Label manager – Scott Dawson reveals all you need to know about one of the most influential labels in dance music, Bedrock Records.
Hi Scott, could you tell us how you got into the electronic music scene plus how you met Diggers?
I was very much into the Indie sound of the late eighties with bands like the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and New Order etc which all had electronic undertones so when the big wave of dance music came along in 1989/1990 across the UK it seemed like a very natural progression. From being into anything from Guns N’ Roses to Metallica only a few years before, this wave of a totally new sound combined with an exciting youth culture movement, that my parents and their generation could not comprehend was simply too much to resist. Needless to say the fashion and clothing it brought with it was a vast improvement on the heavy metal look I’d been sporting!
Before long myself and about 20 or 30 good friends were completely enveloped by the scene, driving to gigs all over the country, hunting down mixtapes and listening to them 24/7 which eventually led to me wanting to DJ myself, buying a set of 1210’s, a mixer and god knows how many thousands of records. The main sound I was really into was progressive house and through Renaissance and clubs closer to home like Shindig and the Sugar Shack I was gradually being introduced to the likes of Sasha, John Digweed, Ian Ossia etc.
From going to a lot of gigs I’d kind of gotten to know Sasha a bit and met John a few times but it was when I’d been very fortunate enough to remix BT’s seminal ‘Loving You More’ under the name The Forth with Andrew Archer, James Todd and Mick Clarke that I had my first proper introduction to John by personally handing him an acetate of the remix at a gig with Spencer from Perfecto. Around the time of these remixes, we were also starting up Global Underground along with the Quad Communications and Coded labels that I ran so I was in contact with John on a regular basis from that moment on. Doing the licensing for the compilations he mixed involved a fair bit of direct communication with him as well as ensuring he got the promos from Quad/Coded and we struck up a good mutual relationship.
After leaving GU in 2003 and after some much needed travelling I then started work with Dave Seaman on his newly launched Audio Therapy imprint, which of course kept me in contact with most of the people I’d gotten to know or been involved with throughout the years at GU. Weirdly it was at a Renaissance gig hosted at Shindig in 2007 that I went along to see John play and he told me that he was thinking of closing the label and the reasons why etc. I mentioned if he ever needed any help or advice that I was sure Dave & Sara at Audio Therapy would be cool about me doing some freelance work for Bedrock and help him with managing the label.
Cue a few months later, John got in touch and we talked for a long time about how it would work and some of the plans he had for the forthcoming months. We’d always been friendly and got on well, so it seemed like a natural nice and easy step for us to start working together. Needless to say within a few years we had done a few artist albums along with several compilations mixed by John and it was apparent that this was fast becoming a full time job and one which I was very happy to continue doing.
Can you tell us about your role at Bedrock Records plus who makes the decisions on the signings?
Basically aside from the design and artwork for the label, there is only John and I involved with the running of the label and the webstore and we both share quite a lot of duties. I do find it quite funny at times when people think we have this legion of staff and huge offices in London, I actually get requests if people can pick up merchandise from our shop in London and have to point out that I’m actually based 300 miles away from London and we only have an online store but it’s very flattering that people have this perception of the label and the brand. Effectively I’m the label manager, which involves dealing with artists, contracts, promotion, social media, administration, licensing, delivering audio content, mastering etc etc. Every day is different to be honest and that’s one of the main reasons I love what I do as you’re not just dealing with the same thing day in and day out and it’s constantly evolving. The spontaneity of the Live in albums also puts on a lot of pressure trying to clear as many of the tracks from Johns set as possible, I think the quickest was the latest Miami release which I literally cleared over a weekend, showing I wasn’t the only one working weekends ha ha. I also manage the Bedrock webstore on my own which entails getting items online and managing the content, packing the orders and getting them out to the customers as quickly as possible and keeping a watchful eye on stock as well as dealing with the many enquiries we get.
