Founded in 2014, Leftback Records is relatively young but those with an ear for obscure, minimal beats will most certainly have heard the sounds of the independent, vinyl only label in the short space of time it has been releasing. Owners Dudley Strangeways and Micheal McLardy both respectively have a solid number of releases under their belts while also running their own imprints prior to the launch of Leftback, slowly becoming household names amongst our much loved underground. Leftback Records then is an amalgamation of the two rhythm masters, based in the British city of Nottingham but with an increasingly global outlook.
Like many others, the imprint started as an outlet for the creative works of the owners but now names such as Ittetsu, Harry McCanna ,Groovesh and a whole host of other talents all have some incredible productions preserved forever in the form of a Leftback piece of wax.
This month the pair is celebrating the 10th release on their imprint which, after sterling reviews so far, looks set to be a firm addition to record bags across the globe, spun for the sweatiest of dance floors.
If you haven’t yet heard a Leftback records tune, we highly recommend that you get to know this label and its consistently foot stomping output. We caught up with the boys to find out more…
- 1. Where did the name ‘Leftback’ come from? Does it have any meaning?
D – The name ‘Leftback’ is really simple. It’s just a combination of the labels we used to run and Mick still does, ‘Back to you’ and ‘Left Wing’. When we decided to work on a new project the name just came about over a few beers.
- 2. What did you do before Leftback records and what events led up to you starting the label?
D – I’ve run a few labels ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Back to You’. These were also events that used to run at Stealth and a few other venues across Nottingham and in London. Mick came to do a guest slot on one of our radio shows and I asked him if he wanted to get involved with a remix as we both had a similar sound and kind of went from there.
M – I was running Left Wing and playing around Nottingham at the time and just started to run a night called ‘Smoke’ at Bar Eleven. We both were looking for a label to put our music out on and also joint collaborations, and at the time found it a little frustrating as a lot of labels would look for a certain sound. I’ve always believed in making music for myself and not to fit into a box for someone else’s vision. We were both working for the same company at the time we started the label and used to sit and chat about the amount of declined demos or the poor response we’d get from other labels.
- 3. How would you describe the Leftback sound?
D – It’s kind of a hard one…there are a few elements that need to be there. The main aspect for me is the groove of the track – if you can listen to it for 10 minutes and nod your head or tap your foot without loosing interest it’s half way there! The production plays a large part, also a punchy kick drum and tuned hi hats is a must.
M – My take on the label sound would be minimal with a melancholy feel and most importantly there needs to be some warmth in the mid range. A pad or strings for example that carries the track certainly is important in my own productions.
D – There’s a range of styles we have released, mainly a minimal, dubby techno sound. I think this has to reflect what we both play in our sets.
M- Yeah I agree, the label sounds like a combination of the records we both play when we DJ back to back.
- 4. What was the ethos or mission statement of Leftback Records when you first started?
M – It was just to release music that we produced together.
D – We wanted to keep the costs low as we were initially funding the project ourselves, hence the white labels and black disco bags of the first 2 releases, but things have developed a little now.
- 5. Is this something that you have stuck to, or has it changed as you have been in running?
M – Initially the label was just for our own music but a few releases in we wanted to develop the brand. This was done by bringing in other artists that we thought fitted with the sound.
D – We got a designer “James Micallef” involved to develop the brand as Mick used to do all the design work to keep costs down “Sterling job he did”. But as record collectors we wanted something that not only sounded good but looked the part as well…
M – I think it’s important to have a strong brand identity so passing on the design work to James seemed like the best thing to do!
- 6. It may be an obvious, but what was the reason for being a predominantly vinyl output?
M – We play wax so it was the only option really.
D – It’s not a pretentions thing!
M – Also we wanted to invest in a physical product and not just have something that is sat on your hard drive.
D – Plus I don’t own a CDJ!
- 7. Would you ever consider any digital releases in the future?
M – No
D – We have released a mix CD but this was only a mix and not individual tracks
- 8. Your ‘compilation’ records, featuring the work of both Leftback owners and co have been successful releases for you. Why did you decided to release in a compilation type format?
M: We had a get together to discuss forthcoming releases and due to long pressing times, we realised that if we wanted a regular schedule we’d need to really get in front with releases. Producing a compilation cd was an ideal way to showcase the music of the new artists we’d invited onto the label, as well as getting in front with our release schedule as we’d have all of the music up front, so this is where the compilation vinyl releases were fed from.
