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IMPRINTS: Modern Math

The perfect embodiment of Canada’s eclectic West Coast.
December 11, 2014, 11:15pm
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: Modern Math

Founded: Started throwing events in 2009, expanded into a label 2012-2013

Location: Calgary, Vancouver Island, and soon to be Toronto.

Upcoming Releases: Various Artists Compilation TBA

Artists to Watch: Kline, Corinthian, Crimson, Oaka, Khotin, Autem, Orthicon

While many labels brand themselves by a specific genre or sound, Modern Math aims to evoke a unifying mood from each release. An artist roster of West Coast cohorts, and staples in the underground scene, make up their concise catalog of four EP's. With their minimalist approach to publicity, I felt urged to speak with label co-pilot, Dan Solo, to gain insight into Modern Math's past, and future plans.

THUMP: What's the deal?

2015 is going to be our most ambitious year to date. The universe has provided us a much needed hiatus to give the label some serious thought and has allowed us to make some fairly hefty changes to the way we've been running shop. We're rebuilding from the ground up, continuing to focus on the sounds we love all the while tying in other areas of creative mediums that inspire and move us forward. Very exciting times!

How did the label come together?

Modern Math originally started as a weekly event series, Sandro Petrillo (Sergio Levels) and myself (Slope/__Sanctums) founded, in Calgary with the help of a group of close friends in 2009. At the time we were djing/producing together under the moniker Piranha Piranha and the night became our platform for testing our songs and dj sets on a proper sound system.

The events and stories that took place at the night alone could take a whole interview to cover, I've always wanted to interview some of insiders/regulars from those days about their memories and stories from those formative parties to see what kind of narrative we could come up with....

But yeah, it was a neat time for youth culture in Calgary when we first decided to launch the night. A new scene of party kids was just emerging who perhaps were a little more savvy taste wise than prior generations in the city, they knew what was going on in other places and were hungry for new music and different night timing experiences that the city wasn't offering yet. We had an amazingly rewarding and infamous run of shows and we brought a lot of great music through the city. Modern Math was an extremely positive movement in the city that helped birth a whole new wave of producers, DJs, and promoters in Calgary, however the night was eventually shut down by city bylaw for too many noise complaints in 2011.

With the night gone we decided the best way to continue curating sound and sharing music we cared about was to launch the label. Both Sandro and myself were a little overwhelmed with the whole process in the early phases of a new label startup so we linked with our friend Matt Hali who had experience running his own label and knew the infrastructure needed to start the process, he came on with us for the first 4 releases to help us get the ball rolling and we began to build a catalog.

How would you describe your sound?

For lack of a better word I guess I'd say... Eclectic. We've had everything from ambient/downtempo, IDM(ish) bass music, leftfield electro/neo acid house & footwork.... it sounds crazy but strangely it works because all of our release's thus far have come from artists & friendly contemporaries in western Canada and despite the different styles of music there is a unifying mood you find out here that gives it a cohesion.

Sanctums live @ RBMA Basscamp Montreal

Is there a specific scene or locale you feel the label is most connected with?

Definitely western Canada's diverse underground electronic and experimental music scene, there are so many good people doing different things out here. I'm really thankful to have been around to watch it unfold & evolve over the last several years.

Its quite a friendly scene out here in BC and Alberta, because we are so geographically remote from the rest of the country's populations we've each played significant roles in helping to nourish and sustain each other culturally. Alberta is always the first place touring acts from BC go to play shows and BC is where a lot of Alberta's most creative people go to further their craft etc...

There is a healthy festival circuit out here in the warmer months, events like The Bass Coast Project, amongst others, which share the highlights of our music culture out west are a unifying umbrella for many of the different creative people & crews we relate to musically to gather under and build together for a few days without any of the distractions of the outside world. It's truly a pivotal moment in our annual cycle.

What other labels do you draw influence from?

Low Indigo in Vancouver.

Michael Red is an original luminary in the underground out here who inspired us early on at Modern Math (MM) along with the rest of the cats in the Lighta! Crew.... They were the first crew out these parts doing the early uk grime/dubstep stuff that was such a major influence on us in the formative years of MM and a lot of them were our first out of town guests we brought through the night.

The way Michael has been able to build a community and dialogue under the Low Indigo banner as well as mentor and cultivate growth with artists he works with on his label is really something.

New Kanada is another Canadian label that I am consistently pleased with aesthetically on both a sonic and visual level. I think their output and ocular accompaniment is one of the most beautiful imprints doing this sort of stuff anywhere. Adam Marshall's keen attention to detail and his almost futuristic approach he takes with many of his projects is a sure sign of success. Much like Michael, he works closely with his artist's to curate a well-rounded output of taste making material. Bridging the gap between Berlin & Toronto, he does an amazing job of bringing the Canadian footprint into international vision-Very respectable.

Which release would you recommend to introduce a new listener to your label?

Tough, they are all special and different in their own ways for different people/places/moods.

Specifically for the readership of this interview however I would suggest our most recent release, Taal Mala's White Label Renegade EP. This is our only vinyl to date and it gained a lot of positive support from a slew of djs we respect, which was a rather nice feeling!

The digital release features four chopped up footwork/jungle rave tracks and features a remix by our good friend Grenier, who we had wanted to work with for a long time and finally got to make it happen on this one.

How do you choose the artists that you work with?

We're lucky to have such a wealth of talent in our region, many of which are our friends and know about our mood and aesthetic we've established over the years. Thus far in the catalog, all of our releases have happened really organically where the artists, who were already friends/contemporaries of ours, basically hit us up saying they had some tunes they'd been working on and that they had been keeping MM in mind during the writing/production process.

Moving forward into 2015 we have plans to work with more of the people who have been close to us for awhile in our movements and in turn that we've been watching evolve musically for a few years now and we feel are ready to contribute to the catalog. Producers that were young bloods in our support network that are doing dope shit now basically.

What's your next release?

We are currently in the early planning phase of a compilation that will serve as sort of label sampler for the next chapter in the story.

What challenges do you face running the label?

For me personally, the biggest challenges lay in the administrative process... The organization required when dealing with distributors and the various other middle persons that you encounter on the path to releasing music has always been the type of left-brain exercise I never excelled at, but I suppose this exists on the administration side of any business. We're striving to really earn our stripes in this territory as we progress into the next chapter.

The rest is just storytelling.