Welcome to another session of Lessons In Labels… A chance to get to know a label a little better, find out what inspired them to get into one of the riskiest aspects of the industry, glean info on future nuggets and, most importantly, get some advice for any of you lot who are think about starting up a label.
This time we’re chatting to Tom Retraflex from Flexout Audio, a label that’s gained some respectable heat since its inception in 2011. It turns out the label’s birth is rather poignant. Read on for all things Flexout and some sage words of advice…
Hello Flexout Audio: Tell us everything!
“Hello! I am Tom, one half of Retraflex and co-owner of Flexout Audio a new drum and bass label that was created in 2011. Flexout actually started out as a drum and bass club night that I started as a project in conjunction with ‘Sparkhouse’ at Lincoln University, I somehow managed to blag funding of five grand from them to start running a club night at the student union.
I started the project with a friend of mine Jon (DJ Apocalypse) who was into cutting dubplates and always wanted to start up his own record label. Stephen, the other half of Retraflex & Co-Owner of Flexout Audio, used to DJ with Jon and eventually ended up getting involved in putting on the Flexout club nights with us. In late 2009, unexpectedly Jon passed away. This bought me and Stephen a lot closer as we had both lost a best mate, quite organically we just started DJing and producing together (eventually under the name ‘Retraflex’) and decided to continue Jon’s dream of starting a drum and bass label for our crew to release on.
It is still very early days we’ve only been going for just over a year but we are really excited about the artists that we have got on board and hopefully, over time, people will see that we just love drum and bass. All of it! At our events we would always start off the night with very minimal D&B and progress through liquid evolving into the heavier side of the scene as the night progressed. What makes us a bit different to other outputs is that we have evolved from this club night with that particular formula, so the label natural continued the ethos of the event in terms of progressing from minimal through liquid into heavy dancefloor drum and bass.
If you look back over our releases so far you can see that it’s not just one type of drum and bass. We’re aware that it’s risky having different styles each release but hopefully there is a vibe that unifies the different releases on Flexout: our taste in drum and bass in constantly evolving and changing and I think that is represented through our label. Essentially we just release music that we would play in a Retraflex set and Retraflex sets do tend to differ dramatically depending on the occasion! We never want to be pigeonholed which is why we carried on the formula of the club night through to the label to enable us to be flexible with what we release.”
Most importantly: what can we expect in 2013?
“Static has just released The Final Start EP which we’re really happy about, it pays homage to our roots and has a timeless feel to it. There is also a wicked video for the lead track ‘Bad For Me’ up on our Youtube channel now produced by up and coming film maker Alex Holberton (Loose Moose)…
Our next release after that is out on February 18. It’s from our newest signing Neve featuring fellow Italian MC Zubee called All Spark. This is followed by a tune from the Ukranian badman that is Fade. He’ll be coming your way in March with a tune called Handmade Rage. These are two really heavy tracks that have been getting a great reaction on the dancefloor when we’ve played them out.
After that we have our first compilation coming out. Logarithmic progress from minimal soundscape through different branches of drum and bass and will hopefully take the listener on a journey. We didn’t want to just release 21 great individual tracks from the likes of Facing Jinx, Need For Mirrors, Philth, Barefoot, Dominic Ridgway, Chromatic, Static and Hyroglifics. We wanted to create a concept, an album that is designed to be listened to from start to finish that represents what we as a label are all about.
Other than that our artists are really hitting the studio hard this year to get their next releases out but it’s really important to us that there is no rush or deadlines. I’m sure it will be quite an organic process that probably slips into 2014 but Rutile, Ben Fawce & Neve are all working on their debut EP’s for Flexout Audio which we’re really excited about.”
Tell us about your events…
“Yes we love putting on parties! We had a couple of events at Brixton Jamm last year with our artists Philth, Retraflex, Rutile, Ben Fawce & eleven8 alongside artists that have remixed for us on the label: Villem, Need For Mirrors, dRamatic & dbAudio. It was a pretty sick line up in the end that showcased what the ethos of the label was all about.”
You’ve had some great releases so far. Give us two highlights please…
“Thank you! It has been a really great experience working with new artists from around the world through the international language of drum and bass. A highlight for me has to be dRamatic & dbAudio Coast To Coast. I think that track will really stand the test of time and will become a classic tune DJ’s pull out every summer for a long time. The other highlight has to be the success of the Serum remix of Apocalypse which is a tribute track we made with MC $pyda and Ben Fawce after DJ Apocalypse passed away, again I just think its got shelf life and obviously has a lot of sentimental value.”
Okay, as this is a lessons In labels feature, please give us 5 handy dos and 5 handy don’ts that you wish you were told when you first set up Flexout!
1. Think about what the ethos of your label is and how you will represent that in everything you do
2. Take your time to get to know artists before you work with them
3. Sit on tunes for a while before you decide to release them
4. Get the tunes to the right DJ’s, get them played out in clubs and check the reaction of the crowd
5. Train your ears, always reference everything against the right sort of tracks
1. Don’t rush anything, once it is out there it is out there forever! Sit on the tracks for a while and see how you feel about them in a couple of months time.
2. Don’t send anything to get mastered until the artist would bet their house on the mixdown! However often this part of the process highlights a problem with the mixdown that then needs to be tweaked. So it’s handy to have a good relationship with the person mastering your tracks.
3. Don’t release anything just for the sake of it
4. Don’t neglect the artwork. It’s so important
5. Don’t give people tunes before they are 100% finished
Finally, tell us anything we’ve neglected to ask you about…
“If you go to our Soundcloud page you can download a free track form our newest signing Neve. Also if you go to our Facebook page in the welcome section you can sign up to our newsletter and get a free track from ourselves and Chromatic called ‘Epiphany’ that had massive support last year from Tony Coleman and we have also started doing a monthly Flexout Audio podcast which is the first place you’ll hear all the latest Flexout Audio tracks! The only other thing to mention is that we are really close with Facing Jinx and all the Peer Pressure crew so you may well see some collaborative work between our two crews later this year…”