When it comes to the music ultimately John knows what works on a dancefloor and gets to see it every weekend and try new things out in the clubs but we both listen to music and send each other stuff on a regular basis to make sure we’re both in agreement on the releases. We’re both on the same page musically most of the time, though we have been known to disagree but of course there have been many tracks I have sent him that we haven’t picked up and vice versa. It’s good going with him to gigs to see how some of the music works out in the crowd, seeing the devastation Coyu & Ramiro Lopez’s “That’s Not Happening” caused over a weekend of gigs at first hand was great and then as John handed over to Carl Cox to hear him playing “Donga” from the same Ep was well worth seeing and hearing.
Why do you think people love Bedrock and Diggers so much?
John consistently evolves musically and professionally and that reflects massively on the label and what we do and what we release and his professionalism and attitude towards his fanbase pays dividends in the support he receives. His radio shows reach out to a massive audience and that’s reflected in the demand for him playing in clubs all over the world but I also feel that his listeners have an almost direct weekly contact with him and his music.
Seth Troxler said EDM kids are going to looking for better alternatives in an interview a while back. Are you seeing any evidence of this? What advice can you give to label owners out there who are struggling?
The music industry has been really struggling for nearly a decade now with the introduction of the digital format and it’s something we are all still trying to adapt to. We’ve seen the distributors go bankrupt, retailers collapse and a multitude of labels close down virtually overnight. Nowadays anyone can release a track and make it available for public consumption through a plethora of platforms so it is really tough out there and to be honest we work really hard at keeping things fresh on the label in terms of the sound, design, the parties etc so we have to continuously keep evolving and adapting.
With regards to Seth and the EDM sound, as with everything, music is constantly evolving and trends come and go very quickly but who’s to say these kids won’t move on to something else like rock or the next new buzz word genre of music. If they do stay within the electronic scene no doubt they will explore it until they find the sounds they like as we all do with any kind of music.
We haven’t noticed any spike in sales but the fanbase for the label is constantly growing, but that could be down to many things like social media or working with an artist or remixer that exposes us to another crowd. It was great to go Pacha with John last summer and whilst he was playing 2 young girls came over to the booth to see if they could get a picture of John when he’d finished. I started asking them how their night had been and how they’d got into John’s music, turns out they’d wandered into the Bedrock Arena at Global Gathering and had liked what they heard and had soon forgotten about the other stages. They in turn had brought their friends with them whilst on holiday in Ibiza so it was great to see and hear that from a much younger crowd.
I think you just have to stick to doing what you believe in with music, like fashion it’s very cyclical, so what might not be hot one moment might be the next big thing in a few months time. It is a really tough market out there so you really need to set up a plan for each release and try and get as much exposure as possible for the music and the artist, getting people talking about it and also carry this through even after the release date. It’s a lot of hard work but if you’re really passionate about it then it should definitely pay off, sadly though I think a lot of people be it labels or artists expect almost immediate success and adulation such is the kind of “pop” and “5 second celebrity” culture that seems to exist these days.
Would you say Bedrock’s fans are an older, more ‘clued up’ crowd?
We have an older fanbase but then again that’s expected with a label that’s over 15 years old and John’s legions of fans like me have followed and supported him since the early 90’s. The heady days of the Bedrocks at Heaven and the start of the label along with the classic Bedrock artist tracks cemented a huge following 15 years ago and I’m happy to say a lot of them still follow John and the label. Then again as I said before there is definitely a new wave of much younger followers that have been exposed to John and the label through club nights, festivals, Transitions or social media.
I’ve been very fortunate to go to a lot of gigs with John over the past few years both in the UK and abroad and it’s always great to see people wearing Bedrock shirts in the likes of Russia, Greece, Spain, Romania etc. I deal with these guys personally through the Bedrock store so it’s always nice to meet them in person and say hello. I can also tell from where the orders come from that our releases and music has a truly global reach with orders coming in from Australia to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between.
Everybody will have their own story, but can you tell us about your favourite ever Bedrock gig plus what it meant to you? Who played?
