Purveyors: Hush Hush Records

In this day and age, just about anyone can run a record label. WordPress and Blogger allow for the creation of a snazzy website in minutes, while Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Mixcloud, etc. allow for the free  (or reasonably cheap) proliferation of music. Digital music distribution is as easy as ever. This also means that the market is completely flooded with underdeveloped concepts, both in the music itself and in the pseudo-labels that distribute it. When a label does succeed at bridging the gap between functionality, aesthetic and sonic quality, it makes it that much more impressive. Heavy hitters like Warp, XL and 4AD have the established distribution networks and fan backing to take chances on artists, allowing them the freedom to pick and choose an eclectic roster of both old and new talent. Newer labels like Body High, Friends of Friends and Night Slugs appeal to more niche audiences and often prefer to release music digitally. To celebrate the labels we love, we bring you Purveyors. With every feature, you will find a behind-the-scenes look into the inner-workings of the most innovative, eclectic labels from across the globe. You will get to know the people pulling the strings and delivering exciting new sounds straight to your cerebral cortex. Without further ado…

There’s a certain sound that just seems tailored for late nights on public transportation. Watching the city lights flash by on the bus, or the awkward eye contact made with the one other soul on the subway. The sound encapsulates the empty spaces within the urban environment as much as it does the intimate nature of late night encounters. It’s designed to be listened to in headphones and usually in solitude. Alex Ruder, the man behind Hush Hush Records, calls it Night Bus. Ruder has been cultivating the Night Bus sound via his radio show at Seattle’s KEXP and a monthly club night, also called Hush Hush. Now, the sound has an official platform. At only one release old, Hush Hush is wise beyond its years, already cultivating and pushing the Night Bus sound into exciting new territory. Hush Hush’s first release comes from recent Red Bull Music Academy inductee Kid Smpl. The Escape Pod EP couldn’t evoke the fleeting urban environment any better and functions as an apt first release to introduce new listeners to the Night Bus vibe. Nowadays, Ruder is looking to the future with an Escape Pod remix package coming soon and an EP from Anthony Ellect coming late 2012/early 2013. With Ruder at the helm, Hush Hush is well on its way to defining the ephemeral sound and taking it into unfound territory. Hit the jump for the full interview…

First off, can you describe the “Night Bus” sound for our readers? Is it a derivation or combinations of any other sound/sounds?

“Night Bus” is about sonically capturing a vibe, so it’s tough to put into genre-specific words. It’s heavy on atmosphere, carries an emotional cinematic streak, and is typically super pretty, introspective, romantic, bittersweet. The emergence of new beats that fit this Night Bus style reminds me a bit of the rise of instrumental-heavy hip-hop/downtempo artists following DJ Shadow’s Entroducing, except today’s producers are more electronic-oriented, look to R&B, bass music, and spaced-out ambiance for influence, and probably consider Burial’s Untrue a landmark, which it totally is. But that’s just focusing on the “Night Bus” beats that Hush Hush is planning on pushing. The “Night Bus” vibe covers lots of genres. Ideally it’s the type of music you wanna put on your headphones while riding alone on a bus at night.

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What are your daily tasks as label head?

Different stuff every day, but typically lots of emailing, continuing to be a passionate nerd for beats, and doing what seems right as far as putting the necessary pieces into place to help share this exciting music with an audience. Those are the main things happening when I get to focus on label stuff these days.

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When initially sketching out a release, what is the conversation centered around? 

The only releases I’ve fully sketched out at this point have been with Joey/Kid Smpl, and that was mainly just figuring out logistics as far as which tracks would be best for the initial EP and then sorting out which tracks would be good for the LP and then figuring out the sequencing of both. The fact that Joey’s music perfectly fits the “night bus” vibe and that I’ve known him for over a year have made the process really smooth. Otherwise, the conversations for potential future releases typically revolve around whether the music fits the label’s aesthetic, whether it seems worth putting out on the label, and in what format (digital/vinyl/etc, single/EP/LP/etc.) The label is still a baby is point, so I’m learning something new each day 🙂

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Walk me through the process of crafting/releasing Kid Smpl’s Escape Pod EP?

Basically been a big fan of Joey’s music as Kid Smpl since hearing his Ghostsuit EP that came out on Ill Cosby’s Car Crash Set label last summer. Massive shout-out to Will/Ill Cosby! He’s brought a lot of homies together through his passion for progressive bass music and his label. Hush Hush is working as a sub-label to Car Crash Set, so there’s a lot of connections and ideals that Will has established through CCS that will also exist through Hush Hush. Will recently moved to Washington, DC though, so he’s no longer in the area. Super bummed he’s gone.

