Words & Pics by Connie Bree

 

In the space of just six years ‘Names You Can Trust’ has established itself as one of the US’s most creative and unique record labels.

Having already put out a string of acclaimed vinyl releases since its birth in 2006 (garnering play by the likes of Quantic, Mr. Scruff, Lefto and Gilles Peterson and Dom Servini to name a few), NYCTrust’s founders; the All-Star bombers that are; Monk-One, Oneman & E’s E have made it their mission to deliver quality hit after quality hit for the hungry ears around the world.

With an open attitude, eternal hunger for new music and passion for collaboration, ‘Names You Can Trust’ continues to surprise us with it’s unique hybrid of styles and influences aimed at discerning DJs and dancers alike. ‘The Hungry Ear’ had the great pleasure of calling by their studio in Brooklyn for a chat. To get the lowdown on, the labels beginnings, the guys passion for Brooklyn and what new releases they have got hidden up their sleeves.

T.H.E
Upon first hearing a selection of your releases – the one thing that is apparent is your sound. Where did it originate, what was it that made you release this kind of music?

E’s E
We didn’t definitively decide on any one sound.. it just more came from our influences as DJs and record collectors. Everything on our label – I can pick out something from my collection of records that it’s inspired by, something old or new that I could play it with. We draw a lot of inspiration from different styles over different time periods and we just try and put out records related to those sounds. We gravitated towards this latin / funky latin sound over the years but it wasn’t ever intentional – it was just what we were feeling at the time, and that was one particular style we wanted to make as admirers and collectors of latin / caribbean rhythms in general.

Those particular records started doing well, and other things came together on that vibe. We wound up hooking up with other artists like ‘Frente Cumbiero’ in Bogota. We just heard their stuff and went WOW, this is just really cool. We just wanted to put it out. It didn’t really matter what style it was, but at the same time it fit into a theme. We had recently finished a cumbia record with GRC and things came together to do a mini-series of 45s all on in that Cumbia style…We released Frente Cumbiero’s Pitchito and GRC’s Cumbia Kikuchi, and later Dr. Stereo’s La Cumbia Perdida. It more or less just came together.

“Well for me, I got into music by digging for records, long before DJing or making music”.

T.H.E
So fill us in on how it all began.

E’s E
Well for me, I got into music by digging for records, long before DJing or making music.
But it was my link with records that led me to DJing, making music and eventually running a label. I met DJ ONEMAN during my college days in Oregon before moving to New York in 1999. We were always into music, always digging for all types of things. Weird stuff, old stuff, new stuff. We linked with Monk around the time he was regularly doing the Underground Railroad radio show on WBAI, we’d go up there occasionally and do guest sets, but mostly just soaked in a ton of musical knowledge from all the legendary DJs who were on that show. Monk was pretty much of the same mindset as us…. but ten fold; Monk’s musical knowledge is encyclopedic, its crazy. But, we all shared the same appreciation of all musical styles. It just naturally came together from there as a team. We played records, bought records, collected records, hoarded records and we all wanted to make our own records. It really just evolved from there…

 

T.H.E
So now the label releases all records digitally as well. How is that going?

E’s E
We try and approach every release with the idea of a record first, make everything with a record in mind, will this be a good record? Will it physically be a good product? Would I buy it? Will a DJ play it?…. So if it works like that as a record, then its cool. That’s where we are coming from, then we put it out digitally… almost cause we have to.

“…will this be a good record? Will it physically be a good product? Would I buy it? Will a DJ play it?”

We had at least a few releases before getting into digital – it became inevitable really. We would prefer if people only bought records – but we understand that that’s not the most realistic way to deliver it to everyone. Ultimately we want everyone to have a chance to hear the music – and if they are only going to listen to it on their computer or ipod – by all means they should be able to get it digitally.

T.H.E
It’s not  just about the sounds, you can see that the artwork and design is also well thought out with your releases.

E’s E
We think it’s pretty important. Records in some cases are more than music, it’s a package, an aesthetic. Oneman’s our resident artist and responsible for most of our covers/labels/website, I’ve designed some of our labels too, we’ve worked with Freddy Anzures of PROPS for the ‘NYCT Remixes’ package as well. But it’s a process that we all marinate on because it’s a big part of NYCT. It’s important that it looks fresh and something that you’d want to hold and have.

T.H.E
So the first record NYCTRUST released was by the ‘Greenwood Rhythm Coalition’?

E’s E
Yeah GRC started out as a collabo with MONK and I. It came about as the 2 of us working on music together in the studio with records and drum machines and evolved with other musicians and different studios and session guys. We’ve done a ton of work with our friend Andy Cotton on bass, Luz Mob on horns to name a few…so that first GRC record was the beginning of the Coalition in the true sense.

T.H.E
After the ‘Greenwood Rhythm Coalition’, you’ve started other projects including your more chilled “Midnight Lab Band” and your collaboration with fellow Brooklynites ‘Bastard Jazz’ to present the ‘Beverley Road All Stars’. But, you also worked on the “NYCT Remixes”. Tell me a little bit about that and how it came together?

E’s E
We had done some remixes for other people. We were starting to trade sounds with people, especially with people overseas, friends who we had connected with at some point or another. So the ‘NYCT Remixes’ was a good way to expand, and work with all these people all over the place. It is so easy these days, from a technology standpoint, to make a worldwide collaboration so we tried to get a sampling of different areas to remix stuff from our catalog. We worked with Dusty from ‘Jazz & Milk’ in Germany, TM Juke & Jack Baker in England. Then there was Spinnerty in San Francisco, and then Matt and Andrew Colman over at ‘Wah Wah 45s’. Our neighbor DJ DRM from Bastard Jazz And ‘Los Fulanos’ from Barcelona as well…Its actually funny how that collaboration came about. MONK had been on tour or something in Spain and he had played them this Midnight Lab Band track that Oneman & myself recently finished, The Forgotten Chant. The guys loved it and asked if they could do a cover version of it. They wanted to replay it, reinvent it and eventually hit us with this full blown Los Fulanos ensemble version of what we had made. It was an honor to put out, all those reworks and remixes that came together. It was a fun package.

 

T.H.E
.. and your MADE IN BROOKLYN stamp. Do you press the records in Brooklyn too?

E’s E
Yes. That’s a pretty accurate claim. All our records are pressed here, which is real special. There are still a few plants left in Brooklyn, which is great for so many reasons. It’s crazy how many record plants that have closed over the years since so many major labels stopped making records…but we’re lucky to have the few places that we still do and its amazing to be able to pop over and see the process in our own backyard…I think its big to be able to support this local somewhat ancient industry. Some of these smaller family-run plants have been doing this forever so its pretty amazing that they are still around and surviving. I’m happy to keep them busy.

T.H.E
And new releases.. what new project have you three got up your sleeves?

E’s E
This year should be great. We’re working with more people outside the Brooklyn base. Just out is the new ‘Frente Cumbiero’ single called Unconvention, followed by a collabo 10″ with Wackies out the Bronx we’re real excited about and another single from Bogota by the ‘Meridian Brothers’. Those are all coming up soon and we have some more projects in the pipeline for summer/fall this year. Should be exciting. So, yeah stay tuned…