As one of the hottest labels of 2011, Futureboogie have become figureheads in Bristol’s prodigious house music revival.
Crack’s experience at The Garden Festival in Croatia was one of the best we can remember. Blissful sunshine, party after party and some of the best house, soul, disco and funk sounds, all set in the beautiful Adriatic.
The carefully chosen line-up is curated each year by two gents from Bristol, who have, over the last ten years, ploughed their way into a range of musical ventures that has seen their brand become one of the most dynamic in the UK.
Futureboogie is a ten year old club night based in Bristol which, during in that period has expanded into an artist management and booking agency, festival programming team and now a highly respected record label – Futureboogie Recordings – that has thoroughly earned the tag of breakthrough house music label of 2011.
Run by Steve Nickolls and Dave Harvey, both of whom also DJ under the Futureboogie name, the multi-faceted nature of their operation has seen them become one of the key players in an explosion of house music artists from Bristol this year. An initial release by Julio Bashmore was followed up by releases from a selection of Bristol based producers including Christophe and Lukas, Waifs And Strays, Coat Of Arms and Behling And Simpson, all of which have been gratefully received and found their way into the boxes and playlists of some of the biggest house music DJs on the planet. It’s a success story which has flipped the musical stereotypes of Bristol on its head and turned the heads of house music aficionados UK wide. Bristol is on the map in a way it has never has been before.
Extremely knowledgeable and astute in their ventures, much of the recent success of Futureboogie can be attributed to the experience gained from ten years of booking artists and fully immersing themselves in the music they love. After hosting their biggest party to date at Motion warehouse in November, and with a CD release coupled with ten year celebration parties in both Bristol and London booked in for early 2012, the Futureboogie brand can reflect on ten years in the game in a stronger position than ever.
Dave and Steve walked Crack through the history book.
How did you two first meet?
Dave: Guardian soulmates!
Steve: ‘Smokey eyes looking for rave fun.’
D: Nah. We met in Leicester a long time ago in the mid 90s. Steve was terrified of me.
S: I was doing a party night called Peak. They were acidy techno events. It was a big venue in a function hall and the lads I did it with had being doing it for ages. I was 20 and had just graduated.
So did you meet there?
S: Dave used to be a bit punchy when he was a bit younger, so that’s why he went there (laughs).
D: Mouthy would be a better description.
So would Dave go looking for a fight at the hard techno night?
S: Not literally punchy. But you were quite an ‘andful weren’t you [in a mockney accent]. Then we moved to Bristol together as we had a few friends here and we’d been out in Bristol a bit and been to Ashton Court Free Festival.
D: Leicester was starting to get dry as fuck too. We went to Ashton Court and thinking, ‘fucking hell this city is amazing, I can’t believe this is free festival.’
So were you moving here for work at all?
D: We had the opportunity to do a night at The Level (former Bristol nightclub on Park Row).
S: And that was, like, ten years ago, wasn’t it? Quite a few of us moved down at the same time, like our friend Stu, who was one of the original members when we started doing stuff. The night was called Seen at The Level, but the website was called Futureboogie.
So how did the name originate?
D: According to Wikipedia, and I’m going to go with that, Stu read it in some description of a DJ’s set and we needed a name to call our website because we didn’t want to call it Seen. I’d also like to go on record that I never liked that name.
So were you working on building careers in other areas when you came to Bristol?
D: When I came to Bristol I had a series of really shit jobs. I did two days of selling haircut packages for a salon in the street. That made me want to commit suicide, so that got jacked in pretty quickly.
S: You worked for Baileys once too, didn’t you? I remember getting really shit-faced on Baileys with you because you had two crates of the stuff.
D: Yeah, I did some other work for promotions companies too. [To Steve] You were still doing journalism, weren’t you?
S: I was freelancing for Wax Magazine, DJ Magazine and XLR8R and writing bits and bobs for Venue. I was also doing a bit of DJing here and there in places like The Watershed – when they had DJs – The Park and E-Shed – when it was open.
So when did the operation take on the professional guise? How did the artist management start?
S: The artist booking came from the people we’d booked to play the night. The first one was actually Quantic. They didn’t have agents and they liked what we did with the night and thought we were fairly together.
D: That scene was quite small at the time too. We were playing broken beat and jazz and there were only a handful of nights outside of London putting on people like Bugz In The Attic, Attica Blues, Quantic, Jazzanova and Gilles Peterson. Funnily enough I saw Toddla T online the other day repping this Daz-I-Kue (member of Bugz In The Attic) tune that we used to play. He was saying how ahead of its time it was. Other tunes like Red by Artwork, which was essentially the blueprint for dubstep, we were playing up against house music ten years ago, we always mixed up what we were playing.
S: For the three years we did it at Level, it was a really good club night. Considering Level was a 500-600 capacity venue, we did really well. You had really strong hip-hop and drum and bass nights down there too and it became the hot-spot to go in Bristol at that point, so the fact we were there was a strong look.
Why did you leave Level?
D: It came to a logical end really. We were struggling a bit with numbers and who to book, so we’ve been a bit nomadic ever since.
So was there a conscious change in musical direction? Because the people you are booking now seem to be far more house music leaning than the people you were booking before? Did your tastes change or did popular tastes change?
D: The whole broken-beat thing ended. It was quite insular, only a few people were making it, and we’d always played house and disco anyway. After that came dubstep, and I just didn’t really get that. It didn’t make sense to me and I didn’t want to dance to it.
S: If you don’t set out your stall to play one particular type of music at your night, which we never did, you can react to styles. If your crowds are getting into more of the housier stuff you’re playing, then you just lean it that way because that’s what working. Recently our success has certainly coincided with a period where house music has become a bit more interesting. I remember when house was considered a bit of a dirty word. It was really mainstream and it was really glitzy. Now it’s got loads of different levels.
