Over the last couple of years Solardo have solidified themselves as heavy hitters in the tech-house sphere and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. This year the Manchester duo have had one of the biggest summers of their career to date, with a vast Ibiza show count, including appearances alongside legends such as Eric Prydz. Not content with just performing, the producers have been promoting and releasing a slew of artists on their label, Sola, as well as their own records and remixes for the likes of Santé and Nic Fanciulli.
Here, Solardo’s James Eliot takes time to talk about Ibiza, a milestone release on their label (including a brand new collaboration with Camelphat), and the duo’s upcoming Warehouse Project show. Check out the full interview below.
How has Ibiza been for you guys this summer?
It’s been amazing. It was always going to be special because it was our first full season residency at Hï. We were hosting Room 2, and we got to pick the acts. It was nice to draft in our friends in the industry and some of the up-and-coming talent coming through on the label and to be fair the party has been really strong. We’ve had a couple of off weeks when Carl Cox has been on the island but we were forewarned about that! He plays at Resistance every Tuesday and when it was his birthday party, don’t get me wrong it wasn’t completely dead, but it was half full where all of the other weeks it has been capacity. But on the whole it’s been really positive. [We have] one more week and then it’s the closing party. It’s honestly like a blink to me, it’s gone past so quick.
We’ve had 7 dates for ANTS between the Hï residency and we played the ABODE opening party at Amnesia Terrace. This season we made our Amnesia Terrace debut, we made our main stage ANTS debut, it was absolutely insane. Ushuaïa is such a good venue and it's the go-to party on a Saturday daytime in Ibiza. So on the whole the Ibiza season has been extremely positive this year. We’re hoping we can make enough of a mark on the island and everybody’s pleased with what they’ve seen for the first year that we come back in 2019 bigger, better and stronger!
How has your label, Sola, been going?
It's going really, really well. Me and Mark started the record label around the same time that we actually started Solardo because we’d made so much music in the studio and we could find no output for it. All the labels and demo emails we’d sent it to didn’t respond, and we’d been giving USBs out to raves around the world and got no response so we though ‘fuck this, If no one’s gonna put music out and we’ve got so much music to put out that we believe is extremely strong music we’ll start our own label!’ We put our debut single on the label called ‘Planet Moog’. It got picked up by Boiler Room, they premiered it on their YouTube and SoundCloud and we got quite a lot of traction from it.
Sola started a long time ago as an output for us, but as the time progressed and we started making a name and gathered momentum as Solardo, that's when we started putting other music out. It started off once every two months, then once every month, then every two weeks and now we’re currently releasing every Friday because of the volume of music that we’re receiving from around the world. But yeah, I think we’re now the third biggest tech-house label on Beatport and the people who are behind us are Hot Creations and Relief Records. We’re ahead of the likes of Dirtybird and Repopulate Mars so it’s quite humbling. But to be fair, as much as it is humbling, we graft our bollocks off listening to demos on a daily basis and selecting the right music for what we believe is not the current sound but the sound that is forthcoming.
We’re coming up to our 50th release, and because of that we’ve got a collaboration with Camelphat on there called ‘Accelerator’ which will be the main single and is an extremely strong record. We’re also gonna release a single every single day throughout that week to celebrate the 50th release of Sola records. We’ve got some super strong singles. Every single one that’s coming out that week could be an A-side from an EP but the artists were happy to do it and we’re pushing for a big press release behind it. So it’s exciting times and we’re in a fortunate position to show what we believe is the next wave of music. Because of where we’re up to in our career we can give the opportunity to the people in Manchester who are doing what we did two or three years ago. I honestly think that the talent coming out of Manchester is unbelievable. There’s three unknown people signed to Jamie Jones’ label from Manchester, there’s so much talent. And we can be at the forefront of that and nurture them and give them an opportunity to release new music on Sola.
We’re just in the process of setting up a sub-label for the more experimental techno-orientated stuff. Sola now has got its own kind of sound, we don’t wanna be putting out 130bpm techno EPs and stuff that could be played in Berghain on Sola. But because we’re getting inundated with the amount of music from around the world, not only just this ‘generic tech-house’ that everybody says, we have disco and techno records, I want to have an output for all the different sounds and styles. Some people think ‘Solardo only play tech-house’ but no we don’t, come and watch us play! If you come and see us at somewhere tech-house orientated then we will play that but if you see us come and play in a techno festival in the middle of Düsseldorf we play proper techno. We pride ourselves on being able to adapt at whatever situation we’re in. I’ve been searching for techno for quite some time now and I thoroughly enjoy proper techno sets – not as hard as Nina Kraviz but harder than Drumcode!
