I'm pretty sure I begin with a variant of this same line every time I write about Local Action, but the label has been on an absolutely terrific run of form recently. Founded by Tom Lea in 2010, it's been responsible for some of the decade's best underground dance music. Early releases from T. Williams, DJ Q and Slackk saw the label build up a head of steam, paving the way for artists as varied as D∆WN, Deadboy and Lil Jabba to join the roster. Now eight years in, a whole community of producers has grown up around Local Action, and we caught up with three of the core members ahead of the label's birthday party this Friday which features a stacked lineup.
Finn closed out last year with Sometimes The Going Gets A Little Tough, a super strong collection of house tracks that draw equally from speed garage, Jersey club and chipmunk soul. He also runs his own imprint 2 B REAL and works behind the scenes at NTS Manchester. Oh, and he's responsible for eternal Local Action anthem and RnG classic 'Keep Calling'.
Yamaneko is one of the key artists combining ambient with surprising aspects of electronic music – most notably grime, techno, new age and video game soundtracks. He's released three albums on the label – the most recent one being Spa Commissions – as well as a joint EP with Gobstopper boss Mr. Mitch and a project as Talbot Fade.
Erskine Lynas is the latest recording alias of Aberdeen producer Thomas Emsile aka T_A_M. His wild discography pinballs between filter house, IDM and instrumental grime, while his new album Lease of Youth channels OMD, Gigi Masin, Cocteau Twins and his own vocals into a beguiling pop record.
To be honest, I was never really one for introductions, so let's just get stuck in shall we?
How did you individually get involved with the label?
FINN: At a Chow Down night in Manchester actually – we booked a Local Action party with DJ Q, Slackk and Tom Lea. We all got absolutely wankered and Tom promised me a 12” copy of Raw Missions, which I cheekily followed up on. I sent Slackk ‘Keep Calling’ when I started producing the following year, and Tom reached out about releasing it soon after.
ERSKINE: I’d been following the label for ages and eventually sent a zip of tunes to Tom in 2015 or thereabouts. Anyway – I didn’t hear anything back, then I got an email a few months later saying he’d played about six of 'em on the radio, and I think we just started working on a release from there.
YAMANEKO: I'd been mates with Tom for like a year or two, but don't think I ever told him I even made tunes until the first Boxed maybe? Somewhere where I was drunk enough to want to tell him anyway. The next day I sent him this daft grime ode to Timotei Shampoo and he was all over it. I sent him a bunch of the more serious/personal Pixel Wave Embrace stuff I'd written once I had his attention, and it's just kind of been that way ever since. Every other month or so I'll email him entire albums b2b awful stupid tunes and every now and then some of them get released.
How does the process between artist and label generally work with your releases for Local Action – is the A&R quite back and forth, or are you generally left to crack on with it? Or does it differ case by case?
FINN: Ah, it’s really, really back and forth. I bounce absolutely everything off Tom really, even non-music stuff at this point – tweets, big ideas, small ideas, funny photos, other people’s tweets etc. He’s probably sick of it. Put it this way; if I’m Grimes, he’s Elon Musk.
ERSKINE: Tom’s great at giving honest feedback. So for the Erskine Lynas album I had about 20 songs that I would send over as and when I finished them and we would whittle it down and sculpt into a release. For the Silk/Sweat EP before that, we had a completely different EP almost ready to go but after some discussion about whether it was all a bit too all over the place stylistically, we ended up with what was essentially a house EP. So, yeah, there’s definitely an important bit of back and forth in my experience that has left me with two releases i’m very happy with.
YAMANEKO: Yeah Tom's got a knack for really getting the best out of an artist, but that's mostly 'cos we'll talk about nearly every stage of the process from musical ideas to the bigger conceptualising, artwork, mixes and everything at both a casual and serious level. I value the shit out of this. I don't really think many artists at all benefit from being left to just crack on, personally. Singular visions are great and all, but even most of those had some sort of team behind it – keeping the artist out of their head but focused on the ideas and how to best realise them. You look at the Local Action back catalogue and this process shows – there's a diverse collection of styles, and everyone on that roster has a lot of uniqueness and potent character in their music. But they all make sense together on that label too. That's all from that communication and just a big mutual love of music.
