DJ, producer and label owner Archie Hamilton has a reputation for crafting distinctive and hypnotic DJ sets, witnessed frequently at some of London’s most respected parties, including FUSE and WetYourSelf!. Big releases on underground labels Fear of Flying, Tzinah, Moral Fiber and his own Moscow Records and Moss Co. have contributed to his growing reputation abroad and cemented his position in London as a local hero. Here he discusses each aspect of his career in turn, talks about his early experiences of the industry and lets us know what we can expect from him in the future.
Hi Archie. How are you today?
I am doing great thanks – I’ve just had the weekend off, so I have been detoxing and working on the labels and my own music. Yesterday I woke up at 5.30am for some reason, and couldn’t get back to sleep. A friend of mine had sent me some guided meditations, so I did one and had one of the most productive days of my life! So as you can see, I am very happy.
Can you tell me how you came in contact with electronic music?
Pretty early actually; my mum was going to raves when I was growing up, so a lot of the music around me was jungle and acid house tape packs and stuff like that.
I got some purple Numark belt-drive turntables for my 14th birthday. They were pretty useless, and I had no idea what I was doing back then [laughs]. I was just playing around, trying to scratch and mix the records I was buying with other rock/punk/funk/soul LPs that I found in the house. I got some fairly interesting results!
I got more serious about it when I went to university. I bought some direct-drive Stantons when I was around 20, and spent a summer locked in my bedroom learning to mix properly. I started to be interested in production after I graduated, so I went to Point Blank Music School and it’s been an uphill struggle ever since then.
Which kind of electronic music gave you the urge to go and try mixing records?
At first, the stuff I was mixing was breaks and drum and bass. Then I got more into electro house; people like early Mike Monday, Jesse Rose – I was really influenced by the music I was hearing at places like The Key, The Cross, Canvas and The End around 2005/6.
Actually it was when I started getting more into the minimalistic stuff that I started thinking more about DJ’ing as a career. I had been playing at house parties for a while, and then there were some ‘Ah ha!’ moments, which got me thinking more seriously about music. Years ago at about 8am at Fabric I remember hearing Octave One – ‘Black Water’, looking at my watch thinking “Please!! Please don’t close now!” and realising that this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
You run the label Moscow Records. What made you decide to begin a record label?
I think at that time we did it because we wanted to have something. A platform. It is very difficult to make a mark in this industry as an individual. It is important to have something that people can associate your music with, some kind of identity. With our label we could express ourselves through the music we were releasing. It also became a great way to meet other artists. Even from the early stages we were lucky to be working with really great people.
Can you tell me something about the artwork of Moscow Records?
We were thinking of what would draw people, who have never heard of this label or the artists, to pull our records out of the box and listen to them. The answer was simple: nudity! Starting with what you might call tasteful erotica, we now have a really talented illustrator called Mel Burns who designs our releases for us.
Where does the name come from? What link do you have with Moscow?
[laughs] We went round record shops in London with our first releases, trying to sell them. The first shop owner asked us what our name was, and we’d come up with “Temper”. So he said: “Oh, you’re from Tempa (the well-known dubstep label)”. We had spent so long staring at our list, trying to come up with a name, that we hadn’t made the connection. So it was back to the drawing board.
After some more thinking Alex (my partner) came up with Moscow. A grandfather of his had recently left him a small amount of money, which he invested in the first releases. This grandfather happened to be from Moscow, so it seemed like a nice homage; you’ll actually see ‘From Russia with love’ written on the first few releases.
I went to play in Moscow recently, and felt a bit stupid [laughs]; imagine some Russian bloke turning up here to DJ with a label called London Records.
In what direction are you going with this label?
I think it just follows my own personal taste. I am not really going in a specific direction. I have always loved classic UK tech house; end of the nineties, early noughties. I also still love minimal music, so I guess it’s a stripped back version of that groovy old school tech-house sound.
Not so long ago, you started your second label Moss Co. How does this label differ from Moscow Records?
Well in about 2010/11, the vinyl market was really on it’s knees. Our distributor was on the verge of going under, and we could no longer afford to pay to press our records, so we had to release digitally for a couple of years. After a chance meeting in France, we got a great offer to press vinyl again from a new distributor, but it meant we had to start a new label. Then, off the success of the first few releases, the opportunity came to do vinyl Moscow Records as well. For me both labels are equally important; Moss Co. is definitely not a sub-label. I would say that you are likely to hear more experimental music on Moss Co., and Moscow Records is more club-oriented.
Can you tell me something about future releases on both labels?
Just out on the Moscow Records is Lorenzo Chiabotti’s ‘Adnur’ EP with a remix from myself. I am really happy with the support it’s had, as well as some really great reviews. It is also the first of the new series of artwork by our new artistic genius, Mel. Next up is my first solo EP on the label. I don’t really know what has taken me so long! The record has two originals, with a remix from Priku.
On Moss Co., the next EP is from Antony Difrancesco, with a Martinez remix, and some VAs following that.
You do label showcases with Moscow Records. Can you tell me something about that?
We did the first one on a Sunday in Ibiza Underground during the last season. I was terrified because the thing is with Underground that you just never know. It actually turned out to be one of my favourite nights of the season. I played with Dan Farserelli and then Velasco from the US label Nil. It made me think about doing more showcases in Europe, so keep an eye out.
You played this weekend in London at the infamous FUSE party. How did you end up with these guys?
I am not from London originally, so I didn’t know anyone in the scene when I first started. Years ago I did a really trippy acid remix on a friend’s label (Fullbarr) that Luke Miskelly somehow had found, and was playing at FUSE. We met at a party, and slowly over time I got to know the guys through him, so I have a lot to thank him for!
As a DJ, are you proud of being a member of one of London finest and most popular parties? Do you still have dreams as a DJ? Which venue would you like to play in the future?
I am very happy to be involved. I have had a really incredible year, and I really don’t think that it would have happened at the rate that it did without the support of FUSE. They have given me great confidence in myself as an artist, and I am eternally grateful to the guys for everything that they have done.
You set yourself milestones at every stage of your career. You dream of playing at parties like FUSE or at Fabric, and when they happen, the next dream appears. I think it is very important to have aims and targets in life.
I still hold a huge amount of romanticism for DC10. The early years that I started going really were magical, when the arpiar guys, Loco Dice and Luciano were playing there. It has changed of course, the music policy is different now, but that is one of the situations that I dream about. Of course you also have places like Panoramabar and Robert-Johnson, where I think everyone wants to play. They have a level of intimacy that I really appreciate.
Which future gigs are you exited about?
I have some really nice festivals planned this summer in England, Wales and Croatia. I also have a North America tour planned in April, as well as South Africa in May. I’m just saying countries, because I’m not allowed to announce any just yet!
You produce as well. Can you try to describe the sound you try to create?
Well my next few records are quite varied stylistically. My FUSE London EP is two real club tracks, remixed by Seb Zito and Enzo Siragusa. My Moscow EP is a lot more minimal and emotive. The one that is coming out the soonest is on Nima Gorji’s label NG Trax, and that is something in between the other two. I also have a downtempo remix for Guti on his jazz label ‘Rompecorazones’. So it is not very easy to describe one particular sound!
Thank you for our lovely conversation Archie! Good Luck with the gigs, productions and record labels!