Since the initial blessing of Classic Music boss Luke Solomon and the signing of their smash debut single “When U Go”, dance act Girls Of The Internet have only continued to feed the funky fire they’ve built up. The Girls have earned key stamps of approval from tastemakers such as Gilles Peterson, Dimitri From Paris, and Benji
between starting their own imprint Drab Queen, tightening up both live band and PA performances, and reworking classics like Parris Mitchell’s “All Night Long,”
Ahead of their next single “Remember My Name”, we sat down with Tom from the on-the-rise act to talk about divas, running the acclaimed RAMP label, and today’s state of electronic music.
How did you get into music and eventually running a label as influential as RAMP?
I ran RAMP for 13 years or something. I was just a young lad from the country – I had no idea how to get into the music industry. Music is my first love, and I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life, so I forced my way in.
I cobbled some money together and started approaching distribution companies and artists. I didn’t even know how records were made. My first release was in 2004, somehow I managed to sign one of my favourite hip hop artists at the time; Count Bass D, and just as his collaboration with DOOM came out, so he was flying high. Things were much different then – vinyl still sold, and there were no digital sales. It was impossible to walk into a distributor and just get a deal like you can now. Our first release sold 16,000 units, for which my distribution company only paid me just under £3,500, which didn’t even cover the advance we paid the artist – we should have been paid at least £4 per unit sold. Around the same time, another artist took £10,000 from us without delivering a release. This was my introduction to the music industry.
We worked exclusively with US hip hop for a few years, which was always drama. Post 2006, we started working with UK distribution companies and producers, but we still had a few more incidents of distributors not paying us, and artists taking advances for releases they would never deliver. We lost money. Often. Couple this with an industry where you’re lucky to break even.
Throughout our time, I was really lucky to be working in, in my opinion, one of the golden ages of electronic music, and while I have no delusions we were a huge or important part of it, I like to think we at least contributed a little something, and had a small, unique, and hopefully annoying voice in everything that was going on. The reality is, even without money being stolen from you, long term, it’s very hard to make a profit or pay wages on a small label. I was working 80+ hour weeks for no pay, essentially just to support other people’s DJ careers.
Most electronic music doesn’t sell enough to cover costs when you’re pressing vinyl, and if you do find an act that gets big, a bigger label will swoop in and sign them. Unless you have a big act who will blindly stay on your label, or you release that one big album that brings in enough cash to expand, the life of your little indie label is finite. After a fairly successful few years, once I hit 2010 – 2012, my run of good signings ended, and every single act I signed and invested money in from that point just became a huge money pit. I managed to hold that together for a few years, but there is only so long you can run a company that’s current assets are losing money, so I stepped away from the label.
How did you end up with your own music on such a legendary label Classic?
I started doing other things, but after a year’s break from working with music, it pulled me back in. I wanted to work with music again, but I needed to rethink how I would do it. I initially started to work with a few musicians as a collective on another project, things frustratingly came to an end due to internal politics.
Things weren’t going to plan in my life – I hit an extremely low point. For the first time in my life, I started to revisit the music I was in love with when I was a teenager – Daft Punk, Basic Channel, Cajual/Relief, Guidance, Planet E, various techno mix CDs, hunting for the disco samples of my favourite house tracks. I’ve never been somebody who sits with one kind of music for too long, I’m always searching for something new and different, but the house and techno I was into as a 17 year old, out of everything I’ve listened to and collected, is the thing that really speaks to my soul.
I started making some house music, still as a band with other musicians and vocalists, as I wanted to keep that sense of collaboration, but I kept control of everything. As my confidence grew as a producer, I took on all of the production and arrangement responsibilities, along with some of the writing and playing of instruments.
For the first time in years I had some time on my hands, so I locked myself in my house for a few days, and “When U Go” was the result.
I’d sent tracks by artists I was working with to Luke Solomon from Classic for years, only for him to turn them down. Classic was the first and only label I sent “When U Go” to. I had no confidence he would sign it, but it’s a label that is very special to me for the 1997-2001 period. I sent it over and Luke emailed me back almost straight away to say he wanted it. Although it was such a small thing, and so insignificant in the whole Classic/Defected story, it was a really important moment for me. I don’t know where I would be now, both emotionally, or in my career, if it wasn’t for Luke signing that track, and I’m forever thankful to him for picking it up, and for the small amount of success the track has subsequently had. People still message me about it now all the time. At my lowest moment, it changed my life.
