Truancy Volume 92: Local Action

We recently sat down for a lengthy Skype chat with Tom Lea, head of the peerless Local Action record label. There’s no one out there doing what they do, perfectly bisecting the spectrum of grime and garage. We talked early beginnings, the various directions the label has taken, the parties they’ve thrown (especially their epic Christmas party with friends Unknown To The Unknown last year) and more. We talked sweetboy life and going to Nando’s. And then fate, and a clumsy thumb, led to the whole thing being lost to the ether. Tom was good enough not only to provide this killer mix, but also to jot down his responses and sum up the path his baby has taken since its inception in 2010.

Tell us about how you came to set up the label. “I’d wanted to run a label for a while, then the record store Phonica – I used to share an office with them – approached me about working with them on one. Obviously they sorted distribution, manufacturing and everything like that from their end, and I was never gonna turn down that shortcut.” What led to the breakaway from Phonica? “A couple of things, really – Phonica’s great but it’s primarily a house, techno and disco store, and I felt like to release stuff like grime, footwork and bassline through them wouldn’t have worked. Also, I wanted to have complete creative control – it’s not like Phonica ever put their foot down over not releasing anything, but if I’m gonna run a label I want to be able to go over-budget on some dumb reissue that only 50 people will buy, and not have to worry about it being somebody else’s money I’ve spent on it.”

The artwork started off with the simple logo over a beautifully hued photo, before branching out in different directions for albums and white labels. How important is the visual identity to you? “I think about it loads. When you’re releasing 12”s, it’s definitely smart to have one template for the artwork and stick to it – the sort of thing L.I.E.S., Hessle, Punch Drunk do. It means people can instantly identify your records, it makes them seem more collectable, like Mr. Men books or some shit, and ultimately it means you save time and money. I used a template like that for the label’s first two years, but I felt that “Brandy & Coke” and Raw Missions really needed to be presented differently, and now me and Andy, the label’s designer, are doing a different design for each 12”. It does delay releases, so God knows – maybe we’ll go back to some kind of template soon.”

The next white label is the DJ Q – Trust Again remixes package. Can you talk about how that came about? “We just uploaded the acapella for a competition with Juno, that was it really. I couldn’t believe it when four of my favourite producers responded with remixes – totally grateful and overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure it we’d do a 12” or not, but they started getting such a good reaction, and people like Slackk and Oil Gang were battering the Rabit one in particular, that we had to. It was the same thing with Skydiver, the Cassie compilation – no one got a fee for it or anything, so I was blown away by how many people responded.”

Stream: DJ Q – Trust Again (Major Grave Remix) (Local Action)

You’ve got albums coming from Q and Slackk, the two anchors of the label. How are they coming along? “They are the two anchors of the label, you’re right. I started working with both around the same time – and to be honest, it followed a period of not really knowing where I wanted the label to go. When I started LA in 2010, there was so much promise and so many ideas punting around 130bpm in the UK – that period where Funky had made everyone drop their tempo, and Night Slugs, labels like that had started up – but a year and a half later everyone had gone into their own lanes, and shit just wasn’t as interesting to me. I’d been fans of both Q and Slackk for a while, but when I first heard “Brandy & Coke”, and “Sleet Riddim” – which eventually became “Blue Sleet”, on Raw Missions – that was the moment where I was like “fuck, this is what the label needs to do next”. What Q does with garage and pop music, and what Slackk had started doing with grime – and fucking hell, look at Boxed now and how ahead of the game he was with that EP – it was the opposite of all this Soundcloud house bullshit that was getting hyped all over the shop.

Stream: DJ Q feat. Kai Ryder – Be Mine (Local Action)

“The Q album’s out on March 31 [stream on Pitchfork], it’s a pop record that, to my ears, is basically how UK pop music should sound now – big vocals and melodies but totally in the lineage of Wookie, MJ Cole, The Streets, Dizzee, shit like that. Slackk’s album’s very close to finished, and you’ll hear more about it soon.”

Tell us about the mix – how representative of your DJing style is it? I dunno, the start’s probably more patient than I am in a club half the time. Bunch of grime, bit of rap, forthcoming label bits, it’s fairly representative.

What’s your drink of choice? “Amaretto, ice and lime.” And when was the last time you danced?This Saturday.”

Truancy Volume 92 – Local Action by TRUANTS


Yamaneko – Seabrooke Rise (Local Action)
P. Morris – Submission Devil Mix
Dark0 – Karmmm
ZMoney – I Can’t Stop
P. Morris – Turtle Lounge
Fatima Al Qadiri – Vatican Vibes
Slackk – Voodoo Sketches (Local Action)
Yamaneko – Slew Wave (Local Action)
Shriekin’ Specialist – Snowy Island Breaks (Local Action)
William Skeng – Graveyard VIP
Dubbel Dutch – Load It Edit
Dark0 – Scyther
Shriekin’ Specialist – Temple 2 (Local Action)
Slackk – Millipede (Local Action)
Murlo – Roman Baths
DJ Milktray – Wifey Riddim Edit
DJ Milktray – Velour Pool
Yamaneko – Tugboat Otherworld Mix
Unknown – Unknown

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...