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Label Focus: Soma

The Glasgow label behind classics like ‘Positive Education’ and ‘Da Funk’ marks 25 years in the game

  • Sean Griffths
  • 13 April 2017

Glasgow has long been one of the UK’s most fertile breeding grounds for dance music and club culture – and Soma’s influence in building the foundations of that reputation has been key. The label was founded in 1991 by Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle of DJ duo Slam, alongside friend Dave Clarke. Born out of a series of nights they were running at Sub Club, the label harnessed the DIY spirit of post-punk labels like Factory and Rough Trade that the trio had loved in their youth, and was originally set up as an outlet for their own music.

Warm and ambient first release ‘Eterna’ has gone on to be something of a cult classic since its release, and the label quickly followed it up with tracks like ‘Fallen’ by Dove and ‘Seduced’ by G-7 before dropping bona-fide dance classic ‘Positive Education’ in 1993. In the intervening years they put out early releases from Surgeon, Daft Punk and Funk D’Void, and most importantly, driven by pure passion, kept the label firing on all cylinders for over two decades. As they belatedly celebrate their 25th birthday, we look back on the history of Soma Records.

Label boss: Stuart McMillan

What made you start Soma?

We were already doing nights at the Sub Club in Glasgow and initially the label was a vehicle for our own productions. We realised that once people hear your music, they gravitate towards you more. There were labels in the UK already, but it wasn’t a thing like it is now. A lot of the records being played were imports from the US; there wasn’t a huge amount of house and techno from the UK being put out at the time.

What was the first release on the label?

‘Eterna/I.B.O’. We had no idea what kind of reaction we’d get. We were just making music for ourselves, really. Some people now consider it a classic, which is odd as it was one of our first attempts at making that kind of music.

You famously put out the first Daft Punk records. How did that happen?

We went to a big rave in Paris and Guy and Thomas wanted to meet us. So we met them, and hung out for a couple of days, but didn’t really think too much about it as they were quite shy and quiet and didn’t drink much. Eventually we ended up in someone’s apartment and they put on one of their demos and we were like, ‘Whoah!’ The music seemed so different from their personalities. What we loved about the early Daft Punk material was that it had a rudimentary quality. We decided we had to put it out right there and then. We put out ‘Da Funk’, which ended up on their debut album, but the other tracks were much more techno-focused.

What are you most proud of?

To still be at the forefront of this music 25 years on. The anniversary isn’t a nostalgia trip for us but a way to mark how long we’ve been doing it. It’s incredible that so many people we looked up to when we started, like Andrew Weatherall and Jeff Mills, are still at the top of their game, and have done new tracks for us on the box set.

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