Chapter 24 are the subject of this, our first label focus feature. A fledgling UK label, they’ve already picked up strong support from some of the most respected names in the business thanks to the quality of the music they put out, and their attention to detail – with the artwork, artist roster and their events just as important as the music they choose to release. We spoke to Sam Pauli, one of the founders of the label about the story so far…
Tell me a bit about yourself, briefly, how did you get involved in music, what was your first love and what were you doing before you started making music/your own label?
Hi, I’m Sam Pauli, founder of Chapter 24 Records alongside my mates Marcus (Blacker) and Paul (Nolan). We’re a new deep, melodic house and techno label based in London, operating in the UK and internationally. We’re only a few months in to the label and things are going great…we’ve been surprised at how things have taken off with support from the likes of Sasha, Digweed, Dubfire, Nick Warren, Damian Lazarus…
It’s all felt really natural, but really it’s been the culmination of years of hard work. Marcus and I had been clubbing in London since 2004. I guess you could say we were indie boys and we really got into things during the electro/breakbeat days of Fabric…but house music is the only thing that really endured.
It’s a cliché but the turning point came when Marcus and I went to Ibiza for the first time in 2010. Stood on the Terrace in Space I just decided there and then I wanted to become a producer: being a spectator on the sidelines wasn’t enough any more!
Tell us a little bit more about that first experience of Ibiza, because the same thing actually happened to me.. in the same room, in the same club!
Haha, well it was in September. For our sins, we were on a Mixmag holiday for the start of the week – staying at Ibiza Rocks, as we knew no better – before going on to a villa inland to recover for the rest of our holiday. It was my first ever visit to Space of course. James Zabiela was putting on a punishing set in the Discoteca so we were taking a break in the Terrace, when Hot Chip took the controls. The music took over and it was at some time during the next two hours my epiphany took place… and I turned to Marcus to tell him I was going to make electronic music! That moment has always stayed with me though, and even now Ibiza really inspires me. What was your story?
To cut a long story short, Seth Troxler and Guy Gerber played b2b and Seth played ‘Plastic Dreams’ by Jaydee. It was the first time I’d heard it in a club and to hear it on the sound system in Space blew my mind, from that moment onwards I decided that writing about music was what I should be doing. Anyway, when did the idea come about to start your own platform for music? And what inspired you to get the idea off the ground?
I’d had chats with Paul about starting a label, as part of the work I had been doing with him. We actually met on an RA message board and I got him in to teach me how to make tracks, which worked really well as Paul is such a talent as a music educator and on the artist development side as well. But actually, the crazy thing was, the idea came to me on my honeymoon last April. Sat in Costa Rica with my wife Zoe, I felt I knew I had to kick something off. So I got in touch with Marcus who was immediately keen, and then in the summer Paul became the third founding member. We’ve been busting a gut on this project ever since!
What role do each of you take with regard to the label? Have you all got defined positions or do you have some crossover?
We are quite fluid and definitely do have some crossover. If you had to be specific, I guess you could say that me and Marcus are the label managers – Marcus is big on getting things done, making things happen; I take care of the longer-term stuff, more of the vision etc; and Paul is the lead on artist development. One of the things about going back to ‘meaning’ for us as a label is we want to put artist development programmes in place to help our artists grow, something that seems to be rare these days…
How did you actually get it off the ground and what’s been the most difficult aspect/biggest learning curve?
We basically spent six months from June to December last year on all the preparations. First and foremost we needed music so Paul and I spent a lot of time in the studio working on our own tracks and talking to artists to bring them on board. We met Twelve Minds and KatrinKa, I had been collaborating with friends (Reiver and Towdie) and slowly the music started to take shape.
A big thing we focused on was getting the brand right: it took us a long time to get the right graphic design and visual identity, and for us to settle on our key theme, which is: music with meaning and music as stories. Meanwhile, Marcus was working really hard to bring in an in-house artist. Finally we found a guy called Simon Vaeth, based in Copenhagen. Simon uses the linocut printmaking technique to create our distinctive artwork, with the current series taking its inspiration from Aesop’s Fables, linking back to the storytelling theme. The quality of the artwork is something that has got us amazing feedback and something we’re really proud about. The biggest learning curve is basically that you wave goodbye to your time off: weekends and holidays become harder to keep hold of as there are so many plates to keep spinning in the air. The humble spreadsheet becomes a good friend! Not very glamorous, is it…
Ha, well, maybe not glamorous, but that’s business for you. Which other labels have inspired you, whether it be sound-wise, thei outlook/approach to the industry or just for straight up vibes…
Of course, historically labels like Innervisions have been great influences on our sound, as they have proven that you can do house music that works on the dancefloor but is also very musical. Last year, the Berlin label Steyoyoke were huge influences for us. They have been churning out these deep, dark, dramatic but melodic tracks that have been absolutely killing it. They also have a strong visual identity and like us, they are big on heart and soul, authentic connections with their fans etc. This year I must say the work of Nuno Dos Santos and the Something Happening Somewhere imprint, based in the Netherlands, has been next level. Very inspirational indeed.
