Tracking Imprints: Drumpoet Community!
When our record dealer thrusted a copy of Drumpoet Community’s first release into our hands, the futuristic hybrid of Detroit-esque strings and jazz-influenced house arrangements à la Henrik Schwarz blew our mind of. This clear vision was also the driving force behind the infamous Loud Minority parties that offered soul searchers a valuable alternative to the ketamine-generation’s minimal movement and still propels the motivation behind Zurich’s club Zukunft. We caught founding member Alex Dallas for our Tracking Imprints label series. Enjoy!
Hi! How was your first contact with music and what motivated you to embark on a musical career?
I started playing drums and later singing and playing rhythm guitar in bands when I was a teenager. I was always spending my money on buying records and than later a friend asked me to DJ with him. We started DJ-ing in Zürich and all of a sudden we gained a good reputation and clubs offered us residencies. That was in the beginning of the ’90s. We also released a record on Compost as Natural High Productions.
What lessons learned from your previous label Straight Ahead did you apply to Drumpoet Community?
I learned that it’s easier to focus on one genre. Straight Ahead was very versatile, we released Broken-Beat, house, abstract hip hop and what we called Warrior Jazz at that time. It was a beautiful experience. I’m still into all this music but it got more and more difficult to present it to people in my hometown, it still works if you do it on a Theo Parrish or Maurice Fulton basis. But back in the day, you could rock a club on 90BPM and also with 7/8 rhythms.
How did your club night Loud Minority at Zurich’s Dachkantine (out of operations since 2005) influence the vision of Drumpoet Community?
It was very influential for me at that time, as I was an eclectic DJ in a minimal/techno club, I had to learn how to make people dance. I was always playing stuff from Pépé Bradock and Carl Craig, but at the Loud Minority I focussed more and more on house and especially the astonishing sounds of Detroit. Ron Shiller was my DJ-partner and he and his boys from Soultourist started doing tracks for that night. Then we asked Lexx and Quarion who also played there, if they would contribute to the label and they all delivered some great tracks like ‘Karasu’, ‘Kadena’ and ‘Turn Loose’. We transformed what we loved, tried to keep it warm and touching but with the aim focussed on to keep people dancing, also the ones who are not jazz dancers (smiling). It was a great time, constantly changing and evolving and we were all so excited and motivated, hungry for new steps. We really had to do the label as there was a whole community waiting to release their music.
How would you describe the label’s sound aesthetic? Is it important that people associate a certain sound with a label or do you think it’s also important to break out of the homogeneity?
I guess it’s something in between. It’s got to sound like a DPC record but we are also constantly on the run to find those kind of tunes, where you just WTF. Something futuristic but referring to the classic sound we admire. It is very important for a label to establish it’s own sound but it is very exciting and also important that the artists come up with some new ideas to keep progressing. Really, there’s no method how we choose the tracks we release, it’s more about a feeling.
Drumpoet Community’s network of producers expanded internationally over the last decade. Do you want to emphasise this more and how did your A&R work changed over time?
Really it was a natural and logical progression. We me people like John Daly and Agnès (Cavalier), we became friends because we are quite similar people and musically sharing the same passion. Then a lot of people from the Straight Ahead times like Washerman and Wah-Chu-Ku got into the community. The beauty of running a label and a club is, that you get to know amazing people from all over the world, they are somehow like good friends after a short time. I love this about music, that it’s so direct and honest. Most of the time it is like this, that if you like someones music, you like this person, too.
Assuming you have to choose between vinyl quality and artwork, what would be your pick?
What I love about vinyl is the whole package. I love graphic design, illustration and art a lot, in the best case it pictures the music and it helps in a dark club to find the records because they have visibility through design. But the quality of the music, meaning mastering, cut and quality of wax is definitely the most important.
Do you have a preferred mastering studio?
There’s a few, I think it’s more the engineer than the company that makes the difference.
How important is video, social media and the selection of the right distribution company for promoting the label’s output nowadays?
For certain scene’s this is very important but there’s also movements which avoid this whole thing. It really helps to let people know but on the other hand the whole mystery gets lost. Something I was always into it. It’s a bit like reading a book and then watching the movie…
Do independent labels receive a fair share for their music that gets played?
Compared to the 90’s, it became such a hustle for labels, artists and distributers. The share is more or less the same. With digital music you have to say that there’s so many free download platforms, that a track which sold one thousand downloads, is on hard drives by far more people than this 1000. I guess there must be equally as much illegal downloads. Also DJs do share the music, which is totally fine. A lot of people are not willing to pay for music anymore. Once a young guy at Zukunft was like: ‘what, you pay for music?!’ I felt like a dinosaur. But I also see at our club, that a lot of the young Resident-DJs play vinyl more and more and distinguish themselves from others. It seems that there’s a change of mind going on. These people want to own the music, collect it and rediscover tunes. I personally care more about selection than format, but it’s way nicer to watch someone playing records. For me personally, it is always exciting going through old records and remembering those times and moments or discovering the B-sides. But I guess this is also a bit romantic…
What’s next at Drumpoet Community?
We signed Evan Michael, a really talented guy from Brooklyn, his single is hitting the stores in the next weeks. The remixes of the Frankey & Sandrino EP by Washerman, Musk, Adriatique and Hyenah are in the pipeline. As well as Jack Pattern from Zurich, a wild cosmic trio and dope guys! A great new single by our good friend John Daly and a 12” by Dario Rohrbach and Dersu from Basel. We are thinking also about a new compilation with some exclusive tracks from our artists.
Drumpoet Community on Soundcloud