NO LOGO Records started off life as a Thursday evening club night at The Cellar in Southampton. They launched in November 2011, hosting Ben UFO supported by local DJs. Since then they have brought the likes of Boddika, Pangaea, Randomer, Oneman, Mickey Pearce, and Loefah to Southampton. They now occupy prime-time Friday night slots and have also started collaborating with other venues and promoters from Southampton and beyond.
They have just launched their first EP from long-time affiliate and resident State and are looking forward to hosting Southampton’s Dimensions Festival Launch Party in May.
We chatted to Hamish from NO LOGO about the history, inspiration, inner workings, and success of NO LOGO as well as his plans for the future of the club-night-come-record-label.
Questions by Adam Fuller, given in plain text.
Answers from Hamish Cameron, given in italics.
How did you end up starting a club night at The Cellar?
I was into this “new” form of music and Kev – one of the directors at The Cellar, where I worked – picked up on that. I think one of the best ways to start a night is by already working at a venue. If you work at one and have a passion for music then the people in charge will notice.
We, my ex-girlfriend who also worked at The Cellar and I, spent lots of time listening to music. The catalyst for the whole thing was Joy Orbison’s Hyph Mngo. He was originally gonna headline the first NO LOGO night way back in May 2011.
We started formulating the night and then Kev said we could have a budget. It was originally gonna be called the Rubadub Club. We drew up a design; it was gonna be the soap bar from Fight Club but with “Rubadub Club” written instead.
We got right to the final stages of booking Joy Orbison but then it fell through, we had to hold off till after the summer. We came up with a few ideas for whom to book but decided on Ben UFO because we thought he encapsulated everything that was new and exciting about the scene. He was a fairly small name back then and so I tried to book Pangaea too for the same night. That didn’t work out because we didn’t have enough money, the whole thing was almost completely cancelled but I managed to work it by spreading the booking over two nights.
We looked to other cities: this scene had been going on for years, it’s nothing completely new. It made us sure that eventually it’d work in Southampton. Music spreads all over the country thanks to stuff like Rinse FM. It’s not like in the States where each city has its own scene; the stuff people listen to in LA is vastly different to what people listen to in Detroit.
So like the scene for NY house is completely different to Chicago house? There’s a division.
Yeah exactly. But for the UK it’s pretty similar across all the cities. Everyone is connected.
How did the first couple of nights go? How was running a night on a Thursday?
The first few were run as part of Think Thursdays at The Cellar. They wanted to see how it went rather than going whole-heartedly into it. It was all really new and untried [in Southampton]. The Ben UFO night wasn’t a sell out by any stretch of the imagination, less than half full actually.
Not bad for a first night though!
It was good, it went well. And because it went well, from nothing, we decided that Boddika would be a good follow up. Even though the Boddika night was in the middle both universities’ exam periods it was still busy. NO LOGO definitely appealed to a core of music enthusiasts. I think we’ve kept hold of that, there’s always been a core bunch of people that come along.
We made a loss on the first few nights, but they were getting progressively busier and busier. It was definitely something worth pursuing.
Photo credit: Nick Ford
How did you go about choosing which DJs to book?
Initially it was basically blind stupidity. We thought that this music was great so surely everyone else will like it … that’s genuinely how it was. It was purely based on taste; it was about what we liked. Obviously the music we picked couldn’t be too obscure; there had to be a certain buzz around it.
When you started there was a lot of buzz around people like Ben UFO, record labels like Hessle Audio and SWAMP81, and things like Boiler Room. Would you cite this stuff as inspiration for setting up the club night?
Yeah. There was this clip from the Boiler Room where Ben UFO played an Untold tune called Stereo Freeze that came out on R&S Records. You couldn’t even see the crowd, it was just him DJing. I thought: This is really fucking cool. It’s going off everywhere. It’s great music. It’s something new, something fresh. And I really like it so surely everyone else will … why wouldn’t they?
Were you thinking about starting a record label when you first started running the club nights?
It had always been a dream but back then it was just a dream. It wasn’t something that we set out to do. It quickly became apparent, as I got into it, that running a label could be something I really want to do. The Soton Sound compilations were definitely a catalyst for starting the record label. I really enjoyed getting my friends’ music out there.
There have been two Soton Sound compilation CDs so far containing a varied selection of tracks from local producers. They were both given away for free, one at the second NO LOGO night in January 2012 with Boddika and one at the third night with Pangaea in February.
How did you go about making the CDs? Have you got plans to release more of them?
I bought all the raw materials and made them from scratch (with help). We had a little production line, burning the CDs from a MacBook, printing the labels from computer in The Cellar’s office and then sticking them together … they definitely had a DIY feel to them. In retrospect the packaging was pretty terrible; there was no consistency at all. It was really fun though, and great giving a platform to all this great music. I’d like to do a third one more professionally at some point …
One of the tunes on the first CD was given away as a free download a few months ago by Mixmag. It was by a local lad called Rumah. He opened for us on one of our first nights and has gone on to massive things, headlining his own shows.
