5 Mag’s Label Profile series continues, with curiously in-depth overviews of some of our favorite House Music labels and the people behind them.
Hudd Traxx has long been one of my favorite labels, and it was a bit of self-indulgence to be able to go through their catalog and ask about specific tracks. There aren’t too many labels that have the gravitas to release tracks from industry leaders (no pun intended) like JT Donaldson, Rick Wade and Iz & Diz next to a relatively unknown tandem like Popoviciu & ToyGun or the (then) unknown Sascha Dive.
This used to be called “A&R”, and labels used to rise and fall by how good they were at it. Hudd Traxx still is.
But everything about Hudd Traxx is a bit of a throwback, like a label out of time and preserved under glass. Formed by Eddie with fellow members of UK production trio Slum Science in 2005, everything Hudd Traxx releases – even today, in 2011 – is still pressed on vinyl, and “digital is only made available once the vinyl has sold out”. The label artwork is actually “artwork”, as you can see below. And at time when every indicator light is flashing “SELL OUT, MAKE MONEY, GRAB THE CASH”, Hudd keeps it going with quality underground music. That emphasis on quality – on fire over flash – shines through.
In addition to our usual curiously in-depth interview, Mr. Leader also put together an exclusive mix for 5 Magazine of selections from Hudd Traxx’s extensive back catalog. Download or play it here, and check out some thoughtful ruminations of Eddie Leader below (the playlist is at the end of the interview).
First, where are the other guys from Slum Science and what have you done with them?
Danny moved to Grimbsy and started a label called Grim Traxx and Rucky started making Happy Hardcore.
Seriously though, I moved to Manchester about 3 years ago and they’ve both had kids over the last few years (not with each other), so that’s made things a bit more difficult. I haven’t actually seen Danny since I moved to Manchester as I hardly get back to Huddersfield, but me and Rucky played together as Slum Science at a festival last year for Hudd’s 5th Birthday Party which was cool.
They produce under the Non Believers alias now & also have their own label Smoke City. I’d like to think we could do another Slum Science record together as I think the last thing we released was a remix for Hector Moralez’s Minority Music in 2008. I’m hoping we can do something together for Hudd 050 – we’ve just released Hudd 035 so we’re not too far off.
From what I understand, you got into DJing in the mid-’90s. What was the scene like in your area and what was your place in it?
Yeah I started DJing in 1997 when I was 14 or 15. I was at school at the time and I bought my first set of decks for £50 from my Mum’s best friend’s son. They were a pair of Sony rotary direct drives.
The scene in Huddersfield was never that great when I was a kid. It was the home of Hard Times but that was before I was old enough to go, it had moved to Leeds when I started clubbing. It did move back to Hudds a few years later but it wasn’t the same as I understand it.
Myself, Danny and a friend tried to start a night called “Pure Stress” which didn’t last very long as there weren’t many heads around, or more likey due to the fact that a night called “Pure Stress” doesn’t sound very enticing.
After that I just started DJing at a local bar every Saturday. Huddersfield did however have an ace record shop which was very influential for me. It was called “Fourth Wave Records” and was run by two brothers, Moss & Raz Shamshad. Moss used to release under “The Underground Culture Tourist” alias (remember Jackin’ The Jazz EP on Classic?) and Raz was half of “Black Mojo” which released “Mojo’s Working” on Warp Records in 1994, he’s now releasing again as Raza. I used to spend a lot of time in there crate digging and these guys were pushing the House sound in Huddersfield.
I cut my teeth clubbing at Back to Basics in Leeds. I starting going there when I was 15 and used to go regularly to listen to the residents Huggy, Ralph Lawson & James Holroyd along with people like Doc Martin & Derrick Carter. That really inspired me as a DJ and I used to love the atmosphere there. We tried to launch a monthly Hudd Traxx party in Huddersfield a few years after we launched the label, but again it didn’t do very well. I just don’t think there’s enough heads in Huddersfield. The people that are into it generally travel to Leeds and Manchester as there’s not much going on in Huddersfield. Shame, really.
What are a few of the records from your early days that you think shaped your sound and the direction of Hudd Traxx?
There’s so many it’s hard to pick a few but here’s some that spring to mind:
Todd Terry – When You Hold Me – The Unreleased Project
Lego – El Ritmo De Verdad
Herbert – Got To Be Movin’
Mood II Swing – Move Me & Do It Your Way
Gene Farris – Big Doobie
Hardrive – Deep Inside
Moné – Movin’ (Frankie Feliciano Mix)
Gemini – Swimmin’ Wit Sharks
Cajmere Feat Dajae – Get Up Off Me
I used to play a lot of stuff on Nice N’ Ripe & Cross Section Section as well, and of course most stuff on Prescription & Balance. I met Chez last year when he came to Manchester to play @ Content for us. I ended up becoming friends with him and doing a remix on Balance Alliance which was an honour to say the least.