D: We wanted to do something a little different so the CD was a way to showcase new music, but was also used as a promotional tool to send to promoters; it’s only been 15 months but we’re still waiting for a reply from Fabric…
- 9. As producers, you have released on your own label as well as other imprints. Does creating something for your own output result in you working in a different way?
D: Good question. I’ve always been able to come up with ideas fairly easily but when making music for Leftback it allows us to do what we want which allows you to be more creative, I kind of get in a different frame of mind however weird that sounds. Recently I’ve had a bad case of musical blockage for a couple of months but getting back into that mind set of making music for Leftback has drawn me out of it.
M: Definitely as you have full creative control to do whatever you want and it doesn’t have to fit within the remit of someone else’s idea which can be really difficult at times.
- 10. You guys are based in Nottingham – do you think being based outside of the capital affects you in any way?
D: In terms of gigs I think it does, networking is a big part of the industry and the scene in London is so big and there’s so many parties happening it’s a lot easier to meet the relevant people but it in terms of running a label and releasing music it’s probably easier to be away from that.
M: I agree with Dudley. If there was as much going on here as there was in London we’d probably never get any work done!
- 11.You recently collaborated with Birmingham institution ‘Social Underground’ for an event, and have hosted parties with Nottingham’s ‘Plates Records’ – what is the value on collaborating with other nights and like-minded companies, and who else would you like to join forces with in future?
D: With the Social guys we’ve known them for a while as we’ve been playing with them for a couple of years. We really rate what they do so it was easy working with them. Our birthday event was the first time we’d worked with Nick from Plates who is the most laid back “do what you want day” kind of venue owner so we have a lot of flexibility when working with him, which is great.
M: It can be difficult working alongside other promoters from an organisational perspective but everything we’ve done so far we’ve been really lucky with and have ended up with great parties.
D: In terms of other promoters we’d be happy to work with Perlon – I think a 4 way B2B2B2B set with Ricardo and Zip would be interesting! Ha ha..
- 12. Do you feel that hosting intimate events like this with other midlands crews help to encourage the community of the local music scene too?
M: Definitely yes! It gives us a chance to meet other locals that are into the same thing and allows us to network and get the chance to work with new people.
D – Yes I agree nothing better than meeting like-minded people! I think we try and get people we know first of all to our parties and this I know is the same with Social, the missis says I’m just putting on events for my mates – I’m not bothered!
- 13. Of course – partying with friends is the best part about dance music! You’re about to celebrate the 10th vinyl release on Leftback records – what can we expect from the next ten?
M – We have the next five releases planned but beyond that anything can happen!
D – LB011 is from someone we have been trying to get on for a while, David Gtronic. He’s made a couple of thick sounding tracks with Randall M. We also have our friend Matt Star who has an unbelievable EP we have both been playing these tracks out for a while and always get asked what they are. We’re also introducing Bunny to the label and our long term resident Chris Boardman AKA Birdman AKA The Tank who has found out how to download a version of garage band from the Pirate bay and has started to make some bleeps. He’ll be releasing on LB013.
- 14. What has been the most enjoyable part about making the transition from producers and DJs to label owners?
M – Enjoyable? You mean Stressful, unsociable, monotonous, thankless graft. Kidding, we are from a background of doing parties and organising things so it’s not all bad and was a relatively easy transition.
D – Having Mick make spread sheets and then filling them full of incorrect grammar and spelling mistakes also changing the colour of the boxes is very enjoyable!
M – This stresses me out a lot!
Leftback Records can next be found hosting a party that lurks deep in the underground in the caves of Nottingham in September. With an extremely limited capacity tickets are sure to sell out fast, but the shadowy events are being streamed live for all to see by Berlin based RTS.FM. Follow the event to tune in here.
This label not only releases its own productions, but it is an online platform to purchase a perfectly curated bunch of beats. The hand picked selection includes not only records from Leftback, but here you can buy works from Villalobos, Rich Nxt and Ellen Allien too. Browse their record store here.
Follow Leftback records on Soundcloud.
Keep up to date with the upcoming parties and new releases from the label online.
Words by Eileen Pegg