It’s impossible to pick one as they are always great for catching up with everyone from artists on the label to the regulars who travel from the US, Asia and South America to come to our parties. It’s truly amazing how far some people travel to come to these gigs. I think that’s what makes them so special. The vibe and the energy from the crowd are what drives John on to play these marathon sets and having stood next to him in the booth so many times you can see why it’s so infectious. Though I must admit the gig we did at Matter at the O2 Arena was rather special, making my way to the gig I could see the big Bedrock logo beaming from one of the huge advertising neon boards outside of the O2 arena. It was one of the first Bedrock gigs I’d been to since starting work on the label and also since visiting Heaven in the late 90’s, so seeing the Bedrock logo in big neon lights was a bit of a moment for me and a nod to the profile of the label I was now working for. Guy J also did a live PA of his new album material so it was great to see how well the crowd responded to that as well as hear John play some of the upcoming releases. There’s a beautiful breakdown in Ian O’Donovan’s ‘Aurora Borealis’ and seeing all the euphoric hands in the air with the lasers washing over them was a great moment to witness.
Ever been tempted to put yourself on one of the lineups? 🙂
Weirdly – I haven’t actually mixed any tracks together on a set of decks for nearly 10 years now. The last time I had a mix was at Dave Seaman’s, I was sorting his records for him and he left me at his house whilst he went off to do some gigs over a weekend. It took a few hours to actually find the decks under piles and piles of records, but when I did I put some records on whilst I was sorting through them and eventually ended up having a bit of a mix. I think there are much more talented names that should be on the Bedrock lineups than myself, though I’d like to see John’s face if he walked into the booth and saw me playing before him. The last time that happened was in 1998 so he’d probably think he was having some kind of flashback ha ha. Truth be told I’ve never even used CDJ’s or any software yet so I think I’m still a vinyl purist at heart and would have to unearth my 1210’s from the garage to have a mix these days and the idea of going through all of my vinyl scares me to death, been planning on selling it all for the past 10 years now but that in itself will be quite a task.
Label t-shirts have always been a bit nerdy – yet Bedrock has done a really good job making them cool. Who is the brains behind the designs?
Malone Design have done all of the design work from the inception of Bedrock incorporating everything from CD and 12” design to the flyers/posters for the nights through to the merchandise that we do be it t shirts, bags, hooded sweatshirts or whatever. Setting up the webstore when I first started back in 2008, I was sent some of the back catalogue shirts that had been sold through other portals and we found there was quite a demand for them so we started using the album designs on the shirts which were a huge hit with the fans and it’s just stemmed from there really. We do get a high demand to just use the logo on the merchandise but I think some of the slogans and phrases we have used have been equally as popular and we still get regular requests for designs that sold out years ago.
It seems like every artist wants to be on Bedrock. What advice would you give to anyone trying to get a release on the label?
It’s a very privileged position to be in. With the amount of music we get sent from established artists, through to demos from new producers, it can be totally overwhelming sometimes. Sadly – it’s impossible to get back to everyone. We can get sent everything from whole albums to folders full of 30 or 40 tracks, so it’s just an endless task sometimes trying to find the time to sit and go through everything we get sent.
I think ultimately as a producer, you really need to make sure that the labels you are sending music out to, actually release close to the kind of style you are sending them. The amount of tracks we’ve been sent from people saying they’re big fans of the label and they think their track is perfect for us and then you click to listen and it’s some dub step or trance track!
Also sending blanket e-mails to 900 labels where everyone is cc’ed would be an e-mail I would avoid opening. Particularly if there’s a massive musical range within them, as it just shows the producer is just sending a blanket mail out, without really ensuring they are targeting the right labels for their sound. I can understand that they feel they are trying to get the most exposure for their music, but it comes across as a bit lazy and also that they are unsure of their audience or sound.
As I’ve said to a few people in the past I think the best way is to wait until you have a track you are really pleased with and feel really satisfied with as opposed to a half finished track and then send just one track as opposed to a zip folder full of 10 or more tracks.
Personally I find a soundcloud link the easiest to skip through or listen to. Also the most important thing is to label the track correctly and include some contact info, it’s happened with us once before that 2 tracks I’d been sent weren’t properly titled and both John and I wanted to use them on an album release. After a week of trying to find out who the tracks were by, it was only at the very last minute that we found out who the producer was and thankfully both tracks were able to be included.