So how did you get back into label life & what’s the progression of Girls Of The Internet?
It was never really my intention to start my own label. After running RAMP, the last thing I wanted to do was have another label. “When U Go” came out, and I was confidently sending my stuff out to labels, but the new tracks got knocked back by everybody. I suppose what we are doing is a little different – we’re a live band who make deep techno/disco/dub/house, and some labels don’t seem to have the same open minded attitude the scene had a few years ago – or perhaps we’re just not that good.
So I had all these tracks, which I thought were great, but no label to release with. The label slowly emerged through making some connections with some supportive distributors who were into music, just as a way to get some of this music out that was building up. We have had a few releases now, and even without press (this is the first bit of press we’ve done) or much fanfare, it’s already outselling a lot of what I put out on RAMP and it’s subsidiaries for years – which is mental.
I do the label artwork myself too – the cover for “Remember My Name” is the first painting I’ve done in about 20 years. I originally studied fine art at uni, which I quit to do music.
How did you get involved with such an awesome vocalist like Linda Muriel?
I initially worked with Linda Muriel a few years back on another project. I never spoke to her directly, we just had a track by her hanging around that was meant for another project that never saw the light of day. I always loved what she did, so I reached out to her and we started chatting, and we instantly got on like a house on fire, so I started reworking her vocal into “Remember My Name”.
My track was initially completely different, but while working on it, I woke up from a dream (my music often first appears in my dreams) about Linda’s vocal over the disco version of Roy Ayers’ “Sweet Tears” – which has always been one of my favourite disco riffs. Masters At Work and Moodymann didn’t actually sample the track on their versions – I loved how it’s this classic disco riff, which while being used very famously multiple times, still hadn’t properly been sampled, in a scene built on samples. I wanted to continue the tradition, so I scrapped my first version of the track and replayed the riff and it fit.
Is Linda a diva?
Definitely! I think that word is used negatively so often, but the traditional use of the word, for me, is something that’s incredibly beautiful. Sometimes divas can be tragic, sometimes they are just fucking fierce. I don’t think it’s about being mean or haughty. So many of my heroes are divas – Sylvester, Chaka Kahn, RuPaul, Loletta Holloway, Whitney Houston… Linda is one of the UK’s unsung divas – and I hope that’s something that will soon change. We’re already working on more material together, she is going to feature on our debut album, and there may be a little EP together at some point too.
What’s in the works next for Girls Of The Internet?
This single is “Remember My Name”, featuring Linda and with remixes from Rick Wade & Pépe, is out September 28th. Our follow-up single is called “Fondness Makes The Heart Grow Absent”, with a remix from Terrence Parker that will be out in October. I might try and squeeze in another single before the end of the year too. I’m currently putting together our debut album – the music is all finished, but working with vocalists takes time. I’m hoping we can finish before the end of the year. While I’ve been waiting on various singers, I have put a little (what I’m calling) mixtape together – it’s just a collection of some silly music I’ve put together using only a drum machine and a sampler, which I’ll probably put out early 2018. Just for fun.
We’re also putting together a live show – we have a full live band where we play our original tracks, but I’m also working on a live PA, where I’m pushing the concept of DJing a bit further. I use live singers, a sampler and a drum machine to construct tracks live. I’m pretty excited about it.
What do you think of the state of electronic music now?
There is too much boring music being released. There is too much music being released, period. Labels need to be more discerning. Where are all the great independent A&R’s? Listening through the new releases every month is depressing. Just too much of the same thing done averagely.
There is always great stuff about – I never won’t be excited by new music. I’m always keen to hear what FYI Chris, Medlar & the Peckham crew are up to.
I’ve known DJ Haus for many years (I released some of his early music), and after initially not being hugely into UTTU, it’s now really starting to find its feet and is well on the way to become an amazing label. Finn is one of my favourites – so excited to hear his new music. Pepé Braddock is the only artist I know who I love just as much now as when I heard his first EP – to watch how he has evolved is amazing. Baba Stilts stuff for XL is wicked, so is the new Okzharp stuff. Connan Mockasin always. I like the new Maurice Fulton bits. Eska – please release some new music, we need you!
Photo credit: Jessica Skye