Nous avons eu la chance de rencontrer Alfonso Pomeda (AKA F-On), un des fondateurs du label espagnol Downbeat aux côtés de Jose Rico et Urtzi. On y découvre l’univers et les influences du label, accompagnés d’un mix préparé par F-On. Nous sommes honorés de cette rencontre avec un label engagé et sans compromis. Il nous fait ainsi le plaisir de nous livrer une superbe selection dans le plus pur esprit DownBeat. // We had the honor of meeting Alfonso Pomeda (aka F-On), on the founding members of the spanish label Downbeat Records with Jose Rico and Urtzi. You learn about the label and its influences. We are truly honored to meet such a commited and without compromise label.
Since the first downbeat release in 2009 by Specter, the label has been releasing some of the most special deep house records, reaching out to a special roster of artists from around the globe. Your relationship with these and other artists started even before you launched the label in 2007, with the Downbeat parties. It speaks to the huge respect that your work ethic inspires amongst people you’ve been working with… Can you tell us a bit about the standards driving your relationship with the artists involved in the label and the Downbeat parties before?
First of all, thank you for this interview and your interest in us…
When we started the Downbeat parties, something really big was happening in the world of house music. There was a kind of « rebirth ». On the one hand, the big masters were making some lovely music and also there were several emerging artists like Keith Worthy, Patrice Scott, Reggie Dokes, Scott Ferguson, Omar S or Ksoul with really interesting ideas. We wanted to show that, here, and we wanted to have that, here. This was a kind of anxiety because something really big was happening and you were living it at that moment. We wanted to have all this movement in our city.
We got in contact with several of them. Mike Huckaby was the first and after that the rest came, Keith Worthy, Patrice Scott, Juju & Jordash, Rick Wade, Scott Ferguson, Ksoul …
We have a good relationship with all of them. We can say that we have the same common passion: music, so it was easy to make it happen.
When we began the label we knew only one thing: the 2 first releases had to be by Specter nd/or Damon Lamar; and Juju & Jordash.
Jose contacted them … and finally it happened, Andres sent us the tracks and …damn …i couldn´t imagine a better release for the beginning of our label. It was really BIG.
We put the record out and it was sold really fast. We were really excited about that release and couldn’t believe how fast it sold.
We started with the second after that. We knew Juju & Jordash from the parties. It was easy because there was connection from the beginning. They are very talented artists and really committed to music, but above all, modest and great people. In the end, that’s the most important thing for us. The quality of the person.
Mike helped us a lot at the early stages of the label. Also known from the parties, he was a good connection for Jose and gave us a lot of good advice about this « business ». He is really hard-working and determined. We learned a lot from him.
We met Chris several months later. We got in contact with him and said he was tired of this « business ». He had one of the best labels in house music, Deep4life. We loved that music. It was/is really important and influential to us. We wanted tracks from that guy. For me, he is one of the BIG ones in house music along with Larry Heard, Ron Trent and some more.
We met him in Chicago, during a break at his workplace, and we explained who we were and what we wanted from him. After several coffees and beers we got one release from him (well 2, because he also gave us the tracks on Freebeat 01) and one of the best pieces of advice ever: « You should meet Darand Land ».
The most important thing we got from those days (I’ll never get tired of repeating it) is the great friendship we’ve formed with them. They are making music for the love of it, they are not interested in business, fame or shit like that. It may be obvious but this doesn´t happen often.
If we look back, the result is very gratifying for us. We have a handful of releases which we are proud of and we have met GREAT people along the way. People really transparent and honest like Ksoul, Leonid or recently Volcov, and all those people who i’ve already mentioned.
We’ve learned a lot about the origins of the label in an interview given by Jose Rico to the Sound of thought blog. Since then, Downbeat has been releasing two or three EPs a year on 180 grams hand-stamped vinyl, with limited pressing. How important is the current format to the label’s identity?
Jose Rico – Restructure Again
The most important thing here is music. But not only that.