You guys don’t seem to take yourselves too seriously, do you think dance music needs to be more fun?
I have the utmost respect for each individual and how they portray themselves online. Yes, naturally, me and Mark don’t take ourselves too seriously when it comes to messing around and whatnot but when it comes to the music side of things we take it extremely seriously. We’ve played at some very serious techno festivals this year in Germany and Spain. And when we go there, because the techno crowd isn’t quite like a house and a tech-house crowd, we’re not as animated, we don’t wear the super-bright flowery shirts, we’ll still stick to what we know, and wear more cool and slick shirts which are predominantly black. It’s a completely different vibe but this is what I want to do more of. I don’t want people to just sit there and think Solardo its some one-trick tech-house pony that can only do that. We’re in our late 30s, we’ve got a lot more tricks up our sleeve than just one sound.
You’re heading back home to do the Warehouse Project this year and you’re curating the line-up. Are you planning anything particularly for that set?
We’re extremely honoured to be playing there this year. We don’t get to play in our home city very often anymore, only twice a year usually: Parklife and a WHP show. So it's always special to have a bit of a homecoming. To come in and be curating your own Warehouse Project is still quite bizarre, especially as it was one of the first establishments that really caught my ear. I went to the first year of the Warehouse Project when it was in Boddingtons Brewery. I had all my mates talking about this new event. 10 years ago there wasn’t the internet factor there is now, where everything is run by social media. Back then it was more flyers and posters. All my mates showed me this flyer and obviously at the time I had no idea who Richie Hawtin and Seth Troxler and these other people were but I went anyway and I remember I was just blown away for a long time by the music. I had no idea about it. For it to really open my eyes to this sound and then to be coming back these years later and putting my own event on there is pretty mind boggling.
Are there any new events or people popping up that people should be keeping an ear out for?
We’ve just launched our own club event called Higher. The first will be the Warehouse Project show. Then later this year we’re doing Higher events in Edinburgh, Liverpool (a new event with Circus), Leeds (Canal Mills which is closing its doors) and London (338). It’s a bit different to Solardo Sessions, we just wanted to separate it and launch an actual brand instead of just our own party.
But yeah, I could name you so many parties and artists to keep an eye out for. There’s REME, Mason Collective, Joseph Edmund, Mason Maynard is making a lot of noise in the industry right now, there’s Josh Baker as well. I could talk to you about them for 10 hours.
It’s an exciting time to be in the house music scene in the UK, isn’t it?
Oh for sure. Yeah it’s not just Manchester, it’s the whole of the UK and the whole world in the house music scene right now. The North American market are really starting to pick up on it which is one of the biggest electronic music scenes worldwide and they’re really starting to get this sound. Chris Lake, Fisher, Bill Kenny, Claude VonStroke, Green Velvet, you know the people who play that sort of stuff are really big in the US. And it’s starting to hit home for the likes of us and Camelphat, Latmun and Detlef. We’re getting sets where the main slot is the likes of Calvin Harris and Martin Garrix and Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike and we’re getting second stage so it’s obviously showing that the sound is changing. I’ve noticed that a lot of the EDM guys now want a piece of this pie.
What would you say to people who aren’t quite on board with the tech-house sound yet? Is there something for everyone?
No, not everything is for everyone. What it really boils down to is that we’re in a very fortunate position to make people dance in festival stages and in dark rooms. At the end of the day you’re making people have a good time regardless of if you’re playing jazz music or if you’re in an orchestra or you’re a techno DJ or an ABBA specialist DJ. If you are a professional DJ you’re living your dream job, to make people dance. So I don’t like to get into the whole ‘I’m too cool to listen to tech-house’, or the snobbery. There is a hell of a lot of snobbery, it’s rife in the industry, I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I’m not gonna start outing people or naming people but people are snobby, and I agree with certain bits of it because the new tech-house sound is very generic and all sounds the same but we don’t play stuff that all sounds the same. When we were making this sound it was three or four years ago, we rode one of the first waves into this whole new sound. And we move with the times, we’re constantly evolving, constantly looking for new sounds, experimenting with different types of music. So I couldn’t give two pulls of a donkey’s tail what people think about tech-house or what people think about house, or pop or techno. Everyone's got a personal preference and it is what it is, I just try not to get caught up in the bullshit.
Solardo play at the Warehouse Project on September 29. Get tickets here