About a year and a half ago, Matt Edwards (aka Radio Slave) put his famed house and techno label, Rekids, on hiatus. Its sabbatical sparked a surge of creativity in its founder, who released a wave of club-ready techno tracks and a collaborative album of ambient and electronica-infused house on Carl Craig’s Planet E outpost. He also branched out into the world of fashion with his Electric Uniform company, which has produced a line of football jerseys emblazoned with the names of beloved DJs. A few weeks ago, Edwards announced that Rekids, the home of revered artists like Nina Kraviz, Spencer Parker and Mr. G, will soon return. We met with him close to his home in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood to get the full story.
Radio Slave: Rekids will be 10 years old next year, but we hit a wall with the label two years ago. To put it mildly, the accounting was in a mess, and unfortunately the difficulties we were facing are so common for independent music labels. Rekids has a big catalog with over 400 titles, and it takes a lot of time to manage a label of that size. We’ve also been, like many others, quite unfortunate with distribution companies going under. In December 2013 I decided to put the company on a hold and try to fix the problems. It got to a stage where artists weren’t paid anymore, me included.
It took 18 months to sort everything out, and I really have to thank the new accountant. He saved the label and gave me hope that the company wouldn’t go under. It’s funny looking back through the history of the label; I remember Trevor Jackson telling me at Watergate shortly before I started Rekids back in 2006 that, if I want to run a label, I shouldn’t sign anyone and should keep it to myself. Now I understand what he meant. Look at guys like Robert Hood and Kenny Dixon Jr.: they keep things simple.
Sven Von Thülen: So the writing was on the wall for a while before you hit the brakes on Rekids?
Yes, you could say that. I was going through big changes in my personal life, too. In summer 2013 I got really sick, and as a consequence I decided to become sober. For the first time in my adult life I stopped everything. I had the feeling that I needed to be more focused. Running a label is a big responsibility, and you have to look after the people who’re involved with it. Stopping Rekids was also a result of me focusing more on it. We were generating money with the music, but we lost more due to the mismanagement.
However, once you discontinued the label you became once again quite a prolific producer.
It took a lot of time to get Rekids back on track, so I had the freedom to focus on my own projects and to be more creative again. For the first time in a while I got a lot of stuff done. I released the Matom album with Thomas Gandey on Planet E, as well as singles on Spencer Parker’s label Work Them and Boddika’s Nonplus+. I also run another label here in Berlin with Jamie Fry from STABLO called The Double R, which continued during that time. You can say that, as an artist, the hiatus was a good thing for me because it meant I could focus on my own output. Moving forward, we’re definitely going to strip things down.There’s no real pressure to generate money with the label. Before, I had a partner who was co-running the company with me. Now I’m on my own, so it’s a different situation. I’ve hired a really close and dear friend as label manager and I just want to release good music.
You became kind of notorious for commissioning remixes and tracks that came out after many delays or not at all.
Yes, there’s a lot of stuff that never came out. Especially at the end of 2013, we were struggling to get stuff out. We had terrible cashflow problems because of the mismanagement, and on top of that we always spent a lot of money on every aspect of the record: the artwork, the packaging, remixes. But in this day and age there’s only so much you can do with an artist or a release. That’s another reason why we’ll strip things back. Having said that, Alan Oldham designed the new House Bags for Rekids, which is really exciting. And, artist-wise, I’ll mainly work with the core members of the label.
Who are those core members these days?
Well, so far it’s the original crew with Spencer Parker, Mr. G and Nina Kraviz. Also, Jamie Fry will focus on A&R, and Rekids will release music by Phil Asher. It’s my way of giving something back. A lot of the people in the new generation of DJs and producers might not have heard of Phil, who was a mentor to me when I was still living in London, and I have a huge amount of respect for him as a DJ and producer. He’s semi-retired, which is another reason why I’m really excited to have him on the label. Monty Luke from Black Catalogue will also release his Mandingo project through Rekids. So yeah, there’s gonna be new blood, too. I just want to continue to promote new artists. Nina is a case in point. It was really difficult to get her shows in the beginning, which is pretty crazy if you look at it now. We use to have to fight with clubs to get her gigs because most clubs didn’t want to take a risk.
What are your personal highlights from the label so far?
The first track that comes to mind is “Serotone.” 2006 to 2007 was, for me, a really golden period, not just for Rekids or my own releases, but also for my remixes. Then there was Dubfire’s remix of “Grindhouse Tool,” which was the pinnacle of this—I don’t want to say “tech house”—well, “stadium techno” kind of thing. Seeing it take off was pretty amazing. Some people might look at it and say that it was a bit of a sellout, but all the parts of the puzzle made total sense at the time. Signing Nina was another highpoint. Being part of and witnessing her journey has been incredible. It’s really interesting to look at where she started off musically and where she is now. Back then she was making these very somber, romantic deep house tracks that all dealt with love and relationships. To put out the album was a risk in the sense that it’s very subdued and there are no hits on it, except for maybe “Ghetto Kraviz.” But it all worked out great and I am incredibly proud to see her progress both as a DJ and a producer in such a male-dominated industry.
You’ve also recently started a t-shirt company, which are all over festivals and nightclubs around the world.
Yes, it’s called Electric Uniform. It was something I started while Rekids was on hold, too, because I wanted to explore new avenues for artistic expression. I had all this time because I wasn’t drinking or going out, so I was alive and full of energy. We’re about to release the third wave of football inspired t-shirts; this time we worked with Rødhead, DJ Tennis and Running Back. Being involved with that was a great learning experience. It’s something I can do parallel to Rekids and it gives me the opportunity to give money to a charity. That was actually one of the main ideas behind Electric Uniform, too: we give 5 Euro per shirt to Outreach, which is a Berlin-based charity that facilitates sporting events for children.
I guess I just love creating products, and the t-shirts are a super blank canvas to design. Apart from setting up Electric Uniform, running Rekids and Double R with Jamie, I’m about to start a new company called Maison Ze, creating lifestyle items from home ware to some rather wacky art products. The first series of items we’ll be making are skateboards. I always wanted to make skateboards. I used to skate a lot when I was growing up. Alan Oldham will design, as well as Kate Belham and Pindar from Cocktail d’Amore. So the company will be about creating cool stuff. I just wanna connect friends, come up with cool ideas and give them a platform to present their art. Let’s see how that plays out.
So what’s gonna be the first release on the reformed Rekids?
The first will be the original version “The Clone Wars” by me. It was the last release in December 2013, but it was only a limited run with hand-screened covers by my friend and fellow DJ Patrina Strahl, and now it’ll get a full release, both on vinyl and digitally. When we start the label again it’ll be as if we’ve never stopped. In September we’ll release remixes of “The Clone Wars” by Markus Suckut, Parris Mitchell, DJ Spider and Loco Dice and in July we’ll release a 12″ by Spencer Parker called “No More Silly Club Songs.” Overall I’m so happy that Rekids is about to come back now. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s definitely been worth the wait, and it feels like the family has moved into a better home.