I eventually met Joey at one of Ill Cosby’s monthly Street Halo nights at The Living Room on Capitol Hill. He started emailing me new tunes he was working on and it got to the point where I felt he had a solid album under his belt and I was bugging him about the possibility of making an LP release a reality. After some discussions, I decided to launch the label to help showcase his music and we both decided an initial EP would be a great way to ease into the debut LP that’s due out later this year. We mutually agreed upon 4 tracks for the EP and we were fortunate enough to have D33J contribute a dope dancefloor-leaning remix of “Pulse” that will also be included on the official Escape Pod EP that’s due out August 7th.

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Do you believe it is necessary for a label to have a distinct aesthetic? What do you believe the Hush Hush aesthetic to be?

I don’t think it’s necessary, but I definitely think it can be beneficial. Lots of my favorite labels carry a distinct aesthetic or started off focused on one: Warp, Ninja Tune, Mo Wax, City Centre Offices, Morr, Hyperdub, Tri Angle, Hotflush, Planet Mu, R&S/Apollo, Svengali, soooo many others. It helps solidify an expectation between the music and the audience, and if you respect the label (as I have with so many of these labels over the years as a music fanatic) then it can get to a point where you want to check out and support the label’s releases regardless of how well you know the artist. I like having that trust in a label and I hope to establish that with Hush Hush.

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How does Hush Hush’s beat-oriented style of “Night Bus” function in a live setting?

Hush Hush in the live setting has been interesting, since “night bus” music is pretty chill and introverted for the most part and ideally best experienced on headphones and alone, or at least in close romantic confines.

Hush Hush started back in February as a monthly club night dedicated to night bus music at The Living Room on Capitol Hill, which sadly closed down at the end of August. The Living Room was fittingly-named and a great space for the night, as it was a 2-level bar with cozy couches and chairs on the upper level where the DJ booth was located. The DJ booth was also fairly obstructed from view and didn’t really offer much in the way of “DJ as performer,” which was perfect for the night. It’s more about the music and vibe than watching the DJ. We’re moving the night to the Arabica Lounge for this month’s edition and I’m looking forward to seeing how Hush Hush functions in a new space.

We also threw a release party back in July for Kid Smpl’s ‘Escape Pod’ EP at Vermillion, a cool art gallery and bar on Capitol Hill, and that went really well. All the performers’ sets were top-notch (DJAO, Domokos, and DJ Riz, in addition to Kid Smpl) and it really helped that Vermillion offers a nice intimate setting, we had some excellent live visuals done by my friend Dennis, and Vermillion had an old-school arcade set-up in the front room, which people had to pass through to get to the performance space. There’s something oddly night bus about an old-school arcade.

Generally it’s been both exciting and a bit peculiar to get people stoked about such chill, introspective, cinematic music, but the reception so far has been positive, so looking forward to continuing to bring the night bus vibes to more spots around Seattle and beyond, when the time is right.

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How do you see “bass” music progressing in the Pacific Northwest?

I’m writing this after witnessing Jacques Greene throw down a bass-heavy DJ set at Barboza and seeing the enthusiastic support and happy gathering of passionate musicians, DJs, promoters, friends, and general music fans at that show. Truly gives me continued optimistic hope to the progress of “bass” music in the PNW. As a lifelong resident of the area, I feel the natural landscape and general pace of Seattle lends itself to a more lush, introspective, contemplative take on bass music, which falls closely alongside the general “Night Bus” vibe, Kid Smpl’s music, and Hush Hush’s aesthetic. But we’ve also got some major players such as Chris Roman (aka 214 and J.Alvarez), Astronomar, Cedaa, and qp (just to name a few) pushing more extroverted, uptempo, party-starting sounds to the forefront and getting well-deserved attention for their productions, so it’s exciting to see the range of bass music coming out of the area. Hush Hush is more focused on the intimate side of bass music, and I plan on showcasing that particular style, but I can easily foresee local producers of wide-ranging tempos beginning to or continuing to garner national and international attention with their music.

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Can you give us any hints on future releases?

Following Kid Smpl’s Escape Pod EP, we’re planning on releasing a remixes collection of tracks from the EP — tentatively titled Dope Pac SE — in September that will feature remixes from DJAO, Domokos, Blood Vibes, Big Spider’s Back, 88:88, Anthony Ellect, Bam Spacey, and Giraffage. Also in the works is a new EP from up-and-coming LA-via-Everett beatmaker Anthony Ellect (http://soundcloud.com/anthony-ellect) in October with prospective plans for a debut LP from him down the road. And you  can definitely expect Kid Smpl’s debut LP coming out digitally and on vinyl towards the end of 2012. There’s also talk of a collection of chopped & screwed R&B remixes from DJAO, which I think will be awesome based on some early samples I’ve heard. Super excited in general to push the Night Bus sound and gradually add to the label’s catalog through both local and non-local artists that carry the vibe that fits the Hush Hush aesthetic.

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