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Actualizado: 19 abr 2020

"Let's hope we can spread joy and positivity in these weird times"

XXX is the ongoing aural endeavour of SHMLSS. It's constantly alerted our ear drums since its forward thinking releases and an attention to detail. The elegant aesthetic of the label was inspired by the art contemporany. With their rather special next release about to drop featuring a plethora of greatness we thought it high time we caught with SHMLSS for a run down on the label.

What was your first foray into the world of electronic music?

Bart: it was my first job after moving to the city. I worked as a runner in a club. It wasn’t the most sophisticated electronic music but for that time it was a pretty cool job.

Michiel: Think it all started with hip hop which evolved into a much wider taste of music, from motown, indie rock, new wave to more electronic stuff which I experienced at clubs, raves and festivals.

Ryan: I wasn’t into electronic music until I moved to the big city where I went to university. I always liked indie rock, so I wasn't completely convinced yet when going to clubs and festivals, but when I dived deeper into the music and found out about new wave and dark disco tracks with heavy guitars I was completely convinced.

In and out of the electronic music circle, who is an inspiration to you?

All artists who are doing their thing without the boundaries of commercialism…

And people in general with creative and positive energy around them.

People who believe in what they're doing and keep on doing it despite other people’s opinions or fame and money.

When did the idea of starting a label begin to take shape? Has it always been something you’ve wanted to do?

We had the idea already for some time, but when the promoter of a club called ‘Closure’ in Amsterdam approached us to start a new club night all pieces came together and we started XXX exactly 5 years ago.

XXX stands for; X music, X art and X club nights. In these elements every artist we invite has the creative freedom to fill in that ‘X’.

In dance music culture we think music, arts and club nights are intertwined and can’t live without one and another.

What is your criteria for choosing artists, projects, releases…?

It just has to feel good! That is the only criteria. Not really going for the most obvious choices. Of Course there is always the thought in the back of your mind; how does the audience receive this? Will this be played at festivals? Will people want to buy it? But we try to shut those voices and just do what feels right for us.

We try to support as much upcoming artists as possible, but also try to come up with unexpected collaborations. For instance; for an upcoming release San Soda remixed a track under his New Beat monniker ‘Nick Berlin’. That is something that hasn’t been done before. For the cover art we are always looking for new inspiration. If we come across artists who, we think, match the music, we ask them to create art especially for the record. So every release is a piece of art. Not just the music, but the whole package including the sleeve.

Do you ever have any difficulties deciding which artist should belong to which label?

Not really actually. We don’t look that much at the ‘names’ behind the music and artwork. Because it’s mostly about the music and art itself.

If the music is worth sharing it doesn’t matter if it’s made by a well known artist or our neighbour friend with 25 SoundCloud plays.

Same goes for the artwork. If an artist makes great art there shouldn’t be any difficulties.

Since you started XXX until now, how much has the concept of the label changed?

It didn’t change that much actually. First and foremost we select music which we would buy ourselves and that’s still the focus of the label.

Has anything changed in how you approach your work with the label since you started? Your general outlook or anything else?

Well, the romantic idea of bringing out a record without any hiccups on the way is gone :-] There are so many factors that have an influence on the whole production process that we’re now much more patient and understanding towards any delays. We still want to be as involved as possible in everything that comes with running a label so that never changed. In the basis we still do the same, bring out music from artists we like. I think it’s important to keep in mind, why you started the label in the first place. Of course along the way things can change, but the main drive which you started with should be the same we think.

What’s the most satisfying and unsatisfying thing about running a label?

So many things are satisfying.

To receive a demo in our inbox of which all three of us are immediately convinced about the quality of it.

Asking a remixer which says yes cause he/she likes the project and label.

Receiving the first draft of the artwork.

Getting the masters in.

And of course seeing the actual finished product, that piece of art for the first time and sharing it with the artists who made it.

Everybody involved worked really hard on that product and really put his heart and soul in it. It’s the most satisfying to share that piece of art with them and to get it out in the open.

The most unsatisfying thing is the amount of time the production of a record takes. Before a record is finished, which takes artists weeks, or maybe months, we have to wait even longer for the finished record. But the good thing about this is, the longer we have to wait, the better the feeling is after the record is finished. You really have to love it, to do it.

