For our first piece we had the pleasure of having a few words with one of the games major players and boss of one of my favourite labels. DJ/Producer and Tsuba records head honcho Kevin Griffiths.
Kevin Griffiths is founder and label head of Tsuba, one of theUK’s most respected imprints releasing deep, sexy underground house and techno.
2010 was all about a new project with good friend Justin Drake. The ‘Nightmoves’ EP was released in December on 8 Bit and ‘The Devil’s Eyes’ on Fear Of Flying, reaching number 1 in the tech house chart on Juno. ‘Midnight Special’ followed in February this year on Tsuba as part of the 5 Year special EP release. The 5th anniversary of Tsuba was celebrated by parties at Fabric in London, Watergate in Berlin, Supermarket in Zurich and tour of Australia and New Zealand.
A day in the life of……….Kevin Griffiths.
My daughter is 4 so gets up every single day without fail at 7am. I start the day with a tea and am sat at my desk by 9am going through emails, checking sales on Intergroove & Beatport and working out what I need to do for the day. This morning included MCPS registrations for the last couple of releases, finalising the artwork for the next Tsuba remixes album and going through some of the pages of the new website. The release schedule is about 6 months ahead so this year is pretty much done and I’m working on Q1 next year. I’m doing two artist albums next year so there’s a lot to plan for that in terms of timings, remixes, balance of tracks etc. I’m constantly reviewing the schedule and I spend a lot of time just thinking about the right flow of releases & making sure the music is really strong. I probably turn down 9/10 things and strive for the releases to be of a very high standard. When a project needs a remix, I try to go for the interesting option that has the wow factor. This sometimes means waiting a long time; I just waited 7 months for Steffi to deliver her remix of Jordan Peak’s single. It’s well worth it though, an outstanding mix from someone very talented that will still sound good in say 10 years time. After lunch I hand stamped & numbered 500 sleeves which took 2 hours. It’s quite mundane but I love doing it and the DIY vibe of it. With ‘stampers arm’ I retired for the day with a nice cold beer.
Where did it all begin for you?
I’ve worked in the business side of music for about 15 years. I started out at a club promotion company stuffing mailers & within a year I was compiling monthly promo cd’s for DJ’s working with a range of labels, both major and indie. I then moved onto a music website called icrunch, which was the first legitimate download site in the uk (way ahead of its time) where I was responsible for acquiring digital rights & managing content from labels. My next job was a step up from that as head of label management at amato, who at the time were the largest distributor of 12″ vinyl in the UK. I guess that’s the role where I really understood the mechanics of the market and the business side of a record label. Running a sizeable label was the next logical move, so I set up Fine in the UK, home to Tiefschwarz, Mocky & others, where I ran the label in London with regular visits to the head office in Berlin. Upon being made redundant it took me about 1 minute to decide to start my own label and Tsuba was born. Here I am 5 years later!
Ever since the start I’ve always been a vinyl junkie, amassing a great collection of records over the years. I’ve always DJ’ed and have owned 1210’s for nearly 20 years now. I started to take DJing a bit more seriously about 5 years ago when I started the label.
Lowlights or highlights from your first gig.
It was most likely a bar gig which is how I started out. I used to get quite nervous in those days so probably had a few beers to calm the nerves. I tend not to get nervous these days as I make sure I’m prepared and the more gigs you do the easier it gets without doubt.
Who or what are your influences (in and/or out of music?)
I still get a buzz from discovering new music and talent. My thirst for that is the same as ever and I still spend far too much money on Juno & Phonica. I’m a sucker for anything that’s limited or collectable, be it something like the stablo series of vinyl only 12’s or an Amy Winehouse ska 7” which I bought this week. It’s nice to have a broad collection, not purely limited to dance music. I love the aesthetic of vinyl, the packaging & artwork that you just don’t get with a download. I’m not dissing downloads, as I still buy a lot for DJing, but I like to have a tangible collection as well.
With Tsuba increasingly I’m a lot more into the visual side of things so I take a lot of time figuring out the sleeves and the overall look of the label. I have quite a clear idea of the identity I want, and at the moment I’m in the middle of a big re-design centred around the website, which has turned into a big project. The artwork has been given an overhaul, so once the website is up everything’s going to look a bit more coherent. Aside from that I love hanging out with the family, drinking nice wine, eating great food and watching a decent box set like the wire. I’m also going a bit crazy for ca4la hats from Japan right now. I’m a simple man!
How do you prepare for a DJ set?
Preparation means spending time listening to new music, burning CDs and going through & organising my CD wallet with the set in mind. I do this for every single gig without fail and it means I can chill out in the run up to the gig knowing I’m prepared. I try to have a loose structure to my sets, but invariably go off on tangents and try new things out. Otherwise every set would be the same which would get boring. DJing is the easy bit and I really enjoy it. The hard bit is getting the good gigs and the travelling.
Any advice for the newbie.
These days you need to produce if you really want to do well as a DJ. Do it with some soul and expression if you can, and not just purely to get gigs. With my a&r hat on, the really talented people stick out a mile for having personality & soul in their music. Don’t just stick a bunch of loops together.
Big thanks go out to Kevin for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. Many props out to ya dude…….
Kevin’s latest mix offerings for the Mooch podcast can be found here: http://moochlondon.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/mooch-podcast-013-kevin-griffiths/