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Lobster Theremin Brings a Crate Digger's Mentality to the Digital World

"Too many really strong underground labels don't promote themselves enough, or they try to purposefully keep themselves more underground and limited for a heads-y crowd."

Imprints brings you regular profiles of the most exciting record labels the world over, with input from movers and shakers who contribute to their local electronic communities.

Name: Lobster Theremin
Vibe: Traditional and hearty, like a Thanksgiving meal, but with an understated flare—so it's more like a Thanksgiving meal with a crispy, honey-glazed turducken instead of a plain old turkey. And then dessert is one of those weird, surprising dishes you've never seen, like vanilla ice cream with salt and bacon bits or something.
Founded: 2013
Location: London
Claim to fame: The label started with a bang when they released Palms Trax's Equation EP last fall. The title track has racked up 37,000 plays on Hurfy D's Youtube channel.
Upcoming releases: Last week, the label announced LT004, a four-track EP courtesy of Budapest-based producer Route 8. According to the label founder, Jimmy Asquith, there are over 20 future releases scheduled, including contributions from sonofdistantearth and Rawaat. Asquith will also kick off a white label series with another Palms Trax offering, plus a black label series with a few tunes from Manse.
By the numbers: So far, Lobster Theremin has released three EPs: one from Palms Trax, one from Snow Bone, and one from Steve Murphy.
Artists to watch: If you want to be ahead of the game, check out Rawaat. Truly sick, tip.

What's the deal?
Lobster Theremin founder Jimmy Asquith is a patient man. Although he's wanted to run a record label for years, he waited for the right moment to launch it. The time came about two years ago, when Berlin-based producer Palms Trax (aka Jay Donaldson) sent him some Chicago-influenced demos. "I was like, 'We have to put these out,'" he said. "That was the reason to start something. There are so many great unreleased artists out there, so it's a great time to build something like this." For Asquith, "something like this" isn't just another record label churning out dusty house music to be consumed and forgotten; Lobster Theremin is a platform for little-known artists, and its roster so far features four artists with no more than two or three releases under their belts. 18 months after he decided to press the Palms Trax demos, the Equation EP hit shelves, and a few weeks after that, Asquith quietly unleashed the digital downloads via the label's own Bandcamp—so quietly, in fact, that many assumed Lobster Theremin was a vinyl-only endeavor. "We're actually not vinyl-only," he clarified. "Once the record is sold out, I'd like to do digital, but I want it to still have a digger's mentality to it." Thus, Lobster Theremin fans have to practice active consumerism and hunt for the records they want, regardless of which format they prefer.

THUMP: Why were you waiting for the right moment to launch a label? It seems like you were very mindful of external conditions, like the popularity of vinyl.
Jimmy Asquith: There's so much talent, and it can get a bit overbearing in a sense, because more than ever there are so many people who have the ability and resources to make music. Obviously, the whole vinyl sector has exploded, and for better or worse that's pulled a lot of labels with it. I'm trying to do something that's essential, but slightly different in its aesthetic and its goals, instead of being another label that's just there and exists. In the 18 months or two years between when I decided to release Jay's record and when it came out, a lot of new labels appeared. What felt good was that the way I felt about starting a label hadn't changed in those 18 months; the sound and medium wouldn't be a fad, and there was still a gap for what we were going to embark on aesthetically. It wasn't me going, "How much more popular is vinyl going to be in x number of years?" Although, I suppose what has happened is, as it's become more popular, it's become less of a risk to press slightly higher quantities of vinyl. It's a healthier scene now, and we can grow the label faster than we could have before.

What's appealing or valuable about the digger's mentality to you? Why did you want to encourage that mindset with your digital releases?
I would like to do digital releases a bit more proper. We started out selling through Bandcamp with more of a digger's mentality to it—so if you wanted it, you still had to come to us and dig it out. The people who find it might chance upon it, but probably not, and it's something that all their friends won't have already gotten their hands on. In some ways, that goes back to record culture, and buying vinyl white labels or 300 limited edition pieces. That was really important a few years ago in helping the electronic music scene to embrace vinyl more, but I think now, with the changing landscape, that's not necessary. With the digital releases, you can encourage a digger's mentality; it's the same idea as when blog culture blew up. You had blogs that people didn't know about, so you could get tracks from those sources—free giveaways, bootleg remixes—and people would be like "Where'd you get these tracks?" The answer was, this little underground portal that was feeding the people who were really digging for the music. But another side of me appreciates that a lot of people would really be into these tracks and want to have them digitally, so I think I'll look at getting the releases out a bit further afield in that respect.

Smaller labels that value the digger's mentality and active consumption are also often averse to press, but you seem keen to promote your label. Can you explain your attitude toward press?
Too many really strong underground labels don't promote themselves enough, or they try to purposefully keep themselves more underground and limited for a heads-y crowd. At the same time, you see a lot of people complaining that the music they like isn't embraced more, and that music that sounds much more commercialized is embraced by a larger audience. It's partly because those people are doing heavy press and helping to get their labels into the spotlight so that more people can engage with them. If you press 300 vinyl, sell it through your distributor, and don't do anything online, you might sell out of it and have some fans based on that, but it's much more difficult for that music to be picked up by a wider audience; You're contributing to a scene of people who are most likely already into that music. What you're not doing is exposing more people to that kind of music who may not have heard it before, and you're not contributing to more people getting into the stuff you're doing from another scene or direction.

Some of these portals are pushing many different styles of music, so you might get some indie kid who's getting into more electronic-based indie, and they hear something you release and start to explore that kind of music. Those things are important too, because it's a form of education and helps people develop their taste. I suppose a lot of people are worried about getting too much attention and being associated with a crowd that they feel isn't credible, but for me, I don't think the music that we release is anywhere near pop-y enough to be perceived as an underground-commercial sound, which you have at the minute. There are a lot of people doing very vocal, big room house music, and other people had a rant and called it "deep house." It's not; it's commercial house, and it's just been done by perceived "underground" artists. That's a separate discussion, but you've got to be honest about the music your label is putting out. I think our music is honest enough in an underground sense, so I'm not bothered by that. I want people to hear and interact with this music.

Connect with Lobster Theremin on Soundcloud
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Connect with Palms Trax on Soundcloud
Connect with Snow Bone on Soundcloud
Connect with Steve Murphy on Soundcloud
Connect with Route 8 on Soundcloud