One of the strangest effects of the internet has been the manner in which we all began to sound alike. Regional accents are supposedly on the decline – the great “soda/pop” debate in the United States will probably be settled within our lifetime, and the victor will determined by advertising. As corporate franchises spread, cityscapes become increasingly indistinguishable from one another. There’s a Starbucks on every corner and in every town their coffee tastes exactly the same. Someday we’ll all live this way.
In music it feels almost retro to talk about a “regional” sound, but there are still strong communities of like-minded folks trying to build something together, and hopefully always will be. For the second in our im/Print series focusing on new labels, we’re profiling Minneapolis Exchange, the tip of the spear for a group of people in the city that’s the label’s namesake.
Aaron, who are you? Where are you from and what to do you?
My name is Aaron Hart and I go by the alias Aaron Bliss here in Minneapolis and in other projects with friends, Havens & Hart, Jack Complex, Edge City, Soundbed – I think that’s it! For a while I was a bit of a wanderer. I grew up in New Orleans, Austin and NYC, found Minneapolis in the mid ’90s and call it my home.
Mostly I work, punch a clock, cook clean and be a parental menace to my kids.
Who owns Minneapolis Exchange?
Minneapolis Exchange is my baby 100% but I honestly can’t do it without my MEME crew – Nathan, Jeff, Abel, Amy, and Mitch. I wanted an outlet that I could focus solely on vinyl and deeper, darker, rawer sounds that I like to play in my vinyl sets.
But this isn’t your first label, is it?
No sir, it’s my third. I started a 2step garage label back in the early 2000s but was short lived. After 9/11 it was hard selling records and getting vinyl distribution you could trust. Dark Days.
I also co-own MEME with Nathan Spur and the MEME crew. The label has a wider approach to House music and doesn’t stick too closely to pigeonholed genres.
It’s in your name, so I have to ask: why the emphasis on the city of Minneapolis?
Because I love it here, it’s my home and I’m proud of it. We have a very rich music culture here with amazing artists that are really coming into their own now. I want us to be heard.
How would you describe the dance music scene in Minneapolis?
It’s great. Like most places in the US, it’s a little segregated at times. You have the EDM/Big Room crowd, Drum & Bass, the dubstep and hard dance crowds that tend to have their own scene but I would say that for the most part, the D&B, House, and Techno crowds tend to mingle more, share parties and cross-pollinate. Kinda like the old days but a little more grown up.
Tell us about the first record. You’ve started off with DJ Duke, who is a name that I realized I really missed making records. How did you obtain that track? Was it a hard sell considering you were still a new label without any history to point to?
Hands down, this is the single coolest, proudest achievement for me in my music life. Duke is one of the first house music DJs I heard back around ’93 or ’94. I own almost all of his records, tons of mix tapes and cds. I am an ultra-fan. (Not creepy though.)
I knew the mission of the label would be to cross-pollinate with other artists around the world but I wanted an emphasis on US talent when possible, and to always feature at least one Minneapolis artist.
Duke came along because I knew I needed to make a big impact with this first record. I was buying records one day on-line and noticed a re-release of some Duke vinyl and that’s when it hit me: I have to work with this man.
I found him on Facebook and Soundcloud and just started emailing him. I pretty much begged him! Unfortunately, he was very busy working on his other passion – film – and just didn’t have the bandwidth. I kept in contact the best I could without bugging him but figured it was pretty much off the table.
About two or three months later I get an email out of the blue from Duke, he had changed his mind, liked my attitude, and agreed to do an EP!
The Adesse Versions remix came along when I was chatting with him. Kevin’s a great friend of mine, I mentioned to him that Duke agreed to do an EP. His reply was simple… “I’ll do a remix mate.” He is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with right now, blowing up, so that was it, I had my “exchange,” all I need is the Minneapolis. I pulled in a remix from Mpls natives Jeff Swiff and a rework from the duo Jack Complex.
Still early days, but what do you wish you knew now that you didn’t know when you started?
How long it really takes and how much detail is involved. Patience is the ultimate here. Still seems a little faster that getting digital releases out though.
What do you think is the downfall of most labels in 2016?
They seem to all blend together sometimes. A fad comes around and we all tend to want to follow the trends. We have been guilty of it in the past with MEME but realized we just need to do it for us and our friends.
I also think that the cost of quality artists, remixers, PR, etc. is insane these days and doesn’t compare to where the market is. That makes it hard for labels to afford to continue running a label, especially a vinyl label. It’s almost impossible to recoup investment and therefore will not last as long sometimes.
Yes, we are about to send out 002 to the presses/mastering very soon so hope it will be out by the winter, maybe the fall.
It consists of Chicago’s Dan Ryan, Los Angeles’s Ricky Tienez (name may sound familiar – Todd Edwards mentioned him in your interview a while back), and Minneapolis’s own Jeff Swiff and Christian James with a cut each. 003 will follow with a Jack Complex EP but no idea on release date yet for that one.
DJ Duke’s Return To The Pleasure Dome EP is forthcoming from Minneapolis Exchange. Original photo by Sanjay Kumar.
Originally published inside 5 Magazine Issue #134 featuring Lay-Far, Inaya Day, Danism, Minneapolis Exchange and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music – on sale for just $1 an issue!
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