emphasis and insistence on, doing things only one way: the right way. Nothing half-hearted, no trend following or commercial imperative. Just a passion for the music the Zurich-based label love, adore and whole-heartedly believe in.

Originally launched in 2007 but not debuting until five years later, the extraordinary deepArtSounds roster already boasts amongst others Ron Trent, Anthony Nicholson, Above Smoke, Dubbyman, Ernie and Jenifa Mayanja. If that little lot doesn’t tell you all you need to know about where they [they being Boutopoulos plus label partners Roberto Pistolese and Okan Akpinar] are coming from and, indeed, going to then nothing will.

But the story of the label goes way back beyond all this. To growing up clubbing and record collecting in Switzerland’s largest city, to Boutopoulos’ first production alter ego Dan Piu, the formation nearly 20 years ago of deepArtSounds’ parent label Moto Music and set against the backdrop of the underground scene in Madrid and the soundtrack of US house music.

It’s a story so captivating, enthralling and darned lengthy that bringdownthewalls decided to tell it in three parts. Here in part one we talk to the charming Mr. Boutopoulos about the early days and Zurich’s notorious Flamingo Club, record shopping and, er, krautrock.

What was your first introduction to house music?
My older sister definitely opened the door for me to this fantastic space I love so much. It was disco and soulful dance music back then. She often told me about this magical place, the Flamingo Club [in Zurich], with that extravagant crowd inside. There you met gays, drag queens, prostitutes, pimps and dealers, but above all you would find the real music lovers.

By early 1987 at the age of 16, I had the chance to enter the ‘pleasure dome’ as a young kid, and yes, it was like “wooow”. First of all, I was so impressed by the extraordinary PA sound quality. The legendary local DJ Roger played the latest garage house tracks that he bought on his numerous New York trips. It was the song You Don't Know Me [listen here] from Serious Intention that blew my mind away. I consider it to be the first-ever song that today we would call house music.

So where did it go from there? 
Since this epic experience in the Flamingo Club, I immediately decided to buy records. I then used to go to the city’s best record shop Panthera, which specialised in US and UK imports. To be honest, I didn’t focus on labels. I didn’t even know about the name ‘house music’ back then. I just wanted to buy the newest stuff that sounded modern and kind of uplifting: the Flamingo Sound!

I hear you have a collection of 10000+. Is it mostly house music or is it quite eclectic?
It is definitely an eclectic collection; disco, rare funk and, of course, house music. But I also own countless techno-soul and electronica records. Jazz and acid jazz are also favourite genres, as well as Afro and Latin Music.

Where do you keep them all?
I keep them all in my studio where I also have my hardware studio equipment. Since 1992 I’ve shared this studio together with my label partner Roberto.

What was or is your favourite physical record store and why?
My favourite store is ZERO ZERO Records in Zurich. It specialises in rare disco and soul tunes from the ’70s and ’80s but it also has a lot of hip-hop and house music. The owner of the store often goes to the States to buy old and big record collections directly from DJs. For purists there is also a ZERO ZERO warehouse on the outskirts of Zurich where you can pick up a 12” out of half a million records!! Without overstating it, it is definitely one of the largest record stores worldwide.

These days, I only go three or a maximum of four times a year because I always spend too much money. It’s nearly impossible to get out there without spending hundreds of Swiss Francs.

Also, A1 Records in New York is also amongst my favourite stores too. Perfect for rare disco.

What are your buying habits like these days?

I am still interested in new music, even though it is quite hard to find really innovative music these days.

Older records still sound ‘new’ to me. Krautrock from the early seventies is a good example. I didn’t really know about how it sounds or what is the message behind it, but it sounded fresh and new to me.

What I don’t like are those producers who try to imitate a certain style from the past. They even try to buy the same synths and equipment to get the same sound. I recently got very sick with the ‘early ’90s’ new interpretation. This kind of copy/paste music I try to avoid even though it sounds nice sometimes. I always try to support originality. There is still enough music to discover. For me Juno, YouTube, Facebook and especially Discogs are very good tools to find new food for the ears, but not comparable with a cool vinyl record store. Especially when travelling. You will find me in every record shop of every city I visit.

