Sleazy by name, and ever so sleazy by nature, Sleazy Beats are to mainland Europe what Feel My Bicep is to N.Ireland. Starting life as a blog (still going in fact), there is a strong and consistent aesthetic and sonic quality to their operation, be it the music they write about or release. Vinyl only edits and originals are consigned to limited runs, with no repress, housed on series which are never pushed beyond their natural lifespan. Their four-year catalogue is a pan-global affair, showing off their razor-sharp ear for catching many talented producers for early releases: Tornado Wallace, Max Graef, Andy Hart, Saine, Luvless, Eddie C, Francis Inferno Orchestra, Frank Booker and Bristol’s own Admin.
We caught up with Guy and Kris, captiains of the Sleazy Beats ship, for an in-depth discussion on the label. They’ve also put together a mix of some old favourites from their catalogue and some exclusive, forthcoming bits. No tracklist for this, but post your requests on Mixcloud and we’ll try get them answered.
Sleazy Beats play the Bodywork 2nd birthday in Bristol on 26th February.
What’s the story behind the origins of Sleazy Beats? What prompted you to first start, does the name have any significance?
Sleazy Beats started out as (and still is) a blog that Guy and a couple of other dudes set up for reviewing music back in early/mid 2009. Eventually I got in touch with a guest mix and started getting more involved with some reviews as well. Pretty soon we were chatting about and googling “how to set up a vinyl label” (as you do) and before we knew it the first release was in the works.
Who’s involved and what different roles to you play?
Guy: It’s just Kris and me running things. I take care of all the boring stuff (production, paperwork, admin and accounting) and we do all the A&R-ing and blog stuff together.
Kris: Re the paperwork and accounting, twice a year Guy spends a few sleepless nights doing all the tax issues involved with the label. Since the business is registered in Holland he’s the go to man for the job, I can’t even order a beer or a cheap hooker in Dutch, let alone deal with VAT returns. Kudos to him for that, he’s golden with all his Excel sheets.
Outside the main partners, has there been anyone else involved who’s been pivotal to the label’s success?
Guy: Aye, we’d be absolutely nowhere without All Ears, our distributor. When you start toying with the idea of setting up a label, what springs to mind is the fun and flashy stuff, like artwork, mastering studios and fancy hand-stamped test pressings etc, but the most vital link in the chain is the distributor – the dudes that actually get your stuff into the shops. When they took us on we had no idea how strong their roster was and how much time and effort they invest in their relations with retailers, so we stepped into a pot of gold without knowing we found a shortcut and skipped following the rainbow altogether.
Kris: All Ears indeed, they have been such gents since taking us under their wing since the beginning, and we’d be lost without all the advice we’ve had from their side. Whenever we’re wondering how this or that works all it takes is a quick email to AE and presto we’ve got the answer in a heartbeat. A wealth of information from those guys, it’s apparent they’ve been in the game for as long as they have. Apart from them, shouts out to Graeme (The Revenge) for mastering our first 6 EPs – such a great ear he’s got.
Could you put your finger on the Sleazy Beats sound, and do you think that’s changed with the times since you first started?
Guy: Pulling the plug on the original Sleazy Beats series and starting the Black Ops label was a conscious effort to get out of the slo-mo/edits corner and dip our toes into stuff a bit more geared towards sweaty basements, but the same principles still apply. Now that I think of it, our past few records have been decidedly more disco on a disco tip again, so the circle is almost complete.
Kris: I’d like to think we don’t really have a particular ‘sound’ persay. We did have a few very edit and sample based slo-mo (cringe) releases in our first SBR catalogue, but I really don’t think they sounded very alike at all. Of course I’m biased as all hell but I’d like to think we’ve had a nice, balanced and varied string of releases since day one. I think it reflects where we are as collectors as well, as we tend to buy loads of different stuff from house to disco to edits to balearic etc and not just stick to one genre.
What tracks / EPs are you most proud of signing?
Guy: We’re basically very lucky bastards. It’s amazing to see how many incredibly talented producers we talked into letting us release their music. The first record by Eddie C was obviously special, as everything was new to us and we were dead nervous (I was actually on a roadtrip in Australia when it came out so I had no idea if things were panning out back home). The first release on our Black Ops project by Ben La Desh was also a special one, as it marked a new visual identity and a slight shift in sound.
Kris: Agreed we’ve been incredibly lucky – horseshoe up the rear comes to mind. First release with Ed, SBR03 with Tornado Wallace, SBR04 (just try to sit still during Lewie’s Surface edit), Black Ops 01, and Frank Booker’s Beat Down and Out EP for me. Oh and the Max Graef, Andy Hart and Saine‘s Black Ops ones too, always in my bag and play them any chance I get.
Have there been any that got away?
Guy: We stupidly overlooked Admin’s ‘No Problemo‘ when we cherry-picked a stuffed folder of demos he sent our way . When it popped up on a mix he did for KRPT and we realized we passed on a thing of sheer beauty it was too late, Boogie Café had snapped it up already. Other than that, we’ve had Ben Sun on our wishlist for yonks but he’s committed to Delusions of Grandeur and his own Voyeurhythm imprint so I’m afraid that will never materialize.
Your roster has roots all over Europe. How do you go about A&Ring for releases and deciding who to work with?
Kris: Even though we have a massive sign on our social media pages saying “not signing anything/pls don’t send us demos” we still get sent loads of music it can make our heads spin. Some good but mostly horrid as you can imagine. We tend to come across producers by word of mouth or on their social media pages. Things were so much easier in the SBR days where we could find loads of good producers up on MySpace (RIP). Once one of us finds something interesting we ping it back and forth to make sure we’re both on board or if we disagree with one of the tracks in the package or whatever, and go from there.
