Label of the Month: Selador Recordings
Label of the Month: Selador RecordingsApril 3, 2023
DJs are accustomed to life-changing moments coming at them fast in large, dark rooms. But for Dave Seaman — celebrated UK DJ/producer, remixer, and founder, with longtime mate Steve Parry, of Selador Recordings — a transformative bolt of inspiration came in the cinema, not the club. That was in 2001, when he sat down to watch sci-fi psychological thriller Donnie Darko, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a perplexed, time travel-obsessed teen being stalked by a demonic interdimensional rabbit named Frank. It caused a creative spark so seismic that it stopped Seaman in his tracks.
“I immediately went straight back in to watch it again, I literally couldn’t wait to relive it,” Dave says. “I think I’ve only ever done that four or five times ever, it had such an effect on me. You could tell straight away it was destined to be a cult classic. It posed so many existential questions that you find yourself still thinking about days and weeks afterwards. As far as films go, it just ticked all my boxes.”
One particular passage of the movie wormed its way so far into Dave’s consciousness that it eventually became the name—and, in a way, the sonic imprint—of his future label. Gyllenhaal’s high school teacher, played by Drew Barrymore, holds forth on the phrase “cellar door,” said by generations of linguists to be the most beautiful combination of sounds in the English language. Thus, Selador Recordings: a nod to the phonoaesthetic phenomenon that finds unexpected beauty in even the most common-seeming sounds.
This year, Selador Recordings is marking its 10th anniversary with a huge birthday party in the city of London, a whirlwind of promotion, a line of commemorative merch and a set of EPs featuring collaborations between artists from their roster alongside some very special guests. That deep and sparkling bench of talent includes Robert Owens, Hernan Cattaneo, Danny Howells, Olivier Giacomotto, Alice Rose, Quivver, and Zoo Brazil. It’s a gloriously kaleidoscopic affair showcasing the tight musical family that Dave and Steve have cultivated since their days diving into the early rave scene together, when Dave was releasing ecstatic piano house rave hits like 1990’s “Peace & Harmony” and its massive follow-up “Such a Good Feeling” with his acclaimed Brothers in Rhythm group.
“Oh, there are definitely no wild stories at all from anywhere involving me and Dave. Honestly. Ahem,” says Steve. “I first met Dave DJing at a legendary club in Stoke in England called Shelley’s. We had a mutual friend called Dave Ralph, aka Ralphy, who booked Dave to play a Wednesday night in Liverpool. I remember telling Dave that “Peace & Harmony” was an amazing track, and he politely said, ‘Thank you very much.’ Then I was resident with Ralphy at a Monday night called Bliss—we used to get 1000 in on Monday—and we had Dave come and play for us at our All Dayers on a Bank Holiday, along with some other DJs called Sasha and Laurent Garnier.”
The rest, as they say, is rave history. Steve, a Liverpool native, grew up wanting to be a radio DJ, at first. “I always loved soul and disco. Then hip-hop came along, which I also loved, and then this thing called house music. My first DJ gigs at age 15 were playing at youth clubs, and then I started DJing with our mobile disco, doing weddings, 18th birthdays, 21st birthdays… It’s very good training for getting people up to dance and keeping them dancing. When I was 18, I moved on to bar gigs, and by 19 I was lucky enough to be playing at clubs every week.” Very much a party creature, Steve immersed himself in the roiling scene of the time.
“I ran my Alderaan parties every Friday for five years in the late ’90s and early 2000s at the infamous Lemon Lounge, a 100-capacity venue where we packed people in for Lee Burridge, Anthony Pappa, Quivver, Andy Ling, and lots of others. Liverpool also had such clubbing institutions as Cream, Quadrant Park, Fallows (Bliss), and countless others—I could do a whole documentary about Liverpool’s clubland. It’s where I did so much of my clubbing and gigs, including becoming a resident at Cream. Dave was also a Cream regular, playing often in between his other Northern or Midland gigs like Hacienda, Golden, and Renaissance. I also worked at 3 Beat Records for 10 years, selling records to all of the big DJs from around the globe, as well as to local up-and-coming kids. I had my twice-weekly radio shows on Juice FM called ‘The Red Zone’ and ‘House Nation.’ That was such good fun, and it ran for ten years as well! I guess I made quite a name for myself in my hometown with all of this going on.”
Dave was from Leeds, another massive club town, but found himself venturing away from home as he got into dance music. “Mine was a similar story to Steve’s in terms of my early DJing career, but I really got into dance music through my love of breakdancing as a teenager,” he says. “That was my real gateway to the club sounds coming at of New York at the time, which in turn led to an obsession with what was happening at the likes of Danceteria and the Paradise Garage, then subsequently the house sound of Chicago.
“But I cut my clubbing teeth, so to speak, at the Haçienda in the late ’80s, during the acid house/ rave explosion in the UK. Listening to [Haçienda DJs] Graeme Park and Mike Pickering every week was probably what really cemented my decision to want to become a full-time DJ and get into production. I’d also got a job at Mixmag around this time too, so was right in the eye of the storm of this amazing youth culture movement. The opportunities just seemed limitless back then. Such an exciting time to have experienced first hand.”
