Rush Hour Records
An unyielding passion for music is what has fuelled the trajectory of Rush Hour Records since its conception in Amsterdam in the late 90s. The foundations of this bustling sonic enterprise are rooted in DIY culture and an awareness of the connections which all good music shares. Over almost two decades RH has contributed heavily to the house and techno movement in Amsterdam, promoting challenging new sounds and reissuing forgotten classics.
Antal Heitlager, the label’s founder, joined us to discuss the roots and values of RH and his love affair with the city of London, ahead of his takeover at Village Underground this Friday as part of the candle-lit Superstition series.
As 2014 fast approaches its end, would you say you set yearly objectives or do you set less tangible targets for yourself and Rush Hour Records?
Every year needs to be an improvement on the previous one and I think we did that again. We are surrounded by more great music then we can ever enjoy. The RH team is healthy, happy and positive. We make positive numbers, artists are travelling and playing more outside Holland than ever before, we recently found a new extra space for our operation and we have some new fresh people onboard. Also I just received the second edition from our DIY magazine House Of Music which makes me happy. It really is cool.
What was it that appealed to you about the Superstition series?
We heard good stories from our friends at the Trouw club in Amsterdam who did a night at Village Underground a couple of months ago.
You’re off to Berlin directly after for a RH takeover at Panorama Bar. Which contrasts, be they musical or cultural, do you draw between London and Berlin?
I don’t. I feel in both towns we can do what we like to do best. One place might be more underground than the other or whatever but it really is the space and the vibe of the evening that leads to a certain musical direction. We like it all so it could be disco, it could be house or afro-funk or something like that.
What are your past experiences of London?
So many … I came to London at an early age to dig for records. I have been to Mr C’s The End, Steve Bicknell’s Lost, Metalheadz at Blue Note, an Underground Resistance party, Mulatu Astatque, Joe Bataan concerts. I have always been drawn towards London because of the music. The scene in London was huge compared to what I could get in Amsterdam. I used to take the bus, travel for nine hours and arrive in the morning, dig at Fat Cat or Atlas the whole day, and then take the bus back in the evening for another nine hours to Amsterdam. Just because it was cheap, I wanted records and I was 15/16 years old with no money.
Our store was really based on the London vibe from shops like Atlas or Fat Cat. My partner and I opened the Rush Hour shop when we were 19 years old and we always went back to London to get records from the Music & Video Exchange at Notting Hill, Camden or London distributors.
In which ways do you feel your takeover represents RH Records?
What I like about Rush Hour is that everybody can find something they like in what we do. We don’t focus on one thing, but we focus on good music. This is because we work with a team of 10+ people. So a lot of different things are brought to the table and we like to showcase that, especially at Village Underground. The night will start with a Jungle By Night concert which is a young and tight band from Amsterdam playing a kind of of African-orientated psychedelia, Then there’s a DJ set from Rick Wilhite who will most likely play a lot of music from Detroit, Chicago and New York, as he himself is from Detroit. San Proper is one of the most loved characters in Amsterdam. He himself developed his own signature house sound and has been doing that since we opened our record store. Awanto 3 is a solo house project from Rednose Distrikt member Steven De Peven, who does theatre performances and hosts jazz nights, but can just as easily bang out a night of techno where you would hear him play Drexciya or a Felix Da Housecat record. Myself, I am into a lot of afrobeat & afro funk or US/UK disco stuff. Next to that I dig a lot of Brazilian music or house. I like to mix that all up.
As RH has filtered and been absorbed through different countries and cultures over the years, how would you say its identity has changed, if at all?
When we started we were focusing on house and techno music. But since then we have been influenced by so many people that came to our shop or meet during our travels we learned about a lot of music and realised that all good music is one. Every band or artist is influenced by another artist or band and so every good thing must be related. The only thing that can be in between is time or space. So for this we never wanted to narrow it down to just techno or something. Otherwise we would be a museum by now! We like it to be more organic. At an early stage we set up the Kindred Spirits label which really is a sister label from Rush Hour. So between the two labels we balance everything we love.
As Amsterdam is clearly a major part of your life and RH’s creative existence, how would you suggest it be enjoyed at its best?
Amsterdam is best in springtime, around May when summer is just about to start. You can bike through the beautiful city. It has a relaxed vibe which makes most things easily accessible.
What was the last song you listened to?
I was just checking the Awesome Tapes From Africa special on the BBC and listened to some background info on the mysterious Atakak … I heard his music in between the talks.
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Rush Hour Records take over the Village Underground this Friday with San Proper, Rick Wilhite, Antal and more.
Words: Charlie Wood