Russell Crank of Bad Life and autoKratz [Interview]

The other day I had a chance to speak with the man behind so much of the music that finds its way onto Metrojolt.  When it comes to future techno, Bad Life Records founder and one half of autoKratz, Russell Crank is the man with the plan.

I talked to you about this before, but the first time I heard about you guys was on a Kitsune Maison compilation around 2008.  Kitsune is such a great label and a very unique label so I was wondering how that influenced how you constructed the idea of Bad Life? 

There was definitely an influence, especially at that time they were one of our favorite labels.  They kind of did what they wanted to and they didn’t stick to any rules.  And I think being part of what was a really great family and doing great tours with Kitsune really kind of inspired the essence of what the label should be.  But to be honest it’s not just Kitsune that’s like that.  When you think about Warp or any of these great old record labels like Factory Records from Manchester back in the day, you know, it’s that kind of family and not setting any boundaries to yourself in terms of what music you do which is what makes a record label special.  All of those things kind of came together at the right time for Kitsune as well. We kind of decided we didn’t want to stay with them.  They weren’t really releasing music that went with our own vision any more. We didn’t really like the records that they were releasing and we found so much great music through touring through the years that it just kind of felt like the thing to do.

You talked a bit about how you guys are branching out.  When I first came across your music I used to think of Bad Life as a purely ‘future techno’ label.  I put you guys in the same category as GND and BNR, but now you’re releasing music from some great bands like Swim and Whitey…

Yeah, don’t get me wrong, we love bangin’ techno music.  That’s still a big part of what the focus is at Bad Life, but we listen to so much music that we have to have pretty eclectic taste. We don’t want to just be a techno label.  We want to stand apart as a label that releases whatever we want to.  It’s kind of important that asdasd that we never wanted to have a sister label like you have with Boysnoize TRAX or Twin Turbo.  We always just wanted to be the same label.  You know anyone who loves the beauty of electronic music, anyone who loves electro or techno — it’s quite likely that they’re going to be into the same kind of music that we are.  It may not be quite as bangin’, but a lot of the guys who are into the bit more techno stuff are also into the other stuff like Swim or Petite Noir.  People like A-Trak who’s been such a great supporter of us and such a lovely gentleman as well and he’s played a lot of our records.  Now Petite Noir comes along and he gets that as well and he really understands why that’s a part of Bad Life.

You think it isn’t too hard to go from the future techno sound to understanding artists like Swim from a purely musical standpoint.

Definitely not from a musical standpoint, but the modern electronic music world has quite eclectic tastes.  I think that with so much great new music surrounding all the time, people are very awake to other sounds and aren’t just a slave to one or two things.  But even if there are some people that just prefer to the stick the techno stuff that we do, that’s super cool as well, that’s perfectly fine.  But we just want to work with whatever music we’re excited about.

But then I can’t quite explain it, but I hope that there’s something that still joins all the Bad Life stuff together.  Even if it doesn’t sound the same, there’s a little glimmer of something.  Like with Warp or those great British labels.

How do you find new talent?

Well we get a lot of demos that we still go through, me and Dave (David AKZ) that is.  We have signed lots of things like that — the old fashioned method.  That’s how we got signed to Kitsune and it’s kind of nice that that still exists.  People that we work with, like a guy we signed called the Eleven or Pilo who released stuff on Turbo.  He just sent us a demo.  But then we do stuff through the industry and through seeing shows.  We have so much exciting music signed for 2013.  We’re going to do another compilation soon in the next few months.

Regarding Attaque, have you known him for a long time?  He is such an amazing find.  

I found him.  Well, I met him! He sent me his first release and I was completely blown away by it.  And he’s just the most lovely guy you could possibly meet.  So to see him grow from nothing to being kind of, well it’s an underground movement this future techno thing, but he’s one of the brightest lights of the whole scene.

Yeah, definitely.  He’s a very prolific producer too.  He’s put out a ton of stuff in the last year.  

Yeah exactly!  He’s got another 3 EPs written and ready to go.  We’ve got a ton of new stuff coming from him.

