Label Focus + Interview: Tomoki Tamura (Holic Trax)

How did you find starting up a label, was it difficult or relatively easy?
It was quite difficult because I didn’t have any knowledge about starting a label; nothing about distribution, or pressing the vinyl. Luckily, I knew some people who were a bit more experienced, so I asked around and got a lot of good advice. It took about a year to sort everything out, way longer than I thought.

Who did the first release?
Mr. G. That was a strong start for us.

Tell us about your relationship with Mr. G?
Around four years ago I booked him for my party in London, we became friends. After that I took him to Japan to play at my party there. I told him I was thinking about getting my own label started and he gave me the track, it was quite simple!

Besides the great music, one of the other things we really like about your label is the imagery. The logo is really cool, who designed it?

It’s by a friend of mine from Japan, Kikiorix, who was living in London. We used to DJ together and he moved back to Japan. He’s actually a resident at Womb in Tokyo and he’s a graphic designer too. I just left it pretty loose and free in terms of the design and he came out with that, which was great.

How many releases have you put out now?
We’re up to 15 on Holic Trax, with the third Bootholic on the way. There has also been Tom Tam Club, the compilation series. I’ve put out two of those so far, with the third due during the summer hopefully.

So fifteen releases in three years, we guess your policy is to be quite considered with your releases?
Kind of, sometimes I do more than one release in a month but it all depends on how much good music I collect really. We don’t have a strict release schedule. The idea with the label was to be quite free in terms of the style. Some labels only release one style of music, which is fine, but I don’t like to stick to the same styles – it’s the same when I’m DJing, I like to keep it quite varied. I like to have an open mind with music, it’s house of course, which works on the dance floor but is nice to listen to as well. The quality of the vinyl pressing is also very important to me, overall the focus is on quality; the imagery, the physical product and the music. We also do digital though, because not everywhere in the world has access to record shops – you could be living in a small country where it’s not just that easy to get hold of vinyl, so digital music might be the only way they can access music from my label. It’s important to cater for that market, too.

Tell us about the sub-label?
It’s called Monoklo and it’s geared more around techno and minimal than Holic is. The artwork is by a Japanese friend of mine, with the emphasis on monochrome, black and white designs. It’s very minimal. I wanted to start a more techno side to the operation, it got sent some cool music and it made perfect sense to start up Monoklo for music with that kind of sound. The first release came from Ivan Iacobucci, with the second due after the summer…

So you moved to Berlin, tell us about that?
I moved here two years ago. It’s nice and chilled here, compared to London, but there are still lots of parties and musicians here. I feel like being in Berlin is really good for producers, people here are friendly and easy-going. In London it can be a bit too competitive and slightly unfriendly in that sense. Everyone helps each other here, there are a lot of good studios here and there’s a good, positive level of communication between people here. My studio is easy to get to by bike from where I live, so I’m in there pretty much every day. Again, in comparison with London, studio space is cheap – even though the cost is going up, it’s still cheaper here. It’s good to have a separate space to make music in, I’m enjoying it here.

Nice, and what are you working on musically?
I’ve produced a few solo bits and I’ve also been working with Tuccillo. We’ve got quite a lot of music finished and we’re looking to put it out through a new label, which will just be called Doublet. A bit like Djebali has done; so it’ll be ‘Doublet 001’, ‘Doublet 002’, etc… Vinyl-only, we already have four EPs ready!

What does the future hold for Holic Trax?
We have a lot of releases from peeps who’ve already put music out with us; Rick Wade. Tuccillo… and some lesser-known names, too. We’re like a small family, so I keep it quite tight with the roster. Likewise, the release schedule will continue to be pretty fluid, I’ll put out releases as and when I think the time is right….

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