Whether as an artist or a record label, attempting to stand out in today’s increasingly saturated electronic music scene is no easy feat, though some people seem to have the knack of making both look incredibly easy. Throughout recent years the British DJ, producer and label owner, Oli Furness has been earning global respect, securing international bookings from Japan to Ibiza and appearances at major festivals such as Glastonbury, as well as a cementing himself as a renowned resident at Manchester’s Sankeys. Furthermore his burgeoning reputation as a producer has seen him release the best part of 20 singles across the likes of NDV, Wax Classic, Morris/Audio and Tact Recordings. That's not even to mention his very own Music Is Love imprint, the success of which has been particularly fruitful, with the likes of Liam Geddes, Jamie Trench, Tuccillo, Mr KS and Jonny Cade all making appearances since its inception back in 2012.
This year looks to be exceptionally propitious with the addition of his new sub-label, MIL, as well as a management company sharing the same name providing further testaments to Oli’s mounting reputation as one of the most auspicious and multifaceted young guns in modern day house music. Ahead of his appearance here in Farringdon on Saturday (7th March) where he’ll be playing alongside Terry Francis and Eddie Richards in the Demo hosted Room Three, we caught up with Oli Furness to hear about his goals for the year ahead of him.
Tell us more about your labels Music Is Love and its sub-imprint MIL... what is the ethos behind them and how do they differ?
Music is Love was set up about 2 years ago now to bring through a house sound we could identify with, a chance to try and push through some of the fantastic people we were surrounded by and felt they deserved a proper label that did things the right way to release on. I think we achieved that and now we are settling into being a label that hopefully people can trust to bring a solid an interesting release every time. The sister label came about purely out of the passion to expand our vocabulary and show people that we didn’t just idolise house, but in fact we drawn reference and cherish all types of stuff. With Music Is Love we took a long time in making sure the branding was tight and it had tons of character, vinyl and digital with intent to fully embrace the house scene. But with MIL we wanted it to be vinyl only and maybe not for everyone, but still house music that speaks volumes to the people that get what we dig.
For me MIL has featured some of the strongest stuff out of any of the labels and its becoming a bit of a love interest for me. The inclusion of the sister label meant we could really open up the booking policy for our events as well being able to create more unique narratives for the parties from a broad range of influences and beloved artists – expanding our musical base with the labels just made sense.
On top of the labels you have also recently launched a management company. What are your plans with that?
Yeah it is a super exciting time right now - we have just launched MIL-MGMT. We came at this new business as label owners, as people struggling day in day out to put out great records. This really guided everything we did when setting up our own service, we basically formed this new company to try and stop people having to deal with the pit falls we found such as finding the right PR company if you don’t have the right connections already, finding people who are going to work for you and get you some good coverage rather than just collecting DJ quotes and calling it a day. One thing we have done is try and get involved with labels much earlier than usual PR companies by providing mastering services from an excellent engineer so we can help make sure the quality of the release is super high also.
Running labels ourselves we know how budgets can be tight especially on limited run vinyl releases when you first start your label, so we heavily subsidize our mastering so ideally we can go through the whole process of mastering and promoting with the label so we can help to build their profile and their contacts. To work with the label from start to completion because it makes more sense for us to build more high quality success labels than it is to take a pay cheque for one campaign. We want to help make some long standing labels – that’s our passion.
You have been a resident for Manchester’s Sankeys for a while now. How did this first materialise?
My mate Fletch took over the club late, at the end of 2013 - he has been a strong influence in my career giving me chances when I wasn’t on the radar enough to be picked up by anyone else. He showed promoters in Japan mixes and unsigned stuff I had made before anyone else was on it, so he gave me the chance and I think I must have done enough because I keep turning up and they keep letting me in [laughs]. I’m in a really fortunate place, to be able to learn my craft at the level of a resident as it gives you the opportunity to wear many different caps from warm up to closing sets so its always a fresh vibe. When we do the Music Is Love showcases that’s a different thing all together, the showcases are big, bad ass party vibes all night long!
Alongside music you also work on an oil rig don’t you? How do you manage that on top of everything else?
Well, yes I did, but I’ve actually decided to put my money where my mouth is and stopped working offshore at the start of the year. Before that I was working 13-14 hours a day offshore and then working on the labels in my “down time”: which was a massive strain to be honest but was worth digging in. Now I’m doing this game full time it’s a really exciting chapter of my life. I'm no less busy with the new projects and obviously a lot less financially secure but the thrill of the chase with the new company and the labels and the gigs is making me hungrier than ever to achieve and accomplish something within this industry. Be that through helping record labels break through with management, or pushing through new artists with the labels so that music might be a full time part of their life. I am happier than ever!
Last year looks like it was a pretty mammoth year for you and the label. What were the highlights?
Last year was fierce, so many nice memories and lovely parties. We did our first showcase at Chalet in Berlin - a crazy party that went on all night only for the club to finish and the garden party to begin for quite some time after with the sun blazing down - truly beautiful stuff. We also started our residency at Sankey’s MCR bringing people like Dettmann, Moodyman, Levon, Delano, Kink and soooo many more amazing artists which was incredible. We also hosted some parties with the amazing Viva Warriors party at Sankeys Ibiza, which personally for me was ace as I didn’t know if the type of vibe I play would work on the island but people embraced it and it went off!
Other than that, playing Glastonbury for the second time in a row in the acid house tent with Liam Gallagher bobbing around the backstage will be the highlight of every year to come from now until forever.
What's in store for Music Is Love this year?
We’ve got quite a lot of stuff ready to come out of the gate with this year. On the main label we have just released MIL011 which features the rising Frenchman Mr KS, the infamous Point G, and little old me. After that we are starting a new series which is something really personal to us. Its called Tribute and the idea behind it is a chosen Music Is Love artist (me in this case) gets to choose one of his favourite producers (Paul Johnson in this case) and we license two of our favourite tracks from them to go with two tracks from us to show how our sound is influenced by them. Hopefully ending in a tribute to the producer’s effect on music past and present. That’s the idea, and I am excited to see where this goes.
On the sister label MIL we have just dropped DJ BMX's Conquest of Gravity EP which has been really well received; which is cool as its not conventional music so to speak. After that we are buzzin' to welcome Quell to MIL with a seriously dance floor aimed EP. Then we totally flip the script to an incredibly legit techno monster from the masterful Kastil. It’s going to blow you away.
Other than that we have more shows at our home in Sankeys MCR, showcases in London, Birmingham, Berlin and Birmingham already booked in and some amazing music coming from the labels we are working with as MIL-MGMT. It’s looking like a busy year.
How about yourself? What can we look forward to from you in terms of releases, events and projects for 2015?
I’ve just remixed Mr KS on MIL011, then I’m fortunate enough to be sharing a release with Paul Johnson on the Tribute EP. Then sometime around May I have a release on the new(ish) label, DEXT Recordings - they’ve hooked up an Alden Tyrell remix on it and he’s one of my idols so I’m hyped for that. Apart from that I’ve got another thing on Music Is Love dropping, but after that not too much. I write and write but I never really seem to get round to sending them to labels, something I really need to look at... [laughs]
I’ve also been collecting a lovely array of toys and gear and have been playing about with a full hardware live set but there’s a few things that need to fall into place yet but I'm already very excited about it. I make music by jamming stuff out live, so there’s not much difference its just trying to find something that feels right and expressive.