We are vinyl lovers, in fact, we are starting up a record store, here in my city called Space is the place.
We wanted to give extra value to this release, and we thought the best way was making a heavyweight vinyl and also, hand-stamped. In this way every vinyl is going to be necessarily different to each other. Because it´s (almost) impossible to stamp the logo in the same place exactly.
In addition, we don’t want to put info about anything on the label. No info, no prejudices, only the music and you. You can find all the info on Discogs and the sales info in stores.
About 2-3 releases a year… well , its all very relative. I´m not sure if we are going to be on time to have one new release out in 2013. The 8th is delayed, so, we´ll wait for it.
But it´s ok, the most important thing is being happy with the releases.
We have the numbers of copies we need for covering expenses. We are making between 500-1000 copies so we are not making limited editions in a strict sense.
But we won´t make represses, that is sure.
Chris Gray & DaRand Land – Whispers and You
Can you tell us about your different musical inspirations and how they led to the decision to launch Downbeat and influenced the label’s sound?
The idea of the label came from Jose. He proposed the idea to Urtzi and me.
Jose and Urtzi come from the Basque country. People from there are known to be stubborn people, I certify and attest that it is in this way;
So, I understood that it was serious.
Also they were my friends, but not only that, I was confident in them, so It was impossible to refuse.
We are three people who run the label, and we come from different places, so there are tons of things which influence us (punk, industrial music, Ebm, black music …)
In our near past, maybe we are all influenced by Techno and house music; the hardwax sound and electronic music from 90´s. But the main influence on the label is Tetrode, Larry Heard, Deep4life, and some things from Detroit.
Anyway this is a long process and our influences continue to change. In fact, we are thinking now about the future of the label. Maybe on the next releases, there will be a change in the Downbeat sound.
Chris Gray & Moonchildren – Sun of God
Tempo seems to have a central part in the label’s identity, and you’ve obviously deepened your approach to slower tempo music with projects like Downbeat Black Label, Freebeat and ELEVE… We know you Alfonso have played a big part in pushing experimentation towards slower beats. Can you tell us a bit more about these other projects, the idea behind them, and also the artists involved in ELEVE Music?
yes indeed …
In the 90´s in my city, house music was very popular. There were several clubs with great djs playing house music. One of those fantastic djs was Angel Garcia. He was resident dj at Bocaccio and Midday, two of the best clubs in this town ever. He was the first that played house music at 120 bpms when everybody did it at 126, even more. He showed a way of making people dance, with long mixes and slow tempos. He is my main influence as a dj (for me and several djs who came after), and one of the best djs i´ve seen ever.
So, maybe he is guilty of my love for slow tempos.
Downbeat Black label is where the most experimental part of us lives. Music that we love, more risky and slow, but here the speed is not the main factor. Artists like Juju & Jordash, Vakula or ourselves making freak compositions with field recordings or shifting kicks .
Freebeat is Jose´s label. You have to understand that downbeat is run by 3 very stubborn and radical guys in many senses. When we say yes to a release it’s not because the most of us agree on putting it out, it’s because ALL of us, say yes. Democracy is not valid here. Maybe for other issues like the color of the stamp or number of copies pressed, majority is ok. But not for the tracks on a record. With this « argument » it’s normal to think that we need more of a platform to put out music. Releasing music solely on downbeat only would be too frustrating for us. Freebeat was born for this reason. Jose said: « hey motherfuckers, i´m tired of your tyranny, i´m going to run my own label and i´m going to call it FREEbeat. no rules, …. » And basically that’s the story behind freebeat. It’s the label where Jose and ONLY Jose decides what music gets put out.
Eleve is the label, i co-run with several underground djs and producers in my city (Hunab, Jorge Bule, WIL, Mora, GBlanco, Pablo Dub and Monotone). And we share our passion for dub techno music, ambient techno and Detroit Techno. We are happy with how it’s been going recently. Bule´s release was really good and i´m really happy about that, because Jorge is a very promising and talented artist. Everyone is asking me: « hey, who is Bule? is it someone’s moniker? … » and this is only the beginning.
