Nick Woolfson has got a long pedigree in electronic music. He was one half of Mock & Toof and has worked under a number of different aliases and with a number of labels over his two and a half decades in the business. His latest venture is the excellent Teng Records, which he originally set up to put out his work under his current moniker Akra but has now diversified to include some exciting up and coming talent alongside more established names like Neville Watson and Paul Mac. As they're gearing up for the release of Akra's new EP "Los Peros" I thought I'd catch up with Nick to talk about all things Teng.
Tell us about who you are and how you came to start Teng Records.
My name is Nick Woolfson and I have been making various forms of dance / club / electronic music for 25 years. I started off making hardcore and progressed to house, progressive, downtempo, trance and of course acid house and my most successful projects have been Sundance, Sounds From The Ground and Mock & Toof but there have been many other pseudonyms along the way. Teng came about because of a desire to make deep house / techno on my own as I generally work with another producer on most of my projects and this was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try something different. I wrote some tracks which I was pleased with and called my project ‘Akra’ and as I already have my Tiny Sticks / M&T Inc label for Mock & Toof it made sense to set up another label and utilise my existing setup as it would save time and I would be able to control my releases. I initially set Teng up to just release my own product……but…..I seem to have gone off point slightly……(in a good way:))
Were there other labels or artists who were particularly inspiring or influential to you when you started Teng?
To be honest, not really. I spend a lot of time in the studio making music and I love the creative 'starting with a blank page and ending up with a product' thing and don’t really spend a lot of time listening to whats out there. I just don’t seem to have the time and space to listen, I would rather start a new track but I do listen to loads of podcasts and mixes from Soundcloud when Im in the gym getting bored on the cross trainer and I pick up some good ideas from them but its a truly random thing as I jump around from genre to genre. If I were to name some recent inspiration, I would probably say Mark E is pretty consistently strong and Paranoid London were very inspirational in that raw stripped back acid house thing which gave Neville Watson and I a good push in our Red 7 guise.
The artwork for the recent releases by Kais Dhifi is absolutely amazing. How important do you think the visual identity of a record label is?
Very important……its another way to add recognition and branding in a saturated overcrowded market. Kais is an exceptional graphic artist. Very sharp and clear but with a trick in the design. Im very happy with it.
How do you balance finding new talent and working with established artists?
Established artists tend to know how to get the best out of their music writing and production and the experience generally shows through but new artists don’t necessarily know the rules and can come up with fresh ideas which established artists may easily shun and that is very important. Sadly it is much harder to market new artists as they don’t have the following and support that established artists have and it is so difficult today to get noticed as there are so many new and long established producers making music now. I generally try and look for a mix of both new and established acts as well as dropping some of my own ep’s in as well. I also have Filippo Rocco, a talented young producer woking on the label helping to bring new music to the table and work on promoting Teng which has helped push the label awareness and of course Neville Watson has been a help too.
A lot of labels try to stick to one very narrow sound but you have always seemed to be comfortable with quite hard releases such as the recent Paul Mac or more laid back house like the recent Craig Smith EP. Do you plan the releases carefully to get the balance right or do you just put things out as they come?
No I don’t plan at all but take what comes my way……Paul got in touch and Filippo brought Craig and Blured in from Cardiff. I will only put out something I like and believe in and as my taste is fairly broad I find it hard to stick to a narrow remit. I loved Paul Mac's old school acid house and thought it was a strong ep and I thought Craig Smith’s tracks were pure class so again felt it was a strong ep. I think it is probably easier to have a narrow sound for a label as it will help people to know what they are getting when they see a release advertised whereas if you jump around with styles then it will mean that people won’t know what to expect and will have to listen to the record before deciding to buy and that may put buyers off, but I think if the record is strong, whatever style it is then that is what matters.
You're just about to release your Los Peros EP as Akra – which is sick by the way – how hard is it to have a critical eye when releasing your own music on your own label. I find that when you send off music to a label it's a very useful quality filter.
It is definitely harder to know if you have something good when you work on your own but I have been making music for long enough to generally know when I have something strong or not but as an added precaution I usually send my tracks to Filippo or play them to Neville for approval.
Where are you taking Teng in the future? What do you have lined up?
I am easing back slightly with Teng as I have had a very busy couple of years working on the label and trying to do that and combine it with making music with my various projects is hard as I just don’t have enough hours. I want to do some more music writing and get my live set sorted out but if something really good comes along….then I will probably want to release it. In the meantime, we are getting some remixes done of some of the previous Teng releases and will be putting that out next after the Akra' Los Peros’ EP which is due imminently.
Finally – describe Teng in 5 words and 5 pictures.
Mmmm thats hard. Quality, Diversity, Class, Music, Teng
Joining The Circus
What to do for British politics?
Solidarity with Ukraine
URL vs. IRL
Do DJs Today Need Social Media to Be Heard?
I Hear (Borusiade Remix)
Mother of MarsShop Now
Hologram TeenShop Now