2015 felt like a monumental year for Dutch house. On the one hand it was met with the closure of it’s most famous club, Trouw. On the other hand, as if on cue, it saw the emergence of a new generation of producers and labels, that haven’t so much filled the void but rather offered something new and exciting to keep the Dutch torch burning bright.
Detroit Swindle have been part of the guard for some years, but over the last three years their own Heist Recordings made a real impact in house circles, as has the talented people that came to release with them. Aside from giving Max Graef one of his first releases, their catalogue also includes contributions from Fouk, Nachtbraker, Brame & Hamo, M.ono, Frits Wentink and Andy Hart; a who’s who of some of Europe’s most exciting house producers.
We’ve been big supports of their output on the site, so welcomed the opportunity to quiz Detroit Swindle on the history and future of the label. They’ve also put together a nostalgic mix to accompany, with a couple exclusives.
Catch Detroit Swindle and Heist Recordings hosting a stage at Farr Festival 2016.
Heist Recordings have been unstoppable last year, how do you feel 2015 has treated you?
2015 was a year where we made some big steps for the label. It really felt like the label has grown. We had the opportunity to release new work from artists that had already released with us, which is a big deal for us. Working with artists that are happy with how you run your label is key to build something consistent. We’ve also released our second Roundup LP, which is really a cool project for us to work on with all artists of that year coming together and adding their interpretations of the best tracks of the year. It also feels like a good preparation for 2016. We’ve been doing loads of A&R to expand the Heist sound, so yeah, it’s been a good year.
What’s the story behind the origins of the label? What prompted you to start and does the name have any significance?
We both really liked the idea of curating a certain type of music, and creating an outlet for music that fits within the spectrum of Detroit Swindle and what we stand for musically. An important reason for us to create our own label was to have full creative ownership of the music we put out. With Heist, we can do what we want and do it without any compromise. Namewise, we wanted something that fitted within the world of the ‘Swindle’. We chose Heist cause it felt like a name that worked by itself, but if you look a bit further, you see the connection with us as well.
Outside yourselves, has there been anyone else involved who’s been pivotal to the label’s success?
How about all the artists? Without Max Graef’s amazing EP as a follow up on our Break Up To Make Up EP, Frits Wentink’s tight rhythms or the nu-funk of Fouk, we’d be nowhere. Of course, there’s some people behind the scenes that make sure that things run smoothly. We have Peter and Sonja running everything from the label apart from art direction and A&R, which we do ourselves. They are pivotal to the success, as is our co-operation with Word & Sound, our distribution partner.
You’ve welcomed some fine new acts to the label this year, and we’ve particularly enjoyed the Nachtbraker and Fouk EPs. What’s the A&R process in deciding what music to release?
There’s one golden rule: we both have to be blown away by the tracks we release on Heist. It has to be unique and really display identity. We really need to feel the personality of the artist in the music. There’s already too much music out there that doesn’t make you feel anything, that’s plain and generic, and Heist needs to stand out. That means we have to do a lot of research, and work with artists that are willing to fine-tune the music they release with us in such a way that we feel that we’ve released the best tracks possible.
Following on from that, could you put your finger on the Heist ‘sound’ or a common thread running through all your releases?
I think that any ‘sound’ of a label is hard to describe. It’s something you feel. So if we talk about feeling, the music on Heist feels energetic, warm, wonky and bridges classic funk and disco with modern electronics.
Have there been any artists or track that slipped through your fingers?
We’ve been very selective on the artists we approach and we take our time in talking about what we want from someone. Of course, there’s always artists that you talk to that decide to focus on other labels for releasing, but luckily, we’ve been able to release pretty much everything we wanted.
The label has some pretty iconic artwork which has become a trademark of quality for the music you release. How important is the aesthetic of the label and could you give us some background into how you settled on the look of the label?
The label aesthetic is almost as important to us as the music. We’ve worked with one guy (Baster) from day one, cause we knew he was the one to translate our love for minimal visuals into something that is recognizable, exciting and sexy. We meet with him regularly to see how we can innovate without losing the original vibe of the visual style. I remember we really wanted to do something with a diamond, because with a Heist, you steal diamonds. Classic Pink Panther style. He was really reluctant at first, because it’s super hard to find a unique way to visualise the diamond – it’s been used countless times. By the time we were meeting with Baster to see his first concepts, we had already kinda discarded the idea of the diamond because of his strong arguments against it, and then he suddenly came with the artwork we have now, with the distorted 2D diamonds. It all came together right there. Now entering our third year, we’ve moved from black & white to colour, have done special sleeves for the Round UP EPs and we’re already thinking about the next steps.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a label?
Our biggest challenge has probably been to fit our work for the label within our super busy calendar in such a way that doing something for Heist is fun and cool, rather than stressful and time consuming. The work Peter and Sonja do behind the scenes is really important to make sure this stays this way.
What achievements are you most proud of?
That we’ve managed to build a strong label in such a short amount of time and that people love it for exactly the same reasons we do. One of the biggest compliments we’ve gotten so far is that Heist is a ’blind buy’ for someone. “You just know it’s good. No need to check the tracks, just buy the record.”
Heist’s first release was only back in 2013 but already Detroit Swindle and the label are at the helm of Dutch house and dance music. What have been some of the most important steps forward for yourselves and the label?
We’ve worked really hard to release some of the music we really absolutely believe in with Heist, and we do things with the same energy and belief with our own music. We both agree that if you’re doing what you love, and do it without compromise, good things will happen. That’s why we decided to go for 180 grams vinyl, that’s why we press at a top quality plant, and that’s why we choose quality in everything over quantity and choose identity over trend.
How does it feel to now have a named fan-base, ‘Swindlers’, like Lady GaGa’s ‘Monsters’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘Beliebers’?
Haha, I don’t think anyone calls himself a Swindler! But we’ve used it on some occasions for tickets and stuff. It does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Outside Heist, are there any labels that are particularly impressing you at the moment?
There’s loads of labels we really really love. Lumberjacks in Hell is always amazing, as is Golf Channel. We both also really love Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Numbers and Mister Saturday Night and countless others. We keep an eye out on as much new music as possible, but it’s just impossible to keep track of everything. We still try though 😉
Could you tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve recorded for us?
The mix was recorded during Christmas, so we were a bit sentimental. We’ve included a selection of last year’s gems and finished it off with a 2016 exclusive: Frits Wentink’s ‘Child Of The Universe’, coming out on Heist end of January.
What’s in the pipeline for DS and Heist in 2016?
We’ve got a truckload of new music coming up, with a lot of new signings. The first EP of 2016 for Heist will be the new Frits Wentink. We’ll be doing one as well early next year, and we’ve got Nebraska with an amazing EP in spring, along with new signing Ouer and Keppler Sound District and we’ve working on a lot more. I fear next year’s Round Up EP is gonna be need some more space with this amount of music coming on Heist.