Going back to that ‘early ’90s house/garage re-interpretation’ genre you mentioned, I have to agree, totally hated it especially when there are so many great records from that period anyway. So which current artists/producers are you in to?
Hehe, I could imagine that! Obviously we both went through the same school. There are some things that young producers should pay more respect to instead of trying to copy the old masters. They even try to copy their old studio equipment, which I think is kind of ridiculous. It’s definitely not the way to create something interesting.

As for the question, of course I am still into the sounds of the giants; Ron Trent, DJ Spinna, Anthony Nicholson, Larry Heard, Lars Bartkuhn, Glenn Underground and, of course, many more. They are still producing sophisticated and inspiring dance music, while others became very lazy in terms of quality and innovation.

Who I am really in to today? There are a lot but I want to mention four guys.
Anthony Nicholson is currently doing a very great job. He is one of those producers who I really respect, not only because of his great music, that he produces day by day, but also because of his full dedication to this music and his determination to try new ways and to break rules and old conventions. Listening to his music is like listening to a teacher. He is already in his 40s but still has the power and energy of a youngster for creating something new.

I also want to mention Jenifa Mayanja. She continues with her great work which I really like and admire. Her melodies are played so delicately and so nimbly. It’s music from another planet.

Then I want to talk about the outstanding producer Bjak. He is way underrated I feel and, I guess, his music seems to be still undiscovered. This guy is blessed with so much talent. Listening through his songs I’m always losing the sense for time and space. His arrangements are splendid and his vocals are killers. I hope there is a lot more to come in the future.

Recently I also became a follower of Andras Fox. I like the simplicity of his music, which sounds quite vintage and old-fashioned. It is the purity and naivety of his songs that make me feel good while listening. I also like the way he promotes himself.

You mentioned the great Larry Heard aka Mr. Fingers there George. So many people name-check him and, of course, this site is a tribute to the man. But for you, what makes him special?
Lovely to mention him! I often ask myself what makes him the God of deep house. I can only state my own feelings about him. I always come to the conclusion that this man has given to us a strong message, which everyone should decode themselves and for themselves. To me it means that electronic music should have soul. No more, no less.

His album Introduction [if you don’t know it you should: here] definitely changed my mind and since then I knew that music should always be treated honestly, especially while making music. Larry never used to sample beats, chords or even grooves. Listening to Larry’s music is the best example of what music can trigger in your soul and body. His music has simple clear melodies but it is complete and unique. It’s pure magic!

Changing tack slightly now George, from collector to DJ I guess is a common journey but why did you decide you wanted to start producing and set up your first labels?
There was no special reason to get into music production. I just felt it and I wanted to produce my own tracks. I was totally impressed and inspired by the digital sounds of Larry Heard’s album Introduction that I mentioned.

I guess it was around early ’93, when I bought a brand new Korg X3, a multi-digital synth together with the 808 drum-machine to create similar sounds and chords. I still have many tracks from that time stored on DAT. Still unreleased and untouched.

The song Love Forever that appeared on my recent Allstarr Motomusic release on Deep Explorer represents my ideas and my feelings from that time.

By mid-to-late ’90s I got more into the classic analogue synths and my music became a little darker and harder. Without all this social media that we have today, it was extremely difficult to find a label. There was not a label scene in our country, so together with my partner Roberto we needed to build our own labels; No Acting Vibes and Moto Music. Moto Music 001 and 002 still remain the brand-marks of the label Moto Music. It was a great satisfaction for me watching Jeff Mills on his countless sets playing my The Shine EP.

Any idea how Jeff Mills picked up on The Shine EP?
No idea. We didn’t send any promo material to DJs. It’s quite likely that he bought it himself. He played this record many times on his fast techno sets. Once he played it as I stood in front of his decks and it was quite amazing. After nearly two decades, he recently uploaded The Shine EP [check out Autopsy here] on his personal YouTube account and shared this on Facebook.

It shows he is still connected to this record. It was a big honour for me and this made me feel nostalgic and a little proud.

Check out:
deepArtSounds here
Motion Fhere

Coming soon...deepArtSounds: Part Two...Aliases, Asia and the rebirth of Moto Music

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