Berlin has an almost mythical status within dance music, being home to some of electronic music's most prolific artists, brands and labels. Certainly an intimidating environment to build a multi format, multi genre label from scratch... But that is exactly what Chris Impulse has done. lets get clued up... Shadybrain.
1. Hailing from Berlin, Shadybrain shares it's geographic location with a rich heritage of electronic labels. What has been the effect of Berlin on the label? What is it about Berlin that has so consistently produced high calibre artists, labels and brands?
The history of Germany and especially of Berlin played a big role in the way (musical) creativity is outlived here today. Speaking about the feeling of isolation you had living in Berlin during the cold war, this already attracted many artists like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and was as well an inspiration for German musicians like Einstuerzende Neubauten, etc. When the wall came down in 1989 it was just the opposite. A feeling of freedom and revolution. Suddenly there was so much space which was quickly occupied by subcultures. One of them was the emerging house and techno scene which could establish itself in run down buildings and turn them into clubs like the Tresor or the Bunker. This is why electronic music has a very strong heritage in this city. Still today, looking at clubs like the Berghain or all that half-legal after-hour parties, the special feeling of Berlin is reflected which together with the fact that living in Berlin is pretty cheap, makes it very attractive to many artists. Talking about Berlin's influence on shadybrain, this is hard to define clearly. Your surroundings always influences your output. For me I can say that I was strongly influenced by Techno and House in Berlin which made me look for a deeper and abstract form of drum & bass. But still our releases vary a lot in style. There just needs to be a certain amount of deepness... Maybe another thing is that anonymity of the big city. Since I am in Berlin I started not to care at all about what others do or about new trends in drum & bass. I just want to lead my own path.
2. The rise of the digital label in many cases has lead to a disregard for the visual elements of the final product, Shadybrain however maintains strong themes and recurring design concepts across all of it's releases. Also the aesthetic of the cover art often lends to the feel of the music. What is the criteria for the label artwork?
The artwork plays a very important role. Even as a label with a strong tradition in digital releases I feel there is a need for good artwork. Each release deserves to be highlighted. Talking about aesthetics, I cannot say I want this or that particularly - in the end the graphics just need to make sense. It needs to fit the labels corporate which is basically very minimal and always (literally) with a red line going through it. We have a couple of very talented professional designers which I totally trust and who always deliver the best outcome possible.
3. In the fast moving world of music release, the nature of the product and the means to sell to the consumer is always changing. In todays market, what is the role of a modern digital record label, how does it differ from the more traditional set up?
The nature of the product or better said, the form of the product obviously changed a lot. When I started Shadybrain, the drum & bass market was about 90% vinyl, maybe 10% cds. Nobody sold MP3s at that time. As Napster was already up and running people should have realised that there was a big change coming. But in the end, Shadybrain was the first drum and bass label selling music online in a digital form. I remember talking to a lot of artists about our plans and many of them were very skeptical. If you look at the market now, six years later, vinyl is more and more just a marketing tool for promoting the label and a way to give it a high-quality appearance in opposite to the countless digital-only labels. In fact, there is almost no money in releasing vinyl any more. As we additionally started to release records some years ago, I could see the decline of it with my own eyes. In the end, the most important thing is not to cry about the old days but to go with the flow and use the internet and all it's possibilities like direct interaction with customers / fans, many ways of promotion, and a vast audience looking for music. Labels today need to adapt to new technologies, be clever, and focus on what is most important: Their musical output!
4. Shadybrain continues to invest in the talents of drum & bass' new breed of producers. People like Octane & DLR, Dakosa and Cern sit nicely in the discography along side the likes of seasoned stalwarts of the genre like Silent Witness, Cause 4 Concern and The Panacea. Which artists are exciting you at the moment as a label owner?
Many! This is another major change the internet made: So much music of so many artists is accessable very easily. Also it gives labels the possibility to try out new things and push new artists without financial risks. I am very grateful to be able to work with so many talented musicians because in the end, this is what makes me go on. Many of the early Shadybrain artists like Phace, Misanthrop, Dementia, Rregula, Nocturnal, and more have made their way into spotlight and I am very happy to have been a part of their way. At the moment I love the sounds of Furi Anga, Panic Girl, Octane & DLR, Dakosa, Cruel Culture & Er.ic and many more. Of course I am also excited about having artists like dBridge or Cause 4 Concern on the label as they have been a big part of turning drum & bass in the direction I love it.
5. You are about to drop the "Panic Girl Remixes" release featuring dBridge's huge remix of "Blue Lights". You have also managed to secure Phace and Duo Infinale for remix duties. Can you tell us about the project, how it came together and the original concept?
Yes, "The Panic Girl Remixes" are available just now as 2 x 12" vinyl and digital. All the remixes are based on Panic Girl's "Burn And Rise EP" which we released in early 2010. Panic Girl is a trip-hop / electronica artist from Munich, Germany. As she is very much into drum & bass we quickly agreed to do the remix project and decided on the different artists we wanted to take part. It was our main objective to deliver a varied output by chosing artists who each on their own are institutions in a different kind of drum & bass. With artists like Phace, Duo Infernale, and Skyence we had strong relationships already. With dBridge, we were very happy to secure one of jungle's most influential artists today.
6. What can we look forward to from the shadybrain camp in 2011?
After the remix EP we will have a Cause4Concern 12" with two very deep tunes, "Makes Me Wonder" and "Chameleon". The release will also have a Duo Infernale remix of "Makes Me Wonder". Also, we got digital releases coming by Polarity, more stuff from Skyence, as well as many other things in the pipeline, so stay tunes and make sure to check www.shadybrain.net
New Shadybrain releases are available HERE