The Berlin-based Canadian says the decision should be seen in a positive light, as it's mostly a way of giving himself more time for DJing, producing and other projects. Caulfield first founded Dumb Unit in Toronto before moving to Berlin, where he co-managed it with Ingo Gansera from Exercise One, among other partners. The label put out more than 50 records in its 12-year run from artists like Maetrik, Seph, Mike Shannon and Adam Marshall, plus Caulfield himself. Chatting via email this week, Caulfield shed more light on his decision to close up shop:
Tell me about how Dumb Unit started. What was going on in your life at the time, and what made you want to start a label?
I was DJing and working for a firm called Uchida Design in Toronto. I had just "finished" art school and I really wanted a project that would utilize all my skills. Robin Uchida helped me out financially and thought it was an interesting project but we had no idea where it would lead to. I had previously had an important residency called Fukhouse which my good friend Ian Guthrie was running but I wasn't really producing much. When I met Jake Fairley (Fairmont) things started to fall into place both for the label and to kickstart my own music. His music was a perfect fit and he taught me a lot. It was there that we began to speak with Kompakt and get recognition in Europe. It all happened quite quickly, at least the initial exposure.
How did running a label change your career as an artist? How will closing the label change your career now?
At the time we just began to see that there was interest abroad and that we could follow that interest and meet amazing people. Things were a lot smaller then (at least for our music), less organized and there was no social media. It was all a lot more gut instinct and trial and error. It was hard ten years ago to develop a strategy and follow it. You had to do it in the first person, meet people, see if they could help, see if we could help. The label helped me meet amazing people, it's as simple as that. Jake's career really took off from the label. Mine followed soon after with my releases on Trapez, Traum and WMF.
As for closing the label the whole point is for me to get back into producing full-time, spend more time on music, DJing and focusing on business ventures with my wife and her brother. They own a successful cafe and things are constantly expanding. Production-wise it's already been a great year and I have had a lot of releases after a few years of being quiet and I want to maintain this energy.
My ex-partners Ingo and Mino have also left to follow new vocations at Native Instruments and I simply find it very difficult to navigate both my career and that of the label's and of the artists on my own. We did it for ten years and we introduced a lot of artists who today are household names and we did it successfully without compromising or selling out or making many enemies. Now it's time to do another ten years of different things, nothing more than that. We are ending on a very high note....
Do you feel the odds are stacked up against small labels these days?
I think there are better opportunities for small labels these days yet they are harder to achieve. Also there is less cash in the day-to-day sales but greater rewards if you can manage this. If you are committed and have a strong idea and don't mind the hard work, there is greater exposure and respect. I actually have enjoyed the last few years of running the label more than ever as the scene has grown exponentially. Yet running a label is a very tight operation and the core of running this operation is logistics. Personally I'm much more of an ideas man. I get a rush from the initial blast, from making things and putting them into action; I would like to see my life return to this for a bit.
The final release on Dumb Unit will be an EP from Caulfied and Seph, one of the label's core artists, called Virtues and Vices. That one's due out at the beginning of July. You can hear snippets on Caulfield's SoundCloud page.