Label Love #59: Uncanny Valley
The midsize city of Dresden sits by the Elbe, in Eastern Germany not far from either Berlin or Leipzig. Often eclipsed by the bright lights of its bigger neighbours, you may expect Dresden to struggle to find its own musical identity but, thanks in no small part to Uncanny Valley, the town has proved extremly fertile ground for electronic music. Founded it 2010, the label quickly gained a lot of traction, pushing some of the local artists into the limelight. With a truly impressive string of releases that doesn't seem to ever let up, we thought it would be great to speak to the label bosses to see what makes them tick.
Firstly – explain for our good readers who you are, what you are and what you do.
We are Uncanny Valley, a record label from Dresden, Germany. The heads behind it are Carl-Johannes Schulze aka Carl Suspect, Conrad Kaden, Albrecht Wassersleben and Philipp Demankowski but there are a lot of artists and friends that belong to the UV Family. We also run the sub labels shtum and Rat Life, the latter is curated by Credit 00.
So you guys set the label up back in 2010 right? Tell me about that process. What was the reason at that point in time that made you put out your first record.
Yeah, that’s right. In simple terms, there was just so much good music from friends out of Dresden that weren’t on a label, for example Jacob Korn, Cuthead, Break SL or Credit 00. The four of us have been playing as DJs or promoting parties for a quite some time before the label’s start. So we got to know a lot of them personally as they were playing our parties and made friends with them. It always felt like a natural step to do a label even though we had a lot to learn as you can imagine.
Tell me about the scene in Dresden. It seems to have a very vibrant scene for its size, especially with the proximity of the techno-megalopolis that is Berlin. You may expect the big city to suck most of the creatives into its orbit.
It’s true that the surrounding cities have impact. The club infrastructure not only in Berlin but also in Leipzig is better than in Dresden. And as travel times from Dresden are pretty are short we all made our experiences. Some of our artists live in Leipzig (Credit 00, CVBox) or Berlin (Jacob Stoy) nowadays. But it is by no means that they are lost for us since we see each other regularly. It’s important that you do not only communicate via E-Mail. I’d say it’s a really stimulating exchange. In addition, our booking agency Buki Good has settled in Leipzig too.
Speaking of Dresden‘s club culture: in general it feels better than it has been some years ago. There are young crews with new ideas. Everybody is working together and supports each other. There is no competitiveness. Also, we have some new cool clubs that has already opened like TBA or will open soon. And there is DAVE, a festival for Dresden’s club culture taking place in October.It brings electronic music to unusual locations like museums or churches. In 2016, it reaches it’s third year and helps that local administration is getting aware oft the scene.
You seemed to turn a lot of heads quite quickly once you started the label with some pretty major press after only a year or so. Did that come naturally or did you have to hustle hard for the exposure.
I’d say it came naturally but of course we had a lot to learn. Maybe it helped that we held a floor at the beloved Nachtdigital festival in our very first year. We literally sold our first record out of the vendor's tray back then. And maybe it’s a romantic idea but I like the thought that quality music can find it’s way to the listeners just because it’s good music.
I really wanted to ask you about the artwork for the early releases by Paul Waak. Their early computer game inspired, weird-yet-playful cartoon imagery really resonated with your sound and I loved that artwork and it really put an identity stamp across the label. How important is the visual element of your releases when it comes to building a personality for the imprint?
From the very beginning, it has been a crucial element of all our releases. There are always very lengthy talks and discussions until we find a fitting solution. Carl, who is mainly responsible for the visual side of things does a very good job in bringing interesting artists to the table. The main point here is that the artwork has to fit to the music. Paul Waak illustrated the first releases which happened to be compilations to introduce all our artists. Indeed, he had a very strong influence in how Uncanny Valley was perceived. To this day he’s the first choice for our compilations and we all love his stuff. But as soon as we released solo EPs it was only natural that we wanted to work with different artists too.
Talk me through the family of artists you have involved. I feel that people use the word "family" far too much when it comes to labels but it seems that this term is actually quite relevant for you guys.
Yeah, that’s very important to us. We are friends with all our artists. Not only the Dresden based ones but also the ones that came later like Massimiliano Pagliara, Panthera Krause or Chinaski. Or the shum artists like Leibniz, Jaures, Perm or Kryptic Universe. It is simple as that: It’s just more fun to work with friends.
Seeing as you have that solid core of artists that you work with, what's your approach to demos? Do you release much music that you get sent at random?
No, actually we don’t. It’s rather that we are approaching artists whose music we think is interesting.
You've also set up two sub-labels, Rat Life and shtum that have been very successful in their own right. What was the thinking behind setting them up and what are your artistic visions with them both.
shtum is for electronic music that can be a little rougher and doesn’t feel out of place in a dirty little basement. Rat Life is pretty much the idea of Credit 00 who is responsible for the musical and visual direction. His wide-ranging taste in music reflects in the Rat Life records sound.
If you had to change one thing about the music industry that we inhabit what would it be?
I’d go with a payout model that determines a fair remuneration for all people involved in creating the content. And less selfies, more understatement.
Where do you see UV, Rat Life and Shtum in 5 years time.
Releasing quality records that doesn’t chum up to the zeitgeist.
Tell me one record that you wish you had signed.
Philipp: Pretty difficult but i’ve always admired those reissue labels that provide compilations that draw attention to long forgotten scenes or places. Thinking of Soul Jazz, Numero Group, Finders Keepers, Awesome Tapes From Africa. To travel around the globe on the constant search of under the radar music feels very exciting.
Conrad: Bionda E Lupo’s “Ton Rire EP” even though I’m happy that it got released via Bordello A Parigi.
Follow Uncanny Valley on Facebook HERE.