Hummingbird founder Benjamin Philippe Zulauf celebrates nine years of the label in style with the ‘Introspective V/A’. A combination of previous releases, and two clean and fresh cuts from BPZ himself, to compliment the ocassion.
Here is what went down when we had a chat with the label founder…
Happy 9th birthday Hummingbird! Thanks for chatting with us today Benjamin.
“Very welcome, thank you for having me.”
Hummingbird turns 9 this year, tell us a little bit about the birth of the label, how did it all come about?
“The label came about after a long number of years working within music, from running events and club nights with friends, to learning how to make music with analog machines and computers and subsequently releasing those first tracks. For a time it was about learning all the facets to making, playing, hosting and finally creating that end product, a 12” record. Once I felt I got the gist of it all, I decided do a proper record label by myself.
The label was born in Chables in Switerland and I was very green and inexperienced in those early days. I didn’t really have a plan musical wise, but I just knew what I liked and didn’t like. I found music by searching on Myspace for artists with unique takes on house and techno music. I mean it sounds kind of amateurish now when I think about it but this is how I worked, and how I discovered the incredibly eclectic sounds of Chilean artist Andrés Bucci and the classy grooves of Simon Li from Constance in Germany. By randomly surfing Myspace artist profiles and shifting through tons of music, I managed to find my first two releases for the label.”
Must be rewarding looking back on what you achieved over the years, did you ever imagine the label would be going strong in 9 years when you started?
“It is a funny thing for me to be sitting here now, contemplating that nine years have already gone past, as it’s almost a milestone in some aspects. I mean it feels only like yesterday that I had this bright idea to go all in spending a load of cash and pressing some tunes to wax.
I just worked a lot and went about it day to day. Keeping the sales and admin going, finding new music, mastering and pressing, promoting and then moving onto the next release. If I could have spoken with my younger self back then I would have counseled going a little slower and taking more time with it, but I was too motivated back then and thought I knew everything of course 😉
If I can add a little more context to this, it was after about five years of running the label at full throttle like that that I had a sudden reality check and I decided to put the breaks on for a couple of years. I had moved the label from Switzerland to Berlin to be close to the musical center, but yeah a lot of blood, sweat, tears and investment both financially and mentally went into it. I definitely appreciated taking a step back and it is really important to be able to do that for yourself, because it can really get too much and take over everything.
Today I would say those nine years were important to me, with the music, the costs, the sales, the hype, the gigs and label parties, these ups and downs have all in the end become a really positive (if not tough) learning experience for me. We learn by our mistakes and we get wiser for it. Now the label is ready again and who knows what will happen or what I will have to say about in another nine years. For anyone who knows me by now, one thing for sure it will never be boring!”
On a personal level how long have you been producing? You feature two tracks on the upcoming VA, surrounded by some great names from the back catalogue, as it must feel great to sit among the likes of Akufen.
“Oh since I was 17, so since 1997. But I was a self taught and it has taken me a very long time to get to a level where I think my own music can sit up to others. I am a firm believer that you have to invest the time and put in the hours if you want to have a run at this. It is a very tough business and sometimes not a pleasant thing, as it can become very negative or overly ingratiating.
So the first track Trélex is special to me as it is the only track I have still that I made during my time in Berlin. By luck a mixdown I did was with a mate, you see my apartment got broken into and all my music equipment, laptop, hard drives and back ups were stolen. It is really lucky as I lost a lot of music when that happened from over many years. The second track Exit Strategies I made later after moving to Leeds, a nice bit of acid techno.
I feel very privileged to share the same space with these guys. These are artists who I hold in high regard. I am spoilt in the fact that I am able to place my own music on here along with theirs, but I am proud of it and I worked really hard to get to that point, so I will of course enjoy this moment.”
How often are you in the studio? What kind of set up are you operating on?
“As much as I can, any spare moment really. I will disappear for hours, or spend a day on just creating music and experimenting on sounds, I love it.
My set up is pretty simple at the moment. I am using Ableton for my DAW and make most of my sounds with Reaktor, program samples via effects and lots of experimentation. I use Melda Prodcutions a lot and love anything with a “random” button feature. I work with a B-Control Rotary mixer and a recent acquisition is the Omnisphere, which has been an amazing tool so far.
I used to own a few bits of hardware, sadly not anymore and I do miss these. One day soon I hope to return to a set up with more analogue. Right now space is an issue and I actually call my studio space the “broom closet”, it really is that tiny but the sound is great from here, and so it works for now.”
Which is your favourite Hummingbird track?
“Wow that is like asking who’s your favorite child out of your six kids, making five hate you forever since you didn’t say them haha. But since I don’t have any kids, I suppose this won’t be so difficult to answer. Oh and I won’t just pick one either, just to be complicated 😉 So I would choose that Akufen remix of Simon Li’s track, Marc just went to town on it and made a proper disco monster…I just love it.
Another is Mike Shannon’s In A Galax Far Far Away remix; this too blew my mind when I heard it the first time. It is just so filthy and so funky. Another is a track I did with one of my closest friends Laurent Charbon, title aside it is just humbling to be able to work with your mate and then hear and see it afterwards on wax, really why I do music.
Everything and anything by Andés Bucci, the man is an unsung hero for me, so talented and has the magic fairy dust, an underappreciated artist but I feel very lucky to have him in my close circle. The Varoslav remix for Yaya, a slow, edgy groove that builds up this tension, he’s so good at these designs, really. Then there is that remix by Dean Dixon and Jamie Lloyd, just nuts, just genius! So, so many good ones I am sorry.
If I may be bold I’d like to mention some future favourite releases coming to the label, special mention goes to Georgios Papamanoglou, a super talented artist with many years under his belt, just you wait for his tune. And Mike Ferry, a UK up and comer with very good music taste and ear for sounds, keep yours peeled for his track.”
What else do you have coming in the rest of the year?
“I have my album coming out soon on Hummingbird. It will be an LP split into three EPs, each with artwork imagery by talented photographer Björn Weiler. In a way the album has been some 20 years in the making and has been a great experience writing it while living in Leeds. There is a nice mix of influences and I think it is some of my best work so far. I am really looking forwards to Part 1, which will be coming out soon via Lobster Distribution.”
Will you visit any festivals this summer?
“I am not really doing to many this year and the Summer has been a bit hit and miss in the UK, but I was at Inner City Electronic earlier in Leeds, it was my second time and you just can’t beat Cosmic Slop at this festival.”
Last of all, 3 records that never leave the bag?
“Dinky – Polvo: It just works every time, anytime, anywhere”.
“Barker – Look How Hard I’ve Tried: Title says it all, just magic”
“Antigone – Dume: A track from his album, break beat bliss”
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