The rise of Tom Budden epitomises what can be achieved when a dance music obsessive channels all that dancefloor enthusiasm wisely. By patiently building a reputation and not being afraid of the graft as well as the good times, he’s carved out an enviable position for himself as an in-demand DJ, producer, promoter and label owner at the helm of Alive Recordings.
Taking ALiVE Recordings over the landmark 20th Release is Tom Budden’s hypnotic; piano-infested “The Deal” dropping with plenty of feel good vibes just in time for those summer terrace moments. The first remix comes from Toronto’s Daniel Dubb who has been riding high in the deep house charts of late with his releases on 8Bit, Plastic City and Supernature. His bootleg alongside fellow Canadian ‘Sean Miller’ of Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ has been huge for Steve Lawler recently and caused quite a stir in Miami this year. His remix of the Deal strips things back to a deep house groove with loads of funk.
ONNO from Amsterdam delivers a seriously solid remix. Stripping things back to a solid techy workout underpinned by a big rolling bassline. Chopping the vocals down even more and using them to full effect before bringing the main piano hook to seal the deal!
Over the last 20 releases ALiVE Recordings has methodically earned a position as one of the most exciting labels in dance music, and its continued ascent looks as sure-fire as Tom Budden’s enviable track record.
Congratulations on AliVE reaching 20 releases. Tell me, did you launch the label with certain aims and what was the thinking behind ALiVE?
I had just started to produce some tracks, mainly collaborations with friends and although I had been dj’ing for 10 years or so, I was an unknown producer. I wasn’t sure what to do with this material, so decided the best solution was to set up a label as an outlet for the music. So with a little help, ALiVE was born! Musically the aim was to be a representation of the sort of stuff you would hear me play in a club whether it’s the start of the night or later on.
The first three releases on the label were your own materiel, was there a conscious decision to release your music yourself rather than other labels?
The fact that these were the first few releases I had put out and that I was unsure of which labels to send them to really gave me one option, to put them out myself. It seemed to work quite well from the start so I’ve carried on.
Your “3-D” project takes the label over the 20th release, can you explain it, you produced the first three releases on the label and now these three, it doesn’t signal the end does it?
Oh definitely not! There’s plenty more to come after number 20. The three tracks were going to come out a little earlier and separately, but some things got held up as I’ve found they often do when running a label. I was then going to release all three as an ep, but had some people that I wanted to get involved for remixes so decided this was the perfect opportunity to call them in and release as 3 separate releases. It’s basically 3 tracks, each with 2 remixes from label regulars like Teva and Daniel Dubb, to artists who’s music I’ve been playing heavily over the last 6 months or so, like Jet Project, ONNO and Arnaud Le Texier.
Your rise to fame certainly hasn’t been an overnight success, would you agree? Is there any particular artists that have played a big influence in your sound?
Its taken a while that’s for sure. I’d been dj’ing for over 10 years and had some pretty good gigs like Cocoon at the End, Renaissance at the Cross and a residency at The Key in London just off the back of my dj’ing, but I’d say the production and running the label is really what helped push things forward. It’s really a mix of all kinds of people that have influenced my sound and although I’m into all sorts of stuff, Craig Richards & Lee Burridge at the early Tyrant nights at Fabric were a big influence with their dubby tech house along with Danny Howells’ warm ups at Bedrock at Heaven.
How do you do “The Tree Dance”?
That comes from an old friend of mine, Andy, who really loves a party. Quite often we’d be sat around after a night out, some years ago, having a drink and a talk and what not with a bit of music on, and Andy would be sat in the corner with his eyes closed doing what looks like some kind of spiritual dance with his arms. That’s where the name came from. I made a little video for the Tree Dance for youtube and Andy appears on that.
ALiVE proudest moments over the last 2 years?
The biggest one was when Richie Hawtin was playing The Tree Dance every week for a few moths last summer. I saw a video of him dropping it at Sonar, then every weekend it would appear on his Twitter feed.
Is there a particular genre or style that ALiVE follows and can you sum up ALiVE’s sound in only a few words?
Not really! Some of it’s a bit more ‘deep house’ whereas some is more ‘tech house’, whether it’s one or the other it always has the groove and has something about it. It has to fit in to the kind of stuff I play, but then that could be the start of the night or peak time, so quite broad really! Basically just music I like!
Its great to see a dance label maintain a strong visual identity, something that ALiVE has quickly established Tell us a little about the fantastic hand drawn cover artwork that appears every release.
The artwork is all done by a friend of mine called Chris Martin (not from Coldplay). He was just finishing his art degree at uni in Southampton when I started the label up and he said if I needed anything doing for the label he’d love to get involved, I’m not sure if he knew how much he’d be in for when I took him up on the offer. He’s also done work for Nokia, The Guardian, Deisel Jeans, Phones 4U and loads more.
