Huwston: The vibe continues to evolve

Creative Vibes’ ongoing Evolutionary Vibes series has steadily grown to become one of most reliable and eclectic names to look for on Australian shelves, six volumes and eleven years on from the series’ inception back in 1994. It’s worth remembering that at this point in time, Creative Vibes was one of the only labels of its type then focussing upon distributing both local and overseas electronic sounds, and fans of the likes of Ninja Tunes and Warp (now both virtual household names) were forced to desperately look overseas for copies of most releases in a fledgling internet world. While the local distribution of most major overseas imprints is now pretty much taken for granted by Australian listeners, back then Creative Vibes was one of a few outfits committed to releasing local electronics on a widespread scale, its Evolutionary Vibes series spearheading its efforts to get local producers on the shelves alongside their overseas counterparts. During its lifespan, the Evolutionary Vibes series has provided a critical launching pad from which likes of the Resin Dogs, DJ Soup and The Bird have forged strong local followings, these initial appearances leading onto successful careers in their own right, and perhaps one of the series’ most consistent traits has been its eclectic unpredictability; frequently placing hiphop alongside dubbed-out electronics, furious breakbeats and post-rock elements.

Latest instalment number 6, subtitled ‘The Tenacious Years’ couldn’t be more different from its previous volume, the darker, more introspective directions of its predecessor replaced by the rolling latin grooves of Melbourne outfit Los Cabrones, electro-house duo Ubin and Brisbane breakbeaters Superfluid (to name but a few). ITM’s evilchris caught up with Creative Vibes’ Huwston (who’s definitely no slacker, manning a weekly music column as well as planning the imminent launch of his Knowfoowl label, with several compilations under his belt) to talk about the further adventures of the Evolutionary Vibes series and some of the changes that have happened in the local landscape during the intervening years.

ITM: Over the last twelve years and five previous volumes, Evolutionary Vibes has certainly become of the most immediately-recognised and respected Australian electronic music compilation series; were there any things you were particularly keen to highlight / do differently when compiling Volume 6?

H: I wouldn’t say ‘do differently’ but I had personally found volumes four and five to be a little colder. Interestingly enough those were the types of sounds we were having success with (think Gotye, Soup, Sheriff Lindo, Quro etc), so that’s how they ended up that way. The tracks that fitted the best for the current volume certainly did have a brighter edge, which I was thrilled to be able to highlight, though. My big thing was to show Melbourne some more love too…

ITM: How do you see the Evolutionary Vibes series changing / developing over time since its inception back in 1994?

H: I guess in a way similar to the way the Australian music industry has. We haven’t always gotten it right, we haven’t had the highest of production standards but look at us now! I’m always saying that the phrase ‘it’s good for Australian’ is redundant. The EV series has always been about showcasing Australian talent and I guess the biggest development is that when Peter & Heidi Pasqual and Gordon Henderson compiled the first volume eons ago, there wasn’t even a market for this kind of music out here.

ITM: Many of the artists / groups introduced to Australian listeners on previous volumes of Evolutionary Vibes have gone on to become high-profile names in the Australian electronic scene, such as DJ Soup, The Bird and Prop – how do you see the compilation series’ ongoing role in terms of spotlighting and presenting emerging local artists?

H: Big time. It’s a real joy to see your friends, colleagues and associates go on to big things and anyone has to be thrilled to be involved in that ‘evolution.’ We’re so lucky to be working with some of these guys whose music is just so brilliant and whilst it can be hard pushing the music people might not yet be familiar with, there is a certain satisfaction you can get from knowing you heard it first. I really thank you for noticing that, no one shouts out some of the acts we heard first… so check out Regal, The Bamboos, Inga Lijestrom, and N8 for some serious, burst-out-of-your-seams emerging talent.

ITM: Upon listening to EV6, one of the first things I noticed was that this latest volume seems to have a far more summery, extrovert vibe compared to the previous instalment (which was quite dark and introspective in places, with acts such as Gotye and Ens); was this the result of a deliberate plan?

H: No, it just happened that way. I had originally presented a bunch of tracks that were certainly darker but my boys from Melbourne’s burst of Summer just complimented my partner Pete’s initial selection and ‘Hola Que Tal’ and ‘Eel Oil’ fitted so swimmingly (pardon the pun). As I mentioned earlier though, it’s a bit of where the scene is at and it’s a bit of where we’re at – which at the moment I’d have to say is a pretty sunny disposition.

ITM: I was also curious to find out why you chose “The Tenacious Years” as the subtitle for this latest Evolutionary Vibes volume – any particular reasons?

H: Pete came up with this one. It’s a play on Ten, being that it was compiled in the company’s tenth year of existence. Tenacious I guess has many meanings. I quite like that this is one of the series’ strongest volumes and whilst the music industry is in such a state it’s kind of a subtle way of letting people know where in for the long haul.

ITM: I understand that you’ve been involving in compiling Raw Fusion’s ‘Urban Visionaries: Jugglin’ release along Creative Vibes’ Peter Pasqual, which is due for release in April – certainly some fantastic artists on the Jugglin’ imprint, any hints on what we might expect?