Where did the name come from and what’s the ethos?
This took a while! Knowing that the house music scene is already super-saturated, we felt that it was essential to put a lot of thought into the concept behind the label, in addition to taking an uncompromising approach to the quality of the releases we would put out. The name ‘Chapter 24’ comes from a Pink Floyd track written by Syd Barrett about the i-Ching; an ancient Chinese spiritual book. It’s fairly deep! When we were reading up about this, we found it chimed with so many of the things we’d been talking about. We felt bits of the scene had lost their soul and purpose a bit, that some artists, and the industry itself, had become a bit jaded. The chapter itself is called ‘The Return” and musically you can see it as having a deeper meaning – it’s about time we got back to the basic tenets that made electronic music so great in the first place. It’s time to get back to the belief and purpose of the early days of house and techno when the music meant transcendence, refuge, escape to so many people!
So we believe the essence of electronic music is about storytelling, and that’s why we’re using the tagline ‘stories in sound’…our releases are called ‘chapters’, our remixes ‘editions’, our vinyl series ‘sequels’, and our mixes ‘telling tales’…it all comes back to music having a depth of meaning, and putting quality art out there: spinning tales you can get lost in.
Some labels benefit from a very one-dimensional outlook (i.e. Pushing one sound only) whereas others are very eclectic… Where does yours fit in? And why did you decide to go down that road?
I guess you would say our music is always deep, always has a touch of emotion, and always has a melodic touch to it. We’re on the hunt for that bit of artistry, where you can tell the producer has put a piece of their heart and soul into it and you can really feel it. Overall though, we’re open to quite a range of sound across deep house and techno. Our idea is to stay open, to avoid becoming too inward-looking whilst still having a recognisable sense of Chapter 24 in the music.
Tell us a bit about the artists who are releasing with you and how you connected with them.
Yes, so we have a wide range with us now and loads lined up for the year! Chapter 24 is a collaborative family of artists that span the globe so, in terms of collaboration, we will all end up working together at some stage, either as studio partnerships or remixing each other’s work. We’re bringing in a few more well-known names to remix our artists too, with releases from Rashid Ajami, Jonas Saalbach, Just Her (of Him_self_Her), Danny Oliveira, Melokolektiv, THe WHite SHadow…
We’re also really excited about a couple of releases we have upcoming with Kurt Baggaley, a wonderfully talented artist who’s based in Bognor Regis actually. He lives and breathes dance music and we heard about him through his latest EP on Something Happening Somewhere, which, as I said, is a great inspiration as a label at the moment. His last EP got picked up by the likes of Dixon and Michael Mayer and we have brought in some really amazing artists to remix him for us. We can’t say who at the moment, but more on that soon…
And we have our Gather Round parties coming up in London throughout the year as well. The first one back in December with Steyoyoke’s Soul Button was a huge success, and we have Rashid Ajami and Just Her booked for our next one in May. The idea there is for the Chapter 24 family to build a platform for our headliners to spin us a tale, we’re keen to book people who aren’t quite as well known in London, but who definitely should be. We’re hoping to continue the success of our first party!
Finally, some light-hearted questions… Who’s the best dancer out of you, Paul and Marcus?
I have to say this is an easy one. It has to be Marcus. I could say he has inherited it from his dad Andrew, who is a mean mover on the dancefloor, but it’s probably also because of the jive lessons he has paid for. You could call it cheating. Marcus recently got married to his wife Lou and the first dance was definitely something of an elaborate routine…
Who’d overdo it and need looking after during a day/night on the dance floor?
Madly, I think we are all quite controlled and aren’t too likely to end up asleep in a skip the next morning. Though Paul says there are some stories he’s keeping under his hat, that aren’t fit for publication.
Complete the sentence, ‘Without house music I would…’
Be a professional footballer. Or at least that’s definitely what my eight-year-old self would say.