Imprints: Octopus Recordings
Sian has been crafting his niche for a while now, and he intends to keep doing so.
Imprints brings you regular profiles of the most exciting record labels the world over, with input from the movers and shakers who contribute to their local electronic music communities.
Name: Octopus Recordings
Vibe: Voodoo, basically. That's our aim—conducting voodoo.
Upcoming releases: Anthracite, Sian
Top 3 Releases: "Purple Bang," Carlo Lio Remix, "Front Pocket," Nicole Moudaber, "Flood," Gui Boratto Remix.
Artists-to-watch: Weska (Canada), Barbuto (US), Boryana (Bulgaria), Etai Tarazi (US)
For the last seven years, Sian has been doing something that often seems out of reach for many artists and music label founders—staying true to his word. Since 2008, the Irish DJ and producer has been nurturing his environment and his label with like-minded individuals, willing to prove that running an imprint with integrity and a musical vision is indeed possible.
Not only has he achieved an honourable level of authenticity, but Sian has done so by crafting a successful place in the techno industry in the process. From label nights at clubs across the world, to showcases at Sonar in his home base of Barcelona, Sian is prepared to take on the world—literally. In the midst of new releases and even his own album, Sian will be embarking on a 28-date tour of most of the Western hemisphere this summer, with stops at Toronto's Coda and Montreal's Stereo along the way. He will also be giving fans a chance to release on Octopus through a new remix competition. By managing music and a proper techno aesthetic, Sian seems to be doing everything right. His newest output, "Bathed in Light," is available for free download below.
How did Octopus Records come about? Why did you choose to found your own imprint?
I was releasing on a couple of other labels like Steve Bug's label Poker Flat and Will Saul's label Aus; I felt that the music I was starting to make, or what it was naturally turning into, was not really represented anywhere else. I thought, "Okay, I've got loads of friends and producers and I'm making some music that doesn't really fit anywhere else." I felt that it was time to start my own thing.
How would you describe that sound?
It was somewhere between big, mainroom techno with some intelligence. It has a weird, left-field, big, heavy bass and these strange, warped vocals. There are some influences from old jungle records and these acidy-basslines and a heavier techno sound, but still, in this accessible big-room format.
Do you think since Octopus has stayed true to that mission statement?
I think every record that comes out sounds like what I play and it doesn't really pay attention to what sells the most on Beatport or what's cool. For example, we are not releasing Deep music, which is the big thing at the moment for a lot of people; Hot Since 82 and Jamie Jones are blowing up because of it. I avoid those kinds of trends and go head-on into my own vision. I think that's what has worked for people like Adam Beyer and Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Chris Liebing. That's the goal—to be artistically selfish while making and releasing this music.
That translates into who you work with correct?
Yeah, I get demos from my friends or people that I don't know and they'll say, 'Hey I think this sounds like Octopus." I know what I want to sign the moment I hear it. I like to sit on tracks and play them for about a month before I release them, but I always know, "Yeah, that's octopus."
That being said, have you noticed an influx in Canadian quality techno? There are a few Canadians on your catalogue.
Actually, that happened by chance. Carlo Lio remixed one of our first releases, which really helped us along. The track went big and was played in a lot of festival after-movies—his remix of "Purple Bang." I think we have a lot in common with Canadians. In Toronto and Montreal and there's huge history of underground-sounding house and techno, it that seems to be all over Canada actually. There's a couple in Canada that we've kind of struck an affinity with.
How important are nights like these label showcases that you've done in places like Toronto and Montreal?
I think it's essential. Nowadays Octopus is kind of becoming a brand in a general sense; we want to do label nights and we want to eventually have a clothing line that's linked to what we're doing, a street-wear brand. All of these things are just another way to communicate with your fans about your attitude and your vibe. I think there is a definite look and feel to our label nights. We always use very high-contrast type artwork, it's like an aesthetic identity and people relate that to the music. It's got a warehouse-y attitude that comes from our roots.
Does having a sense of integrity or a strong ethos make it more difficult to run a successful imprint?
Sometimes I get sent a track that I know might sell well but it's not what we're about. I could just put it out on Beatport and get a ton of new fans because it's in a slightly different genre, but I think long-term, people are not idiots, and fans see honesty and integrity in someone. It's also contagious if you really love what you're doing, other people tend to see that.
You said on Twitter, "Social Media is the new TV." How do you deal with this aspect of the industry while still fulfilling your responsibility as a label boss?
There are positives and negatives. The plus is that we can now democratically have an electronic label without this huge investment in a physical product at the start. It democratizes the whole industry and you get a level playing field. You can have people go nuts about one of your tracks online and it does more advertising value than any magazine or any paid ad on a website would. I guess the downside is that releases can run the risk of being a little bit disposable when there's not that collectible, physical product involved.
Someone mentioned on social media that the Octopus crew are like 'the lost boys of techno.'
Yeah, I've heard that a few times actually. Some of the artists that I'm friends with and that I work with, we are into the same things. A lot of us are quite tattooed and obviously we wear similar kind of clothes and it's a kind of gothier looking streetwear. For me it just happened. I've dressed like that since I was a teenager. It's not on purpose, but we kind of ended up like that.
How did the name come about?
If you look at it, it's got a kind of numerological side to it. Apart from it being my favourite animal, I studied biology for a little so I've always loved the structure of the word more than the connotation of the animal. I felt it represented what we were doing. It's kind of a little bit masonic.
What's next for Octopus in 2015?
We're actually going to start the Stems project with Beatport. It's a file that looks like a WAV but you load it onto the Native Instruments gear and it divides it into four parts where each are controllable. It's like a hybrid DJ thing that Native Instruments and Beatport are developing it and we are going to be one of the first labels to do that. When we release an Octopus track, it will be in a new format that will be like a composite WAV. As you load it on the D2 or the S8, the individual parts come up so you can play with those while the track is going along. It's going to change DJing.
Don't forget to catch Sian in Toronto at Coda on July 31. You can buy tickets here.