Naming your record label after the city you live and operate in seems pretty direct, but it was a route Kevin McKay felt was essential when launching Glasgow Underground in 1996. “You always heard loads about what was coming out of London and Manchester in those days,” he explains. “But a lot of the time, records that went off in those cities didn’t work in Glasgow and I wanted the label to be about the records that worked in our city.” With a good few years experience of running a record label under his belt, largely releasing his own music via the imprint Muzique Tropique, McKay set up Glasgow Underground with a view of branching out into releasing more music
by other artists. Focusing on the deeper end of house, early releases came via Mateo & Matos, US icon Romanthony (pictured) and Kevin’s own Studio Blue alias. Twenty years later, the label’s still doing exactly what it set out to do, releasing the finest deep house it can get its hands on.
More recent releases have come from Climbers and Illyus & Barrientos, plus a Romanthony remix project with contributions from the likes of Dixon and Gerd Janson.
How did the label start?
I started my first label, Muzique Tropique, as part of a postgraduate business course I did in Glasgow. For a few years I just put out my own music on that, and it did quite well. But when I asked other people to release on it, they’d often say it would be a bit weird as I’d only released my own music on the label – but that they’d be up for doing something if I started something new.
What was the ethos of the label?
It was strictly stuff that worked in Glasgow. The city was instrumental to the development of what I was doing. I always felt people in Glasgow were good at sticking two fingers up to hype if they didn’t rate it, and that’s always been my ethos too.
How big was it in the 90s and early 00s?
It’s funny, because when deep house got popular again recently, it had YouTube and a whole load of other things that weren’t around in the 90s to help power it. Back then, anyone doing deep house didn’t get that big compared to, say, Judge Jules. We were selling around seven thousand copies of most of the stuff we put out. But I focused on signing stuff that had some musicality and longevity; DJs tell me they can still play those records today, which can’t be said for a lot of the more mainstream stuff.
What have been some of the highlights of the past few years?
I’d been working with Mylo, helping develop his career for a lot of the 00s, and when our relationship ended I got back in the studio and rediscovered being an artist, which was great. And doing all the stuff with the Romanthony back catalogue was great, too. Sadly he passed away, but the idea was that having Dixon, Claptone and Motor City Drum Ensemble remix his music was going to give him a new audience to release music to.
10 key releases
Romanthony 'Bring U Up'
“It’s probably Romanthony and Glasgow Underground’s most iconic cut. It sounds like Curtis Mayfield hot-wired to the future, and was a favourite for DJs such as Gilles Peterson, Josh Wink, Tony Humphries and Masters At Work.”
Kevin McKay 'The Oooh Song’
“After being in a dark place for a while and not making records with any real love, I was so happy to be back in the groove and have my records appreciated by DJs again.”
Illyus & Barrientos ‘Touch My Mind’
“I couldn’t do a top ten and not have one from these lads. They were working separately until I virtually forced them in the studio together, and now they’re smashing the Beatport charts and releasing on Defected
Romanthony ‘Floorpiece’ (Claptone remix)
“Claptone delivered a monster of a remix with heavy garage beats, a moody bassline and some killer keys underpinning Romanthony’s story.”
Neon Heights feat Zoe Johnston ‘Are We Thru?’ (Larry Heard’s Underground Vibe mix)
“A spooky journey with oddball chords and shimmering electronics.”
Muzique Tropique 'Stella Sunday’
“I made this with my old studio partner, Andy Carrick. It’s about hanging with your mates and having a few beers to start the party again after the night before.”
Andy MacDougall ‘Shaman’ (Dennis Cruz remix)
“This is one of those rare occasions where the rework absolutely kills it – Dennis added the necessary grit and bump to the bottom-end.”
“I signed Graeme in 2008. In the beginning Grum wasn’t right for Glasgow Underground, so I set up the Heartbeats sub-label for him. But on the second LP, loads of his tracks worked for us – this was our biggest-selling record of 2017.”
Metodi Hristov ‘Step Outside'
“Metodi was an artist I immediately warmed to. This is a monster.”
Mateo & Matos ‘The Real Thing’ (Kevin McKay’s Heavy Dub)
“Before I released this mix, I’d been learning about dub from the Idjut Boys, and was inspired to deliver this drum-heavy, dubbed-out vocal and percussion workout that would end up being caned by Matthias Tanzmann.”