When you’ve got loads of producers who used to make bass music all making house records, it starts making it appeal to a whole new audience.
D: We always booked house DJs too – we’ve always been pretty varied in what we’ve been into, both what we play and what we put on.
S: We booked Dixon the first time he played in Bristol. We put him on at Native (old club in Bristol, now the Big Chill bar). And Carl Craig too.
Futureboogie is a very multifaceted operation. At what point did it start becoming a career?
S: On a legitimate level when I became self-employed. I don’t think any one element on its own would be enough to sustain a career.
So what do you think started getting you noticed a bit more?
S: The mixes we did for our radio shows were born out of mixes we did for our website and recording DJs at our nights at a time when the word Podcast didn’t exist. That was quite big at the time. It got the name Futureboogie out there. People knew the name and downloaded the mixes. We also made a conscious decision a while back to put our mixes online, because we weren’t making records, and we didn’t have the label until recently.
So moving on to the label, is that giving people a direct feel for the brand and the sound?
D: We talked about doing it for years. Ever since we started the night.
S: We got really close to doing it a couple of years back because we had friends making good music, but it didn’t work out. It was also a case of coming across some music that got us really excited and thinking, ‘we can put this out if we do it now. We should do this, we’ve talked about it long enough.’
Was it a case of needing that pool of talent in Bristol to be able to do it effectively, or would you have looked further afield?
S: We knew there were friends of ours in Christophe and Lukas who were already making quality tracks, but it was meeting Matt (Julio Bashmore) and hearing him play Father Father that was the catalyst for everything.
D: I was playing at Dojos for some student night , playing before Bashmore and feeling quite old and he came on and I’d not really paid any attention to him because I’d got the wrong idea about what he played. I thought he played dubstep, like everyone was making at that point and I’d written him off. But he came on and started playing lots of classic house and old house. I was like ‘fucking hell that’s interesting’ and then he played Father Father and I was like ‘this is amazing’, so I asked him about it and he very modestly said “this is a track I’ve made this week”. So we had him up to the office, and said to him that we thought it was fucking ace and we want to put it out. He thought about it and said that he’d been thinking of doing a label and can he do one with us? At that point he wasn’t anything of a name, but within a period of a month to six weeks he went stratospheric.
So beyond the initial release, it’s been pretty remarkable to see all the success of the label and the different artists you’ve released. Artists such as Waifs And Strays and Lukas are all Bristol based artists who’ve blown up in the last six months. You are at the forefront of this explosion; it must be pretty exciting for you both?
D: We’ve both been blown away by how it’s gone. The enthusiasm for the label is infectious. As soon as we’d played Father Father to the Waifs And Strays guys and Christophe and Lukas, it really spurred them on. We knew Christophe had The Force (the second release on Futureboogie Recordings) and that was strong. The fact that producers could see it was actually happening and the success the first release had made everyone work a bit harder.
S: It’s a bit like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. “If you build it Dave, they will come.”
Has the success of the label translated itself into more DJ gigs for you two?
S: I think so, it’s contributed.
D: But I think you can reach a ceiling when you just DJ and don’t produce, which the label has bridged slightly. We’re never going to get booked for gigs like the artists who are selling shit-loads of records.
So how are your roles separate, on a day-to-day basis?
D: Steve is basically the agency and he looks after the artists on it and I look after a few too. Steve’s also managing Crazy P. The label is split between us and that’s 50-50. A&R is also split between us and the same with the nights.
Do you DJ equally?
D: I do the ones where there’s not much payment. Steve only comes out if there’s money (laughs).
S: I’ve got a girlfriend, so it does necessitate not going out all the time and eating into the weekend. The vast majority of Futureboogie gigs we do together.
Will it always be a Bristol thing?
S: It was never intended to just be a Bristol thing. It just so happened that when we started it there was a massive groundswell if Bristol artists making really good music.
D: A lot of them are our friends too, so it just made sense. Funnily enough I got a message from someone asking if we were accepting demos from people outside of Bristol.
S: It would be daft to limit yourself in that way. If you were getting sent amazing music, you’d be a fool not to try and put it out.
So you’re doing a CD release to celebrate ten years of Futureboogie with ten original productions on it.
S: We wanted to mark the ten years with parties, but not just make it about the last ten years, but make it about what we’re doing now. So the parties we’re doing in Bristol and London will be entirely made up of people we’ve put out on the label. And we’re also doing the CD too. So we asked friends of the label and people we’re putting out records from next year to all do tunes. Eats Everything, Crackazat, Christophe, Lukas, Maxxi Soundsystem, Bashmore and others are all on there.
And into next year for the label?
D: Well, we haven’t got a release schedule as such; we’re just going to put out music when we get good enough music.
S: We’ve gone quite hell for leather in the last year and we don’t get all that much done over the summer because we’re usually away with festivals.
That’s another major part of the Futureboogie operation isn’t it?
S: Well, under the Futureboogie banner we book all the acts for The Garden Festival in Croatia, but all the other involvement in festivals over the yeaer is Dave’s thing with a chap called Tom Paine.
D: That’s my bread and butter under the Team Love name, which is essentially production and programming at festivals. We’ve got our stage called The Wow at Glastonbury and we’ve done stages at Secret Garden Party, The Big Chill Festival, Glade plus this year we did our biggest event to date – See No Evil (in which Nelson Street in Bristol was transformed into an urban art and performance hub for two days in June) and the RBMA stage at St Pauls Festival.
And finally, what’s been your highlight of the year?
S: Saturday’s party at Motion was the culmination of everything. To see so many artists we’ve worked with doing that well on such a big stage was incredibly rewarding.
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Photo: Elle Sheriff