Spilt Milk is one of London’s best-loved soirees, run by the one and only Tred Bendict – a jovial, enigmatic character who has established the party over a number of years without relying on the hype machine to raise their profile. Together with his partner in crime Paul ……… he has been working on launching a record label attached to the event, which incorporates all the elements that have made his party such a success. With the first release hitting the streets recently, we caught up with both men over a pint to talk about the story so far.
What do you guys both do to pay the bills?
Paul: I work in marketing.
Tred: I work in marketing too. I basically give away free stuff from big brands. But once it hits 5pm that’s it, off the clock and back on music.
So your careers are in marketing…
T: …I suppose so yeah.
P: I think career is a strong word!
It’s your bread and butter then.
P: It pays the bills.
T: Yeah it pays for records and bills.
I guess music has always been a part of your lives, but when did it become something you wanted to invest more time and energy into?
T: I’ve been a DJ for 12 years and been through garage, drum n bass, house, minimal techno… When it really started to cross over was around 2008 when I first picked up a pay cheque and that’s when it changed. My first party was ‘Don’t Techno Shit’ – it was very serious around that time, but our whole thing was to try and lighten the mood. We had Mister Miyaghi and the Karate Kid on one of the flyers, Captain Kirk… we even had Jessica Fletcher on one of them. In 2010 we started Spilt Milk, at an amazing venue, the Paper Mill, nice outdoor vibes – outdoor venues are so hard to come by these days so it was a dream. We’ve had three venue changes since then, loads of amazing guests… we’ve had some good’uns.
So you’ve known each other a while then?
P: Yeah, I don’t know when we crossed swords.
T: Oh we’ve never crossed swords!
P: I met Tred for the first time at one of the ‘Don’t Techno Shit’ parties. As he said everything was so serious at the time, it was nice to be somewhere where everyone was having fun – I got talking to him as I was putting my own parties back in Essex called ‘We Love Dust’, we were trying to replicate what they were doing up in London. I booked Tred because I thought he was a great DJ and it snowballed from there.
T: It’s funny because a lot of the people we’re close to now were at those parties but we didn’t know each other and it’s escalated, and there are people we see now, week in, week out, who we’ve known for five or six years. It’s a really nice thing, and we’ve got a good core following of true friends.
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Was the intention always to have the parties outside?
T: Spilt Milk is set to be outdoors. Our first time at Sonar everything was outdoors. It’s just a completely different vibe – we have a hard time going up against the great British summer, it’s always a bit of a gamble. Everyone always wants to do parties outside and I was lucky enough to have hit it off with the owner of the venue. A lot of people asked to do it there and he always said no, so we were very fortunate. It’s just a shame now that it’s getting harder and harder to do stuff like that in London – you look at Europe and they embrace it almost everywhere.
Yeah it is a shame. How do you guys manage to juggle your 9-5s with putting on the parties, because events are a hell of a lot of work…?
P: It depends how you treat. The stage we’re at with Spilt Milk, it’s almost like a second career – you just have to be stay aware of the fact that it’s something you enjoy and something you want to do rather than getting stressed and treating it like a proper job.
T: It’s quite hard for me because my job involves being on the phone a lot and I don’t usually come round [after their parties] until Wednesday! But it’s just knowing when to say stop, and when I find out how to do that I’ll let you know.
Why after four years have you now decided to launch a Spilt Milk label?
T: It’s definitely been the big talk around the camp fire for a while now, we’ve spoken a lot about doing it, as a lot of people do but we’ve really got an incentive so now it’s really happening. It’s a completely different thing; from saying you’re going to do it to ‘fuck, it’s really happening’.
So tell me a little bit about the first release…
T: Marc Ashken is a really, really good friend of mine. I actually met him four years ago at an after-party and it wasn’t until we were leaving that he said he’d like to stay in touch, so I asked his name and he said, ‘Marc Ashken’ and my and my mate were like, ‘Surely not the Marc Ashken?!’, as it turned it out he was and we’ve been in touch ever since. I really like his music, and as soon as I heard his tracks, I wanted them for the label, he’s a great producer, he’s been around a long time and it made sense to go with his music.
