Kevin Griffiths is on his way back to Australia this month. Griffith’s label, Tsuba, is regarded as one of the world’s key players in underground house music. Their deep, soulful house and techno releases have garnered praise from around the world, including featuring in RA’s all-time top 100 most charted labels, where Tsuba sits behind Crosstown Rebels as the second UK label in the list. Griffiths took time out from his busy schedule to chat with Symbiosis prior to his tour.
What’s happening at the moment?
Frantically trying to get everything done this week before I leave for the tour! I do pretty much everything at the label so I’m always running around like a lunatic.
You celebrated the 5th anniversary of Tsuba last year. What achievement have you been most proud of in that time?
I guess building something from scratch has been quite an achievement. I’m really happy how the label is presented, the music, design, parties so that all makes me proud.
There is a great visual identity to your label and I notice that you just refreshed it recently. That branding and unity to your label output is really important I think. Do you work with one designer in particular or do you steer it?
It’s really important for me personally and in general these days labels need a very strong identity to stand out.
I work with two designers, Pablo Gargano who does Tsuba Colours and Tsuba Limited and Sam Renwick who came up with the new identity. We had long discussions last year about how the label should look & I really wanted vibrant colour and Vinyl to be key features so Sam totally nailed it with the geometric design centred around a Vinyl 12” label.
This also coincided with the new website, which is quite stripped back and clean to let the sleeves provide the colour. Tsuba Limited is more lo-fi and I source all the images which I love doing. I have no practical experience of how to do art or design, but have a very clear idea of how I want things to look.
You started the Tsuba warehouse parties in Feb this year and the next one is in May. I have heard from friends in London that there is a real push to go back to these types of venues again. Why did you decide to start doing them?
These days its important for labels to do parties to showcase what you’re about and make your brand come alive. It’s also a good excuse for a get together with the artists and every party is always a lot of fun. The Feb one was off the hook and despite the freezing conditions outside (-8) people went totally nuts for it.
Is the warehouse party part of a push to make Tsuba more of a platform, rather than just a label? With the state of the industry I imagine that’s important.
Yeah I think so, I’ll always be more into running the label than being a club promoter but I work with a really good guy who also does events for 20:20 vision and poker flat so he brings a lot of expertise and finds these amazing venues.
I know you had a lot of experience in the industry before starting Tsuba but I’m interested to know whether there have been hard lessons learnt since you started?
I guess I’ve been quite fortunate generally, my original distributor went bust owing me money, but apart from that I’ve not been burnt too badly.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Good question. Probably to have started an agency a long time ago, as that’s the missing piece of the jigsaw.
You just released the first album on Tsuba. Was it a big decision to go in that direction?
It was. Its something I’d not done before, so that always makes life interesting, and the music of Tazz really leant itself to something more than a single or EP and I’ll definitely be doing it again.
You’re a regular visitor to Australia so I was wondering if you have much contact with Australian musicians or fans? Any special surprises in store for us this time around?
My wife is Australian so she’s my number one fan . I’m in touch with the Subtrakt guys in Brisbane all the time, we get along famously and have a mutual love of deep house. These days the geography is not so important with skype and all the social networks. I genuinely think some of the best music is coming from Australia at present with mic newman, the carter bros, tornado Wallace. I’m really looking forward to the tour and have many new Tsuba releases to play, music that no-one else has which helps to give me a unique sound.
What are your top 5 tracks right now?
B Tracks ‘Specialize’ (Supply Records)
Okain ‘O’Clock’ (Gerd’s Deep Mix) (Tsuba)
Norm Talley ‘Innerpeace’ (TMR Classics US)
Creative Swing Alliance ‘Mother Water’ (Tsuba Limited)
Drake & Griffiths ‘Steady One’ (White)
What’s coming up this year for you and for Tsuba?
I’ve got another Tsuba warehouse party on 12th May with Steffi and Huxley so very excited about that. On the production front I’ve just finished a new EP with Justin Drake which I’m really happy with. Then on Tsuba lots of releases, with EP’s from Quell and Okain (plus a killer Gerd mix), a new single from Sascha Dive on Tsuba colours with an unbelievable mix from Virgo Four and then on Tsuba Limited, the vinyl only label, Milton Jackson and Creative Swing Alliance have fantastic EPs, so 2012 is another busy one.
Kevin Griffiths April 2012 Australian Tour
Apr 20 – Fluidlife @ One Six One, Melbourne, Australia
Apr 21 – One 22, Sydney, Australia
Apr 28 – Subtrakt & Metric Boat Party, Brisbane, Australia
Apr 28 – Subtrakt & Metric @ Bar Soma, Brisbane, Australia