Label of the Month: Lost & Found
Label of the Month: Lost & FoundMarch 1, 2022
When I connect with Guy J over the phone, the Israeli DJ and producer, born Guy Judah, is in Mendoza, Argentina, making up for lost time.
Of all the countries he regularly visited before COVID-19, Argentina holds a special place in his heart. If you spend any time scrolling the comments on Guy J’s Instagram or YouTube page, you’ll see the feeling is mutual. “With Argentina, it was love at first sight,” Judah says. “All the DJs love coming here because the people are very passionate. When they love something, they love it to death.”
Judah’s itinerary for February 2022, largely focused on South America, looks a lot brighter than the dark days of the pandemic. The run includes four dates in Argentina that picked up where he left off in February 2020, when he staged his We Are Lost Festival in Buenos Aires. Not long after that event, which Judah called “one of the highlights of my life”, the world shut down.
On the day we find Judah in Mendoza, his label, Lost & Found, is climbing Beatport’s Organic House chart with Roy Rosenfeld’s Force Major / Skyhook EP. The release, which went hit number one in the genre, is typical of Lost & Found’s patient, quality-over-bombast approach.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the label, which debuted in 2012 with the Guy J single of the same name. Over the years, Lost & Found has notched over 100 releases to its name, and in its own understated way, the label has become a giant in the progressive house world, with an unwavering focus on the music its boss believes in.
In conversation, Judah is as unflashy as his label, punctuating his responses with shy laughter. Born in Tel Aviv and based in Malta, he apologizes at one point — unnecessarily — for his English. Once we get talking about Lost & Found, he asks me questions about my own life while connecting his laptop to look up the label’s discography. It’s quickly apparent why he’s regarded one of dance music’s stand-up guys, in it for the right reasons.
Judah became a label boss after making his name on John Digweed’s Bedrock label in the 2000s. Coming up in Israel, the young Judah idolized Digweed and pored over his sets in search of secret weapons. At the encouragement of his manager, Judah began sending his music to Bedrock. Sure enough, Digweed liked what he heard. “It was a dream for me that he would play my music, and from the first moment he supported me,” Judah recalls.
From early Bedrock releases like Save Me / Night Loss and “Under Pressure,” Guy J went on to release three artist albums on the label. His music looms large in Digweed’s DJ sets and mix compilations, and the pair remain good friends. They kept in touch throughout the pandemic.
After Digweed suggested Judah spin off his own sub-label under Bedrock Records, Lost & Found was born in July 2012. With the help of Bedrock label manager Scott Dawson, Judah planned out his imprint’s first four releases, starting with his own, “Lost & Found.” The nine-minute progressive house slow-burner was packaged with a tougher remix by Sahar Z and Guy Mantzur, who also came up in Israel’s fertile scene. “Lost & Found” has remained a staple of Judah’s DJ sets ever since. “It’s in the process of becoming a classic in that genre,” he says with a smile in his voice.
After setting the template for the label, Judah opened the floor to other producers. The early years of Lost & Found featured releases from the likes of Eelke Kleijn, Kevin Yost and Funk D’Void, along with another Israeli producer of the moment, Muzarco. Looking back over the label’s discography now, Judah highlights 2013’s “Inspirado Por Usted” as one of Belgian producer Patrick Bruyndonx’s first releases as BP. (Bruyndonx remains active under the Lost Desert alias, releasing on Lee Burridge and Matthew Dekay’s All Day I Dream and his own Souksonic.)
In addition to its EPs and singles, Lost & Found has released several mini-albums under the Found banner, beginning with Dutch DJ-producer Navar’s five-track The Liquid Escape in 2013. Later editions came from the likes of Eli Nissan, Brian Cid and Juan Deminicis, and Judah hopes to do more in the future if producers are up for the challenge. Lost & Found has also dabbled in full-length albums, kicking off with Sahar Z and Guy Mantzur’s Time in 2014 and Khen’s One Day Of Independence in 2016. A Tel Aviv-born protege of Judah and Mantzur, Khen returned in 2018 with the three-track LF055, led by the gently bubbling “Pecas.”