Outside the Sleazybeats catalogue, what have been some of your most seminal records since you started the label that might’ve influenced what you guys are doing?
Kris: Well, that’s a tough one. We’ve always been big fans of Mark E’s early bits, all the early Jisco records as well have really been huge for us too. We still love lots of the old Super Value records and bought them all the whole time we were doing our SBR stuff. Love all the Common Edit and 7 “s of Love records (I’d like to think we were all doing similar things at the same time for similar reasons there for a while), Delusions of Grandeur, Skylevel and loads more.
With vinyl being an important part of the label, how has the changing nature of digital and physical music consumption, affected the way you’ve run Sleazybeats?
Guy: We’ve kept things vinyl only since 2010 so the digital side of the industry is something we know very little about. Times are definitely changing in the wonderful world of vinyl though. Lead times at the plant have trippled over the years, making it very hard to plan a release.
Kris: Yeah who knows, once the tenth and final Black Ops release is over and done with maybe we’ll start a digital label to avoid those lead times, ha! Not quite, but indeed it’s been a tad frustrating to watch these traffic jams pile up all of a sudden with the resurgence of vinyl. Thanks Record Store Day.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a label?
Guy: We had a real nightmare with the first release on our balearic sister imprint Fools & Fables, a 10″ by Maricopa. After a string of faulty test pressings the cutting engineer and plant finally sorted things out, so we okayed the fourth test pressing and got things going. Once the record hit the shops we discovered the plant had used the wrong set of lacquers, which meant a gnarly, distorted version of the record was shipped out to stores from Germany to Japan. We managed to recall most of the stock but a fair few pre-orders had already been sent out by then. A right pain in the rear that was.
In more general terms it’s getting harder and harder to find the right balance between doing a limited release and pressing up enough units so make sure everyone that wants one gets a fair chance to pick it up. It does seem we’re at a bit of a tipping point at the moment. Scarcity is part of the appeal and the releases tend to sell out quickly because. But the past four or five EPs were met with such frenzy they were all gone in a day or two, mostly because of crazy pre-sales. Dealing with disgruntled fans who missed out on a record sure isn’t fun. We’re avid collectors so we know it can be really frustrating to come late to the party, but the abuse we’re getting from some folks for sticking to our no-repress policy is pretty nefarious (“misguided elitist cunts” seem to be particularly in vogue these days). People’s sense of entitlement can be truly baffling.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Guy: I still find it hard to believe we managed to release 20 records and sell them all out. I’m also proud of the fact we stuck to our no digital, no repress policy. It might have been foolish when you look at things from a business perspective, but as collectors we don’t think it’s fair to sell something as limited and then just repress the hell out of it once the first batch has sold out. I’d like to see a stencil artist or celebrated photographer try to pull that off.
Kris: Once every six months or so Guy and I get booked together somewhere and get to finally hang out IRL, like in a few weeks in Bristol. It’s always a wicked time as you’d expect and we invariably end up talking about the label – of course what we should do with things in the future, but lots of our chatter involves high-fiving and talking about how lucky we’ve been with our A&Ring so far, who we’ve worked with, the incredible releases we’ve done, and so on. As Guy mentions, 20 records that have all done well is no mean feat, we’re super proud of that.
Are there any other labels that particularly impressing you at the moment?
Guy: There’s tons of great labels out there. I really like what 22a are doing, Golf Channel‘s output is always interesting, and balearic imprint Aficionado are in a real league of their own at the moment.
Kris: The new Outplay record is really nice, we love the guys involved and trust their judgement so even better, one to watch. Rhythm Section has been putting out some really fresh house stuff over the past year or two. On the slow tip, Aficionado definitely, we’ve been tripping over ourselves trying to get ahold of the earlier ones and keep up with the new bits too. They’re setting the bar pretty high.
And are there any young producers you think we should look out for in the coming years?
Guy: I’d keep an eye out for Laurence Guy and Al Zanders this year, they’re both massively talented and don’t whore themselves out. Like I said before, churning them out like there’s no tomorrow might be a necessity if you’re trying to make ends meet but from a label’s perspective it’s the quiet, patient types that are far more interesting.
Kris: Great call on Al Zanders and Laurence Guy. Gotta big-up the Melbourne massive and say Harvey Sutherland. Then I know I’m being biased but I’m going to also say Andy Hart, such a tight producer who knows his chops in the studio, plus a fantastic DJ as well. Never trust a producer who can’t DJ!
Could you tell us about the mix you made for us?
Guy: a bunch of trusted older bits, some forthcoming gear and a fair few tracks from our back catalogue strung together basically. The closing track (by Laurence Guy) will be out on 10″ on Rose Records this year, it’s exceptional.
Bodywork are welcoming you to Bristol next month. Is this your first time in the city? Has Admin been filling you in about what to expect from a night out in the West Country?
Guy: First time in Bristol indeed! Can’t wait to meet Adam (Admin) and explore the city.
Kris: Apart from meeting Adam and partying with the Bodywork boys I’m hoping to try some nice cider – I’ve heard that’s what you have to drink in the South West, yes?
And finally, beyond your Bristol party, what else has you got planned for SB this year?
Guy: The tenth and final release on Black Ops is in the cards. The plan is to wrap things up and start a new series after that, but we haven’t decided on name and aesthetics, so that’ll be something to discuss over a strong espresso in Bristol.
Kris: Cider. Strong cider, this will get the creative juices flowing I know it. Espresso the next morning.