The baby of London DJ/producer Alex Jones and Brighton promoter Jamie Russell, Hypercolour was founded in the middle of last decade as the result of a natural partnership that blossomed from Jones playing at Russell's parties in the southern city. "I was one of the people/friends he would send music to, and we just decided to start a label off the back of Alex being able to make music on Logic, and also being very good friends with Chris Spero [Glimpse]. Glimpse was the first release of the label and at the time he was doing particularly well, so it was kind of a good introduction for us," says Russell, with Jones adding, "on top of that, there was a lot of bad music knocking around [at that time in 2006], and we thought we might as well have a crack at it."
Shortly thereafter Hypercolour released records from Jones, Shenoda, Tom Demac and Kris Wadsworth, a core group of artists who have since become the backbone of the label. "I guess it really started up as a hub for us to put out music for our friends. That is still one of the core values that we've maintained till this day, and it's kind of just expanded to us [recently] putting out music from some of our heroes, namely Groove Armada."
Though newer releases have carved out a niche for the label on the more melodic side of deep house, the label's slabs of wax—especially the early ones—have run the gamut from minimal techno to tech house and back. "I think that generally the producers we're trying to work with are more interesting, rather than sticking to a formula, or creating their own formulas…. We try and be sort of forward-thinking—I think future house and techno is our thing," says Jones. "The releases we were putting out were slightly more off-kilter. Often when we get the reactions back, it's always been 'great for the afterparty.' I think sticking to our guns has actually paid off, because I think we've got a bit of pedigree behind us now. The listeners don't necessarily know what to expect from the next release."
Even the record that Russell credits with helping to finally break the label (Wadsworth's "Mainline" in 2009) is a summarily bizarre record, ten minutes of delicate percussive web-weaving, anchored by moaning vocals. "It was a gamechanger for us….It's Kris at his best, it's quite spiritual; it's like Mahalia Jackson, an old gospel singer bellowing over top of it. Part DJ tool, part Danny Tenaglia tribal drums... Kris played it at fabric recently and it dawned on me that it is actually a sort of, dare I say it, future classic. That was the release that made us stand up with everybody else, stand as tall as other labels at the time. It really gave us the impetus to continue with it. The label pretty much has been something we've just plowed money into over the years. I've lost girlfriends, and flats, and jobs, and all sorts. We would opt for a nice remixer instead of eating some nice slices of beef throughout the course of the month. We put the label first."
Since the release of "Mainline," Hypercolour has seen some of its most high-profile releases, mostly from new names. This past February held the release of Huxley's ubiquitous "Let It Go," a track that nicely shows off the label's recent penchant for shimmering pop melodies, where a rocketing bassline and swirling vocal sample compete to be the bigger hook. But perhaps the largest splash of all was Maya Jane Coles' debut on the imprint in 2010 with Humming Bird, a well-timed release that landed just after her smash Real Tone hit "What They Say."
Jones and Russell were early on Coles before her 2011 boom (still resonating deafeningly as of this 2012 writing), but they're cognizant of their role in her already-burgeoning career. "I don't think we can take the credit for [discovering her], I think she was well on her way actually," explains Russell. "The group of tracks she initially sent us, 'What They Say' was in that batch. I was over in Ibiza pretty much with my head up my ass to be quite honest with you, and we sat on these tracks for quite a long time. I don't know why we didn't instantly go for them, but, yeah, that was a missed opportunity basically."
a demo from was Maya Jane Coles."
"We owe a lot to Maya," Russell admits, but one of the most notable things about Hypercolour isn't just the main label's rock-solid discography. It's the arsenal of subsidiaries and sister imprints. In 2012, most people running independent labels struggle to keep theirs afloat—Russell and Jones run seven of them. They vary in scope, breadth and format, but all are run with the same clever curatorial ear as Hypercolour proper. There's Hype Digital, the netlabel for "testing the waters" with new artists that birthed Maya Jane Coles' relationship with the label, and then there's Hype LTD, the no-bones vinyl-first label that released Kevin McPhee's lauded Blue Organ EP last year, and will see releases from Manchester's Indigo and Chicago's Amir Alexander in the near future.
There's also Glass Table, an imprint that uses picture disc vinyl as its favoured release format, based on that aforementioned glass coffee table in Jones' living room where A&R decisions are made. "For many years, we'd go back there," Russell explains, "and being the recluses that we were, we'd tend to go back there rather than going to clubs, and we'd listen to all sorts of weird, slow, druggy music." The result? Glass Table's releases thus far have featured the spindly sex funk of Jimmy Edgar and the pitchbent house of Sweden's Axel Boman, adorned with decadent images of hedonism and nudity. "It was about putting together a really nice product. The distributors thought we were absolutely mental," says Russell, with Jones chiming in, "that was just another thing we had to pay for ourselves."