That is very good to hear.  So, about future techno.  Could you kind of give a definition of what future techno is about? 

You know, I guess…We were always careful about the term future techno.  We didn’t want to use it to be a genre.  It’s a bit cheesy isn’t it?  People kind of react badly to being told, ‘this is a new genre’.  But you know, at the time a couple years ago there were a bunch of new artists, probably people who were listening to electro records a year or two before who got bored of that old same sound, especially the stuff coming out of a lot of the French labels that was just the same again and again.  And I think these people were taking the ideas of electro, taking the energy of it, but using slightly more techno arrangement, using electro sounds and presenting them in a slightly more techno way.  And it moved quickly though.  It was always energetic and always pushed forward.  It was never too progressive.  Rather than being a genre, I think it was kind of the aftereffects of people being bored of the same electro being pushed out by the same labels.

And that’s why there are a lot of really great new electro and techno labels like Bad Life, like GND, like Boysnoize TRAX and Records.

Do you see the US as a good market for Bad Life and the future techno sound?  I feel like right now people have been so into that kind of really hard electro or brostep stuff that there’s really a backlash rising against it.  Do you notice that? 

Yeah definitely.  I mean that’s good to hear.  The thing about the whole EDM thing that really upset a lot of people in the UK and Europe.  You know like Americans believing that this is the first time that this type of music has ever existed, when obviously it’s been going for decades.  But really one thing that changed from EDM or the explosion of electronic music in America, is that now those kids who were buying those records, that were first getting excited by it.  Those kids are looking for the next thing and thinking what else is out there.  I would never say that the EDM explosion was a bad thing.  

Now we’re definitely we see this backlash.  We’re seeing people who are finding these European labels who are doing things a little bit differently.  When you look at the US labels, there’s no one who really does anything particularly subtle.  I mean you get the odd release on a label you like, but there’s nothing that seems to have the forward thinking nature of the stuff that’s coming out of Europe.  And it’s going to push people to look to labels like us.

Let’s switch gears for a bit and talk about autoKratz.  How do you balance running Bad Life with autoKratz?  Is it a challenge? 

Yeah it is a challenge cause running Bad Life is a full time job.  But we’ve got an office of people who are hard at work on it so we’re not on our own.  But it does make it hard to find time.  David is the guy doing all of the writing for autoKratz at the moment.  He’s focusing on writing and doing his own David AKZ project.  Whilst I’m kind of more in the office and running the label.  It works well.  We still get to do the touring , but David is definitely very much creatively the driving force behind that.

He’s got a solo project he’s working on now isn’t he? (David AKZ)

Yeah, it’s a slightly housier, little bit deeper kind of sound.  I’m really excited about the music he’s making at the moment.  He sent me another couple of tracks over the past few days.  it’s a really cool direction for him.  But at the same time there will still be some new autoKratz stuff coming very soon that will be a bit more bangin’.

What else is on the way from Bad Life? 

Well we’ve got a new compilation album coming out in the next few weeks.  We’ve got quite a lot of exclusive new stuff.

What about the Shadow Dancer album?  

Yeah, it’s amazing.  It’s such a strange one cause it’s this record that they wrote like 15 years ago now and which never saw the light of day.  And they played me these tracks and you think this is criminal that this has never been released as an album.  It’s just a brilliant journey into their love affair with techno.  I was just like, yeah we have to get this released.

What else do we have? We’ve got Attaque – Blinded By the Moonlight with remixes from BS1 and Just Regular Guys.  We have Sound of Stereo and Urchins.  They have a big EP coming up.

Ah you stole them from Lektroluv! 

Well, we prefer the term borrowed.

They did get Attaque last year so I suppose it’s even.  

(laughs) Well, we don’t mind swapping with the other labels like that.  We also signed a new band called Qtier.  It’s reallybeautiful electronica. And some new stuff from Swim ahead too!

Alright well, I’m out! Thanks for talking to me this morning! 

Alright, mate, thanks so much! See ya!