Alex’s history of promoting and DJing stretches back to his time as one half of The Insurgents, before creating the now legendary London afterparty Retox with Dominic Cools-Lartigue of Leicester Square’s Home club. Retox presented the likes of Andrew Weatherall, Claude Vonstroke and Jamie Jones and fast became one of the capital’s choice clubnights, providing one of the few regular Sunday highlights of the city’s electronic scene.
“Before [Retox], I started off playing garage years ago and then got into house and techno, but the first big thing I was doing was as a resident at Big Beat Boutique, alongside Radioslave and Touché and Fatboy Slim, who would play occasionally. I was doing that every two weeks. I’d travel down to Brighton, the Concorde 2. I was only in my early 20’s then and I was playing alongside Tiga, LCD Soundsystem and Soulwax, which was wicked. It was amazing, absolutely amazing. I was playing alongside the biggest acts that I admired.”
That DJ experience soon encouraged him to move into the realm of labels, after meeting Jamie Russell in Brighton. A discussion on the lack of inspirational music drew Jones and Russell closer to the idea of a label to house the best in inventive dance music, and after a chance encounter in Soho, Jones found that discovering new talent was easier than expected:
“At that point, I was working in Soho as a creative director of an agency and my mate Chris [Spero, aka Glimpse] was working in a record shop next to where I was working. I was going in there buying a lot of music, records and stuff, from there and Phonica. He was working in a studio below this record shop and I sort of got to know him. So that was the first record we put out, a Glimpse release [2007’s ‘Talking To Girls’ EP], and it did pretty well. Richie Hawtin and all that lot were playing his stuff. That was a good way to start, you know.”
It’s been six years since that first release, and Jones has found the running of a label a learning curve; often frustrating, but nevertheless rewarding. Having “made a lot of mistakes that cost us a fortune” – including dealings with distributors that “went down and took everyone’s money” and work with international labels like Kompakt made difficult by virtue of the language barrier – Hypercolour
is finally “starting to pay off, financially.” The fact that it’s taken so long to get to this point is down to an uncompromising underground attitude, driven by a limelight-shunning approach.
“We’re not churning stuff out to look cool to other people. We’re not wearing the clubbing attire, sunglasses indoors, high-fiving anyone that you think might be able to push you up the social ladder. Up until now we’ve been fairly enigmatic really, we’re not out at these parties, we’re not seen socializing with people for fame, really.”
Much of Hypercolour’s
attraction for artists is the label’s behind-the-scenes, non-invasive approach; Jones refuses to accept much of the credit his label is due, simply saying the label “helps to facilitate what [artists] do.”
That way of working has its foundations in Jones’ own production, where he found himself moving further away from his own personal style as he subconsciously tried to fit in with the sounds of the labels he targeted: “You’re not really doing what you love or what you want to do, you’re doing it to try and fit in with something and have your music released through a professional channel. We want to encourage our artists to completely push the boundaries, because it’s more interesting. We spend a lot of time searching out new artists, just stuff that we find interesting, and then giving these people a chance.”
One such example is Huxley, who has proven of the label’s most exciting artists. “That ‘Let It Go’ track was massive for him, but he’s been making music for ages and releasing music on other quality labels. It just so happened that that track was the biggest on us. I guess it’s a pat on the back for us, but I can’t say that we’re the reason people are famous or are doing well but I’d like to say we’ve helped out some of the people.”
While many of their releases come from targeting new artists and offering their services, two of Hypercolour’s greatest successes have come from producers coming to them. One, Maya Jane Coles, was as a result of the London producer sending the label a demo track, later released in 2010 as the ‘Humming Bird’ EP. The most recent addition to Hypercolour’s roster, Groove Armada, has surprised many, not least because of the manner in which the dance legends joined the label. “They sent us an email and said ‘Would you be interested in releasing our music’. And I was like ‘Yes, obviously, you’re Groove Armada!’ and the stuff they’re making is wicked. We threw a party with them down in London Bridge, at Great Suffolk Street Warehouse, and they kicked the shit out of it. They were playing hard techno, sort of a warehouse vibe, and the new EP, it’s just the most well produced piece of dance music. Early morning warehouse vibes, and I think that’s what our label’s all about.”
The duo’s ‘No Knock’ EP, is a perfect example of Hypercolour’s ability to find quality music that fits their style, a rejection of the style Jones refers to as ‘sunbed house’. “I just like stuff that interests me. I like stuff that makes you think a bit. And that’s our ethos. If we’re working with artists, we’ll say to them ‘Look, that sounds alright, but you’ve got complete free rein with our label, i.e. make it as weird as you like. The weirder and stranger the better.”
Hypercolour is just one of many labels that Jones, Russell and Ste Roberts are connected with, each with their own purpose, style and vision. Jones describes these labels as “all having their own place… we’re in contact with so many artists that are giving us so much different, good quality music that rather than just let it all fall by the wayside through own channel, we set up various other labels to accommodate these different sounds.’ From the UK bass sound of Losing Suki and Sneaker Social Club to the boutique picture discs of Glass Table, the house/techno of Initials and the white-label edits released through W.H.Y.T.E. each imprint has a distinct identity under the Hypercolour umbrella, linked together by Jones’ artwork for all releases.
Each release is guided by a desire to create collectible artifacts; every release on Hypercolour and its connected imprints is put out on vinyl, and this year marks the decision to move into releasing full-length albums. “I think as artists mature and get further into their careers, it’s something that they want to do. And as well with us as a label, it’s the next logical step to start releasing albums. It’s a bit more grown-up isn’t it. We’re doing the next Kris Wadsworth album, after Get Physical. We’re doing, again, a no boundaries sort of thing. It’s a nice sort of thing for an artist to be able to do. Tom Demac as well, we’re releasing an album by him. I’m probably going to do an album, if I ever get the time to myself.”
Live, Hypercolour are no strangers to presenting their wares as a collective; just this month, five of the label’s producers appeared as part of a Hypercolour takeover of London’s groundbreaking Boiler Room. Representative of the Hypercolour events that have seen them takeover Fabric and travel as far as Miami, their night at the Boiler Room “turned into a rave, on a Tuesday night… [Boiler Room] said they’d never seen anything like it.” The unique atmosphere at Hypercolour events is typically down to the sort of people attending; “we’re all friends and we bring a lot of like-minded people. It’s serious but I think you can tell there’s no-one pretentious in our gang.” Bringing that to Manchester as part of this season’s The Warehouse Project, Hypercolour are set to raise the bar of label showcases at WHP. “Everyone talks about [The Warehouse Project]… For us to be invited is superb and it means that we’re doing something right. It should be good!”