The next 4 releases are really promising, stay alert!! i won´t say anymore.
Specter – Time Bandit
Does this particular attention to slow atmospheric and hypnotic vibes explain your special relationship with Tetrode Music?
Well, In the search for slower vibes we found them.
But our later friendship is because we connected really well. Music brought us to them, but our relationship went beyond that. Damon, Andres, Bill and their people are great and honest people. Now they are, for us, a kind of family in the US.
So far, you released two wonderful split EPs with Damon Lamar and Specter’s Tetrode Music, and there have been several parties involving both labels… Do you plan on extending this relationship further in the studio, as you did with Our Own Organization (Specter & Jose Rico) releases on Sementica and Memories on Wax?
We´ll go on with the parties and of course with those editions. We are planning the 3rd one, right now. It will be a 10″ release.
These records are made to cover the parties expenses. We make an edition (limited to the number of copies we need to cover expenses) of 200 copies.
Regarding Our own organization .. this is a project between Andres and Jose making music together and the result is amazing, really creative. 2014 will be the OOO year for sure.
Specter & Damon Lamar – Untitled
Are you personally running MOW? What is the idea behind it?
Memories on Wax is the project with my friend Fran Campos. Great dj and Big friend (if not my best).
He is from Valencia, a very special city in Spain, He is running a great night called Black label, and he is the resident dj. The music is excellent. House music (sometimes deeper, sometimes jacking), Acid, Techno … But the best thing there is the crowd. Very open but a really demanding audience, and this is because they have listened to good music for years. And Fran has some responsibillity of that. A dj with special taste, really fine aesthetic sense and above all, a real psychologist. MOW has lots of those attributes. It´s not house, it´s not techno, only good music with psychology and good taste.
The first MOW is one of the best records i have released on any of the labels that i am involved in.
We´ll go ahead with the second in early 2014.
Jose Rico – September Rain
In the last few years, we noticed the emergence of several underground music labels from Spain like Minuendo, Deep Explorer or Sementica. Are you guys close with the people running these projects? Does this situation increase the recognition in Spain and abroad?
I used to be friends with Ernie and Dubbyman in the past. But not today.
Our relationship with them finished several years ago. This happens sometimes, and probably there is no single reason. We have different points of view, that’s all.
For the same reason that we can feel very close to a guy from Chicago, the fact that living in the same city doesn´t necessarily mean you have many things in common.
I respect their work, I think they are doing good work with their platforms (In fact i´ve been buying some of their last releases).
With Semantica,… i have a good relationship with Enrique. He is a hard-working guy and if he is where he is now, it is not by coincidence. I admire his tenacity, determination and his labor as A&R with the label. He has very good taste, and as a producer he’s got a really good level.
But there are more interesting things happening here: Hizou run by Satore, a young producer from Mallorca with clear ideas. Also Pulp, with a first release is very interesting; Check also Frigio and A Harmless deed…
I dont Know if Spain is now in the spotlight. To be honest it doesn´t concern me. Good music is good music. Made in NYC or made in Llodio.
We’re asking this because Spain has lately been the host of big electronic music festivals and gatherings, but still the local underground scene doesn’t seem much involved… Is it true? Is that a choice on your part?
We have the scene that we deserve.
One of our favorite sports here is complaining about our scene and doing nothing to remedy the situation.
I mean, everyone is demanding good parties and then when these parties happen, nobody goes to support them. Starting with the djs and producers of that scene.
This is not the best moment for festivals here … in fact there is a very restrictive policy with events right now.There are some festivals like Sonar or Lev, but in my city there isn´t any big festival.
Anyway some brands like Red Bull are doing interesting work in pushing the city right now, and there are some small underground cells running good parties like Femur club. We are doing what we can with our Genesis parties, and other interesting parties at Siroco club …I´m sure i´m forgetting someone ….anyways i think that’s not a scene
There are very good djs here in Spain. I remember too many special guest djs in the past with a big name, playing a lot worse than the resident dj of the hosting club in Madrid or Barcelona.
