In an increasingly busy market of electronic music, not many labels provide the buy on sight mentality like they used to, but for some time now, the creation of Awesome Soundwave by Carl Cox and Christopher Coe has been swaying us away from that opinion.
The label is a true enforcer of live performers giving artists, small and large, a chance to share the limelight, with the quality of the music at the heart of everything they do, bending genres as they continue to grow. Some artists you may recognise on the label are Honeysmack, Reinier Zonneveld, An On Bast, Digital Afrika, and coming up next is talented producer Charlie Thorstenson with his Kretsloop album.
Here is what went down when we caught up with Christopher Coe about the label.
Hi Christopher, tell us a little bit about how the Awesome Soundwave journey started.
Well, the journey started in 2017 when Carl and I were chatting over lunch about stuff, and I told him about the new album I was working on. I had just come back from my homeland of the west of Ireland, where I had been climbing mountains and making techno inspired by the landscape and had developed a live audio-visual show around it. Carl was so inspired by the idea that then and there, he declared that we should release this ourselves! In fact, we should start a new label to do it through!
The concept was simple, focus on signing live electronic artists to create albums or long play projects. He wanted to support these kinds of projects because it seems that here is where the new forms are being developed. So, we began with my own album entitled MNTNS of SLNC! What a privilege!
How did you and Carl meet? Did you always aspire to creating a label together?
We met back in the mists of time when techno was still an underground genre, and I think it was at his Ultimate Bass night in London. My mate Charlie Hall introduced us then. Charlie was running a great label called Pro-jex, and I had a few eps released through that label (vinyl only back then).
A few years later, Carl and I toured together for the Australian mega festival ‘Big Day Out’, and we became firm friends.
We did collaborate on a couple of tracks together over the years, and he did support my releases whenever he got them, of course, but we never really talked about a label until that fateful lunch where we realised that this was a good idea! 🙂
You have both relocated to Australia. Did this move influence your sound at all? What is the scene like down under? Are you working with local artists and the local scene?
Again, another nice connection, the fact we live in the same town!
I have been living in Australia for almost 30 years now, actually! But with times living back in Ireland and also in Amsterdam and London. And Carl moved here some 12 years ago?
So the scene here has always been strong; I ran a night in Melbourne for 5 years at the turn of the century called Centriphugal. A seriously underground night in a basement of an old pub on the fringes of the city, it was a mecca for the underground scene here, if you could find the place—part of its charm, really. Melbourne has always been about the not so obvious and cool stuff.
Carl, of course, has played in Melbourne many times at the bigger events and knows all the players in this country (as well as the rest of the world).
So, we pretty much know the whole scene between us, even though I am constantly hearing about or discovering new and cool stuff happening in out of the way places. I like that; it means it’s still vital. Yes, we do work with local artists as well – Honeysmack is a Melbourne legend whom I have known forever; Digital Afrika also comes from the roots scene in Melbourne. The great thing about this city is its diversity, with people from everywhere joining up to create new projects. Digital Afrika is a great example of this.
Are you spending much time in the studio together aside from the label?
Every day, I help Carl create his production studio here and work as his co-producer/engineer on many of his remixes and other projects.
You are fully supporting live acts with your releases and famous streams, how important is it to you to shine a light on this side of electronic music?
This is our very reason for existence. We want to try to do as much as possible within our capability to do so to support live electronic artists. Obviously, this has been very difficult for all performing artists in the last year, so the streaming thing was an obvious way to shine a light and show the world what these artists are about. Funnily, I would suggest that the streaming thing has helped people understand on a much deeper level what it is to be a live electronic artist as opposed to a DJ… people got to see first hand what is going on when a live artist is performing by being invited directly into the artist’s studio or home via the camera (such as what we did with our ASW Live Online Festivals in April/May/December 2021). This is a totally different experience from being at a festival when the artist is standing up there on a stage. This is up close and personal in a way, and I think this has allowed the audience to more fully appreciate the skill and creativity that goes into playing live.
This year you have already had amazing releases with An On Bast and Hybrasil, how did these come about? Are there any stories behind the releases?
As a label, we tend to work in a very curatorial way; we don’t really call for demos as such, rather we search out interesting artists through social media and word of mouth from our peers, and then we listen carefully, and we watch… We don’t restrict ourselves to genres. We like diversity of sounds and ideas; hence we could release very pure techno acts like Hybrasil one day (view the amazing visuals for his EP “Dezik”). The next release could be an afro-house act like Digital Afrika.
And we have plenty more very interesting live artists that we are planning on releasing or are in talks with about their projects.
With Anna, for example (An On Bast), I discovered her through a friend’s recommendation and really liked her whole vibe. When we spoke, I realised that she has a strong and well-defined philosophy behind her creative approach and output, and she is prolific. But the main thing is (and always is!) her music is good! It is quality, and she has a sound, something unique.
This is the same for every release; the artist has to have ‘a a voice’ that is recognisably theirs. With electronic music, it is easy to fall into generic ideas that may work on the dance floor, but when listening, we want more, we want to hear the true expression in the music, and that takes a bit more effort. I know this reads as obvious when you look at it, but it is amazing how many beautifully produced pieces one hears that really lacks any vibe or concept that stands out.
When Anna sent me her material, she had produced a huge amount of music, and we realised that we could release a really large number of tracks from her in one album.. we wanted to show her whole range and level of work. It is amazing! And we are proud of this release very much.
As we are with every release, we hope that we are presenting artists that fit the bill. Artists who have a unique sound and are of a level of quality that is outstanding.
For us, it is not about their commercial potential; rather, it is about innovation, soul, vibe and emotion.
It’s a feeling.
Is there anything, in particular, you are looking for in an ASW release? How does the selection process typically work?
Hmm.. actually I think I may have answered this question in my rant above 🙂
When selecting music for the label, are you relying on demos from the artists, or do you have a specific list of artists you have in mind?
Oh.. actually I also answered this one.. see above 🙂
Can you tell us some more info about what ASW has coming up this year?
Well, we have some amazing new artists to introduce this year:
Charlie Thorstenson from Sweden is an interesting, experimental, and unique live artist who records found sounds, electrical interference signals, and other sources and samples and blends them into compelling and emotional works of techno and electronica.
The second single from Charlie’s forthcoming “Kretsloop” album is out soon, you can pre order “Stilla” here.
Another album from the mighty Saytek is in the works, such a great live artist who really reproduces his live shows into amazing albums!
Digital Afrika have their album dropping in the middle of the year too! With recordings and collaborations with amazing artists from Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Melbourne. Their single “Gnawa” dropped just recently this year too.
Remixes of Honeysmack’s work from MSTRKRFT and CJ Bolland of all people!!
Plus so many more surprises coming up..
We do stuff when it feels right, so half the time, we don’t even know what’s gonna happen until it comes into view! Gotta keep ‘em guessing, I say 🙂 … as crazy as that can be for our communications & marketing director (the lovely Kat Loughrey) who likes to plan things strategically, and thank goodness she does! Otherwise, it would be chaos! 🙂