For the British industrial north a rich music culture has always run through its veins. Throughout the decades Manchester has spawned acts like The Hollies, Bee Gees and Davy Jones, to the Buzzcocks and Joy Division, but it wasn't until the late eighties and early nineties when Manchester was soundtracked by The Happy Mondays and Stoned Roses that the Acid House and Rave craze hit. The most famous of clubs facilitating this sound was the Hacienda and lesser known Kitchen, a club made from three box flats knocked together on a Hulme council estate.
Today a small resurgence of techno associated artists are slowly, intentionally or not putting Manchester back on the map, as once done by its warped neighbours Sheffield. Where many Northerners head south for London and its reputable club culture, one James Kumo decided to escape this and head North.
With a slew of releases on Delsin sub label Ann Aimee, Ghent’s Curle Recordings and Dan Curtin’s Metamorphic imprint as well as his Ku.Bo collaboration with Roberto Bosco Kumo has decided to launch his own net label [K:Music] with his three track EP Signal Failure.
TEA exchanged a few words with Mr [K:Music] to talk of London radio, missing out on Acid House, escaping the rat race and good ol' English Breakfast.
So you’re a Londoner that moved north, usually it’s the other way around. How did the move to Manchester come about and how influential have both cities been on you?
I was actually born and bred in Kent, just south of London. I spent most of my youth in London pottering around record stores like Flying, Zoom and Quaff. It was also around this time in my life that I was glued to the radio, when radio was half decent. I'm speaking specifically about Kiss 100 FM which was a London based station where people like Gilles Peterson, Patrick Forge, Danny Rampling, Paul Anderson, Colin Dale played each and every week. Listening to these guys turned me on to new music I'd never heard before. I used to compile lists as long as my arm and then go to the record stores to find them, half of which were unreleased of course (laughs). It was these kind of radio DJ's which influenced me when it came to going out. I started to visit London clubs around 1992, I missed the whole acid house thing, though London club life certainly influenced me to where I am today, both as a person and musically. My main memories seem to be around the Drum Club at the Sound Shaft in Charing Cross, people like Andrew Weatherall, Darren Emerson and Paul Daley pre Underworld, Steve Bicknall and David Holmes were often there. Other places I used to hang out were Strutt at The Cross, Bluenote, Bar Rumba, Club UK, The End, & loads of others which no longer exist as they probably got raided or closed down for one reason or another. It was also around this time when I first visited Ibiza with clubs like Ku & Space. I basically spent the entirety of between 1992-2004 going out twenty four seven. London has definitely helped shape who I am today, though there was a day when my wife and I had enough of the rat race and opted to move to her home town of Manchester, which suits us just fine for now.
Manchester is not overly known for its techno but Mancunain acts like Claro Intelecto, AnD and Tom Diccio are slowly putting Manchester on the map. How is the sound of techno in Manchester at the moment and how much do you feel apart of it?
You're right, beside nights at Sankeys and obviously over the last few years the Warehouse Project, Manchester isn't particularly known for it. When I first arrived here there were a few cool things happening, though not exclusively techno, there were some house or some funk and disco nights. Unfortunately as often is the case, places would shut down and before you knew it there's fuck all around. I think things have picked up a bit, but right now I rarely go out clubbing unless it's a requirement, like if I'm playing, a friend is playing or someone extremely good is in town. I've got too much going in my life to be continually go out, plus i'm not 21 again. Whether I feel part of the scene here, no, not really. Being part of a scene isn't so important for me, what is though is making music which can be appreciated by a wider audience, no matter who you are or where you live, it's not about putting Manchester on the map for me. I doubt any of the other producers who live or indeed are from Manchester think that, people like Kevin Gorman, or Tom, they're just doing what they do best, and to be fair most of their gigs will be outside of Manchester, and even the UK.
James Kumo (left) - Space, Ibiza circa 1993
I have also read you have a love for disco and balearic music and I see you were responsible for once hosting parties with Balearic Mike, Kelvin Andrews, Mark E, Matt Edwards and Terry Farley. Tell us about those days and the music outside of house and techno you were involved in.
You missed out Diesel, he's quality! I've always been into funk, disco, boogie and rare groove from my early London days & listening to the radio, so it only seemed natural to someday put some parties together with like minded people. It was about escaping the standard business like club scene and just hanging out and play cool tunes. So we did it and invited the odd guest here and there. The parties were mainly an excuse for us to get messy and have fun, nothing serious, just three guys Marc Kets, Paul Hughes and I playing tunes which we grew up with, with an odd edit thrown in!
In 2008 your debut Kumomusic Volume 1 saw a release on Ann Aimee, not a bad start. How did you hook up with the Delsin sub-label and how is your relationship with them now?
There is no glamerous tale to be told here. I made some tracks and fired them off to Marsel at Delsin, within 2 weeks we had penciled in the 1st EP, Kumomusic Volume 1 which came out later that year. I was pleasantly surprised with the feedback and support from some top DJ's, this then spurred me onto other projects. Delsin and all the guys heavily linked to the label are really nice people, must be the Dutch I guess. It's a pleasure knowing them and of course being part of the roster they have.
Kumomusic Volume 2 followed up in 2009 with Kumomusic Volume 3 being somewhat overdue. Is this something we should expect in the near future?