Where did this whole "fast music" thing come from, was it Tom Lea or one of you lot?
FINN: I think it was me but Tom and Yama have been enablers.
YAMANEKO: Yeah I can't deny that.
FINN: It was from all those articles about 'slow club music' a couple years ago. I can’t remember who penned it but people were talking about 100bpm styles as 'slow club music’.
And you did that Accelerated Club mixtape, Finn.
FINN: Yeah that was fun. There's a rich history of speeding things up in dance music already, Detroit and London especially.
YAMANEKO: I think for a lot of us at Local Action, we were all brought up with or were heavy into a lot of fast and fun music when we were first going out, and we're trying to recreate that energy.
What were you listening to when you were first going out Yamaneko?
YAMANEKO: We had these underage nights down the local civic hall in this town in Essex, and it was nothing but garage or drum and bass nights at the time, so I was pretty spoilt there even if the selections were all as bait as you can imagine. Obviously loved it all, though Baltimore club was what was popping off when I turned 18 and started going out legally though. That stuff was super inspiring when I first started making music around that time – these super fun and daft edits of kids' TV themes that have loads of bounce to ‘em.
FINN: I forget Bmore had its time as a blog house hype genre sometimes.
YAMANEKO: Yeah, 2007 was a wild time. There were loads of Bmore producers in Cardiff for about eight months. It was sick, but a bit fucking weird at the same time. Tam, what was your first dance music love, and how did it interplay with the other music you must have been listening to? I feel like we both have a lot in common there actually.
ERSKINE: The first dance music nights I was going to in Aberdeen were all drum and bass. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I loved it, but all my mates were really into it and it was good music to go and dance like an idiot to. Plus Aberdeen has like the longest running jungle night in Scotland. So it’s always been a bit of a thing here. My actual interests were Warp and things like that, so when I caught onto dubstep and all the stuff happening around it, that was a big eye opener for me in terms of stuff I found interesting that you could also go out and listen to in a club.
FINN: Tom Lea's going to be livid if we try and make drum and bass part of the Local Action canon.
FINN: I used to go out to drum and bass at uni though. Hull was a DnB city – I was actually a resident at a DnB night for a year. Room 2 admittedly. Me and India Jordan actually!
Congrats on how well your latest one's been doing Finn – I saw that Diplo’s been posting it on his Insta stories…
ERSKINE: I miss fidget house.
FINN: Ah see, that was my first true love in dance music.
ERSKINE: What was the fabriclive mix that was all fidget and a bit of bassline from way back? Might have been The Count & Sinden? Fucking loved that mix when I was 18.
FINN: We've been talking about The Count & Sinden a lot recently.
YAMANEKO: Forever relevant.
I forget Mumdance started out on Mad Decent sometimes.
FINN: I forget how good a name Mad Decent is.
YAMANEKO: It took me about two years of following Mumdance in recent years before I clocked I saw him play Kool Kids Klub in Southend in like 2008. Nights during that time were literally just like going on Hype Machine or Too Many Sebastians or something.
FINN: Too Many Sebastians, fucking hell.
YAMANEKO: Some of the compression going on in EQs those days makes me wonder how I ever stomached some of them on a system.
ERSKINE: Yeah not much on subtlety.
Tam, I see from stalking your Twitter that you've been very productive on the music front recently. What sort of stuff are you working on?
ERSKINE: It’s definitely more Erskine Lynas stuff but it feels very different from the bright, retro type sounds from the last LP. It’s nice not knowing what new music is going to sound like and then have something you didn’t expect start to take shape in front of you.
