When WANARB Met: Jamie Russell

Space Hardware Placeholder

After some sly detective work on We Are Not A Rockband’s part led to us discovering that *amazing* Placeholder track Don’t U Know was scheduled for release on ‘Space Hardware’, a Hypercolour off-shoot label, we just knew we had to find out more about it all. With so little info out there we went straight to the horse’s mouth, label owner Jamie Russell. Currently partly responsible for Hypercolour, Glass Table, Losing Suki, and solely responsible for Sneaker Social Club and Space Hardware, in addition to DJing under the name Cedric Maison, to say Mr Russell is a busy man might be somewhat of an understatement. Luckily we managed to pin him down for one of hell of an epic, in-depth chat about his new venture and his new mysterious artist Placeholder…

What made you decide to form another label in addition to Hypercolour, Glass Table, Sneaker Social Club etc?

Sneaker Social Club was initially me spreading my own creative wings. I had an interest in other music and I just kinda felt like I needed to do it and needed something of my own. Space Hardware is, effectively, a spin-off of Sneaker. Sneaker was the initial vision and since the first release I’ve just been in this headspace of how I’ve been seeking out music. What’s been tickling my fancy has been very broad. The Placeholder thing, I came across via Ben, one of our interns. Ben had found him on Soundcloud and I pretty much fell in love with both those original tracks. I’ve been playing them relentlessly to anyone who’ll listen.

Ha! That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing!

Oh well that’s good, at least I’m not the only one. It’s going to be distributed through Clone Distribution, who are a group of labels that I massively respect. They said that it made sense for me to put some house remixes in there and Jacob Korn has done a great job y’know. They are fantastic originals but he’s made it for the clubs. Which is great, as I’ve got the headphone stuff there, which is initially just all I wanted to do. But, as the distributor wanted to sell vinyl units, we’ve got some remixes in there to balance it out. Really it just came from the fact I didn’t see it sitting on Sneaker. I think there’s quite a difference between the tempos and the vibe.

I did think, how would people perceive me starting up a new label. I thought they’d just take the piss. But the music’s got to do the talking here really. It’s not that much of a problem for people to take the piss out of me anyway so fuck it! Space Hardware is very much in theme with Sneaker Social Club but the main difference between the two is that Sneaker is more clubby, the forthcoming releases have a strong element of ‘90s inspired rave music. Whereas Space Hardware, even down to the name itself…. I’m a big Flying Lotus fan and Daedelus and a lot of stuff we have coming up sounds like it’s influenced by that L.A. Beat sound. Although, that’s not the case with Placeholder…. But it’s still quite spacey.

Placeholder – Don’t U Know

Placeholder seems very enigmatic and such an unusual character… it would be great if you could tell us a bit about the relationship you’ve developed with him.

It’s taken a while to get him to come out of his shell. He’s making music for fun basically. I don’t think he was making music to get signed. When I approached him about it he was really surprised. He was chuffed but at the same time really quite cagey. He had some pre-conceptions about the music industry and I’ve been quite thorough with him, but he is just a kid at school making tunes with an old computer and shitty laptop speakers. And tonally, I think it’s some of the best music I’ve ever signed. I think it’s been an education process for him.

So you’re being like a mentor to him now?

Um, yeah, possibly. I think he’s still unsure as to where he wants all this to go. His brother is a musician, a guitarist, and he’s thanked his brother on the sleeve-notes, because the riff in ‘Brothers’ is actually sampled from his brother. Hence the name. I think that says a lot about him, without asking any questions about him that does tell me he’s just a very nice guy. I’m keen to do more music with him. We’ll see, he’s sent me some interesting stuff, a lot of it ambient. He’s certainly one to watch out for.

I’m seven years down the line now in putting out records so I think I can give him a good experience, which is not always the case for artists and their dealings with labels. I don’t really know that much about him, I don’t even know his surname! I didn’t ask any more questions but I found it weird as I know where he lives, I know what he does and I know the reasons why he makes music. Part of me was thinking it might even be somebody else.

Placeholder – Brothers

Have you met him?