More recently, Russell has launched the Losing Suki outlet, initially for "slightly odder" music, "a bit more broken, a bit more garage-y... than what we would consider putting out on Hypercolour." Losing Suki has developed into its own beast with strong releases from Jack Dixon, James Welsh and Last Magpie (the latter's "No More Stories" given a prominent spot on Maya Jane Coles' recent DJ-KiCKS). Then there's Jones' techy new Initials imprint that he runs with Ste Roberts and Dave Elkabas, and Russell's two newest babies, Space Hardware (a self-proclaimed "headphone project"), and Sneaker Social Club, inspired by "early '90s hardcore music" which has seen inspired releases from Throwing Snow and Al Tourettes.
That's all managed between two people, and that's not even including Jones' recent foray into semi-anonymous vinyl with N/A.3, his collaboration with Maya Jane Coles and George Levings of Commix. Oh yeah, there's also the new bootleg imprint they're about to start, a vinyl-only affair with "loads of really obvious samples. It's just stuff we listen to... you can't just ignore it, so we'll put it out. Timbaland samples, and TLC and Rolando's 'Nights of the Jaguar.'"
How do two people manage all that? "I've recently moved to Bristol, and not taken on an actual job, so my time is spent between doing my freelance PR work and overseeing the labels and making sure everything runs smoothly," says Russell. "I guess once you do one label, everything else then sort of becomes systematic. When you've done the process once, it's just a matter of getting your shit together, man, and being a bit organized. Google Calendars is my bible."
The only regular hold-up, in fact, is Jones and his artwork. "I do the artwork for everything myself, which I can fall behind with quite often," he admits. It's usually worth the wait, however. Everything from bright watercolours (Maya Jane Coles' Don't Put Me In Your Box) to pseudo-religious iconography ("Mainline") adorn the main label's sleeves, while the HYPE LTD singles are packaged in a plain sleeve with elegant, basic labels to match the music's purist outlook. The Losing Suki releases are decorated with frantic but intricate sketchwork, while the Glass Table picture discs feature plenty of cleavage.
Though both Jones and Russell agree that Hypercolour is at its heart a "London-based label" ("the main artists are all based around where I live in Hackney," Jones points out), they don't credit their geographical hotspot for the label's sound. "It's very rare that we actually release music from a demo sent," Russell explains, "we actually just go out and seek the artist." Jones adds that "we've just got our own taste. The music that does make it tends to be something that appeals to us both... the only person we've signed a demo from was Maya Jane Coles."
London is of course a hotspot for dance music, particularly bass-heavy dance music. Producers once associated with the "bass music" world like Jack Dixon and Mosca have joined the label's family, and the latter's "Eva Mendes" is a storming workout that looks to be one of Hypercolour's biggest successes yet. "Really only now have we started to get any real attention," admits Jones, and with that attention the label only seems to be getting more adventurous, with Russell promising an Axel Boman 12-inch coming on the main Hypercolour label, along with new releases from George FitzGerald, Eats Everything and Hyperdub's Ossie, which will see the imprint dip its toes into UK Funky waters. All those labels, all those tunes and all managed by two guys in a living room with only occasional assistance from outside? "It's that old saying, if you want something done right, do it yourself," concludes Russell.
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01. Axel Boman - Klinsmann (Hyperclour)
02. Alex Jones - Higher Level (Hypercolour)
03. Last Magpie - Where Does Love Go (Hypercolour)
04. Amir Alexander - Everybody's Beautiful (HypeLTD)
05. Glimpse & Martin Dawson - Fat Controller [Roman Flugel remix] (Hypercolour)
06. J.Alvarez - 7 Mile Bridge (HypeLTD)
07. Maxxi Soundsystem feat. Name One - Regrets We Have No Use For (Hypercolour)
08. Mosca feat. Robert Owens - Accidentally (Hypercolour)
09. Ossie - Heartbeating [Vocal] (Hypercolour)
10. Alex Coulton - Function (HypeLTD)
11. George Fitzgerald - Every Inch (Hypercolour)
12. Indigo - Aradia (HypeLTD)
13. Tom Demac - Obstructing The Light (Glass Table)