Charles Damga is the originator of avant-garde dance music brand UNO records, whose roster includes the likes of Gobby, Arca and Fatima Al Qadiri. This is his first contribution to Electronic Beats. Interview conducted by A. J. Samuels.
I first met Nicolas Jaar when I was working for DFA. He must have been seventeen or even eighteen years old at the time. I returned from lunch one day and discovered him talking enthusiastically but eloquently and immediately assumed he had been some band’s manager, because those people are the only types who command that kind of attention in the laid back office. He was talking about Joy Division in relation to Wolf + Lamb, so the context was wild, but Nico’s monologue felt inspired plus energetic. Of course , Nico’s personality can be large. He’s a tenacious man, and it speaks through his music and performances. He’s never not really doing something, which is rare for young guys finding their way. In my opinion, he’s on a pioneering artist track that not many people I know prospect. Musically, I call him a unicorn—a mix of artists like Ricardo Villalobos on the one hand and Madlib/J Dilla on the other. And he’s obtained the chops to back it up. I could say as a promoter of some other artists with my label 1, there certainly aren’t many people who would kill a great label when it is working, like Nico did along with Clown & Sunset after this kind of successful beginning. I think if you look back at his catalogue, you can see a desire to break artists. Not really in terms of selling a million copies, but more like shining a light on those who are a challenge to market. In terms of Clown and Sunset, it’s not like you’ve noticed every record. But Jesus, it is like ten records that are fairly crucial. Of course , these are interspersed along with ones that got little interest. There’s only so much new music someone wants to buy, and as a brand owner you find yourself releasing music to no one sometimes—and releasing for everybody for the next.
In contrast, along with other People’s subscription model releasing albums and compilations every week to paying customers, people elect themselves directly into knowing what’s happening in that entire world. Together with Nico and the roster, they become more of a movement, serially signed up to having awareness of what’s going on at all times. It’s almost like an RSS feed to a pay blog where you don’t know what’s going to get posted but you trust whoever runs it sufficient to invest money in them. It’s a model that’s been made by the Internet. In a conventional label you usually need months plus months of promotion to make sure the thing has any chance of success. For example , if I have a new single I wish to get into the grime community or even on Rinse FM and focus on that native audience first, I then drop it on Soundcloud later on to show that it has legitimacy where it really matters. Only after that do you want the populace to decide. But with a serial model, it’s a constant movement of, say, ten releases happening. It doesn’t involve so much trepidation, and that offers incredible freedom. I guess you could have said the same of dub 7-inch singles clubs, but that kind of excitement hasn’t been around for quite a while.
To a certain extent, I do hear a common denominator in the work of the lot of the artists on Others, but it’s a difficult line to produce people who sound like you vs . sound you like, as an artist label. You are inevitably tied in to a conversation with artists that are related to what you do, much like with Oneohtrix and his Software program label. With Other People, there are factors of overlap in, say, Vtgnike from Moscow and Nico in New York, but vast space along with others like Acid Pauli in Germany. All of which I have grown to understand, with each increasing the musicality of the others. It feels like Nico has looked in the mirror plus seen Other People, both as his reflection and his vision. ~
This particular text first appeared first in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 36 (4, 2013). Read the full issue on issuu. com or in the embed below.