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Label Focus: OWSLA

In 2011 Skrillex launched his own imprint. Here’s how it became one of the world’s biggest independent dance labels

  • Sean Griffiths
  • 14 September 2016

Back in 2011, Sonny Moore was evolving from a hyped DJ and producer, with a huge following online, to one of the biggest acts in music. But as he rapidly rose, he decided it was only right to take a few of his friends and peers with him. “A lot of these guys weren’t being recognised, or were in shitty deals,” explains label manager Blaise D’Angelo. “Sonny looked around and realised he had all these talented friends who needed a place to incubate together.” The first release on the label was Porter Robinson’s ‘Spitfire’, an epic statement of intent, as deftly melodic as it was ferocious. It was quickly followed by early releases from Zedd, Koan Sound, Skream, Kill The Noise and Skrillex himself. With everyone from Sub Focus to Jack Beats to Seven Lions releasing on the label in its early days, OWSLA’s rise as a label seemed to coincide exactly with the moment the old genre boundaries started to feel a little bit redundant. And while many of its releases are on the bassier and more abrasive side of the musical spectrum, its remit stretches far and wide.

Label manager: Blaise DeAngelo

How did the label begin and were there big ambitions from the start?

Quite the opposite. I came on board eight months into the label and, at the time, Sonny’s team was still very small. And none of them really wanted to start a label. But this was 2011, and the electro thing had really taken off in the States and the industry hadn’t really caught up. Sonny saw that and wanted to create a place for artists like Porter Robinson, Dillon Francis, Zedd and Koan Sound to thrive.

What’s the common thread that runs through all the artists on OWSLA?

It’s hard to say; at one end we have indie electronica from Hundred Waters and Basecamp, at the other the heavier stuff like Skrillex and Kill The Noise. What they all have in common is a spirit. They’re all hungry, extroverted, have a burning ambition and a rebellious D.I.Y. spirit.

How has the label changed in the course of five years?

We’ve reimagined the label and done some fundamental restructuring. We see OWSLA as more of a creative service rather than just a record label. At the start we did all the usual things when we put out a record, like editorial placement, Beatport and iTunes exclusives, getting it on Zane Lowe. But then we thought, “What does an artist really want and need from us?” An artist knows how to make music and tour, but they need creative people to help them find the right video director, get content for their socials or come up with cool merch, so it’s those kind of things we’re honing in on. Sonny’s started to take inspiration from fashion brands like Moschino or Alexander Wang.

How will you mark five years?

We’ve taken over an abandoned gas station in downtown LA for the summer and are using it as a pop-up shop. It’ll be open until September 13, our anniversary, when we’ll be having a huge party in the grounds.

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