I think in Barcelona there is some movement with new clubs and people like Monkey Bar; In valencia, there is an Oasis called Miniclub with Fran Campos´ Black label ; There are several parties and good djs in the North (My favorite is G-khan); Chelis in Zaragoza…
In my city there are very good djs like DjF, absolutely awesome, very technical;
Toni Rox, one of the pioneers of house music over here, and in my opinion one of the best house music djs in the world. Now he is in the best form ever;
Of course, Leonid. Paul is living here right now, he is a beast on the decks and a really good producer;
And there are several really interesting young djs.
It´s a pity that all those djs and many more don´t play every weekend.
Well, that’s just my opinion, if you ask others probably they will tell you that there are several interesting nights in my city.
DaRand Land – Middlesex (D4L Edit)
We know you’ve all been involved in a lot of club openings in the past… Was it necessary so you can be able to play exactly what you wanted? Are there venues today where you feel confortable to play as freely as possible?
I’ve always played what I wanted. I’ve had a lot of trouble for this very reason. Music is sacred and the records i buy, i really like them. So i’ve always played what i wanted
I have a lot of respect for music, i couldn´t play a « suspect » record in order to get a gig or play as resident dj in a big club for instance. For the same reason i’ve always hated that very thing which is common in the booths of the clubs over here: If you bring me to play to at your club, i´ll do the same as i do in my club.
Where is music here?
I like a wide range of music, and i have a need to play my records at a club. As i am not very much in demand as a Dj in my city (or not demanded at all), i have to create my own events.
We are now running several parties like Genesis where i play house music; Morpheus, one of my favorite clubs with my friends Javi and Daoun where i used to play ambient techno and Dub techno; and Aretha, new club, dedicated to black music.
I have to say also, that its not possible to often play stuff like experimental music or my ambient techno records.
The 8th Downbeat release is coming from Marcellus Pittman. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with him and about how this collaboration happened?
We had Marcellus in mind almost from the beginning.
He is a very busy man and it was difficult to get him. He is very good friend with specter, i suppose this made it easier.
His release has been delayed (as i said he has a lot of work) but we´ll wait for it.
I´m sure ,this release will not disappoint at all.
Who are the artists you wish to collaborate with? What can we expect from Downbeat or the other related projects in the future?
We have also several releases closed, but I prefer not to disclose names until all has been done.
Also we have a lot of our own material ready to be released,
some tracks by myself for Downbeat Black label; and Jose and Urtzi have tons of good music too.
We are in a changing process, as i told you, and we want to dedicate our efforts in clearly defining our sound, so it´s quite possible , we’ll put out several releases by us in the future.
Mike Huckaby – Mathematics from the Jazz Republic
Finally, we have a special question regarding what Jose Rico said in his interview for Sound of Thought: “Deep house, for some, is what they do in their free time and for others, it’s a way of life”. Can you please elaborate on that ?
Jose is a very talented producer. One of the best i met, but this is not the only reason he is making awesome tracks.
There are several factors: First of all, as i’ve mentioned, he is very creative. Also, he understands perfectly how machines work, he is really skillful with them, he only has needs a night with an MPC to unravel its secrets.
I admire that, because, I’m really inept in this sense. I can´t do it.
Also, Jose is very a constant and hard-worker. He works until he’s sick and at obsessive levels.
He is dedicating his entire life to music and sound and making a lot of sacrifices.
Music is for him a purpose.
On the other hand, there are some producers without respect for music (or not so respecting regarding it). Music for them is a way to get fame, popularity …
Jose is not saying that everyone has to live music like he does. Every case is different and there are a lot of respectable producers with families and a daily job, etc … but …
I don’t understand yet, what is the relation between music and those pics (retouched with photoshop) of certain djs posing almost like models … is this music?
And when somebody that is putting all his energy in something, sees things like this, he will not like it in the least.