Over the past four years SUOL Records has quickly become one of the go to labels for deep, disco tinged house & techno calling themselves home to such luminaries as Fritz Kallbrenner, Trickski, Daniel Bortz and the labels boss's Chopstick & Johnjon.
The success of the labels and it's core of artist has now let this small family grow into an ever expanding small empire with the label now managing and taking bookings for it's artists and even dabbling in some tasty looking apparel.
So 'Where did SUOL start?' and 'Where is SUOL going?' we here you cry! Well after appearing on Future Disco Radio last week, we got a chance to catch up with Chopstick aka Chi-Thien Ngyuen to ask these exact questions...
Greetings from London, how's the weather in Berlin this time of the year?
Greetings back to London! The weather has finally turned and it almost feels like spring time... At least during the day.
So tell us a little about how you and John met, it was in Hamburg right?
John and I met through our common friend Karen. John was a DJ at that time and i was producing and Karen thought we'd be a good team... and that was 12 years ago! I laughed at john's production skills whereas he laughed at my DJ'ing skills... But we both had common ground which was the vinyl collection. So we met up at my studio one day and started making music... and here we are... still making music together!
I moved to Berlin because in the early 2000's my brother has moved to Berlin and I was still producing lots of hip hop music with my brother. John came about 3 years after and ever since then I have felt really at home in berlin.
How do you find DJing and producing as a duo? Do you enjoy the companionship on the road and in the studio?
We definitely do it because it's more fun if you have a partner in crime by your side. We've been DJ'ing for 12 years all around the globe together now and we really have a good vibe when playing. It's of course very important too that the result of a duo should be better than doing it on your own, but luckily we know each other so well now that we appreciate what we as individuals stand for. In the studio e.g. john has his part and I do too... So we don't get in each others way. If we both didn't have soooooo much fun DJ'ing and producing together, we wouldn't do it obviously.
Who are some of your favourite duo's through-out time (musical or otherwise)?
Good question... Off the top of my head Outkast, The Neptunes, Daft Punk, Lennon & McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel... Some of them have a successful solo career but the duos definitely stood the test of time well.
I was working for a well known dance label in Germany in the early 2000's and John and I just got frustrated with talking to the head A&R and also other labels. They loved the stuff we did and then suddenly the next day the A&R would tell us to produce it more like the #1 track in the dance charts. Since most of the A&R's weren't club kids like we were, we got sick of listening to people who thought they knew the "underground sound" better than we did... So we started our own label by the name of Criminal Records. we basically did all the mistakes with Criminal Records and learned from it and did it right again with SUOL's predecessor baalsaal. We had some problems with the name baalsaal so we had to change it to SUOL in 2010 and things are running smoothly ever since!
You have close knit core of artists on SUOL; do you think this is important in the development for both artist and label?
Yes! In times where everybody is left on their own trying to survive in the music business, we started a different approach with our artists. It's nothing new but it's the core rule for us that we're all very good friends and get along on a personal level. We make a 5 year plan with all of our artists and there's an appreciation on both sides, label and artist - and that makes the label work fun again. Unfortunately there is a downside as well, we cannot sign any new artists even though we're being sent awesome demos. We have a responsibility for our artists and we're proud of them too and love working with them so we can't make release slots available for new artists. It's great to see artists such as Till von Sein rise or Fritz Kalkbrenner for example sold out his album tour at huge venues... Those are the moments when we realize what it's all for... And it feels great!
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start their own record label?
Patience, persistence, determination and enough good spirit as on the way there will be many who will leave you frustrated such as letters from the GEMA, IRS, etc. And if you do something, do it right - what i mean is start a label that releases vinyl as well... Not only digital. Get solid good mastering too and not the €20 mastering etc... It takes some money to accomplish all of that but in the end it will be worth it. And don't put out music based on a trend, rather on an artists vision which you believe in.
We've featured your track 'Roots' on our upcoming compilation 'Future Disco Vol. 7' which features the vocals of Signaljacker… How did you hook up with Signaljacker, is he someone you've wanted to work with for a while?
Yes actually we did. Signaljacker is Chris James from the band Stateless (!K7, Ninja Tune) and we loved his voice every since we heard "Bloodstream". Our UK promoter sent us a track where chris was singing and we asked him who the singer was and our promoter hooked us up right away. so we got chris in my studio for a session and the three of us clicked right away and we recorded 6 songs in 5 days. Chris is an amazing songwriter and singer... We're happy that he plays a major role in our album.
It was recorded at Panorama Bar two weeks ago. We played for four hours and everyone who's been there knows what it feels like... Really one of the best clubs ever!
So what's next for Chopstick & Johnjon and SUOL Records?
Our debut album "Twelve" is coming out in april... Really excited to release it. It's a full on vocal album with Chris James singing- but don't worry, there are some club tracks on it too and also two tracks we did with our buddy Tanner Ross from the Wolf + Lamb Camp. The album single is being promoted now with remixes by Death On The Balcony and Jay Shepheard.
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