The Hyperdub label was founded in 2004 by producer Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, and its first release was a single by Goodman himself. But then, in 2005, the label released the debut EP by Burial, ‘South London Boroughs’, introducing the new enterprise to a bigger audience.
Highly influential in the development of dubstep, Hyperdub subsequently worked on early releases with a number of influential producers in the genre, and more recently has branched out into the wider realms of electronic music too. Artists who have graced the label’s roster so far include, Zomby, The Bug, Joker, Laurel Halo, Ikonika, Martyn, Cooly G, Darkstar, LV and Funkystepz.
In the run up to this year’s AIM Independent Music Awards – where Hyperdub is nominated in the Independent Label Of The Year category – CMU’s Chris Cooke spoke to label manager Marcus Scott about the how he became involved with the company, and the trials and tribulations of managing it.
CC: Tell us a little about the history of the label – how did it originally come into being?
MS: Kode9 started the label in 2004, the first release being Kode9 And The Spaceape’s ‘Sign Of The Dub’, with Burial’s ‘South London Boroughs’ single following that. This was just as dubstep, in its British incarnation, was starting to get popular, so it came from there.
CC: And how did you become involved?
MS: I worked at a label called Rephlex who had signed some early tracks by Kode9 for their ‘Grime 2′ compilation, so I knew him from those times. I subsequently worked at Warp for a while and then, around about the time I was thinking of moving on from there, I found out Kode9 needed a label manager for Hyperdub.
We’d always got on well and respected each other, and our taste in music is a pretty solid Venn diagram, so I got involved and I’ve not looked back. It’s a great label. I got lots of great experience in the ways of the music industry from both Rephlex and Warp, two very different labels, but what Hyperdub does is closer to my heart and the music I love.
CC: The label has been closely linked with the dubstep and grime genres, do you have a specific music policy?
MS: The music policy is in Kode9 and my heads at the end of the day, we’ve not really released any dubstep for about two years or so, and the label has always seemed to be on the outside looking in of any genres. I think we’re now a broad label that can encompass anything from the carnivalesque dancefloor energy of Funkystepz to something like Hype Williams or Laurel Halo. It’s a natural progression to us, but we’re no longer able to call ourselves a ‘dubstep label’, or even a ‘dance label’.
CC: How do you choose what artists to work with?
MS: Based on the music they make and whether they want to work with us.
CC: The dance genres you champion have enjoyed a lot of success in recent years – and inevitably have become more commercial, with some big players now pumping a lot of money into dance ventures. Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?
MS: I have no real opinion or control over that, it’s not important to me. I just hope we get better at what we do and appeal to people.
CC: New dance genres seem to emerge at quite a pace – what scenes or sub-genres are you particularly excited about at the moment?
MS: Lots of stuff coming from the US at the moment has an energy and futurism that is appealing. For the first time in a long time, US dance music seems vital, and more exciting than that in the UK.
CC: What are your thoughts on digital? Do you embrace every new digital platform going, or do any digital business models bother you? Are they important for your label?
MS: No, they don’t bother me at all. And yes, they sell music, so they’re useful, though no one service is something I would want to rely on completely to do that for me. Nor, for that matter, would I want to completely rely on digital, or the internet, for the success of our label.
CC: What’s the hardest thing about running an independent label in 2012?
MS: It’s very hard work and people don’t buy music like they used to. Even though the argument for downloading illegally is often ‘well artists get money from touring’, each part of a label and artist’s work is reliant on the next part, and sometimes it’s hard to get the whole thing working properly. It can also be a bit of a pain when it’s hard to find stuff you like enough to release.
CC: And what’s the best thing?
MS: The artists on the label are all brilliant, smart people and you learn something off them all the time. Also just those moments or those nights when everything works out well.
CC: What are your proudest achievements to date?
MS: I don’t know, really. I try not to think about pride, I just want to constantly think about what we do, move forward and learn.
CC: Are there any other labels or label chiefs – past or present – that you particularly admire?
MS: I love reading about the music industry and the characters involved, so probably everyone I’ve ever read about, good or bad!
Read more interviews with indie label bosses conducted in the run-up to the 2012 AIM Independent Music Awards here.