One of the busiest and most forward thinking house labels of modern times, Wolf Music has gathered a solid following with an excellent releases from a fine selection of artists like Medlar, Greymatter, Fantastic Man, Session Victim, KRL, Squarehead or James Welsh to name only a few. Couple this with the brilliant parties they regularly throw across the UK, their features at countless festivals across Europe in the past years and their unique approach to art direction and you've got a truly remarkable and complete music brand to follow.
In anticipation of this scorching summer, we had a chat with one member of the wolf pack, courtesy of the nice people at The Garden Festival who set this up for us.
Hello Matt and welcome to We Play Wax. Let's start with a bit of history if you don't mind. How did you and Stu met? What were the circumstances that ultimately led to the conception of Wolf Music?
Stu and I met in Southampton (UK) about 10 years ago. I was DJ-ing at a party that he was involved with and we got introduced through mutual friends. If I recall correctly he was wearing a 'Masters At Work' T-shirt, so I knew from the off he was a good lad. We stayed in touch and became friends. About 4 years after meeting I was presented with an opportunity to start a new label project. I like to collaborate with people so thought to myself - who would enjoy doing this with me? I had always wanted to work with Stu, so made the call. We had no idea it would turn into what it has, but our intention was to release music we love and anything that comes from it would be a bonus. Worked out nicely :)
So why 'WOLF Music' in the first place? What is your connection to this fierce and majestic animal? How does the name relate to the music released, to the artists featured and to the parties thrown by WOLF?
The name WOLF for the label came about through a bit of a joke. When I first met Stu I gave him the nickname "Wolf" as he had a big beard and long hair (kind of like teen-wolf - he was only 19 or so at the time so it stood out). It stuck with him and that became the name that everyone called him. So when it came to the label we looked to find a thing that was a connection between us. We thought about our love for music, the culture that inspired us, etc, but in the end, the WOLF thing couldn’t be ignored. We also saw how good the branding opportunities were with a name like that, and it was something we knew we could grow. There is no link between the animal and the music as far as I can tell, but who knows, maybe he really is a werewolf…
So speaking of naming, you and Stu have chosen two very interesting aliases (Meat and The Wolf). Could you please tell us a little more about them?
Both these names were bestowed upon us rather than something we came up with ourselves. I think that the WOLF bit has been covered, but the Meat name is even more bizarre. Some time ago I was booked to warm-up for a DJ called Krush in Brighton. The promoter asked how I would like to be billed on the posters. I said Matt Neale (my real name) and thought no more of it. Then one day I was on my way into Brighton to meet friends when I started to get text messages saying “hello meat”. It was only when I got into the town centre that I saw huge posters promoting the party where they had put my name on the bill as ‘Meat Meal’. How the promoter got it that wrong, or even thought that that was the DJ name I would use is beyond me. My mates loved the banter and I’ve been known as Meat ever since.
The artwork on the releases has a particular dark and grungy, almost mid 19th century american wild west feel to it. Who is responsible for this and what's the concept behind it?
The art direction is handled by Simon See and Assembly (the design agency). They took over direction on WOLF008 and we have worked with them on all releases since. They produce our posters, website, albums, singles, merch, etc. Their take on the WOLF look is perfect for us - it's unique and challenging sometimes, and so it should be. They are good friends and have been part of what we do since we started, so its been a pleasure to have them steering the ship when it comes to art direction.
Speaking of releases, there's a vinyl-only trend that seems to have been picking up in the past years and Wolf is clearly part of it. How do you think this is affecting the music industry as we know it? What are the real gains and losses to you as both a label owner and a music collector?
Our involvement in the vinyl-only trend is something that is dictated by circumstance rather than by design. We want our music available to everyone in the format they want it in (as long as that is paid for). Sometimes you just can’t release a track digitally, so we stick to vinyl only for those. We will always produce vinyl as we want something tangible to show for all the effort and love that goes into making the music. This is expensive to do in comparison to digital only, but there isn’t a temptation to go down that path - it just doesn’t appeal to us. There is nothing better than seeing your wax in the shops or the buzz the artists get from having their name on a physical thing like a vinyl release. However, if you are running a business you would be cutting out one of your biggest revenue streams if you didn’t embrace the digital markets. Those that buy our releases on digital are just as important to us as our vinyl buyers. They both are into the music and without both markets we wouldn’t be able to carry on WOLF.
I can understand the appeal of vinyl-only for labels as it is perceived as cool and authentic, but not many can generate enough revenue off kudos alone to sustain a record label past a handful of releases. That doesn't interest us as we want to build something long-term with WOLF. Physical and digital are both legitimate ways for people to enjoy the music you release, so go with it. When your label's positioning is chiefly about the format your music is carried on then it doesn't say much for the music. I feel the same way about 'vinyl only' mixes & parties - so what, focus on the music not the format. This isn't an argument about sound quality (I sit on the side of vinyl there - but many people will spend a fortune on turntables & mixer but have a shitty amp or needles, which defeats the point - I digress...). Not everyone has access to turntables or the money to buy records so why make it an exclusionary elitist thing - its preference not better or worst.
A good label can do both and retain authenticity - and the cool factor - well that’s a personal interpretation which you as a label can’t dictate anyway, so don’t get hung up on it.
What should we expect from WOLF Music in 2014 music wise? Any plans to release an LP or maybe a follow-up to the hugely successful 'I Wanna See All My Friends At Once' compilation from 2011?
We have a packed schedule for 2014. We have really upped our release schedule - we have so much amazing music coming to us that we had to do it. Plenty of new EPs from our roster, and LP’s from Greymatter & Frits Wentink. The continuation of our WOLF White series, and yes another compilation is in the works.
So finally, is there anything special going on this summer for the wolf pack? The blogs buzz with rumours about WOLF being featured at a lot of festivals across Europe, and even a night in the famous Barbarella's Discotheque. Can you tell us more about it?
Summer you can catch us all over the world. Lots of great gigs and plenty of festivals. We are indeed playing at Barbarella's. It's our first time playing in the club having played at the festival for the past 3 years. We have played two boats and the last one was so good we felt there was no way we could top it, so let's do something different. It's the mighty Dave Harvey from Future Boogie and his crew that make this possible for us, so we owe a lot to them for giving us the opportunity. We always bring a member of the pack out to play with us, as well as a guest. First boat is was KRL, Greymatter and Session Victim. Last year we had KRL and Bicep. For the club this time around we are bringing Medlar and Detroit Swindle. So should be a real party!
You can catch the WOLF pack playing Barbarella's Discotheque at The Garden Festival on the night of the 4th of July!