This coming Saturday night something of a transatlantic love affair is set to take place in Room Two as we welcome LA's Culprit Records to mark five years of label operation. They kicked off their legacy of iconic releases outing the first ever Hot Natured named collaboration between Jamie Jones and Lee Foss, going onto house music from their many English born friends with the likes of jozif, Matt Tolfrey and Inxec all featuring heavily on the roster.
Theirs is a story of extended and heady after hours sessions which whilst deepening the ties within the Culprit family, it also cultivated the creativity and output that we think make what Droog does as the head of Culprit so special. It's something we get to go deep into both verbally and audibly as the label heads run headlong into their cornerstone tracks a perfect pre-cursor to our anniversary celebrations this weekend...
1. Hot Natured - h.e.a.d.s
Can you start us off by introducing this first track to us?
Off of Culprit's very first release, this one really set the mark for us right from the start. Also, looking back to it from 2014, quite significantly, this is also the very first bit of music the Hot Natured boys did and released together. Lee Foss and Jamie Jones had been mates for ages but it was in the little corner studio slash DJ booth at our house in Hollywood Hills that they laid the foundations to what is now an absolutely massive dance music act. Late night sleazy groove with a dollop of funk and a retro synth feel.
It’s really got an entrancing hypnotic groove going on, a very special track for your first release. You guys had been all involved in music for a while by this point, what was the catalyst that made you want to start your own label in Culprit?
Those were heady and exciting times. Getting to know people like Lee and Jamie and feeling their creative energy, it was clear something fresh and potentially big was brewing and we wanted to be part of it. New genres and subgenres were being created on the fly and it felt like we could be intimately involved in pushing it forward via a label
Is your home a kind of creative hub for the label too? Do you invite people to come and hang out in order to nurture these special moments out of them?
It was at the time. Two of us (Andrei and our “manager”/friend and early guru Matt) lived in this house in the Hollywood Hills that was a special place, where all these young DJs/producers would come through, stay with us, work on music and play these long rambling afterhour gatherings that really captured the vibe. We called the place “Bunker” – ironically, because it was anything but. But the life at the “Bunker” was a bit chaotic, a bit mad…after awhile, having served its purpose, we moved on. But now, together with our good friend and an occasional LA resident Martin Buttrich, we have built a studio complex in downtown LA, which serves a similar purpose of being a creative hub – but a bit more professional. Less of a lifestyle and more of a proper work environment. But being at the nexus of this creative energy that passes through or settles in LA has always been a big thing for us.
2 . Inxec & Matt Tolfrey – Hollywood
Here is another tandem of English friends who have helped make Culprit what it is now. This is the deep swinging counterpart to Hot Natured, firmly rooted in classic deep house but the forward thinking element too. Matt Tolfrey premiered "Hollywood" playing our daytime party at a place called Hollywood Canteen. Seemed very appropriate. This was in May of 2009, the young and innocent days - the rest of the line-up at the that party: Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss and Hot Natured, at a place for 250 people. Imagine that now.
Glancing forward in the tracks you’ve sent over you have many, many English friends - why do you think it is like why not have your phone book filled with more local talent?
When we started, as far as the sound we wanted to be part of, Los Angeles was quite behind. Ours was the first party, really, to push it, our afterparties were the place where a lot of it was being crystalized. So there was bit of a paucity of California-based producers who were thinking alike. UK artists were definitely at the forefront, the pioneers. And they were the people we loved hanging out with and booked to play our parties. Though Lee Foss was definitely local to us, he moved from Chicago right before this thing we were conceiving took off, he was there helping us come up with the plan for Culprit and he worked in our studio at the “Bunker,” tirelessly, for over a year…before really coming up with his sound. So Lee was LA for us. And since then local talent has started to catch up, the culture of producing our kind of dance music is growing here. People like Justin Jay, Dance Spirit and Lonely Boy, who have released for us recently, are local. The ratio of LA-based producers vs. everyone else will continue to grow. It just needed time. We’d like to think we helped plant that seed in Los Angeles. But we’ll always have special affection for our UK brethren jozif, Inxec, Matt Tolfrey, Burnski, Maxxi Soundsystem, PBR Streetgang are like-minded people and get what we do. No boundaries there.
3. S.E.C.T. - Man of Wisdom
This was an (unfortunately) short lived Boston deep funk supergroup: Soul Clap, Tanner Ross and Sergio Santos. This is a patented E-Funk take on Mulatu Astatke's old Ethiopian Jazz tune and we've been in love with it ever since the boys sent it to us in the winter of 2010. That slow horn burning breakdown works like a beast at the right party. And if you're at a party where it doesn't illicit howls of approval - you must be at the wrong one.