What have been your personal highlights and lowlights?

We already had so many great parties and stage hostings. It’s really cool to do these things and get invited to bring your label artists over and have a party together. To see so many people enjoy themself on a club night or festival are big highlights. Well the lowlights are pretty obvious with all of us (hopefully healthy) sitting at home and not being able to plan anything club or festival wise.

Would you like to share a set SHMLSS? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?

The most recent podcast we did is for Dutch promotor ZeeZout. We played at numerous of their parties dating back to 2012.

This mix was the last thing we did together before the corona lock down. We recorded it at Michiel’s house on a Varia Instruments RDM20, two SL1200’s and two Pioneers. It contains a lot of upcoming XXX music, some to-be-released SHMLSS music and some current favorites from our recordbag. We’re quite happy with the outcome.

What makes a good mix to you?

That really depends on the place, the time, the people and there really is not one way to do a good mix.

What is your selection criteria?

In a club we are always trying to look for a balance between energy, music to dance to and some unexpected and weird stuff. It also depends on the time slot and venue we’re playing. For us the key for a good DJ set is that people on the dance floor have a good time and that we’re both happy with the selection of records we played. Preferably we touch a couple of different genres each set to keep it exciting for ourselves.

If you had to change one thing about the music industry that we inhabit what would it be?

Delete all artist pages on social media haha. Of course it is important to show yourself, but it should never be more important than your creativity or the music you play.

Do you think that after the Covid-19 event, the music industry will change?

No doubt. These are such hectic times and our heart goes out to all the clubs and festivals who are going through these difficult times. We hope that all the creative entrepreneurs who worked so hard to build a club or festival can survive, but probably some of them will not make it. That will mean that some creative hotspots and places that bring like minded dance music people together will disappear and won’t be coming back that quickly. Keeping in mind that there’s a housing shortage in all big cities, valuable spaces will be more likely to be developed for housing than it will be granted to creatives.

Our festival FESTIFEST is also still very uncertain. If it will be canceled we are hoping to reschedule the festival to the end of the summer. Fingers crossed, but safety first.

What lesson should we learn from this paralysis?

Respect nature, don’t cut too much in healthcare, don’t take your life for granted, be more grateful for the people around you, enjoy the moment, say hi to strangers and always look out for the people who don't have the wellness you have.

What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?

Our friends from Rollover Milan released a compilation of edits and all proceeds going to the official emergency fund set up by the Italian Civil Protection Department destined for the COVID-19 crisis in Italy. It features edits from; 2ManyDJ, Adam Port, Soul Clap, Moscoman, Bill Brewster, Kapote, SHMLSS, OOFT!, Ferrari, Rollover Djs and others.

And of course the latest XXX release, XXX008, from Stijn Sadée with a Manfredas remix.

Last but not least keep an eye out for the next XXX release which will drop the 22nd of may by an amazing talented guy.

Hopefully these tracks can be played this summer again in clubs and festivals instead of our homes.

What are your future plans?

There are a lot of versatille XXX and SHMLSS releases planned for the upcoming year. We definitely won’t stick to one genre. Let's hope we can spread joy and positivity in these weird times. Also these days are an opportunity to get creative and think about new things for the label in its widest sense.

Tell me one record that you wish you had signed.

Bart: 10 years of Cocktail d’Amore vol. 2 ‘Garden’ didn’t leave my record bag since it came out. It already set a lot of dance floors on fire.

Michiel: This ep is just something else, I’ve been playing and listening to it so often. Also fun to play the B2 on 45rpm instead of 33.

Ryan: Gotta go with a guitar again. This release on Is it Balearic? Recordings has two remixes by Ess o Ess and Machete Savane both drenched with heavy guitars. The Ess o Ess remix is a slow burner, which i’m still hoping to hear someday at like 8 am in a club, while the Machete Savane is a bit more uptempo with more playful guitar riffs but also a heavy solo which is the highlight for me. I could go on forever about how awesome this record is, haha. Also bought for way to many euros on discogs, while seeing now it has gotten a digital release and a vinyl copy is only 4 euros. Still worth it.

Describe the label in 5 Words.

Music, Art, Club Nights… ow that’s 4.


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