No, he lives in the States. He’s got a nice family life from the sounds of it. We’ve discussed our family backgrounds and they were both very different. His was nice. But yeah, he’s an intriguing character.

He said he’s never played out before- any plans to bring him over for a Space Hardware showcase when you have more releases?

There’s interest for a few back-room things. The second release is from an artist called Deft, who’s a very nice man called Yip who lives in Croydon. He’s just remixed Gang Colours and done some other stuff for Giles [Peterson]’s Brownswood label. And the third release is from an artist called Blacksmif, a nice man called Yemi who’s just really found his sound. It’s very James Blake-esque. So yeah, I’m going to use Yemi and Yip for some back-room events… Yemi and Yip… they should form their own band! I’m definitely going to involve both of them, and god, if Placeholder was ever over [in the UK] that’d be great.

Gang Colours – Fancy Restaurant (Deft remix) [Snippet]

Placeholder has already drawn comparisons to James Blake and has a similar sound to Gang Colours and Ifan Dafydd. How well do you think this electronic, down-tempo sound translates to American listeners as it seems such an English thing at the moment?

There’s definitely something happening in terms of a movement from press people. I know there are lots of prominent journalists who are now focussing primarily on America and drawing the populace’s attention to credible electronic music. I think it’s the start of making more underground music popular in the States. The big touring DJs who play shit music are massively in demand over there and I think they’re probably about ten years behind the UK at the moment. But I think there’s definitely a market for it. There’s a label in LA called Friends of Friends who’re going to be quite instrumental in helping push us in the States. They do a lot of work with Shlohmo and Daedelus so they have similar reference points to what I’m doing. I think it will be interesting to see how it all pans out over the next few years as the States is such a huge market, and is going to be such a huge market [for us]. There’s concerted efforts here to make that the case, so yeah, watch this space!

We don’t sell that much music over there so we will be focussing on our UK audience. Some of the Germans are quite open-minded to the new project, but effectively I’m here trying to push very different music to people who are fans of Hypercolour. And they kinda get it but some of them don’t. I think it’s fresh and I’m really excited about it.

What’s next for Space Hardware?

The first release will be dropping really soon. The second release is from Deft, who I mentioned earlier. Two tracks, one of which is featured on Maya Jane Coles DJ Kicks compilation. It’s actually the opening track on it. The other track, Asthma, you can hear [on Deft’s Soundcloud] without vocals. The vocals will be coming from Om’mas Keith, who is part of The Sa-Ra Creative Partners who are signed to Kanye West’s label. He recently sang on Mark Pritchard’s Wind It Up, which was quite a big tune on Planet Mu. He’s very American and I’m hoping he’s going to turn it into a very memorable song. At the moment it’s instrumental hip-hop but very very electronic, whereas the track on the Maya Jane Coles compilation is kinda UK garage but sort of a lot deeper.

Deft – Asthma (instrumental) [Forthcoming]

So there’s that and I’m also doing an album with him as well. There’s going to be some really cool guest vocalists, including Fatima from Floating Points. I’ve also got this guy who used to busk at the end of my road in Brighton… He used to play a ukulele and sing tunes in a reggae-reggae style. He’s wicked and you’ll have to wait and see. It doesn’t sound all that appealing but he’s actually a really amazing guy. He used to be in quite a prominent dub band in Brighton, so he’s a lot more than just a busker.

And then the third release will be from Blacksmif. He’s just blown me away. He’s sent me quite a few tracks and I think we might have enough for an album. But there isn’t really anything planned beyond that. I have opened up the option to do a second release with Placeholder, so we’re just going to see where it goes from there. I was quite fortunate to go to the distributor with just the first release, and they trusted that I’d follow that on with more good releases. Which is why things are full steam ahead already with only three releases planned. It’s exciting times. Three EPs and potentially two albums from Deft and Blacksmif. It’ll also be the first year we’re putting out albums on Hypercolour so I’ll be getting some practice in putting out long players. Quite excited to do so.

If you want to read an equally indepth interview with Jamie focussing on Hypercolour head over to the Dalston Superstore website.

Rachael Williams



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