Speaking of those first few nights: State was also there (albeit under a different name), right? How did you know him, through the DJ society at the University of Southampton?
Yeah. I looked to get DJ Soc involved. They were part of this core scene of people, basically taste-makers. I thought that getting them on board would be ideal. I used to regularly work at The Cellar on Wednesday nights at an indie request night or something. Occasionally, DJ Soc would do a takeover downstairs and I’d always want to be working downstairs if they were. I thought they had the right idea.
I also knew several producers from Solent University who were making all kinds of interesting music. That was part of it being “no logo”, encompassing all these different and interesting styles from different people. I wasn’t telling people what to play, I couldn’t really describe what was being played … not house or techno, the 130 thing … it didn’t really have a name.
“uk bass” or whatever it is that sort of came out of the dubstep scene …
Yeah, I hated that phrase though. I tried to avoid it but had to adopt it in the end. I didn’t really want to use it, to me it just didn’t really describe the music that well. Dubstep played a big part. It tore the formula apart and stripped the music back so much. Everyone re-evaluated.
Going back to State, he was involved right from the start as a DJ and some of his tracks were on the Soton Sound CDs. You must have heard all his productions, how did you end up releasing his music?
I’d heard most of his tracks and I really rated them. When I first heard Coding it was clear to me that he’d come on a long way already since Soton Sound.
So Coding has been around for a while then? Long before you signed it and started the label?
I can’t quite remember when it was made, soon after the Boddika night I think so definitely a long time before the label was started. It was uploaded by hurfyd and had a good response with a couple of thousand plays. Big up hurfyd!
Once I heard Soul Array it was clear that we wanted to release an EP from State. We wanted to start the label. The club night was still doing OK, but that’s only for Southampton: There was no mass appeal. In order to start the label I needed to find an artist that was on the same level as the club night so that we could both grow together. It would be our first release so there was going to be lots of naivety; it was untrodden ground for everyone. I didn’t feel it would be very attractive for an established artist to put stuff out on NO LOGO without having any sort of back catalogue.
Have you got plans for a second release?
Yes. We’re looking at putting out our second EP in autumn this year and then four releases over the next two years.
You’ve gone back to using “we” again, who else is involved with running the record label now that it’s started?
Josh Neal, we’re running the label together. He always wanted to be involved and we’d spoken about starting the label in the past. I thought it’d be a great idea to bring him on board because he has worked within the industry. He appreciated my vision too, he got that straight away.
It instantly took it to the next level having him involved. You can’t just abstractly release music, even if it’s really absolutely incredible, you need to play the game in a sense. The tunes are what make a record label, but it seems that a great tune just needs that extra push.
Earlier we talked about Ben UFO and Hessle Audio, the record label that he co-runs. In a way, Hessle Audio’s path is quite similar to your own as it was born out of the DJ society at the University of Leeds. There are definitely parallels to be drawn, what with DJ Soc and students from Solent University being involved with your club night right from the start and now with the record label. Would you agree?
Yeah, it’s no coincidence. Ben UFO was a massive inspiration right from the beginning. He seemed to be doing everything right and just had this genuine passion for music. Everything with Hessle Audio just seemed to be right: Done for the right reasons and in the right way. I definitely designed NO LOGO on their model, everything from output to promotion.
It seems like lots of people measure things in numbers (such as Facebook likes). That’s something I’ve tried to avoid. That and other ideas from Naomi Klein’s book definitely rang true with me when first setting up NO LOGO.
Moving on a bit, have you had (or will you have) any artistic control over the music you’re releasing?
None. That’s something I’ve kept away from. The only control I’ve had is picking which tunes to release. I wanted the first release to represent the Southampton scene and sound. Southampton has so much potential. I was in the studio when State’s EP was mastered but I trusted him. I think I’ve got a good ear for stuff and I know what I want the label to sound like. He was representing that. He obviously loves music; it shows with the pride he took in his EP and the production quality of it. The production quality is what made me pick his tunes.
Right, we need to wrap this up. It’s getting rather long! Coming up in May you’ve got a collaboration night with AKA AKA ROAR and Boxed Sound, and then you’re hosting Southampton’s Dimensions Festival Launch Party – again with Boxed Sound. Is that it for this season of NO LOGO club nights?
And then over the summer period?
We’ve got two dates in July, one at Corsica Studios in London and one at Motion in Bristol. Nothing else confirmed yet.
Will you be carrying on with the NO LOGO nights next academic year in Southampton (September/October)?
And finally, what do you think about SOTONIGHT so far?
I’ve always thought it would be really good to do something similar myself, but with NO LOGO going on I’ve never had the drive. I think that having a blog or website or something like that is an integral part of any decent scene.
If you would like to read a bit more about NO LOGO, then head over to Swoon. They recently conducted an interview with Hamish.