What started off as an instinctive desire to put out a track by their friend (the, then, little-known Deadboy), turned into a four-year labour of love for Donga and Richta, in the form of Well Rounded Records. Since then, the label has branched off into three other arms (WR Individuals, WR House Project and WREDITS), a record store has opened at the bottom of Trafalgar Street and many a party thrown. All in all, it’s garnered significant acclaim from critics and lovers of electronic music that really pushes the boundaries.
As well as Deadboy, names like Hackman, xxxy and Leon Vynehall owe much to the early support of WR and others like Submerse and South London Ordnance have spoken at length about how much their current success owes to the initial support from the label. While many labels are defined most by the music they release, for Well Rounded their output is just one aspect of their unique personality. Be this through the approachability of co-founders Donga and Richta, who can always be found at the WR Vinyl Vendors; how they openly engage with fans online; or the way they put on parties – for their summer series, the DJs playing were never revealed beforehand.
Sadly, the end of 2013 also marks the end of the label as we know it, but there are plans afoot to take stock and start afresh. In our Q&A we look forward to the last remaining releases on the label, and the other aspects of Well Rounded that will still be going strong come 2014. Co-founder Donga has also put together a mix for us, which he describes as “the opposite of what I’d usually play out. I was looking for contrasting sounds for a bit of a strange journey for the listener, drawn from a selection that shows some of the deeper diversity of the house and techno we stock at the shop.”
WREDITS2 is out now, which you can buy from WR Vendors or online. Catch the Well Rounded free parties at the Green Door Store, on the last Thursday of every month. The next one will be with East London Club Trax on 28th November.
With Well Rounded Records winding down at the end of this year, what’s your overwhelming feeling as you count down the last few releases?
A certain sense of relief. I think four or so years of struggle is enough for now. It takes up a lot of space in my mind, even when I’m not physically working on it. I really feel deeply it’s a time for me to revise my goals and strategy. We found ourselves in a competitive market place and that lacks dignity for me. ‘Success’ is a secondary thing for me. Not compromising has it’s own sweet rewards.
What record are you most proud to have released?
Truthfully I could NEVER single out one. Each release has it’s own gestation (often too long thanks to delays) and accompanying relationship with the artist. Some are simple and straightforward, others long and involved. But we have never released anything we did not think was superb. In fact, I could justify our aims with each individual project. They are all great records in my opinion.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing with (a little) more time available.
I’m not expecting to notice much change with how busy I am. If I can fit it in I am going to be making my own music more often. I’ve been further inspired by running the shop – you hear what others are up to and think, I’ve got something to say too, I can do this. I want to put my voice out there in musical terms.
You’ve said before how Well Rounded was run on instinct and intuition. Did the response you got after announcing the closure of WR Records make you question your initial decision at all?
Not really. I was surprised at some of the sincerity on the facebook page and if any of those posters are reading this – once again – I really appreciate that you care at all! While relying on the internet to gauge interest can be tempting it can also be dangerous. On a broader scale, I think less and less people are bothered. So, I want to return to an empty page, metaphorically speaking.
Can you reveal any more details about the collective that you plan to build out of the ashes of WR Records?
I’m playing around with ideas. I think it could be quite sporadic. Rather than being open and seeking an audience as we have been with WR I think this project will be there to be discovered by people who already watch for us and those who invest energy in seeking out treasure, rather than those that follow the taste directives and trends that exist in certain quarters of the media.
Without discarding the final few WR releases, WREDIT2 came out this week. For those not familiar with this side of Well Rounded, can you give a little run down.
I guess tracks that have used some potentially identifiable samples and sources to create new tracks or versions around. Probably not material the artists would consider wholly original so we release them in this low-key way just to have the pleasure of playing and hearing them on vinyl. Therefore, to justify the effort and expense, they have to be pretty darn good!
And can you tell us a bit about the release itself.
The latest one features tracks from some long-term friends and supporters of WR; people that we have always wanted to work with. If we can deepen the working relationships in the future that would be ace but, for now, no confirmed plans to announce.
Focussing on the Well Rounded Vendors now, will the absence of the record wing encourage any changes to the way you approach running the shop?
Not at all. I’d like to get stock from more suppliers, but we need an increase in trade for that. By it’s nature, the shop is a business. We cant afford to lose money doing it. So far, we are managing quite well.
Last time I was in the store you described a track as sounding like “fluffy mushrooms”. For me, the written descriptive labels on your records is something which characterises WRV. Are there any particular favourites of yours, written in a moment of inspiration or madness?
(Splutter) are you sure you’ve remembered correctly? I am prone to trying to describe how music affects me but that sounds a bit tooo hippy even for me! My favourites at the moment from memory are ‘All the pneumatic synth flatulence you’ll ever need…’ and ‘Wbeeza is the geeza’. If the drums in a tune make me think of an elephant in a tutu it’s possible I’ll write that on the sticker. Why the hell not? Although I often take things too seriously, other record shops can be overly sober. I wonder if people are scared to express personality and character through their outlet for fear of alienating potential customers. Of course they may not offend the majority but freaks like me think, c’mon – show me some imagination!!
Moving onto the Well Rounded monthly parties what’s the mission statement with these ones. An extension of the summer series or a complete mix-up?
It’s a basic continuation of what we’ve always done. Smash out possibly the best night in Brighton with no hype. I really believe people really should come and get down. We get great crowds, responses and feedback. It’s growing. I’m also generally looking to book guests that are at the point where they show massive potential but are just appearing on the underground. Be interesting to see if any of these peeps get ‘bigger’ but I think the majority are doing it for personal musical reasons first so it dont really matter!
Can you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?
It’s a genuine improvised session done with 100% vinyl – actually a whole bunch of stuff i took from our shop the other day. I’m looking for a diversity of sounds that provoke various responses in me -from stuff that’s warm, soulful and immediate across to the other extreme where things may get dark, colder, brutal and somewhat challenging. Mixing at home without the interaction with a dancefloor i think leads me to experiment more. I’m really trying not to 2nd guess my instincts – comfortable being unsure of the exact destination or route i’m taking but happy to surrender to the experience of an unfamiliar journey.
Speaking to you previously about the Brighton ‘scene’, you’ve been hesitant to disclose too much, so we’ll keep the question more closed. Is there anyone who’s doing good things for Brighton music at the moment?
The Green Door Store is always supportive when I come to them with ideas, and AkaAkaRoar have helped out in a big way – serious thanks to them. The Rarekind Records building where we are situated on the first floor is an essential place for serious vinyl diggers. Between the three floors you can access almost any music style out there!Rather than the ‘scene’ I’d like to celebrate the ravers, record buyers, vinyl DJs and supporters, of whom I have met many out at nights and in our store. I realised recently they’re the lifeblood of our activities in this town.
And on a musical level is there anyone particularly impressing you?
I do rather like Lorca as I’m sure I have said many times before, Anushka have some beautiful songs and a LOT of talent, the 877 record label is underrated. The new My Nu Leng remix EP with versions by Alias and Kry Wolf is so sick – bass-lovin’ DJs should be all over it. I dont care for gettin lumped in with other people by simple geography; a good maxim is ‘It aint where you’re from – it’s where you’re at’.
Finally, as the end of the year approaches, I’m sure we’re not the only ones wondering, but are there any plans afoot to mark the passing of WRR? It is a hell of an excuse for another party!
Weeelllllll, we’re in discussions about a possible large show in December. Watch our social networks. If it comes off, look out!! It’ll blast your ass to another dimension 😉