Since Huddersfield is your namesake, what can you tell me about the town? (Wikipedia helpfully informs me that it was a center for the Luddites, which is funny for an electronic music label.)
The first and most important point about Huddersfield is that we were the first team to win the Football (Soccer) League three years in a row. Not many people know that so here’s a good place to shout about it! Huddersfield is also the birth place of Rugby League and we’re considered to be the largest town in Europe. Going back to your Luddites reference, though, Hudderfield had a huge textile industry so that’s the link.
If I was never to press another record again I’d be absolutely gutted. I’ve had this conversation a lot of times and I’m not so sure I would continue running the label if it wasn’t possible to press vinyl anymore. It’s almost like it hasn’t been released if you don’t have the vinyl in your hands.
You started out when there was only vinyl, and you still press at least some records on vinyl. If you were to never press another vinyl record again, what would you miss about it?
We actually still press everything on vinyl. The digital is only made available once the vinyl has sold out. Up until 2008 we were a vinyl only label. We were planning to stay vinyl only but when Syntax and all the other big distributors went bust the decision was made for us. We used to press in the States with many different plants & distributors through the legendary Tony Hewitt @ Tango Recordings. We’re now pressing in Europe and distributing through Prime Direct so we have them to thank for keeping Hudd vinyl alive. These days the digital revenue ironically keeps labels going. It would be hard to keep afloat as a vinyl only label in today’s market. It is possible but you certainly wouldn’t be paying advances.
If I was never to press another record again I’d be absolutely gutted. I’ve had this conversation a lot of times and I’m not so sure I would continue running the label if it wasn’t possible to press vinyl anymore. For me it’s the far superior medium to digital. I love everything about vinyl: the touch and feel, the sound, the artwork, the crate digging, I could go on and on. When I’m flicking through vinyl I can tell instantly within a split second what the record sounds like as your brain associates the artwork with a sound and memory, whereas with digital it’s just bit of scribble on a CD. With digital you have to memorise the name of every track, otherwise you don’t have a clue what it is.
I toured Indonesia in December and it’s only the second or third time I’ve not taken vinyl with me. I found it harder as I couldn’t remember what everything was and spent most of my time out there listening to the tracks on my iPhone so I knew what was in my bag. After the tour I decided I was going back to buying mainly vinyl and only playing promos and new material I want to check out on CDs.
I love the feeling of owning the music on vinyl. I’m sitting here in my studio at the moment looking at my collection and it’s a great feeling having collected all that music. You just don’t get that with CDs, anyone can burn a CD off with some music on it but putting your music out on vinyl is the finished product in my opinion, most producers I speak to think the same. I won’t release any of my music unless it’s on vinyl. I made an exception recently for a release I put out on Plastic City with my friend Yuriano as it’s a classic label but I’m not planning on doing it again. It’s almost like it hasn’t been released if you don’t have the vinyl in your hands.
Out of all of the Hudd releases, which one do you think was overlooked and why?
Good question. I would probably say the Brett Johnson release. That is one of my favourite releases we’ve put out. I’m not sure why it wasn’t better recepted than it was as it had both new and old material on there. “A Tiger Within” was new skool and was played by the likes of Dixon & Laurent Garnier but it didn’t make as many waves as I was expecting. It also had 2 tracks which Brett had made back in the day, hence the name of the EP so I thought it would appeal to a younger and older market. To be honest though we’ve never done loads of promotion and sometimes it depends on what state the economy is in, the time of month or year it’s released etc.
We’ve never followed any trends or followed what other labels are doing. We’ve always just released music that we love. Music works in cycles and right now Deep House is popular and “trendy” again. How long it will last, who knows. Maybe Trance will come back, followed by Tech House followed by Minimal and back to House again.
Around 2009, Hudd Traxx seems to have worked less with the “established stars” and redoubled focus on artists that are… maybe not just starting out but definitely from another generation. Was this a deliberate decision or did the market (like producers starting boutique labels’a’plenty) guide you?
We’ve never followed any trends or followed what other labels are doing. We’ve always just released music that we love. Music works in cycles and right now Deep House is popular and “trendy” again. How long it will last, who knows. Maybe Trance will come back, followed by Tech House followed by Minimal and back to House again. I think it just so happened that the less “established stars” were making the best music at the time. I think the whole loopy/jackin’ sound went a little stale and the ’90s Deep House sound has come back with a bang. To be honest it doesn’t matter to me if the producer is a well known name or not, as long as the music’s good I’ll release it.
Who are some of the young Deep House producers that you think are really stepping up their game?
Johannes (Iron Curtis) is making some seriously good music at the moment. I was lucky enough to work with him & Agnès when they were over playing at my night Content in Manchester. That release is coming out on Content Recordings 001 which is a new label I’m starting with some other friends involved in the night. Other people that spring to mind are Baaz, Kink, Brawther, Makam, Rio Padice, MCDE, Sascha Dive, Julio Bashmore & Hunee.
How much time do you spend thinking about piracy?