4. Hot Natured – Wintertime
The second time Jamie and Lee got together at our LA studio, they knocked two timeless jams which will be Culprit reference points even 10 years down the line. Equilibrium is the nocturnal filthy groove counterpart to this Carl Craig -inspired number. Everything is in its right place here and when the second bassline hits, it's hands-in-the-air. Lee tells us he still thinks it's one of the best things the boys have ever done
It kind of does have that classic and timeless feeling, something that won’t age for sure. So how much is your studio a central point for the label’s happenings? It was a big part in the beginning then we had a transitional period where we moved away from our “party” house that also served as our studio space. After we moved away, there were a couple of years where we didn’t really have the kind of a place where our friends and fellow artists would congregate – and we missed that. Two years, as we mentioned, together with Martin Buttrich, Andrei invested in building out a studio complex with space for others to come in and share musical ideas. It’s been up and running and starting to justify the time and effort that was put into it. The Richoshei boys who have had a big release for DJ Koze’s Pampa label are based there, Buttrich, of course…Justin Jay, Edu Imbernon, Inxec and us, Droog, have been making a lot of music there. We hope to see the Adriatique boys, Climbers and M A N I K come through there soon as well.
5. Kenneth James Gibson - Something in the Way (Extended Mix in 3 parts)
In a certain way, possibly THE standout track in our catalogue. A unique and inimitable 13 minute live acid jazz-meets deep techno freakout by Los Angeles' musical genius, Ken Gibson aka apendics.shuffle (among many other aliases). This is the most ambitious and accomplished song in our catalogue, a proper 13 minute musical journey. You really have to hear the whole thing, talking about it is like dancing about architecture...or something like that.
6. Subb-an - What I Do featuring Frank Carter (Burnski's remix)
The original is our most successful track and, we are proud to say, a release that helped launched Ash "Subb-an." Burnski took a liberty of remixing the track on his own and then sending it to us on a whim - and are we glad he did! Proper banging house tune, with the rolling bassline that will convert even the most jaded. It's an upbeat rooftop-ready tune but had also been caned by the masters of the night time set like Damian Lazarus and Sasha. Basically, an all-around crowd pleaser
There’s quite a few firsts on Culprit! Have you got any more of these coming up or any new talent you’re particularly excited about breaking over the next 5 years? It’s tough to groom fresh talent from within…We have high standards for the label so it usually takes a couple of releases for young producers to get there. Our next release is by Greg Pidcock, a friend of ours from Montreal. It’s his second full release, so he’s quite fresh, though his debut was on Hot Creations last year so he’s been getting his name out there. But it’s exciting to be part of his early development, he will definitely be a big player going forward.
Lorenzo Dada, a young Italian producer, who is based in LA a lot of the time, is one to look out for. He’s done a few things already but we feel that we can really help him break through over the next year. I think Lonely Boy as well, another LA-based lad, will keep growing and do great things. Josh (his real name) is not a novice at this but he’s just starting to build his reputation and I think we’ll be part of that as well.
7. jozif - Lady B's Plea
It's the sort of music we always want to have a place for in our catalogue: a bit leftfield, unabashedly emotional, timeless and utterly unlike anything else out there. That just about describes jozif in general, and is exactly why we cherish him so. Can't imagine Culprit without his voice, in a figurative sense.
8. Edu Imbernon – Fayer
When we got this sent as a demo, could hardly believe the quality and character of it. In the sea of faceless music, here was that singular jam. Neither disco, nor house, nor techno - it just is and it has rocked every party we've played it at. Another breakdown for the ages, and those twangy, jangly guitars - we are suckers for those!
Was this video filmed at one of your famous roof top parties? Are these still going strong? How much do they reflect what’s going on the LA party scene today?
Yes, we’ve included the footage of the actual rooftop party. Was fun having the Culprit Bear running around and throwing shapes on the floor in real time, got the energy of the party going.
Actually, as far as our rooftop adventures at the Standard, those are coming to an end. We’ve been doing them for over 6 years and it’s time to move on before they stop being as exciting as they’ve always been. We don’t want them to become routine. They’ve been a big part of the LA scene since we started in early 2008, it’s fair to say they’ve made a real impact. But they’ve served their purpose and it’s time for new party pastures.
9. Benoit & Sergio - Shake Shake
Both songs on Benoit & Sergio's Culprit release are underrated classics, in our opinion. Less overtly anthemic and catchy than some of their earlier stuff, this has such effervescent personality and rhythm. "Adjustments" is the wistful, gentle counterpart to this infectious invitation to boogie. The boys have been friends of ours for a long time and the careful selection of two tunes they've given us shows their affection. Or so we say ;)
It’s like really well done and fun electronic pop…
These guys are really special, it was a thrill to have them create something for us. They are a rare song-based, musically sophisticated act that still package a lot of unusual (for dance music) references in a really fun engaging way. Plus they are good mates, so we couldn’t have picked a better live act for our showcase.
10. Adriatique - Midnight Walking featuring Name One
The Swiss boys of Adriatique are on such a steep rise in our scene, it's really something to behold. They reached out to us nearly three years ago and we've really seen them grow so much. Midnight Walking has everything we are looking for - an amazing groove, a memorable bassline hook and one of those vocals you can't shake. And yet another killer breakdown when the song rushes back in, it's game over! A true modern Culprit anthem.