H: Oh yeah, what a joy this one is. I really want to speak about Australian music but you’ve got my number so… When Peter came back from MIDEM he’d landed some really crazy stuff (as he always does, he’s a maverick renegade ol’ Pete). Anywho, Raw Fusion is one of our favourite labels and has been known to rock a few dancefloors so we decided to do a comp for them to showcase them to punters or retailers who may not be familiar. We’ve previously showcased Compost/JCR and Pulver Records in the series but I guess long story short: there’s new stuff, unreleased stuff, vinyl only stuff, artwork from Kano, compiled by Pete, myself and Mad Mats and kick ass artists like Freddie Cruger, Beatfanatic, Ennio Styles, A Bossa Eletrica, Up Hygh, Yam Who?, Red Astaire and Povo are all in on the action.

ITM: When Creative Vibes first emerged on the local scene back in 1994, it was one of the first independent electronic music imprints to focus on the work of Australian artists operating in hiphop, dance, ambient, dub and jazz-influenced musical spheres, but obviously eleven years later a number of other similar imprints / distributors have emerged in the intervening years. How do you see Creative Vibes’ role / position within the local scene changing developing during your time working with the label?

H: Good point. I always hear the bosses talk about this idea of making something from nothing. I was just a little too young in 94 to know it but there was no scene for labels like Ninja Tune and these kinds of sounds, and Pete, Gordon and Heidi really helped Australia create one by importing this music and getting it in to stores. I guess from then when it was viable, they could release the ‘local version’ of these sounds. I see Creative Vibes’ role developing stronger than ever. We’re music lovers in the position to make a big fuss about records here and overseas and who wouldn’t want to be in on that?!?

ITM: What do you think are some of the factors that have contributed to Creative Vibes’ ongoing success as a local label / distributor over the last eleven years? Are there any specific sorts of things that you look for when considering working with / distributing overseas artists and labels, for example?

H: I think there has to be a wavelength. I think Creative Vibes has always associated itself with the finest in music and at times, the finest in people. The music industry is full of scumbags but people resonate with this love of music we have and they want to be involved. We’re lucky we operate in such a fine geographical and economical climate because the music is like a soundtrack to an already fantastic life. But think about Hans Nobody over in Belgium who’s sales are down 100 000 units and he is forced out of business in the cold, too, mind. So I’d say good music is the starting point and we go from there.

ITM: I understand that the launch of your own Knowfoowl label is imminent, with a number of 7” releases first off the plate; can you give us any sneak previews of what we might expect?

H: Ah hah. Yes. The baby. After a couple of false starts I guess it’s all about to be unwrapped. Knowfoowl happened after I made some down-to-earth understandings about myself and the industry. It was born from the influence of Pete, Heidi and Gordon who showed me that you can have fun and success and still work in the music industry. We’ll see how it goes I ‘spose but I’m at the age where I can do this and I’m just willing to have a bit of a crack. Everyone gets paid which is another nice thing. I have a great logo (his name is Genki, he’ll be branded pretty big time cos he’s so cute) from a Sydney based artist named Momoko Hatano (a student who’s just graduated from COFA) and the first track I’ve signed is from a Melbourne group called Cookin’ On Three Burners, which is headed up by Lance from The Bamboos. ‘Cressy Street Breakdown’ has since moved up to 12” status with two rather high profile remixes from the UK and Germany to be delivered in the next week… watch this space!

ITM: You also contribute the weekly Bebop & Rocksteady column to 3D World, which I understand was born out of your frustration that nu-jazz and broken-beat music was simply seen as background bar / cafĂ© music in Sydney, compared to its more dancefloor oriented role in cities such as Melbourne. Do you still think this is the case, or has it just been a case of getting this sort of music out to open ears (witness the reception given to arts such as Jazzanova and Bugz In The Attic at Vibes on a Summer’s Day, for example)?

H: Bebop & Rocksteady was actually born out of my desire to get more records and preach my Gospel to whoever would listen (people who know me will know this scarily not sarcastic). I guess I have been given a bit of a gabbing gift and I feel that as I am in the position to hear all of this new music, I have a responsibility to share the best of it with as many people as I can. That’s why I started Djing, to share. More and more this type of music is crossing over and I think it’s because of people’s uncontrollable desire for the funk and everyone’s need for soul. I’ve seen sales of this stuff boost too, but we’re a really gung-ho fanbase and we will preach as loud as we can about this under appreciated sound. It’s great that you mention people are feeling it because it keeps me in the job!

Evolutionary Vibes 6: The Tenacious Years is available locally now through Creative Vibes. Be sure to head on down to one of the launch parties, happening throughout April:

Fri Apr 8 – Plantation Bar Kings Cross, Sydney
Regal, Fretless (Phats), Rephrase, N8 and Betoo and Elation (Live)

Sat Apr 9, The Roxy Parramatta, Sydney
Rephrase, Regal, Fretless, 2Up (Live), Elation (Live) and Love Tattoo

Sat Apr 16, Family Nightclub The Valley, Brisbane
Elation (Live), Superfluid (Live) and DJ Katch (Resin Dogs)

Sat Apr 16, The Croft Institute, Melbourne
Regal plus locals TBA