Beatport Hype: Soft Computing
It all started as a YouTube channel — a simple portal for Rupert Cogan (AKA DJ Haus) to showcase his taste in dance music: rare records, radio rips, and hidden gems that were devoured by fans across the globe. Nailing down it’s aesthetic and building up its reputation with careful curation, Unknown To The Unknown has since developed into one of the underground’s most treasured imprints, boasting original tunes from house, techno, and electro titans such as DJ Stingray, Alan Fitzpatrick, Legowelt, Physical Therapy, DJ Q, Kornél Kovács, and of course, DJ Haus himself.
If one thing is clear, it’s that Cogan is a stellar label head, and with his enigmatic music and inviting sense of humor to boot, the desire to release on one of his labels spreads far and wide. Under the umbrella of Unknown To The Unknown, Cogan operates another three imprints: Dance Trax, Hot Haus Recs, and Soft Computing — the latter of which launched in 2018. A sub-label catered towards “IDM & Modular inspired Muzak,” Soft Computing already boasts EPs from eurorack wizard Rex The Dog, Glasgow operator Big Miz, and a slew of hugely popular Irish acts like Brame & Hamo, Ejeca, and Hammer.
We caught up with Cogan to learn more about his newest label endeavor, how he’s been handling his time away from the dance floor, what comes next for Soft Computing, and how its sounds are distinct from the rest of his imprints. He’s also handed over an exclusive one-hour mix of downtempo and ambient synth jams, and unreleased music that’s coming out on his various labels in the coming months.
How have you been handling your time away from the dancefloor this year during the pandemic?
I have been focusing on the label, riding my bike, cooking, gardening, and eating lots of instant ramen. Trying to live in the moment and enjoy today, as no matter how hard you try to control or plan for the future, nothing is set in stone. God knows what’s next — global warming, aliens… Godzilla!?
Tell us about how you first landed on the decision to turn your Unknown To The Unknown YouTube channel into an imprint. How has it evolved over the past nine years?
Nine years, I’m glad it doesn’t feel that long — at the time it was the natural progression, I think anyone that is really into music and collects records or makes a bit of music ends up setting up a label as you get more sucked in as time goes on. I think it’s great now that it’s so accessible to set up a label now for anyone who has a passion. Also, YouTube channels have become more established as tastemakers these days too, so in a way, they also serve a similar purpose to a record label. The lines are pretty blurred.
How would you characterize the difference between Soft Computing and your other labels?
At the moment there are four labels in the UTTU Omnisphere: Unknown To The Unknown [oddball electronix], Dance Trax [dance floor bombs from all genres], Hot Haus Recs [real house music flavour], and Soft Computing [IDM and modular inspired muzak].
Are there specific criteria an artist needs to meet to release on Soft Computing?
It sounds a bit corny, but it really is the “vibe” of the record, and where I see it sitting on the catalogue. It’s not dance floor orientated music, but again, it kind of is, so even I can’t put my finger on it!
Are there any “IDM and modular inspired” records or artists that helped influence Soft Computing’s musical direction?
Not really to be honest. It seemed to naturally end up as an outlet for that kind of sound as the first couple of releases weren’t in that style. Still, generally, I’m a huge fan of Skam, Schematic, Warp, Force Inc. — there used to be a great shop called Small Fish on Old Street which used to push that sound, but not sure if I’m just randomly remembering things or if they actually influence the ideas behind the label. We re-released the first-ever release on the legendary IDM label Schematic — Metic’s Matrix Blaster EP — so that’s one to check out if you want a taste of inspiration.
What would you say is the biggest perk and hardest part of running your own record label(s).
For me, the biggest perk is meeting some of my favourite musicians and sharing the label’s music at festivals and nightclubs. Also, seeing it featured on sites like Beatport gives me a huge buzz. On the other hand, the actual day to day running of a record label isn’t as glamorous as it could seem from the outside. Nothing lasts forever. You are only as good as your last record, so I’m fortunate enough that my tastes seem to be somewhat relevant in the general music scene for people to take notice and make artists want to release on the labels.
What are your plans for Soft Computing for the rest of the year?
We are putting out an audio-visual album from Vocoded Industries, which will come as a VHS with 100% original video synthesis using some rare video synths. Alan Fitzpatrick will be debuting on the label under his 3STRANGE alias with an EP of synth-wave and ambient-breakbeat. Plus more modular house music from Mod Man, then 2021 will have some pretty unique surprises too!
Tell us a little bit about the mix you made for us.
It’s a bit all over the place, a mixture of downtempo ambient synth jams, unreleased music that is coming out on the Soft Computing and UTTU labels over the next few months.