For over 30 years now, Belgian-born record label R&S have been at the forefront of serious club culture. That lifespan means that generation after generation of producers, DJs, and dancers, have been influenced by the imprint and its devotion to unearthing the best sounds sneaking through the floorboards of electronic music.
Over the last three decades they've released era-defining music by the likes of Aphex Twin, CJ Bolland, and Human Resource. Initially best known for the punishing, EBM-inflected hardcore sound that was all the rage across E-addled Europe in the late 80s and early 90s, R&S has seen it's scope widen in recent years. A brief hiatus ended in 2006 when they saddled the old horse up again and trotted back into every decent club in the world, releasing new music by the likes of James Blake and Space Dimension Controller.
Suddenly the logo was everywhere again, and Optimo's 2009 In Order to Edit mix was a must-have for anyone with any semblance of interest in just how unruly and chaotic dance music used to be. With R&S' 2017 shaping up to be truly memorable, we decided to have a quick chat with label manager Andy Whittaker about the past, present, and future of one of the iconic imprints of the electronic age.
He's also put together a rollicking guest mix for us, stuffed with new and exclusive material from the label. "This mix came about from wanting to showcase some new R&S releases that fit together in a more 4/4 house style," he says. "So it features new tracks from Talaboman, Lone and Space Dimension Controller. There's also a bunch of tracks from some personal favourite producers that never get old and an upcoming release from Lone's Magicwire label."
Tuck in below.
THUMP: Andy, R&S have become one of the best loved records in dance music history. Does that fill you with pride on a daily basis?
Andy Whitaker: It's always a nice feeling to see R&S appear in lists of peoples favourite labels. Renaat and Sabine built a serious legacy in the nineties but we're still going strong and trying to live up to those glory days.
What's your role within the label, and how do your working days tend to play out?
I head up the label from the UK. We don't have a big team so I work across everything from signing artists to hiring the promo teams, organising the PR campaigns, overseeing the manufacturing and distribution and managing staff. Most days I'm spinning plates on a few campaigns over R&S, Apollo and Meda Fury so it never gets boring.
Do you remember your first ever contact with an R&S record?
Jaydee's "Plastic Dreams." I used to hear this everywhere in clubs in the nineties but I heard it again recently and it still sounds amazing.
How does the label look for new talent?
Ultimately our slogan is "In Order To Dance" so we are never too far away from music that will work in a club. We still hear tracks in clubs and get passed music in clubs but most of the new music we sign are artists we have decided to approach for a release on the label. We have scouts who are always out at gigs and searching non-stop for music online.
Are artists always excited when they're approached by the label?
Some can be but it's always interesting to see how they came across the label. Some young producers might be in thrall to Aphex Twin, Biosphere, Robert Leiner but for others the entry point could be James Blake. They might have never heard of the label up to that point.
What's the sauciest record you guys have ever put out?
Got to be "Love Kiss" by Sheila from 1989. The sleeve came with a warning—"This record has some nasty lyrics on it, so don't buy it if you can't stand the heat! Discretion is advised by store persomnel, parents and your own conscience!"
Finally, what can we expect from R&S' 2017?
2017 is shaping up very nicely so far (there's three tracks from the label in my mix). Unknown Archetype, Paul White, Talaboman, Lone, Sporting Life, Space Dimension Controller and Slackk have already been getting people excited but we've also got some other great new signings up our sleeves to announce later in the year. We've also got an impressive run of events planned this year!