Beyond his work with Brothers in Rhythm, which brought him into the charts, Dave’s productions from the 1980s into the 2000s included everything from remixing U2, David Bowie and New Order to producing the Pet Shop Boys and Kylie Minogue. The incredibly influential Stress Records label that he founded in the 1990s largely defined the progressive house genre through literally hundreds of releases and his prolific Audio Therapy label in the 2000s championed more muscular explorations of the sound, accenting it with funky electro and acid house to reclaim it from its then over-commercialized doldrums.
Steve, too, had become a progressive house wizard, first as the “progressive” music buyer at 3 Beat Records—where he selected a weekly box full of the latest vinyl for Dave—and then becoming a producer in his own right, putting out the classic growler “Jawa” in 2002, a record still so sought after that Steve himself resorted to asking for an MP3 version of it in the comments beneath a YouTube post of the track. With their tastes and histories so aligned, it was only a matter of time before Dave and Steve embarked upon the Selador journey.
“When Steve told me of his unfulfilled ambition to have his own record company back in 2012, I knew instantly he would be a great partner to run a label with,” Dave says. “We had a long-standing friendship, a similar musical outlook, and an unquenchable thirst for discovering new music. I’d laid Audio Therapy to rest several months earlier and was starting to realize how much I missed it. Within a few months, Selador Recordings was born. We kicked the whole thing off with a successful Kickstarter campaign I was running to fund a mix compilation called “The Selador Sessions Volume 1,” and we’ve not looked back since. Now it’s 166 releases later, and here we are celebrating ten years at the coalface.”
With an inkspot version of Donnie Darko‘s spooky bunny Frank as its logo and a wicked psychedelic design aesthetic (check out the retina-tickling Seladoria videos the pair live-streamed during COVID lockdowns), Selador Recordings advances the progressive sound but dips artfully into most other electronic genres, releasing floorboard-stripping house stompers like the just-released “Swaddles” by Jonathan Cowan or prowling, vaporwave-hazy guitar funk with the Whitesquare remix of Dave’s own “Thonk!” from 2020.
“Our aim from the get-go was not to get pigeonholed into just being known for one sound,” Dave says. “Both Steve and I like and, when given the opportunity, play quite a broad spectrum of electronic house music. We’ll play slower and mid tempo grooves and cosmic disco, through electro and indie dance; breaks, progressive and melodic techno right up to the more driving stuff. Our mantra has alway been “from house to techno and all shades in between.”
“Our current Selador Decade EP 1 kind of encapsulates all that,” adds Steve. “You’ve got a big classic house vocal cut from Dave with Danny Howells and Darren Emerson featuring Robert Owens. Then a big melodic techno banger from Olivier Giacomotto and Quivver, a slinky bit of modern hypnotic progressive house from Anthony Pappa, Jamie Stevens, and Alice Rose, and a cutting-edge wonky melodic breaks-led belter by Argia and Jepe. All on the same release. Just the way we like it.”
When asked what tracks from the label’s first decade immediately stand out for them, they’re quick to respond. “The Show-B remix of Jaap Ligthart and Alice Rose’s ‘I Know Change‘ from 2015 was such an important record for us,” Dave says. “It was the one that seemed to really mark our arrival as a label to be reckoned with. Everyone from Solomun and Sven Vath to Dixon and Danny Tenaglia played it. It really did make people sit up and take notice, and opened a lot of doors for us from there onward.”
Steve’s top pick is 2019’s “Skylab” by D-Nox & Beckers. “It’s such a gem of a track. We’d had the guys on the label previously, but they just sent this one through from out of the blue. Originally, it was earmarked for another label. Luckily, they succumbed to our charm offensive, which in truth was probably more like incessant pestering, and we managed to persuade them to let us have it for Selador Recordings instead. I still play it lots in my sets today, many years later. Another one is Cristoph & Quivver’s ‘In Name Only.’ Two producers who we both love collaborated on this track for our fifth birthday. When they sent us this monster, it just blew my socks off. The definition of ‘peak time’!”
As they both point out, the label couldn’t function without a close team of devoted Seladorians, including Assistant Label Manager Nick Gordon Brown, who used to run Stress Records with Dave back in the ’90s and was lured back into the industry after a decade away. (“The phrase glutton for punishment springs to mind,” laughs Steve of his return.) And they’re especially grateful to their listeners and artists, who have helped them find the “cellar door” in an often rough and exhausting environment.
“Looking back on ten years, I think the main challenge for us is time,” says Dave astutely. “There’s just not enough hours in the day to get everything done. There’s so many platforms now, so many different elements that need constant attention. So many plates to keep spinning. So many new things to learn. It never really feels like we’re on top of everything which is frustrating and at times overwhelming — and, if you’re not careful, quite disheartening.
“So we always try to remember just how far we’ve come, how much fantastic support we’ve received, and what we’ve achieved. We certainly have had some terrific moments along the way.”
Selador Decade EP 2 drops on April 14th. Buy it on Beatport.
Marke B. is a freelance journalist living in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter.