Mute has been at the vanguard of independent music for more than 30 years, and has played a big part in the development of electronic music. Their catalog began with artists like Fad Gadget and Nitzer Ebb, and over the years included superstars like Depeche Mode and Moby as well as esoteric acts like Richie Hawtin and Speedy J. Liberation Technologies is an associate label that will place a special focus on the electronic side of Mute's palette.
"Electronic music is part of Mute's DNA and history," says Mute's founder, Daniel Miller, "and this label is the latest expression of that." Miller devised Liberation Technologies together with Patrick O'Neill, a London-based promoter and A&R man, and put O'Neill in charge of the label. The first release is an EP from King Felix, better known as New York-based artist Laurel Halo. It's called Spring EP and comes out in February digitally and on vinyl.
We caught up with O'Neill by phone earlier this week to get a better picture of Liberation Technologies:
Tell me a little bit about your background. What's your past experience in music?
Well I've been working in music for about seven years now. I guess the part of my background specifically related to the new label is that I used to work for Honest Jon's, where I signed artists like Actress. Obviously Honest Jon's has a lot of connections to Berlin and a lot of respect within that world. The label worked with artists like T++, Moritz von Oswald, put their records out. I tried to involve myself with all that stuff. We also put on a series of nights in London and Berlin. At the ones in London we had Mark Ernestus, Substance, Sleeparchive, Anthony Shake Shakir, Actress, people like that, at Plastic People. In Berlin we put on a night at Berghain with Moodymann headlining, and Actress. Also with Joy Orbison I started a label called Doldrums. As a promoter we were doing nights in Panorama Bar. So yeah I would say I have been in and around that world for the last four or five years.
Whose idea was it to launch Liberation Technologies?
Well, Daniel (Miller) has always been heavily involved and interested in the electronic music scene. The reason why he hired me was for the label to get back into that world again. And so I guess we sat down and this label seemed like the right way to go about it, a fresh start. Labels like Novamute and Blastfirst were the blueprint for this label. So I guess it was a bit of a collaborative thing between me and Daniel. He wanted me here at the company and one of the things he wanted to do was set up a new associate label, which is Liberation Technologies.
How would you sum up the concept or the goal of the label?
The goal is to work with very progressive and unique electronic artists, people who are doing something a little bit different and against the grain. I think here it’s carrying on the vision of Mute, working with people who sound like nobody else and are doing something completely unique. We're inspired by labels like Raster Noton, Editions Mego, Werk Discs, Perlon—they work with artists who are making a conscious effort to do something a bit different, to create something that's specifically them, that's immediately identifiable. If you listen to an Alva Noto record, you know right away it's an Alva Noto record. If you look at a Raster Noton record, from the cover you know right away it's Raster Noton. So that’s the goal, to work with people as creative and inventive as that. People like Sandwell District, who've carved out their own niche in their own world. And also to work with completely new artists that people aren't aware of, to break new talent is equally important. Not to be just another label, but to be a label with a specific purpose.
How did you found out about King Felix?
Well King Felix is actually a pseudonym of a New York based artist called Laurel Halo. I started talking to Laurel about six months ago, as soon as we came up with the idea of starting this label, because I think she is among those artists that I mentioned. She's trying to create something that’s completely her own. She was up for it from the start and she sent on these tracks, which made up the Spring EP. I definitely thought it was worthy of being the first release on the label, and I'm very excited to work with someone like her. She's so creative and so inventive and she knows exactly what she wants to do, she's got absolute vision for what it is she wants to do. of what she wants King Felix to be. People like her are just exciting people to be in conversation with, they're inspiring. It's really invigorating.
Can you tell us anything about the live stuff you have in mind?
I guess we want to offer something that isn't as straight down the line as putting on a night with DJs. It wouldn't be label specific I don't think, we'd just get people we really admire as well as people on the label. Most importantly, all the core elements need to be: great artists, a crowd that would understand and appreciate the music, and a great sound system, which are unfortunately the things that are overlooked when people put on events. It sounds like such a simple thing, you'd think it was just port of call—really great space, really great sound system, really great lineup—but somehow those things are overlooked far too often. So the intention for us is just to have people to come away satisfied. And that sounds really obvious and basic but for me it doesn’t seem like people consider it enough.
You know, a friend and I were talking about nightlife in London at the moment, and he was saying the best night he’s ever been to was a party where Underground Resistance were playing. It was just in a black room much like E-Werk or Tresor when Jeff Mills would play in Berlin. Just a completely black room and a strobe light, or maybe a siren light. And he said that's the best night he's ever been to. And the best I've ever been to was Autechre, with an amazing sound system and in a pitch black space with great music. People tend to be extravagant these days and they forget the key elements. Doing the simple things right is really important for me and I think it's a really big issue at the moment.