Photo: Imke Ligthart (Antal)
If there’s anyone who doesn’t need an introduction anymore, it’s Antal. As a co-founder of the Rush Hour store and, later, the label as well as a seasoned DJ with a vast knowledge of fun, shamefully overlooked gems from all possible corners of the dance music world, he has shaped the international scene in more than just one way. Celebrating the 25th birthday of his company, his contribution to our Groove podcast provides an overview of the status quo and near future of the Rush Hour label with recent and upcoming music.
The Rush Hour store will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. Before opening it together with Christiaan Macdonald, you were already an aspiring DJ who sold records privately. How did you get into selling records before turning it into a profession?
I was actually not DJing that much. I started to DJ at 16 and had some gigs here and there. We started with the store when we were around 19/20 years old. During that period, gigs started to happen a bit more as well. It went hand in hand with the store. I got into selling records as a student flipping records that I found for an attractive price and selling them to those that where interested. This is also how I meet my former RH partner.
At the beginning and especially in the mid-2000s, vinyl wasn’t a popular medium. How did Rush Hour manage to stay afloat in those days?
It’s interesting, but we received suggestions to start doing other stuff that would go hand in hand with the culture, like selling sneakers and whatnot. However, I was more interested in the music and realised that if, because of the internet, you could have the whole world as your market, you just need to get more serious with what you do. So I wanted to just dig deeper and find more obscure music. It showed that there was an audience for that but honestly the business was not the drive. The music was.
How did you then experience the resurgence of vinyl starting in the late 2000s and early 2010s?
A new generation became more active and were looking for records we were into in the years before. This is when we started doing some reissues of things we had always liked but other people were looking for. Also a site like Discogs made people more aware of what was pressed back in the day and so people knew what to look for.
Vinyl production has become tougher in recent years because pressing plants cannot meet the excessive demands, prices for materials like PVC and paper have risen, and other factors like the fallout from Brexit make it even more costly. How do you perceive the current situation, are you concerned about the future of vinyl?
Yes, it’s worrying because it is really outrageous. The waiting time for the final product is incredibly long and the prices are multiplying, and not only once. So at a point where a record costs 50 euros, for instance, it becomes too elite, but the record still sells. Until when? We will see what happens …
Besides running a store, Rush Hour is also distributing records for other labels as well as having an imprint of its own. How did it come about that you expanded the business?
That’s something that happened over time. Slowly the business expanded, but it always came from a passion of doing certain things and never from a business plan about how to conquer a certain market share or anything. We first opened the store, then started a label and then the distribution grew. Artists liked our distribution network and wanted to used it for their own records. We had an export network because we were importing from abroad. In the meantime, we also threw our own parties.
One of the most recent releases on the Rush Hour label was a two-part retrospective by the German group Needs. How did that come about?
I start working more closely with Lars Bartkuhn on his new music and so we also talked about a retrospective of the Needs catalog. We have a history with doing this type of releases so it felt natural to do this and luckily Lars was also into the idea.
Which artists who are new to the Rush Hour roster are you excited about?
We have new music coming up from Lars Bartkuhn, Tom Trago, Ron Trent, Byron The Aquarius, Kamma & Masala, to name a few. What excites me is the relationships with the artists. For us that’s the best thing – if we can work more long-term with people.
What would you say were your biggest achievements with Rush Hour in the past 25 years?
As a consumer I have been able to live in a world of music that really excites me, but some of the biggest achievements are the support that our company can give to the careers of individual artists. When they think back of us positive and they can use the Rush Hour vehicle to their advantage then I think we succeeded. There was also a person recently who donated his record collection to us as he moved out of town and was so thankful for all the events organized and the artist he was able to see in Amsterdam because of our bookings. Also the music he found at our store he saw as an enrichment in his life, so if one then just donates his collection because he feels it needs to go back to the source made me realise that we are playing a role in people’s lives. There is no higher achievement than that, I think.
You’ve cited Theo Parrish as an important influence on you as a DJ. When did you first see him play and what was it that had such an impact on you?
We booked him in 1998 in Paradiso and many of us were are that gig. He changed peoples lives at that point as we had hardly experienced a DJ playing such dope music with so much passion and soul. In the year before, we had received a Theo Parrish mix tape from Kai and Mark at Container distribution, now Wordandsound. They were very supportive of our store in the early years. We had listened to that tape over and over again and so we wanted to hear him DJ and organised the party. It was life-changing.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I selected a bunch of recent and upcoming Rush Hour catalogue tracks and put them in, hopefully for the listener, enjoyable mix.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Keep on discovering and digging for music and probably selling a bunch of that in the store and online in physical and digital format. I think we know where we are and who we are, we just want to improve it.
Stream: Antal – Groove Podcast 354
01. Soichi Terada – (Byron The Aquarius Remix)
02. Lars Bartkuhn – Transcend
03. Royal Mirrorball – Earth In Blue
04. Jordan GCZ – Introspective Acid
05. Orlando Voorn – Beautiful Sunset
06. Kino-Moderno – Into The Future (Future Mix)
07. Haruomi Hosono – Strange Attractor
08. Hydromantic – Archipelago
09. Oceanic – Total Comfort
10. N.A.D. – Cometh The Butlerian Jihad
11. Awanto 3 – Saw You Later
12. Arp Frique – Duncan Truffle
13. Gigi Testa – Jinja
14. Lars Bartkuhn – See The Light