west end communications
By Hugo Drummond
Although the Internet and its music communities have facilitated the digital production and online releases of many young aspiring artists, the roles of record labels are still of paramount importance to the success of producers, especially in dance music. Labels are indefinitely the driving force behind a city’s musical output; Glasgow’s music scene is a testament to this.
The city has long had an impressive repertoire of world-class labels. Soma Records are currently celebrating 25 years of being at the forefront of cutting edge electronic music and Dixon Avenue Basement Jams just won DJ Mag’s Best Label Award in 2015. One would think that with these successes (along with other stalwart labels such as Optimo Music, Numbers, and All Caps), breaking through as a new label in Glasgow would be a nearly impossible feat. One small label, however, seems to be dispelling this belief - West End Communications.
After a gig in September, I spoke to label head Kyle Robertson and Zander Diamond aka ‘The Burrell Connection’ to discuss the challenges and subsequent successes of piloting a small start-up in a city already saturated with such prominent dance labels.
The idea for West End Communications (WEC) developed in 2013 with the first release arriving in February the next year. The reason behind its conception was simple. Stating it bluntly, Kyle tells me that all of his friends “were making really class tunes but weren’t really doing anything with them, just sitting on them and not sending them out to any labels.” Originally hailing from Perth, both Kyle and Zander moved to Glasgow before the label’s foundation. “When you get there and live there, you realise that so much is going on,” Kyle states, “It’s just the perfect place to start something like that.” Often new labels struggle to source the content for their initial releases; however, in the case of WEC, it doesn’t appear to have been an issue. It’s evident that because everyone on the label is part of a close group of friends, discovering new music is a fairly informal process. Zander explains that “it’s not really a case of going out and sourcing music from other people, it’s more like a group of friends and everyone sends each other stuff.” This is undoubtedly reflected in the sound of the records. Despite slight variations in the genres of the artists, the releases are marked by their succinct production and togetherness. It’s only natural that a group of friends who are hanging out and producing will end up influencing each other’s sound.
I get the sense that the ethos of the label is rooted in humility - an appreciation of the music rather than the name printed on the record. The whole laid back feel of it seems to be more about the sound and cohesion of the output rather than getting big artists and drawing big names to the label. They let the music speak for itself. “You don’t know the guy,” states Robertson, “but if you like the record, buy it. That’s all you really need to know.” At 7 releases deep and with momentum growing, the success of some of WEC’s featured artists is a testament to their growing popularity. Zander Diamond, otherwise known as The Burrell Connection, has been involved with the label since its early stages, sending Kyle a few songs at the end of 2012 that ended up being put on vinyl. After playing a gig in Aberdeen, Zander’s music caught the attention of Warehouse Project resident Krysko, and Kyle tells me how the legendary DJ rushed out from backstage when they were playing and simply said: “what the fuck is that tune?” After giving him the record they received an email back asking for whoever wrote the track. From there, the record ended up getting spins from the likes of Jeremy Underground and Domenic Cappello, with the eventual culmination being Diamond’s involvement with Krysko’s new label ‘I Walked By Night’. The first EP, featuring Tristan Grace, was released mid-September with Zander’s contribution dropping in the next few months, topped off with a label launch on the 10th of December at The Warehouse Project. The launch will take place in Room 3 with The Burrell Connection on the same billing as industry powerhouses like Jeff Mills, Rødhåd and Bicep. Zander unsurprisingly tells me, “I haven’t really got my head around it yet.”
With WEC featured artists making music worthy of Krysko and The Warehouse Project, the outlook for the label is optimistic. Kyle informs me that their bi-monthly residency at La Cheetah will initially become more sporadic in order to put more time and money into new releases. Although the resurgence of vinyl and ‘Record Store Day’ have been a lifeline for many record shops in the UK, I’m told that the reissued pressings for many big artists slow down the orders for smaller labels. The label, however, has now moved distribution to Rubadub Records, whose commitment to smaller Glasgow based producers, Zander explains, is especially beneficial to WEC. Kyle agrees - “speaking to them definitely spurs you on and makes you want to keep doing what you’re doing.” Both tell me that rubbing shoulders with label’s heads in this environment influences their own tastes, and I get the sense that they think they could have a certain edge over local labels. “The main differentiation is that we have no musical boundaries. We’re just all making the music at the same time,” Zander tells me. What both Robertson and Diamond have achieved at such a young age is incredibly impressive, and they definitely prove that record labels still matter in the digital landscape. With listeners spoilt for choice in Glasgow, I get the impression that they both believe West End Communications offers a laid back approach with no boundaries, committed to consistently producing a varied and succinct output. Frankly, from what I’ve heard, I’d have to agree.