Cool, I'm looking forward to hearing it. I remember chatting to you about Arthur Russell and Nick Drake a couple of years back. And now you've made a whole album in that vein. Did you know you wanted to make an album like that before you started working on it, or did it just emerge out of what you were doing?
ERSKINE: I just started writing a couple of vocal things with no real aim, but Tom picked up on it and quickly asked if I wanted to develop it into a release. The album format seemed like the best fit for something like that. Plus I definitely enjoy working on longer releases much more than EPs.
Yeah I like that you're happy to commit to making large pieces of work. I guess conventional wisdom is you're supposed to "work your way up" to doing an album. Doesn’t really make that much sense to me.
FINN: Tom hates that attitude to albums too. You two both kickstarted projects on the label with albums right?
YAMANEKO: Tom's quite good at noticing the particularly personal projects the artists he works with are making – ones that feel very reflective of their personality at the time. Which is bang on for both Lease of Youth and ‘Sometimes The Going Gets A Little Tough’. I've always wanted to do an EP but I think it's way harder.
YAMANEKO: Totally different with him! Dude’s a genius. We spent longer on it than I spend on most albums though. Albums allow a lot of breathing room to add context to whatever story you're telling through your music. Depends on how the listener is paying attention to it of course – but I like the option of having that extra context there, even if they just go to the one or two tunes they like off it.
ERSKINE: I definitely agree with Yamaneko about albums giving you room to breathe and explore more ideas. Definitely suits me best and I gain more out of it as well.
What's all of your favourite memories of being involved with the label so far?
YAMANEKO: Gonna need a minute for that. I’ve pretty much had a Local Action-themed Filofax planner for the last four years. Weird metaphor that, excuse me, I’m actually browsing Filofax inserts.
ERSKINE: Given my location I’ve not had much physical involvement, but getting asked to work on the EP in 2016 was quite big for me given I had been following the label since they put out that Cassie remix mixtape in 2010.
FINN: Same! That Jacques Greene remix of Cassie…
ERSKINE: Yeah man! So good. There was a vocal cover by Nightwave before she was Nightwave as well.
YAMANEKO: Same here actually. Since the start, but especially around the time Slackk and DJ Q got involved. The crossover with Boxed when that was first coming together was a really fucking good time.
FINN: Raw Missions was a huge record. Doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves for setting direction, for me at least.
YAMANEKO: Both Boxed x Local Action nights are really treasured memories for me.
FINN: Yeah I’d say the one with you and India, Swing Ting and Hipsters Don’t Dance, and me and UNiiQU3 in that upstairs room.
YAMANEKO: The first one was my first time playing Corsica Room 1 and feeling like a proper part of the night I'd spend every month at. Second one was my first time going back to back with India, and the Local Action room was pretty much perfect as Finn said. Riz La Teef and Score5 too. I still look back on it very fondly even though I was in a really dark place at the time which says a lot about the night I think.
FINN: I'd love to do some more Local Action parties in London this year.
YAMANEKO: London's becoming a better and better place to go out again. Loads of new venues with decent sound popping up, and good people behind 'em too. It felt like it really dropped off for a while.
Do you all have a fave Local Action release? One for all time.
There's just an embarrassment of riches scrolling down that Bandcamp page.
ERSKINE: Lil Jabba albums as well.
YAMANEKO: Scales bangs. I met Tom for the first time when he delivered it in person to my flat lol. He was wearing a long gothy jacket that looked like something from The Matrix and I knew immediately we would be friends.
This might be a good place to leave it guys. Great chatting and thanks for providing me with lots of tasty content.
ERSKINE: Likewise. Shame we had to cut it before I got into my Brexit spiel. That’s where the real content comes.
FINN: Local Action for sovereignty.
Let's save that for round two!
Local Action are celebrating their 8th birthday this Friday 8th June at Birthdays (nice symmetry) and you can grab tickets here.
Finn, Yamaneko and Erskine Lynas' latest releases are all available to buy via Bandcamp.