What if a demo is good but needs refining? Do you have time to help the producer and give them some tips? Does Bedrock ever help with mixing and mastering?
Yeah we’ve helped quite a few artists in this way. John is fortunate enough to play to big clubs all the time and get reactions to tracks so if certain parts need editing or maybe a slight tweak here and there and he’ll suggest this to the artist etc. Same with mixing and mastering, if we hear something that we think needs a bit of a tweak we’ll suggest it to the artist and see what they think before getting it properly mastered. John and Guy J worked very closely on making sure that his debut album ‘Esperanza’ was absolutely perfect before we released it and I think most artists definitely appreciate any feedback or suggestions as ultimately they want the release to be the best it can be.
One thing I have noticed is Bedrock seems to mainly be working with established artists. Given the size of the label, do you think you could be doing more to help new talent? Have you ever thought about setting up a sub label to help new producers?
In all honesty I totally disagree with that as we are constantly working with new producers who haven’t released anything with us previously. Oniris, Richie G, Madben & Yann, Eagles & Butterflies are just a few recent names that come to mind. Guy J and Stelios Vassiloudis who we have both done albums with weren’t established artists when we first starting working with them and they have both developed through releases on the label and now work routinely with other big labels. Bedrock really has enough coming out to be able to properly focus on a sub label so it just wouldn’t be fair on any artists we worked with.
Finally, there’s always something big happening on Bedrock. Can you give our readers some exclusives on what they can look forward to this year?
After the success of the three Underground Sound of Miami releases, in which the last series completely sold out 2 months after the release date, coupled with John’s second residency over the summer at Pacha in Ibiza, we are doing our first Underground Sound of Ibiza compilation. We are complimenting the usual uptempo club vibe that we usually do with an alternative gorgeous laidback poolside CD and have been very lucky to get some great music for both CD’s. We signed an amazing track from King Unique at the very last minute – it’s a lovely vocal track that rounds off the downtempo CD perfectly, as well as new music from Charlie May. John and I are both very pleased at how this disc has come together and we hope this will be an excellent addition to the usual format of this release. People will be able to judge for themselves with the release which is out now and already close to selling out.
The next major release we have was a huge revelation for me and was actually caused by sourcing music for the downtempo Ibiza release. I approached Dan from Pig&Dan to see if he fancied doing an alternative version of one of their previous releases with us and he came back with a quick response which was “Yeah sure but we’ve actually got an albums worth of that type of sound done already.” He wasn’t joking either and true to his word a 78 minute mix of the most luscious chilled out music landed in my inbox almost immediately. The sound fuses lounge beats with jazzy piano vibes and trumpets, latin guitars and breathtaking string soundscapes and after realizing I had listened to it about 20 times in only a few days and being utterly awestruck by how good it sounded, I sent it over to John who was away on tour. Like me, it had an immediate impact on him as well and he quickly got in contact to find out if we could do something with it on Bedrock. It really is a very different vibe to what people expect from us and it might not be our usual sound or Pig&Dan’s for that matter but the quality of music on this album truly speaks for itself and we are very grateful to Pig&Dan to have come on board with us on this project. There were a lot of other works in progress until they had found a home for the album and once we had everything agreed between us all they then began finalizing everything and finally we had an amazing double album from them titled ‘Destination Unknown’. The album is set for release on September 1st and is already getting the great feedback it duly deserves.
Alongside this we also have a very exciting project forthcoming from John Digweed & Nick Muir that will be released at the start of October and more information on that one will be released soon. There are also some new remixes of the Versus project John and Nick released last year that will be coming out over the latter part of summer and autumn as well as some other exciting new singles from other artists
Finally there are also the Bedrock 16th Birthday Party in October where John will be joined by Josh Wink and Pig&Dan amongst others so that really will be a great gig to be at alongside our annual ADE party so both of these should be very special occasions. Look forward to seeing some of you on the dancefloor at these gigs.