Label Love #27: Tirk


Tirk records have just hit their 10th anniversary, and our celebrating with a timely comp of the labels best output – fans should know what to expect; everything from leftfield disco bombs to floor shaking house classics, all shot through with a generous helping of soul. We caught up with Tirk main man Sav Remzi to have a look back over 10 strong years, and raise a glass to 10 more. Read on, then do yourself a favour and grab the 10 years of Tirk compilation direct from their website.

How did Tirk come into existence? What’s the ethos behind the label and what are its guiding forces?

After Nuphonic, i took a short hiatus from releasing music, just to let the music landscape settle down for a while… During this time, friends kept sending me great music, so i was eventually overcome by the urge to release it, and decided to set up Tirk. Plus I wanted to work with various artists and experiment with musical directions I didn't get to work on nuphonic. Tirk's guiding force is purely led by genre-busting good music, as long as it has Soul!.

How have things developed since you started?

Music evolves all the time, as do my tastes, I always like to 'move-on' too… Although i love the classics, i think it's also important to re-invent and embrace new and exciting sounds… I like to think that Tirk has changed and developed with this ethos in mind. Saying that, having released Disco and House music on Nuphonic through the 90's, it's interesting to see that these genres have come full circle and are now mainstream sounds.

Who or what was your biggest inspiration for taking things into your own hands?

Obviously my love of music, and working with artists is something i enjoy, so ‘taking things into my own hands' allows me to work with like-minded people and is just the way i have always done business. I’ve been in music for nearing 25 years now, so i know my way around well enough to do it on my own terms… i just don’t see the point in leaving decisions to others that don’t necessarily share my passions. I'm just very glad people tend to like what we do.

How and where do you find most of the music for the label?

Do they submit their work to you or do you actively seek new names? A combination of both and more really… I might hear something that turns me on, then i'll find whoever made it and ask for more… Sometimes i get demo’s, which is simple, if i like it we sign it. I don’t mind if it's just a 12" or a full album… if it's good, we just go for it. Most other times, it's friends and family who throw tunes at me. At times i'll look toward reviving and reworking a classic act i've always loved, as with Greg Wilson, Space, Chaz Jankel and Martin Rushent projects… Other times i’ll get brand new music from far flung places like Russia, Canada or USA … and sometimes we’ll create a new moniker out of someone established, as with Groove Armada's Tom Findley's, Morten Sorensen and Sugardaddy releases.

What are your most and least favourite things about running your own label?

Favourite part is creating new music and sharing it. Worse part is sometimes good music not getting the recognition it deserves unless there's a big marketing machine behind it. If you could sign one artist from throughout recorded musical history to the label, who would it be and why? I've been lucky enough to have worked with most the people i've wanted to work with in music… People that have inspired me… Andrew Weatherall, Carl Craig, Derek May, David Holmes, DJ Harvey, Norman Jay, Joe Claussell, Gilles Peterson, David Mancuso, Ashley Beedle, Todd Terje… I could go on. However, i've always wanted to work with David Byrne … I love everything he has ever done and is one of my top musical inspirations.

What's been relentlessly gracing your ear drums so far this year?

Well… I do other things, like programme various festivals and some brand work, so i hear all kinds of music, not just music i like to release… I like what London Grammar have done this year… I’ve been checking for Jamie XX, Jon Hopkins, Little Dragon and Ben Howard… We programmed Young Fathers on Blackheath festival just before they won the Mercury Prize, along with Grace Jones and Massive Attack, so i've been digging some of that out lately. As all-time staples, i listen to artists such as Arthur Rustle, Jon Lucien, Fella Kuti, Talking Heads, and i adore Nick Drake and Terry Callier. More recently i've been enjoying some Future Islands, Nick Mulvey, Pete Molinari, Asgeir, Badbadnotgood, and some Todd Terje. It's been 20 years since Nuphonic was born, so I've actually also been digging out some of our old catalogue, which still sounds timeless. 

What are your thoughts on the current state of independent records? Do you believe that there are enough opportunities available for people to be successful?

I think independent record company's should be treated as a hobby. It’s tough to gain traction without the big budgets, and unless there’s robust funding, a tour and a publishing deal on the table, it’s tough to make dollar. It's now more about Youtube likes than selling music…. and music streaming services like Spotify further negate the need to buy music. In my opinion, these services have numbed everyone into expecting music is for free…. and very little of it is translated back to the artist or label. Success can come where smaller labels pick up commercially viable acts from ground level and then land a deal with a major to take it all the way.

What's your stance on digital vs vinyl?

Vinyl costs a fortune to manufacture and distribute, whereas digital doesn’t. I think an acceptance of both formats is important, each has their own place and function, vinyl is basically a promo tool for releases, and releases are a promo tool for tours. One good thing… Digital has saved a lot of DJ's from back trouble… carrying 4 heavy record boxes about to gigs was never much fun!

How do you fund your label? Are label parties important to keeping the whole thing afloat or do you do it purely through sales?

Tirk is financially self-sustaining. I take risks with music but not with the business… we have developed a streamlined business formula that enables the label to run very efficiently. Concentration on digital strategy, publishing, limited vinyl runs, no unnecessary spends, and a team that do it for the love and passion, make the label economically viable. Whilst the attention to detail is always there, gone are the hedonistic days of exotic packaging and monthly parties. Diversifying into other areas of music related businesses like live content, brand activity, publishing, curation, agency and management are ways to lay the financial burden off the smaller label.

How did you chose tracks for the 10th anniversary compilation? Was there anything that you couldn’t fit on there you would have liked to include?

I spent a few days and nights playing all our releases in a row and wishing i could put them all on the album, but ultimately had to pick my favourite landmark tunes that best represent Tirks' evolution through 10 years. There are few that we couldn't squeeze in… I’d have liked to include 'Ice Cream' the New Young Pony Club track we released before they moved to Modular… I'd have particularly liked the never-to-be-delivered DJ Harvey 12" included, and i'd have wanted Fujiya & Miyagi, the Maurice Faulton Syclops and 'Stand On The Word' 12"s on there too. Regardless, i wasn't short of great tracks to run with, including the future release 'Walk' by Dennis Young/Sam Annand, which i think really tops the album off nicely.

What’s been your favourite release?

Maurice Fulton’s ‘Cyclops’, Architeq, Morten Sorensen and Fujiya Miyagi projects were great to work, they still sound real fresh and created a lot of buzz… The Greg Wilson and Chaz Jankel projects were also close to my heart… the Idjut Boys album was fun to do and i love the stand-out sound of our more recent albums by the inimitable Richard Norris, Nashville based Tim Chad & Sherry, and the lush orchestral Disco sound of Escort.

Has the rise of digital been a blessing or a curse?

Well… with Nuphonic we watched our vinyl 12”s and album sales diminish over 2 years from 15,000 units per title, to 1000 units… so i can't say that was a blessing! However, as with every business, we have to adapt with technology and changing trends, and develop new ways of doing things…. So our focus on a digital model, efficient systems and a stream-lined release policy really does work.

Aaaaand finally – Describe the label in five words

Roll on ten more years