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Label Focus: Hessle Audio

The shape-shifting label that has helped redefine UK club music

  • Patrick Hinton
  • 14 November 2016

Although founded in Leeds nearly 10 years ago – the city where its three founders went to uni and spun records together on internet station Sub FM – the roots of Hessle Audio go back to London’s seminal dubstep party FWD>>. That’s where Ben UFO and Pearson Sound first met and fell in love with the genre, before the trio became complete with the addition of Pangaea in the Yorkshire city. It’s fitting the pair came together at one of the most influential nights the country has ever seen: the output they’ve gone on to curate, along with Pangaea, has undoubtedly reshaped the UK club scene in a similar way.

Hessle arrived towards the tail-end of dubstep’s heyday, and as the genre divided and cracked, no other imprint moved forward into the post-dubstep landscape with the same clarity of vision. Early cuts from Ramadanman and Martyn were supported by the likes of Ricardo Villalobos as the blueprint for breaking musical boundaries was laid. The quality has never dipped in nine years, with contributions from Untold, Joe, Objekt, Peverelist, a pre-singer-songwriter era James Blake and more recently Bruce and Ploy among its discography. With its 10th anniversary approaching next year, Hessle Audio stands tall as a truly game-changing imprint.

Label co-founder: Pangaea

What’s the ethos of the label?

We were being sent quite a lot of music to play on radio and that dubstep period was a really fertile time. It was also a time when there was quite a lot of non-straight-down-the-line dubstep being made that wasn’t really getting released, and we saw an opening. It just made sense to contribute and be a part of this thing that was going on.

How has your vision for Hessle Audio evolved over the years?

I don’t think it’s changed much at all, apart from house and techno being a much more obvious presence. House and techno were there even in the early days, it’s just that that has become much more of a thing over the years. But we’re still trying to hit that sweet-spot between sounds that are a bit different, but also compatible with other sounds.

Was there a moment when people really started to take notice of the label?

A big moment was Martyn’s remix of TRG. That was being picked up by some of the producers and DJs we were looking up to, like Kode9, and being played out in clubs and on the radio. I think when that happened it got us a bit of attention.

The label has been quite selective with its releases in recent years. What defines a Hessle Audio artist?

The producers will always have their own sound; there’ll be some sort of unique trait to their music. That’s probably one of the most important things – that when you hear something you can tell that there’s artistry in it and unique elements to their music.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

We just want to carry on releasing music we’re happy with. That’s it, really!

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