Label of the Month: Rekids
Label of the Month: RekidsNovember 1, 2021
Marcus Barnes speaks to Radio Slave about the 15-year history of Rekids, one of techno’s most formidable and lasting imprints.
If you analyse a broad cross section of electronic music labels and artists who’ve managed to maintain their longevity with authenticity, a pattern will emerge. One of the common aspects of their approach is to stick to their guns no matter what, a level of determination and commitment to their core ethos that simply will not bend. It’s something we hear a lot, spoken about flippantly, almost to the point of cliché. But it takes an impervious mindset to stay rooted, especially in an industry where competition is rife and it can be easy to slip into toxic territory — comparing oneself to the success of others, feeling like you’re not doing enough, and other forms of self-limiting thinking.
Speaking to Radio Slave (AKA Matt Edwards) gives some insight into how this way of thinking nurtures lasting success. It’s a state of mind he has adopted throughout the lifespan of his label, Rekids, placing his appreciation of music ahead of following trends. He got the label up and running in 2006, and in the years since, has established Rekids as one of the best-known contemporary techno labels out there. “As much as I’m a producer and DJ, I’m also a music fan, and I think that shows in the music that we released,” he explains. “It might not always be the most trendy or hyped styles, but I want the label to release timeless music.”
It’s an easy thing to say, but an intensely challenging mentality to actually adopt and hold on to, and one that reaps far greater long-term benefits than jumping from one bandwagon to another.
As with any culture or creative pursuit that becomes commodified, techno often suffers from the effects of trend-based decision-making. This is compounded by social media perpetuating superficial constructs, and how those constructs can influence fans and ravers across the world. Matt admits he finds it frustrating, and works tirelessly to counteract the negative side of the culture by consciously staying true to what he believes in. “It can be an incredibly hard business, mentally. You can be very hard on yourself, and it’s mentally exhausting,” he explains. “If I don’t like things that are going on, that pushes me even more to go, ‘Right, I need to do something about this. We need to put out more music, we need to shout louder. We need to do what we can do to make this a better scene for other people.’”
This involves leveraging the clout of the label to maintain an open-minded outlook and shine a light on lesser-known artists, going back to the early days when he signed Mr. G’s music — way ahead of the curve — predating the British artist’s now legendary appearance on Boiler Room. Mr. G was one half of highly respected techno duo The Advent, but was pretty much slept on when he first launched his solo alias. His EP, E.C.G’ed, was the fourth release on Rekids, back in 2006. Similarly, and perhaps most famously, Matt signed Nina Kraviz’s music after she passed him some demos during her time at Red Bull’s Music Academy in Australia back in 2009. Her first EP was Pain In The Ass (2009), followed by I’m Week in 2010 and the classic Ghetto Kraviz in 2011. Her debut, self-titled, album came in 2012, by which point Nina was established as one of the hottest new artists in techno.
He’s equally as keen to connect with more established artists; members of the old guard who he looked up to himself. Mark Broom and Robert Hood are name-checked a few times during our chat, and Matt is clearly full of pride and gratitude at being able to work with such influential figures. In an era where acknowledging the heritage of electronic music has become a trend for brands to latch on to, his awareness and commitment to the roots have always been present. “There’s so many artists that are getting ignored, especially when it comes to techno, and I want to be a good ambassador for this music and shout about great artists,” he explains. His passion is evident throughout the interview, and his intentions are pure; centred on nurturing and preserving techno as best he can. “We just try to stick to our guns, releasing straight up good music. Especially with the techno stuff — I just want to release great dance records,” he says. “I don’t want to release droney stuff or lo-fi, or go off too far in one direction. I just want to make sure that every release we put out you can play in the club and focus on supporting new talent like Raven.”
Simplicity is the key, as many a wise sage will attest. Keeping things uncomplicated allows for a more natural flow. From the visual identity to the music he selects and releases, Rekids has an unfussy appeal. It’s done the trick, and kept the label alive and well for the best part of 15 years now.
Before he launched Rekids, Matt was already using the name Rekid as an alias. In case you don’t know by now, it’s based on how an American might say “records”, not “Ree-kids”, as some people mistakenly say. He grew up in Catford, south-east London, and got his dance floor education in the capital’s thriving club scene of the late eighties and early nineties. He ran a label before Rekids called South Circular Recordings with a couple of “other nerdy kids,” but his role was engineer and he wanted to be more hands-on.
A move to Brighton in 2000 allowed him to explore production on his own, and he linked up with Serge Santiago to start the Radio Slave project — which, of course, later became his solo alias. Matt quickly made a name for himself with a slew of remix commissions, which he continues to take on to this day. In fact, he’s in his Berlin studio when we speak, finishing up a disco remix for British singer Lou Hayter.
Similarly to Carl Craig, Matt’s extensive remix discography has played a critical role in giving him the economic support to ensure the survival of his label without the need for outside investment. This is, of course, incredibly challenging at times, and not only with the recent impact of the pandemic.
In 2011, the label lost a ton of stock when Sony’s main distribution centre was burned down during the London riots. And in 2013, business difficulties almost ended everything. Matt put all his savings into Rekids to save it from going under, the most compelling example of how committed he is to ensuring its longevity. Eight years on and Rekids is a few releases away from hitting the 200 mark, and that’s not including the offshoots like RSPX (Rekids Special Projects), Pyramids Of Mars, and Stranger In The Night. With such a hefty back catalogue, Rekids is now almost self-sustaining, with key support from label manager Leon Oakey — a formidable presence behind-the-scenes — and their distributor Above Board. Oakey’s experience has been essential to Rekids durability, as the veteran handles most of the business ins and outs while Matt focuses on the ideas.
Throughout the course of his career, having a creative outlet has been the catalyst behind his almost relentless forward march. “I’m way happier being a creative and an ideas person,” he states, blaming his star sign (he’s a Gemini). “I really, really thrive on coming up with solutions and I’m always creating new things.” According to Google, “Geminis are profoundly creative, and their work is typically fueled by the idea that what they can create or build is better than anything else that exists yet,” which explains the multitude of projects Matt has worked on during his career, and the various Rekids offshoots he’s launched. He turned 50 this year and he’s been sober for almost a year. Matt is also a father of two. All of these aspects of his life galvanise his attitude to the label and the music it represents. An assured maturity comes through when he’s speaking, and a deep-set determination. He’s at a point in his life where he has little to prove; a successful artist career and an equally successful label place him among the lucky few of his generation to still be active and able to sustain themselves. Yet the work never ends, and there’s always a new creative venture to be excited about: the mark of an out-and-out music lover.
With the label’s 200th release not far away, plans to get label parties back up and running plus a solo album planned for next year, there is no relent to his creative output. 15 years on since the label first materialised, he’s more patient and understanding of the limitations of what he does. An underground techno label might never make millions, but if you can stay afloat, stick to your principles and make a positive contribution to the culture, that’s priceless.
“It’s my baby and I’ve had to take care of it,” he concludes. “Over the years, there’s been moments where I had a rough time with the label. But, I think I love it even more at the moment, and I love where it’s going.”
Check out Radio Slave’s recent ‘Acid Dip’ Beatport chart below.
Marcus Barnes is an author, journalist, copywriter, and tastemaker with over 15 years experience in print and online. Find him on Twitter.