P: We’ve been working on building this label for ages. We thought it would take a couple of weeks and it’s been about six months, but I’m really happy with this first release and the way it’s all going.
I don’t really much about setting up a label…
Together: Neither do we!
So I want to hear it from two guys who have experienced it first-hand.
P: I’ve read all the articles. I read one which said, ‘Just whack it all on a credit card and let it work itself out’. I had some really good advice from someone… we thought we were doing really well, we were all ready to get it pressed, vinyl-only release etc… walk into the record shops and it all go smoothly. But we had someone who schooled us and said, ‘Nah, it doesn’t work like that’.
T: At the end of that meeting we both turned around to each other and went, ‘Fuuuuck!!’. It was a real learning curve, the main thing we found was that you get everything in order and then you can go one of two ways; you can either go the P&D (packaging and distribution) route or you can do it yourself. It’s cheaper to do it the P&D way but we had a lot of ideas about how we wanted to do everything, we’ve got a mad pressing company that’s doing us some outrageous vinyl, coloured with splatters, heavyweight… there’s a lot going on with it and, if we’d have gone down the P&D route we wouldn’t have had the freedom to do that. Like we say we spent four years talking about it and to get to a certain point and then let somebody else take charge of it just didn’t make sense.
P: We always had strong ideas about what we wanted to do and that hasn’t changed, and we’ve stuck to that but obviously we’ve allowed ourselves to bend slightly where necessary.
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What’s the ethos, in terms of the music policy?
T: It’s going to reflect the parties, so not just house, not just techno… there are people who already concentrate solely on those genres and do it well. I was at a party recently where it was ‘deep house’ all night and, I know it might sound like an amateur thing to say, but it was almost like they were the same record all night. We like to keep things interesting, if you want your party to go off it the mood needs to work accordingly; ups and downs, different styles to keep the crowd on their toes. It’s not a case of, ‘ah well, it’s a daytime party, let’s keep it deep all day’. The vinyl will be solid, the full package from warm-up, to peak time and late night styles. It’s not going to be a one-trick pony, every release will be different from the other.
P: We always refer back to the party, it’s important to translate the vibe of our events back into the music we’re releasing.
T: You can see that from the people we book too, Tiefschwarz, Adana Twins, Lauhaus… there’s variation and it’s not fixed on one particular style. It’s a showcase of the people we’re into, we build an element of trust with those people and create a strong relationship. Likewise, our punters trust us. You don’t have to be a full-on music head to be able to have a good time and appreciate good music and that’s what we instill in our events. The label will incorporate people who have played at our events, too.
How do you feel about how the party has progressed and it’s standing within the London party scene?
T: We started in a tiny courtyard that holds 350 people, the first year we grew slowly and it was amongst friends – it’s progressed through word of mouth. We used flyers in the beginning but after a couple of parties we stopped using them. I think you can become a victim of your own success. When we left the Papermill we started doing parties at a place we called ‘The Dairy’, which was an evangelical church… yeah, we’re all going to hell! It was the first one where we had Funktion-One system and we ran the bar, which made a massive difference.
You mention the London scene, unfortunately it’s diminishing. It’s really sad when you look at the likes of Paris, which is huge now, Berlin’s always been there – you look at the continent and they embrace it, they see it as part of the lure of their tourism but here it’s based around tourists coming over, going for a meal and a West End show and then going back to their hotel, they’re missing out on a massive market. We’ve lost 10 clubs in the last few years and it makes things a lot harder for all of us.
Paul, how did you get more involved with Spilt Milk?