ALiVE has been a platform for showcasing new producers, not only yourself but artists such as Pedramovich. How important a role to do think a label plays in the development of new talent.
It’s really important for labels to give the new up and coming artists a chance, I’m really happy I’m in a position to do this. Most of the new artists on the label are friends of mine who have been making some amazing music with really high production standards. Every now and then I will get sent something from someone I don’t know that needs to be snapped up.
Tell us a bit about a few of the key artists on the label and what is it you look for when signing a new artist to ALiVE?
Teva, previously known as No Brainer is the latest signing. He’s a classically trained pianist (which you can hear on ALiVE17, ‘You can’t Teach This’) and a studio demon and only 21.
Pedramovich from Sheffield has done some other bits for Audiofly’s ‘Supernature’ and London/Brighton based ‘Hypercolour’ has now appeared on the label a few times and has a few more tracks and remixes to come this year.
If I’m signing a new artist then I guess I’d be hoping it would be something I would play out and really interest me, along with having a certain standard of production.
There’s some new artists I’ll be introducingto the label after ALiVE20 like James Dutton from Leeds and Arjun Vagale from India.
Do you think ALiVE has changed at all over the last two years and has the labels output stuck to what you planned to do when you launched?
I think the label has only changed in that I’m a bit pickier about what I put out. I think its musical identity is really starting to show now because of this.
What are your aspirations for ALiVE and how do you see it developing in the next 2 years.
To carry on introducing new artists and also bring in some more well known names here and there to help give it some weight all mixed up with the occasional release from myself. I’d like to do some more ALiVE events with line up’s from the roster, we’re also re-launching the Podcasts soon. I hope the label can grow and be well known for releasing quality music.
Travelling and Djing alongside James Zabiela, How have you found it on the road and do you find yourself with any restraints on what you can play before him?
It’s been great and to be honest and I can play pretty much whatever I want before him without stepping on his toes musically. It’s also nice to turn up somewhere and it be busy
What’s been your best gig in the last 12 months?
There has been a few. Sankeys in Manchester, Stiff Kitten in Belfast in the UK. I’ve done Kristal in Romania a few times now which is always amazing. Also Arma 17 in Moscow was pretty special.
What grooves and artists are currently exciting you?
A lot of the Dutch stuff like on 2000 and One’s various labels. (UK?) guys like Glimpse and Shenoda for the deeper stuff, Jet Project for the chunkier stuff. Also some people that will be appearing on ALiVE soon, like ONNO and Philipp Ort.
How strongly do you feel part of the South Coast house movement and do you feel like artists like yourself James Talk and Alan Fitzpatrick all help each other out in on way or another? As a close knit group of djs trying to emerge into the scene did it ever feel at the time like there was a particularly strong hotbed of local talent?
We’ve all been good friends for some time and will regularly hang out together. I’m not sure if people would know how many of us are from such a close area, other than the two you mentioned there’s also Dave Robertson (Reset Robot) who’s been a massive help with my production stuff, Jon Gurd, Junior Gee and Ridney. There’s also a load of others that aren’t quite as well known, but I’m sure will be soon like John Barber, George Pearson, Friction Machine and Aaron Binstead. I think we’ve always known there is a really healthy scene.
Away from dance music how do you like to spend your free time
Eating, sleeping, a little bit of tv, a few 5 mile runs a week and when I have the time, the odd cycle ride, and that’s about it.. the rest of the time is taken up with music.
What’s your personal good and bad elements to the electronic music scene at the moment? Is anything you’d like to see more or less of in dance music culture?
Good: There’s so much good music out there at the moment!
Bad: There’s a lot of snobbishness where people will not like this record or that record because it not made by a trendy producer of the moment. I’d like to see things go back to the old acid house way of thinking where anything goes and people being a bit more open minded.
You’ve built up a hugely strong reputation over the last few years, any advice for any aspiring Dj/Producers out there?
I think you have to do as much as you can. Cover every base, mixes, production, soundcloud, myspace etc. Just get it out there, if your music is good and your doing everything you can to push it, then it should get noticed!
What’s your plans 2010?
I’m just on my way for a tour in Australia and Asia which I’m really looking forward to. After that there’s a possible few dates in Brazil. I have some remixes coming out on Renaissance and Paolo Mojo’s ‘OOSH’ label in the coming months and a couple of tracks on Fergie’s new tech house label. I’ll have some more tracks coming out on ALiVE and we’ll be sticking to a release a month on the label with artists such as Jet Project, Philip Ort, ONNO and some newer names.
Interview by Neil Bainbridge
This post originally appeared on Electronic Nightlife, now a part of beatcue.