Interview: Dan Foat

R&S Records, the influential label that originated from Belgium in the early 80’s, has continually been a precursor in all junctions of electronic music, being at the helm of putting out paramount classics by the likes of catalysts Aphex Twin, Kenny Larkin, Joey Beltram and Human Resource, to name only a few from their overwhelming back catalogue. After keeping silent for of a couple of years in the early 00’s, R&S Records re-located to London and supervision has been passed on from its original operators Vanderpapeliere and Maes to Dan Foat and Andy Whittaker who have faithfully carried the labels axiom forward of putting out releases by some of the best artists currently maneuvering in electronic music. Nowadays the main focus seems to lie on young emergent artists from Great Britain but they’ve also been touching base with the past by paving the way for Juan Atkins’ return with “OFI / Huesca” and a remixes release for the firmer. Soon they’ll be putting out a new installment of their renowned compilation series too, named “IOTDXI“, which is a collection of the label’s newer output; one disc contains focal tracks from the last year and a half (James Blake’s “CMYK“, Space Dimension Controller’s “Transatlantic Landing Bay“, Vondelpark’s “Camels” and Blawan’s “Bohla” amongst others) and another consists of new tracks by producers from their adroit roster. And although they’ve been busy enough with putting out releases, the R&S crew has also started putting on nights worldwide. Recently they put on a night during Amsterdam Dance Event in collaboration with Sonic Warfare and we briefly caught up with the current A&R of the label, Dan Foat, to chat about the iconic imprint’s new course.

Pariah – Left Unsaid – out Nov. 7th on R&S’ IOTDXI compilation.

Hello Dan, how have you been? What have you been keeping yourself busy with? “I’m very well, thank you. I’ve just arrived in Japan with James Blake, and we’re looking forward to the tour and exploring the country. 2011 has been a busy year for me, juggling R&S with my job as A&R Manager at Polydor whilst managing James and running our Atlas label. At night I’m spending time producing new material, DJing as The Chain with Nathan Boddy and daydreaming about a trip to India at Christmas…”

After a break of a few years, R&S is back with much-acclaimed quality releases under your supervision, though it might be in a somewhat different line than the label was before. Could you tell us a little about your early involvement with the label? What have been your inspirations to build it up to where it is right now, both from a musical point of view and from a general perspective? “I was working in Phonica and getting bored of working in record shops (I’d been in various shops for 6 years). A friend put me in touch with Renaat and I met him in 2007 and he gave me the job on the spot. Initially I was nervous of being responsible for putting R&S back on the map. I released a few singles and a compilation of the big tracks from back in the day but I knew it wasn’t the right direction. In 2008 our distributors (Pinnacle) went into administration and the new UK company lost the little money we had and all of the stock. This was the catalyst for me to stop giving a fuck about what people thought and just get on with creating a era for R&S. I knew that we needed to find our own direction. I signed Pariah off the back of his MySpace demos, we hired a great Label Manager in Andy Whittaker and signed Space Dimension Controller, James Blake and things started to take shape. Bringing Andy in has really secured the day to day running of the label, which for a time was proving to be an obstacle when we first relaunched.”

Does R&S reflect upon your own musical aspirations and tastes or is there another factor that plays its part in the choices that are made for the label? “It certainly represents some of my taste in electronic music although I’m yet to find an A&R who signs acts that they aren’t into. The music has to be innovative and forward thinking and the artist has to show commitment and it helps if they can stay up all night.”

Does it ever cross your mind to work with any of the sub-labels again? R&S used to house quite a large number of sub-labels on the main label, with each sub-label focusing on quite a distinct niche/genre. “I think sub-labels can be useful for certain imprints, labels like Clone’s Basement Series for example, which I’m a big fan of. However with R&S I always had it in my mind to attempt to follow the blueprint of labels such as XL, Warp or Domino. The classic blue and green 12” sleeve is one of the most iconic sights in electronic music, but times change and I want to broaden the sound of R&S as I see that as a natural development in the labels history. That said, I’m still releasing tunes inline with the heritage of the label, Untold’s “Stereo Freeze” and Blawan’s “What You Do With What You Have” all have the hallmarks of classic R&S releases.”

You work with a solid, closely-knit roster, slowly introducing new artists one by one but also continuing collaborations with highly renowned artists that have released on the roster before such as the legendary Juan Atkins. How do do you usually go about approaching new artists into a collaboration with R&S? “I’m glad you mentioned Juan Atkins as he sent me an incredible Model 500 track called ‘Control’ recently, in my opinion one of his/their finest moments, bearing all the classic elements of a Detroit classic and still sounding way ahead of the game in 2011!  To be honest, Juan Atkins / Model 500 are the only artists who are outside of the group of friends that make up the roster. In terms of approaching new artists, I’m certainly very selective. Anyone can release their own music nowadays.”

Can you tell us about what’s exciting you musically in the present, outside of R&S? “I’m a big fan of Objekt, his productions are always on point as are Teengirl Fantasy from New York, who have a timeless House sound and a great live show. I’m working with a young band called Egyptian Hip Hop who have the potential to remind a lot of people about real music in a time when popular culture sadly seems to have dissolved into a televised karaoke competition. The XX are in the midst of writing their second album, which is going to be great and there’s an unknown 26 year old Chicago native called Willis Earl Beal (“Wavering Lines“) who comes across like a mixture of Tom Waits and Ray Charles and is likely to be appearing on a US hipster blog very soon.”

You’ve started putting on nights in for example Paris, and you’ve hosted a night at Amsterdam Dance Event too. What can we expect from the parties you put on? “Our first party in Paris was great fun, myself, James and Matt (Lone) djing at the Social Club. The modern day R&S night is quite broad musically and we don’t take it too seriously so it’s always a good mix of music and partying. We have a lot of of tours and festivals coming up in the new year with shows in Paris, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Poland, London etcetera.”

Has the distribution of Space Dimension Controller’s releases in Mikrosektor-50 been a difficult thing or have the Pulsovians been co-operative? “I’m not authorized to talk about Space Dimension Controller until October 2012.”

When was the last time you danced? “Last night in Osaka, to Ben Assiter’s drumming.”

Links: R&S RecordsSonic Warfare Amsterdam.

By: Immy Soraya & Sindhuja Shyam

Soraya Brouwer

LONDON VIA AMSTERDAM - Soundcloud & Instagram

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