Good question! I've been quite busy of late on other projects, not particularly thinking of Volume three or anything else, however I'm sure if both our schedules work and we both want it, then I'm sure something will happen. It's just a question of timing.
Last years The Rex EP turned out to be quite a hit with Peter Van Hoesen on the remix and Coming Home featuring as Steve Bug’s opener for Cocoon’s Green and Blue mix CD. How much did this EP help in raising your profile?
Well believe it or not, even though Peter did the remix, and 'Coming Home' was featured on Steve's Cocoon mix CD, it wasn't massive. There is so much competition out there so unless you release a monster of a track which filters into all DJ bags or you hit the charts, you'll never become famous or established over night. It's basically all about plugging away, doing your thing, being as original as possible and building your reputation. For me and many others like me it's a long hard slog and with the odd piece of luck thrown in things will work out.
I recently spoke with Dan Curtin and he mentioned that you sent him a demo with what was to later to become your Space Dancer EP on his Metamorphic Imprint. What lead you to send Dan your material?
It was and is a total honour to know Dan now. I first started listening and buying Dan Curtin productions when I was eighteen, so seventeen years ago (laughs). When I had an opportunity to work with him let alone record on his label I was thrilled. It was kinda surreal when I first met him in Berlin, we hung out and went to Watergate to check out Dan Bell, then headed to Panoramabar to see Radioslave, top night and nice fella. I'm defiantly interested in working with Dan again, sooner than you may think!
How important are synths in your productions as I've seen “synth driven” techno feature along side your name?
Hmm, am I? I don't think "I'm going to make a track today and I must add synth" but don't get me wrong I do like synth action. I cannot speak for others but when I'm producing I prefer to lay down the drums first, so kick, bass-line, congas, hats, shakers, or what ever. I make sure I get the groove right for that moment in time, set the tempo then just just jam and get that special moment. If I'm happy I then focus on laying some chords, synth or others bits and peices over the top. The use of effects are key to me, whether that be adding various delays to individual parts, reverb or numerous others other things, it really enhances the overall sound of the track, if used correctly.
Tell us about about your relationship with Roberto Bosco and your Ku.Bo collaboration? Is this an ongoing project?
Roberto and I hooked up due to mutual admiration of each others solo projects. One day I put it to him if he wanted to do a release, so we've worked on a couple of projects to date. We did a remix for part of Connaissuer Recordings 5th Anniversery CINQ compilation, we've also done an EP for Self Defence out of Hamburg which will be out shortly and we've discussed doing some more tracks for later this year.
You also just launched your new label [K:Music]. How long has this been in the works and do you have a concept behind the label?
It's funny, I was talking to a mate not that long ago and he suggested it and a few months later here we are. The concept was in my mind, but perhaps not at the forefront until literally a few months back. The primary reason for starting [K:Music] was to release some of my own productions, so rather then spend a lot of my time dealing with multiple labels, sending demos and waiting, I could make a track and release it pretty quickly. So this is what I'm starting to do as well as introduce other artists to the roster. The format in terms of sound I'd rather not pigeon hole into one specific sound, albeit the majority of the releases will be electronic music in the broadest sense. I'm not adverse to releasing 100bpm chuggers or 130bpm peak time stormers, so long as there is quality in the production and some originality I don't care who made it. If I wanna play and dance to it there is every chance I'll release it. My first EP called "Signal Failure" is out July 8th which has a superb remix from Berlin based Oliver Deutschmann. We've had really positive feedback already from some top DJ's, so looking forward to getting it out there.
At the moment [K:Music] is a digital only label. Are physical releases something you plan to do in the future?
Right now, no, however never say never. I do appreciate there is still demand for vinyl releases, so should things kick off well and head in the right direction I don't' see why we couldn't.
What else can we expect from [K:Music]?
Like I mentioned above the first EP is out now available at online stores like Beatport, Junodownload and others. Moving forward we've already lined up the following 3 releases, without giving too much away the second EP will come from Munich based 'David Hausdorf'. I am familiar with David's work from a few years back, so I was really happy that he agreed to make some tracks for us after a short break from producing. The EP will feature three original works from David, all of which are stunning, really solid electronic cuts which I know will sound great on big sound system. Later in the year we will be releasing a 3rd EP from Belgium based Ozka, again some really nice original sounding deep house and techno jams, along with an atmospheric beatless track thrown in.
You have worked with quite a range of labels since 2008. Are you happy to keep doing this or are you looking to form stronger working relationships with specific labels, your own [K:Music] perhaps?
I defiantly will be focussing quite a lot of my time and effort towards [K:Music], there is no point starting a label just to let it slide, so my main focus is this, plus look at new artists to join the roster. Otherwise I'll continue to work on projects, if someone else wants to release them then I'm happy to discuss this, whether that is with current relations or new.
What’s next for James Kumo?
Launch of [K:Music], putting together a few new podcasts, collab projects, solo projects, DJ gigs and probably more interviews, yup keeping busy.
I’m sure you’re no stranger to a cup of Manchester's PG Tips, what is your favourite tea?
Good old English Breakfast tea, can't beat it!
Download a free copy of James Kumo's Berghain Club mix for Tunnel Vision here. Signal Failure is due for release on James' very own [K:Music] July 8th .
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