Slam’s Soma label turns 25 this year. They’re celebrating with the boxset ‘Soma25’, which includes their long-lost remix of Daft Punk’s ‘Drive’: we talked to them about their favourite releases, signing Daft Punk, and the 20 years they spent curating T in the Park’s Slam tent.
What are your favourite releases you’ve put out over the years and why?
“The ones that have never left our crates. Tracks like our own ‘Positive Education’, ‘Envoy’s Dark Manoeuvres’ which has become a Berghain classic. We also love Robert Hoods remix of The Black Dog ‘Train By The Autobahn’. Skintrade’s ‘Andomraxess’ because it’s so different and creatively crafted for the time. But with this kind of thing it changes – if you asked us the same question in five years’ time the answers may be radically different.”
You gave Daft Punk their first record deal. How did you discover them and what do you remember of your first interactions with the duo?
“We were in Paris to play at a rave held near the Disneyland complex. A friend of theirs knew we were in town so he got in touch with us because they were big fans of our record ‘Positive Education’. He asked if we could meet them: I just remember hanging out with Thomas and Guy for a while before we eventually heard their music. They hardly spoke a word for two days then we went to someone’s flat to hear their demo, which they had made on a cassette tape, and it was like: ‘Wow, these quiet guys made this music?’ It was so raw and aggressive and full of attitude. We signed then right there on the spot!”
Are you still in touch with them now? Where do you see them going musically after the success of ‘Random Access Memories’?
“Yeah, we kind of are still in touch. Ironically when we were in Paris to play at the Rex Club recently and to film for the Daft Punk Unchained Documentary we hooked up with Thomas for dinner. He’s still the same guy. Loves talking about geeky stuff like technology production and that kind of thing. I remember him telling me way back that they were going to cover their identity so they could go to a supermarket and nobody would recognise them. This is before they were actually famous. That’s how much belief they had they were going to make it. Thomas’s dad was in the industry as a disco producer so they had a great mentor to start with.
“In the future who knows where they will go musically – what they do now is mainstream pop really buts its still very unique, it’s so well respected within that world. I would like to see them maybe do something a bit more esoteric but who knows?”
You’ve remixed their track ‘Drive’ for the ‘Soma25’ box set. Talk us through what your idea for the remix was and your process working on it.
“This is a remix of one of their tracks we never got round to releasing at the time for whatever reason. We were having a clear-out of the Soma offices and we came across a bunch of DAT tapes, this track being one of them. We wanted to completely reconstruct the track and our inspiration for it was to make an interpretation that captured that raw spirit of the first music we heard in that flat in Paris when we first met them! It’s very raw with modular synth sequences and that repetitive vocal hook repeating ‘Drive’. Current Daft Punk fans will probably be at best confused by it and at worst hate it. Looking forward to the response, haha.”
What’s the biggest challenge labels like Soma are facing right now?
“The biggest challenge is to release music that raises its head above the parapet. In the digital world, there are so many labels/music out there, and you have to strive to release music and work with the artists that you deem to be the absolute best.
“We receive hundreds of demos each week and we have to be really choosy about what we release. It’s about staying focused and delivering a musical ethos and aesthetic that your fanbase can relate to. But at the same time staying ahead of the curve to take things forward.
“In general, it’s a good time for Soma right now! We’re really happy because although this is our 25th year, our ethos isn’t really one of nostalgia but more one of new musical excitement and relevance. Which is exactly the way we have approached the anniversary vinyl box-set. Respected artists that still retain relevance like Jeff Mills provide brand new compositions, while new producers pick their favourite tracks and put their slant on those.”
What’s the Glasgow techno scene like right now and which artists should people be looking out for?
“The Glasgow scene has always been great. Techno and electronic music run deep through its DNA. It’s like a microcosm in the UK where techno has been respected and loved since its inception. There has always been a great scene for Techno in the city even since the 90s. That was the era of the superclub, it’s when Pressure nights started, which had 2000 people dancing to Jeff Mills and Richie Hawtin. The scene is even more buoyant now with many great nights happening.
“We have a relatively new festival at the end of May called Riverside Festival which is set in the grounds of the transport museum on the river Clyde, which is really exciting for us at the moment. It runs over two days on the Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th of May.
“Our personal favourite Glaswegian artists right now I guess would be Edit Select and Clouds, but there are much more. Probably too many to list.”
You also are involved with the Slam Tent at T In The Park. What do you think the future of the festival is? How vital is its survival to the Scottish music scene?
“I think there is a strong future ahead. Taking a year out will only benefit the festival and allow it to reset and refocus.
“T in the Park has been very important to the Scottish music scene in reflecting current trends and supporting and showcasing emerging talent. It is very important culturally as well as being a major boost to the economy.
“Our role is to provide a credible, cutting edge electronic element to the festival that compliments the band/rock focus on the other stages. The Slam tent is pretty unique in that it’s become more than just another dance stage. Its curation is respected the world over and has become a significant key date in many of the artists’ and major key players’ diaries within the scene. And long may that continue.”