It used to really annoy me but there’s no point worrying about it as there’s nothing you can do. If people want to get music for free they will find a way no matter what you do. I’ve had various different companies trying to get me to sign up to anti-piracy programmes but I’m not so sure they work that well. I’ve always paid for my music and I can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to support the artist. It’s such a small industry that not many people are making money from it and most people are doing it just for the love. I’ve had people offer me tracks that weren’t theirs in the past and have always refused them. For me to accept a digital copy of someone’s music it would have to come direct from the artist, or at least an assurance from them that it was ok for me to have it.
This is another reason why vinyl is and was better than digital. When digital and the internet didn’t exist this was never a problem. However ironically I’m pretty sure that most of these illegal downloads that are available are ripped from vinyl. I’m guessing this is true as our music appears on free download sites before the digital is released which is usually 3 months down the line. This means that people are buying the vinyl, ripping it and putting it online for free download. I have no idea what the incentive for doing this is – when I buy vinyl I want to keep the track a secret so noone else has it, haha…
Demos. Are you still sent them and how many do you reply to?
Yes I get sent demos every day. I haven’t listened to many demos this year as I’ve been so busy I haven’t had chance. I usually try to listen to everything as you never know what’s in there. I actually missed out on signing Sascha Dive a few years before he’d even released a record. He sent me a CD but I was moving house at the time and I misplaced it, I made up for that though as we got him to remix “No Shame”. I also found the demo from Mihai Popoviciu, Jay Bliss & ToyGun in my junk folder. Between them they’ve been a part of 4 releases now, I’ve also worked with them in the studio in Romania and we’ve become good friends. If I hadn’t been checking demos that would never have happened.
The reality is though that most demos don’t cut the mustard and you can waste a lot of time trawling through demo after demo only listening to a few seconds here and there. I’ve just set up a firstname.lastname@example.org email address so I can keep them more organised and make more of a habit of checking them. My release schedule isn’t that heavy at the moment so now’s a good time to send them.
I used to always reply to every single demo as it used to annoy me when people didn’t reply to us when we were sending out demos. I realise now though that’s it’s just that you get sent so many you can’t reply to everyone as it’s so time consuming. If you really want to get your demo noticed and get a reply, the best way to do it is to send a CD to the label with some artwork on it – that’s what we used to do back in the day. If someone sends me a CD I’m a lot more likely to listen to it than I am with an email titled “Demo”.
Were there any thoughts that occurred to you while while putting together this mix of tracks from the Hudd Traxx back catalog for us?
When I first heard about it I was excited. It’s something I’ve thought about doing before but probably wouldn’t have done unless I had a reason so thanks for asking! My next thought was that we’ve released over 120 tracks so it’s going to be hard to work out what makes the cut. It is the hardest mix I’ve ever had to put together though as I’ve narrowed it down to 20 tracks which means I’ve left out 100 tracks I love. There’s so much stuff I wanted to put on there that I couldn’t. I wanted to give a representation of where we started and where we’re at now so hopefully I’ve managed to achieve that.
Okay, this is the part where I ask you to go over some classic and new Hudd Traxx releases and give me any feedback, memories, trivia (hopefully no regrets) that you associate with the tracks…
HUDD001: Slum Science: Creeps Who Sleep
This is where it all started. The funny thing about Creeps Who Sleep was that we signed it to a San Diego based label called Underground Soul Trybe but it never got released. They got Scott Pace to remix it and we loved it so we bought the mix back from Scott and released it ourselves.
HUDD009: JT Donaldson: Just Bounce
I love this track. I remember hearing it on the Mark Farina Essential Mix in Miami in 2006. I was there that year but missed that party. Anyway I’d been asking JT for some tracks for a while and then he sent me this. I knew what it was straight away and was absolutely buzzing! I told him straight away that we wanted it even without checking with the boys as I knew they’d like it. It was also the biggest selling vinyl release we’ve ever had. JT was a big influence of mine so it was great to get him on the label and to also remix his music.
HUDD014: Jason Hodges & Eddie Leader: This is Bizznezz
Me and Jason wrote this in Huddersfield in 2007. Hodges is a bit of a wizard in the studio so it was cool to work with him and learn a few tricks. We actually did a follow up in 2008 but have never done anything with it.
HUDD028: Rick Wade: Night Folk EP
I love Rick’s production so I got in touch with him and asked him to send us some music. It was actually hard to choose 3 tracks from the stuff he sent as they were all ace. I’m pretty sure he’ll do a follow up soon.
HUDD034: Tomson & Benedict: Lost & Founded EP
Tom is a friend from Manchester. He was bugging me and ringing me every day trying to get me to release his music so eventually I gave in 😉 Seriously though these boys are making some great music at the moment and have turned heads since their release on Freerange. Me & Tom have actually been working together in the studio and I’m pretty pleased with the results. We actually just finished our first track the other day and have another 1 or 2 on the go. We should have an EP finished soon so I guess it will either come out on Hudd or Development (Tom’s label).