Fade To Mind has quickly become one of the most watched labels in underground dance and electronic music. We speak with its leading artist and label head.
2010 was the year that, for many American ears at least, bass music changed. The hyped-up neon rush was fading out in clubs, and the obnoxiousness of EDM hadn’t yet surfaced. Across the decks of forward-thinking DJs a darker, slower sound began to emerge from the UK via the collective consciousness of Night Slugs. The Bok Bok/L-Vis 1990-founded imprint was soon widely regarded as one of the most important labels of the year, spitting out massive releases from up-and-coming producers both at home and abroad. One of these was the 5-track EP That Mystic, a booming combination of British dubstep and HD rave spliced with the ghosts of R&B. It was the release that introduced most of the world to Kingdom, and since that fateful year the alias of Los Angeles-based Ezra Rubin has cut ever deeper into the flesh of club music, eventually forming his own genre-shaping label in 2011.
With a wonderfully diverse lineup that ranges from the sacred desert techno of Fatima Al Qadiri to Total Freedom‘s noisy bass reworkings, Fade To Mind has continued to challenge the way people think about their dancefloors—including Rubin’s own work. His latest EP, the recently-released Vertical XL, channels the ambience of his earlier work and molds it into something slicker, leaner. Led by the beautiful single “Bank Head”, which features the vocals of rising diva Kelela, Vertical XL is too shifty, too airy to be dropped in amongst bassed-out bangers. Rather it takes the tropes of dance music into new realms of beauty, uplifting in what it promises and teases. It’s electronic pop for futurists, a rich and inviting blend of genres that feels personal, minimal, elemental and completely now. To Rubin, who lists his favorite genres as authenticity and forward momentum, it was an experience akin to an audio journey across his body of work.
Fade To Mind has one of the most diverse rosters of electronic music (as loosely defined as that is) going on right now. What do you look for when choosing a new artist?
I look for artists that are true to themselves, whose work is part of who they are, not something applied to the surface. Fade to Mind music needs to be raw and emotional too. When we formed the label we mainly drew upon established personal friendships, the people I already felt like I could talk to and trust.
Has the shift from New York City to living in LA affected your attitude toward production?
I guess I’m a little more laid back now, and also LA spoils you in terms of privacy and personal space. Everyone here has their own car and their own scene. LA still has a lot of secret corners, where NY feels more and more homogeneous each time I go back.
What musical genres do you feel are on the rise… or do you feel that genres are becoming less important nowadays?
Female vocal R&B has been more or less absent from mainstream radio for about 5 years now so it’s just about to come back really strong. Our new project with Kelela is going to help with that.
What are your personal favorites?
My favorite genres right now are authenticity and forward momentum.
Many of the artists on FTM bend (or even break) the idea of ‘dance’ music; for example Total Freedom often crosses into noise with his live sets.
Our artists will definitely keep pushing the boundaries, but our label is still centered on club music and electronic music.
Do you see the label diversifying even further in the future?
What will change more as time goes on is the way our fans will experience the music, through new collaborations between Fade to Mind artists, and with Night Slugs artists, as well as creating new kinds of live club events.
Your own boundaries have advanced markedly since That Mystic.
Right before I made Vertical XL I was feeling really blocked and unable to make music. I went back and listened to a lot of tracks I made around 2005, and it was refreshing to hear those sounds and think about them in the context of the work I’ve done since then. Vertical XL is the first record where I actually set up a studio space for myself, it freed me up and and allowed me to experiment more. Also meeting Kelela and doing tracks with her opened me up a lot. As the record started to form I saw the narrative of the EP start to write itself. It felt like I was soundtracking my journey across across vast uncharted terrains. I wanted to push this EP to the extremes, creating really satisfying hooky pop moments, right alongside really brutal stripped down moments. I also wanted to create something that felt self-sustaining and complete. By the time you get to the last track of the EP “Viper XL” you feel at home and whole.˜
Vertical XL is out now on Fade To Mind. Be sure to catch Kingdom in Berlin this Saturday with Kelela, Slava and DJ Paypal.
Published July 24, 2013. Words by Daniel Jones.