P: One day Tred rang me up and said, ‘You’re a producer, why do we hook up and start making stuff?’ So we met up the next week and started making records together, then I got married and, after I got married, I had loads more money because I wasn’t saving up anymore! Tred then mentioned he wanted to set up a label and it was like a dream because I’ve always supported the parties, some of the best things I’ve been to in London have been Spilt Milk parties and it’s great because I also get to work with Tred.
What’s the deal with the production aspect of things, because you guys will be releasing on the label too I guess?
P: Tred’s was going to be the first release, that was my idea… but Marc’s thing happened but I’m glad it did. We spent a while dicking around but the last month we’ve really turned it around and it’s thanks to that release I think.
T: I think we’d still be sat there going, ‘I like the colour of this vinyl better’!
Do you get to go out and check out other parties?
T: Yeah I’m probably out too much… too much that I don’t do enough production. It’s about finding that balance. I check out a lot of stuff, I’ve seen a lot of changes – Shoreditch for instance, I walked up Kingsland Road the other day and it’s unrecognisable. Half of it was derelict years ago. I guess a lot of people kicked off when I arrived on the scene and now we’re doing it! Essex has suddenly discovered that, at the end of the line there’s another place. I’m from there by the way, but I left a long time ago [laughs]. As I said, we’ve lost so many clubs as well, my favourite was always The End – first club we went to was Turnmills, it was very good education but now there’s not enough venues, too many parties and too many promoters. The bad thing is there are people who cut corners by hiring someone who says he’s a DJ just because he or she will bring a load of their mates rather than someone who’s a built a name for themselves on their skills, but it’s just the way it is.
How about the positives?
T: Ooo, I am sounding a bit negative aren’t I?!
Well, I think the same way but there are good things happening too.
P: London’s a great city, hackney Wick has been a big positive, there’s a lot happening there. There are promoters who are still trying to put on parties for the heads and not for the cash.
T: We’re restricted in being able to flourish. DJs come here and only get to play for two hours top, whereas in Berlin they get six hours – London’s great, on the Saturday night, there’s not a lot of places that can touch us. You get to 6am though and there’s not a lot. We’re distinctly lacking on the after-hours.
Ultimately, from both sides of the fence, money is the issue; clubs are closing down because residential and commercial has more value to the authorities – on the other side, you’ve got promoters who just want to make a quick buck.
T: Festivals have a lot to answer for too, there are so many in London, the UK and overseas that take away a lot of custom from the parties here in the city. Now, if you’re looking to start an event and you haven’t got a following it’s tough – the first one will always go well because your mates will turn up, but the second and third ones will be hard. There’s so much competition, it’s saturated.
So, what’s your ultimate ambition with it all?
T: World domination. There are certain labels that, because of their hype and success that I won’t actually listen to now, because… I’m not being a snob here, but I know every chump who isn’t even really a DJ will download their whole back catalogue and play it. I’m not going to pretend it wouldn’t be nice to sell thousands and thousands of records, but I’d like us to be seen as a credible label that’s different and doesn’t follow trends.
P: I want us to be one of those labels that, when you walk into a record shop, you pick up their latest release without even having to listen to it. I remember what it was like when I was a kid going to the record shop and I would ask for stuff from ‘such and such’ label straight away, I want us to have that kind of clout.
I guess the ultimate dilemma is whether you want huge success or to be respected but maybe not make as much money.
P: I was talking about Steve Angello the other day, he was a good DJ, he was great and then… what do you do?
T: Do you take the devil’s coin? You’re standing there behind the decks at 45 years of age, where do you go from there? You don’t know until the carrot’s dangling in front of you.
P: I’ve never dangled a carrot in front of you. Maybe a chipolata sausage! Well, Tred’s made it anyway he’s got the Benedict burger here named after him.
You’ve won already, sod the label!
P: You can go through life regretting not doing things or you can give it a go and see what happens. We’re doing for the love and, if it does really well, then that’s a bonus for us.
T: Hopefully the people see that as well and it brings more exposure to what we’re doing as well.