In the turbulent world of music, whether it’s an event, an act or a label, reaching the fifth birthday is an achievement to be celebrated. Notts based electronic imprint Leftback is doing just that this Saturday, choosing the unlikely basement of BOHNS as its venue. Fellow underground promoters Sound Picnic are co-hosting the event too, following a kick-off party in an art gallery last winter, making for a delicious evening if you’re a fan of minimal sounds.
There’s nothing better than burgers and beats, though we’re not sure exactly how many greasy ones will be served up on Saturday. We caught up with Leftback owner Dudley Strangeways to learn more about the label’s history, his musical background and what sounds to expect on the night.
Your label has a pretty refined sound – were you always into the kind of music Leftback puts out?
I always loved music but it’s been a bit of a progression from the early days listening to happy hardcore to what I’m into now. I think the first proper rave I went to was when I was 14, and I haven’t stopped dancing since. I grew up in Mansfield after moving from Birmingham, and even though the scene isn’t great there, it has its perks as everyone is always out.
There used to be some half decent clubs there like one called Limos. Sounds rubbish, doesn’t it? But it was a bit of an institution for me and my friends and I was in there most weekends.
So why did you decide to set Leftback up five years ago?
Just out of frustration really. Michael (McLardy, co-founder) and I weren’t getting much luck sending out demos so we decided to do our own thing, and doing it together meant we went halves on the costs!
Is this the first label you've run?
No, I’ve managed two labels before Leftback. The first, Back to the Future, started as a party that was hosted at Stealth on bank holidays. We’d book artists like Terry Francis and Phil Weeks, to name just a few. That label was focused more on deep, jacking and ‘London’ tech house from the likes of Gideon Jackson, Nathan Coles and the guys from Wiggle, a long-standing club night in London.
Eventually, my sound changed and I decided to set up something fresh with Back to You as I wasn’t running the events under Back to the Future anymore. We released some good music with two of my best mates on this label, but we decided to wrap things up as we got stuck in a bit of a bad deal with the wax we pressed, and we weren’t so keen on releasing purely digital music.
What is your favourite part about running a label?
Having a good laugh with the people who are all part of it.
What was your first Leftback release?
The first Leftback release was a split EP between myself and Michael. I’m pretty sure if you keep your eyes peeled on Discogs you should be able to pick up a copy…
You're about to celebrate your fifth birthday with an event, but did you have a launch party when you kicked off?
Yes, it would have been rude not to! It was just a small affair in the basement of Edins in Hockley.
Everything went a bit mad as people were eating posh cakes upstairs and had to go through our party to get to the toilets. I think we still try to have the same intimate vibe, especially in Nottingham, as most of the crowd is usually our mates so the whole thing feels pretty cosy.
Talk us through the process of each Leftback record...
We usually either get sent tracks or directly ask an artist for music that they would be interested in releasing on Leftback. I do all of the mastering for the label. This ensures that the releases have consistency in sound plus, some may say that I have some issues with control, especially when it comes to the way things sound, so this way everyone’s happy!
James Micallef does all of the artwork for the releases and most for the events too. He’s worked with us from the start and is always on point, particularly with the 5-year artwork which is looking tasty.
Do you have a favourite release on the label?
That would be like picking a favourite child!
Do you think things have changed, five years on?
I think I’ve formed more of a clear direction of where we want to be. After doing the label thing for a while you tend to get to know the right people to contact for certain things so in that sense, I would say running it is easier.
How did you get to know Sound Picnic and why did you decide to collaborate?
I’ve known Dec for a while and their sound has moved in line with what we do, so it seemed obvious to pool resources. It’s hard enough running an event and after all, it’s just about throwing a good party with decent people so it’s great to have them on board.
And now you're partying together in a burger basement...
I think we’ve been lucky to find BOHNS. The manager Tom is open-minded to things that are little from the norm so it makes things so much easier.
Can you recommend any tunes to get us in the mood for the birthday bash?
The latest release from Leftback features two of the artists playing on the night, Annie Errez and Luke Black, who’s actually performing live. The other tracks on the EP are also belters so it’s got to be this one.
Sound Picnic presents 5 Years of Leftback takes place on Saturday 2 February at BOHNS, from 10pm – 5.00am, with Annie Errez, Tjin, Luke Black, Bunny, Chris Boardman, Dudley Strangeways and the Sound Picnic residents.
Visit the event page online for more information and tickets.