Judah is hesitant to attribute a genre tag to the Lost & Found catalog. “On the outside, people might categorize it as progressive, but I think today it’s hard to put a genre on any kind of electronic music,” he says. He points to Pig & Dan’s driving techno remix of VONDA7’s “Tough Enough,” released on Lost & Found’s Reflections 2016 compilation, as something “different from what’s usually on the label.”
The only overriding theme, as he sees it, is quality. “I never do a release because of who the producer is; it’s only because of the music,” he says. While most Lost & Found releases start as demos sent to the label, Judah sometimes hits up producers he admires to find out what they’re working on. “Somehow it’s always last minute, and I’m very picky, but it works,” he says.
Judah is famously prolific in the studio, never leaving fans waiting long for a new Guy J release. However, a lot of his music remains unreleased — a point of some anguish for fans. “A lot of people are searching for the unreleased stuff,” he laughs.
The air of mystery that accompanies his sets is absolutely intentional in the age of Shazam. “When I got into electronic music, I was in forums and searching for the music that I heard in DJ sets,” he recalls. “It’s maybe not so nice for the people looking for the music, but it takes me back to how I used to feel. It was always great to find the track, but it’s also amazing if you don’t know what it is when you hear a DJ play it. That’s unique.”
Judah recently called back to his time of dance music discovery by remixing a couple of house classics from the year 2000: X-Press 2’s “AC/DC” and Halo Varga’s “Future.” His mind was blown as a young DJ by the trailblazing London label Hooj Choons, which released “Future.”
“I discovered the label from their melodic stuff, but their releases were usually more tribal and very groovy with amazing percussion,” he recalls. “This opened the door to X-Press 2, Peace Division and a lot of the producers who made this more tribal style. The music was repetitive in a good way, with a groove that you can’t stop listening to.” Judah initially remixed the tracks for his own pleasure, with no plans for an official release, and was thrilled to secure the rights to package them as LF083.
Both remixes, and a slew of other Lost & Found releases, have served Judah well in his all-night sets, including an open-to-close session at London’s Night Tales last October. Like his friend John Digweed, Judah is a master at pacing himself. “For me, it’s most important to know the first four tracks and the last track,” he says. “I play a lot of my own music, and if I have seven hours, I go with the flow.” (In case you’re wondering, his last track in London was his own bootleg version of the Chemical Brothers’ “The Pills Won’t Help You Now,” another edit that has fans clamoring online.)
Judah spent much of the pandemic at home with his family in Malta, “using my Netflix account, like everyone, and trying to become a gardener.” While he made less music over those long months at home, he never gave up on the studio. “I had more time and patience for the details, so I think the music that came out was more experimental,” he says.
With the world getting back to some kind of normal, Judah shared his collaboration with Israeli psychedelic trance mainstay Astrix, a track called “River.” In a full circle moment, the release landed on Guy Mantzur’s burgeoning label Moments in February. “He’s supported my label from the start, with the first remix of ‘Lost & Found’,” Judah says. “I thought it’d be a great opportunity to do a unique collaboration for my friend with a producer from the psytrance world.”
Now that he’s touring again, can he produce on the road? “No,” Judah says definitively. “I’ve been working with synthesizers mainly in the last few years, so it’s not possible. But that’s good; you need to disconnect as well.”
As for Lost & Found, the boss has no plans to change up a winning formula. In addition to its releases, the label has spawned a successful event series, We Are Lost, which touched down in the US last November with Guy J, Andhim, Guy Mantzur and more.
Judah still can’t quite believe it has been 10 years since he launched his label. “Time flies, man,” he says. “I work on the label [between] gigs, the music and family life. I played last weekend in front of thousands of people, and it’s hard for me to understand how I got here. It’s the same with the label.”
Ultimately, Judah views the label he built with typical humility. “Lost & Found is a channel for producers,” he says, “and it’s amazing to be a part of it.”
Jack Tregoning is an editor and journalist from Sydney, Australia covering music and culture. Find him on Twitter.