Photo: Press (Doggo/Ulf Eriksson)
„Lord almighty, have mercy on me!“ is not something you’d expect someone like Ulf Eriksson to exclaim. However, considering the Swede’s tight schedule it does make sense that he’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. But alas, there’s just too much to celebrate: His label Kontra-Musik has just turned 10 years old, which was celebrated not only with a slew of gigs but also two remix 12″s for Eriksson’s collaborative album with Sebastian Mullaert, The Dance, which features contributions by Efdemin, Voices From The Lake amongst others. Also the extensive anniversary compilation X has been reworked: X – Colours sees Dorisburg, Max Loderbauer and others on remix duties. And that’s not even it. We caught up with Ulf Eriksson to talk about Kontra-Musik, why he sticks to DJing and what else he has in store for us. Additionally, Eriksson has also recorded an accidental Minimal Techno mix for our Groove podcast.
Your label Kontra-musik turns 10 years old in 2016, a fact which you’ve celebrated extensively. The name is a telling one: What were you up against when you decided to start your own label a decade ago?
The name actually comes from a club night I used to do in Malmö, the city where I come from. This was back in 2002. I was so sick and tired of the flat music scene in the city back then. Techno or electronic dance music was very rare and definitely not hyped. So Kontra-Musik was my way of saying ‚fuck you‘ to the existing music scene and create something for myself. Today it is the dance music scene that is flat. What a journey this music has taken over the past 15 years – from something lurking in the shadows to a sound basically everybody is in to. It is a pretty extreme leap. I wonder how long it will last.
From a structural perspective, much has changed since you founded Kontra. Vinyl has resurfaced, the streaming market has been established and new financial models had to be developed. How did this affect you and still affects you as an independent label that mostly releases its music on vinyl?
I would say the business side for the label is pretty much the same. Break-even or the smallest income on the plus side is considered a great success. It is pretty much the same, as when I started up I would say. If you are interested in making money, a label is a thing to avoid. That is the tip of the day from someone with a lot of experience.
Your mix for our Groove podcast comprises mostly tracks released on Kontra. What was your idea behind it and what would you say is lowest common denominator of the artists that release on Kontra, musically speaking?
Well the idea was to make an old school Electro mix, starting with a soon to be released Joey Anderson remix. Apparently that did not happen. Instead, what came out is some gloomy Minimal Techno thing. (laughs) Lowest common denominator? To release on Kontra you need to have developed a unique and personal sound. If you are one of the machines out there producing electronic music for the dead, look elsewhere.
Many of the Sweden-based artists that have released on Kontra in the past keep returning to Kontra. How important is it for you to reflect the sound of the local scene, or put your own stamp on it?
Actually, I do not think that is important at all. But I like to work with people that are close, both geographically and emotionally. I like to make a common effort with the musicians and work towards something together, as a group, sort of. Otherwise it gets kind of meaningless for me. The process of pressing and selling a vinyl record after 10 years is not super exciting, but if you do something together it is still very stimulating, meaningful and fun.
You yourself have kept to the background, so far only releasing the collaborative album The Dance together with Sebastian Mullaert. Are you not interested in production or simply too busy with your DJing and running Kontra?
Well, I am, but I just do not have the time and patience it takes to get really good. I have been involved in the scene for so long so it is hard not to get stressed and compare yourself with people in your vicinity who are really sick. And to be honest, do we really need another producer? I think there is already quite a few to pick from… But I do envy them like hell. I would also love to nerd away on some expensive analogue gear. Maybe I should close down this time-consuming label shit and try to make it as a musician. That would be a very risky adventure.
Last but not least, where will we be able to see you behind the decks in the forthcoming months – and what are you future plans for Kontra after both the The Dance remix bundles and X – Colours have been released?
A Frak album is basically ready. It will probably will be released beginning of next year. Kontra will also release a 12″ from Stockholm-based Daniel Araya. It is called Acid Ambient Vol. 1 and will be out end of September. I also have a slamming EP from Harmonious Thelonious signed. More releases from Sebastian Mullaert and TM404 are also in the pipeline for next year. Gig wise, I’m spinning ADE, Berghain, Bucharest, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Bern, Tbilisi etc. Also, a tour in Asia and Australia is planned. Already looking forward to that one. Four weeks with Andreas Tilliander aka TM404 – lord almighty, have mercy on me! Oh, now I remember: we are also working on a showcases together with our long time friends from Danish label Echocord.
Stream: Ulf Eriksson – Groove Podcast 73
01. Sebastian Mullaert – Movement (Joey Andrerson Remix)
02. Jason Fine – Workin‘ it out (Porn Sword Tobacco Conga Wok)
03. Hunee – Travel the Earth
04. SVN – Dark Plan 5 Extended Mix + Sebastian Mullaert – Fusion (Wa Wu We Reduction)
05. Convextion – Blondes
06. Sebastian Mullaert – Fusion (Wa Wu We Reduction)
07. Petar Dundov – Oasis
08. Nuel – Ok Face
09. Terrence Dixon – One Bedroom Apartment + Robert Hood – Formula Galore
10. Sebastian Mullaert – Fusion (Markus Suckut remix)
11. Sebastian Mullaert – Fusion (Voices From the Lake Tropical Thunders mix)
12. Plastikman – Consumed