Label Focus: We Play House Recordings

Belgium aren't only good for knocking out world class footballers. They do house music pretty well too.
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Its foundations built in Ghent, Belgium by one half of FCL, Red D; We Play House is the home to a seriously strong roster of Belgian talent with a “no hypes, no trends, just good house music” ethos. I spoke to Red D, Kiani & His Legion and Locked Groove on some of the landmark tracks on the label since it's inception in 2008.

I hear that We Play House Recordings started life as an outlet for San Soda’s first productions - how did that friendship come about?

Red D “I had been toying with the idea to do a label for a couple of years. I was hosting a monthly night at Ghent’s Decadance club called ‘We Play House’, where I invited everybody from Jovonn to Boo Williams to Charles Webster and Vince Watson. Over those years I met a lot of nice DJ/producers, and most of them said they would be up for releasing music through me. But I wanted my label to be different and fresh, and I also was a bit hesitant to start this from scratch with experienced producers who all have conditions and expectations I wasn’t sure I could meet. Enter San Soda in my local bar Clues where I was playing with Chicago legend Tyree Cooper. Him being hooked instantly on the music we met up soon after, starting drinking together, started playing football together, and about one year later he gave me a CDR with some music on it. I immediately felt he had something special going, and so I decided to act up on the label idea and start it for his music, knowing that we could find out how it all worked together along the way. Turned out pretty well, especially when we also started dabbling in the studio together as FCL, the name of our amateur football club.”

Your ethos is signing music you like to play; through the years you’ve signed talent from all corners of the world from the likes of Frenchman DJ Yellow to the Chicago legend Tyree Cooper as well as an abundance of local talent - to help a label grow do you think it’s important to sign artists with recognition as well as those just starting out their careers?

Red D “I think that first and foremost as a label you should always release what you want to play or hear, ignoring all trends out there. It means you are 200% behind your music and you will reflect that and get an identity. The labels’ A&R’ing is simply my taste in house music, as broad as it gets. From that perspective it’s kinda logical I’m releasing music from established artists as well as newbies. The local angle has always been there, because with one or two exceptions everybody on the label are friends whom I’ve known for years. We Play House Recordings is also a non-demo label, by which I mean that I never simply download or listen to demo links sent my way. My small group of WPH friends provide me with all the music I need, and along they way I’ve met people like DJ Yellow and Russ Gabriel, people who’s music I’ve always loved, and so them joining WPH was a very natural process. To me all the labels that have a real identity and group ethos kinda work like that, with Innervisions being a prime example.”

FCL’s last release with Lady Lynn ‘It’s You’ was of course licensed to Defected, and the follow up ‘Can We Try’ you decided to bring out on WPH - do you feel like it was important to bring it back to the roots of FCL and release it on your own imprint?

Red D “That was kind of a joint decision with Defected. Our relationship has been very good since the get-go and we agreed that it would indeed be good for both WPH and FCL to release the new one on our spiritual home and allow it to grow. Although loads of people know WPH, as true Belgians we have always stayed a bit under the radar, with little or no promotion or fuzz, which means it’s simply the music doing the talking. If your releases then manage to have longevity and become underground classics in their own right, that really gives me a lot of satisfaction. ‘Can We Try’ has been a standout in every DJ set we’ve played this summer, so I feel it could be another long story like ‘It’s You’. A new FCL version and additional remixes are coming soon actually, so we’ll see what happens with those.”

The original and the Deetron remixes have been doing the rounds since it’s release on vinyl and digital - how did the Deetron remix come about?

Red D “Sam Deetron and I go a long way back. I booked him for my monthly ‘We Play House’ night in Ghent’s Decadance way back in 2006, after his stunning album ‘Twisted’, and back then I had just joined the Deep’Art booking agency where he was on the roster too. Later he joined a different agency, Kazz, run by a friend and promoter (Toon Janssens)  I had been playing for since 2008. So we kinda kept running into one another, and I’ve always loved his music, and he’s always played WPH stuff. So there was no way he could avoid doing something for WPH. And seeing as his remixes of vocal tracks always reach stunning levels of quality, he was the perfect choice to remix ‘Can We Try’. Deetron is even the inspiration for our new label shirts: “Never Trust A DJ, Who Does Not Turn Around To Find The Next Track”. That about sums it up for me!

DJ Yellow & Astrid Suryanto ‘Night In Tranzylvania’

Red D “Have to start with this one. In my opinion one of the best dance tracks ever made, and much to my dismay I didn’t succeed in making it the hit record I think it is. Of all the WPH releases it sold the least even, and to this day I want to hug everyone who bought/buys this personally. Till the day I die I will push and defend this record as the sheer and utter beauty it is.”

 FCL ‘Can We Try’

Red D “It would have been logical to select FCL’s ‘It’s You’ here, but instead I selected the new FCL ‘Can We Try’. The vocals were actually recorded in the same session as ‘It’s You’, the difference here being that it’s a complete original work, and as such will always be closer to my heart. Was released early July 2014 with a killer Deetron remix to go along with it.”

Kiani & His Legion ‘WPH Grey’ - ‘Pow-Leen’

Locked Groove “One of my fellow Belgians on WPH. This record is pure Belgian house quality. All of the tracks are pretty amazing but I think ‘Nachtwerk’ is the one I have the best memories of. Sweaty clubs & great vibes.

Red D “After a track on the WPH Summer Special 2013 and the ‘Records & Culture’ one this is the full E.P. debut of Kiani & His Legion on WPH. Summing up perfectly what we like to do on WPH: 4 originals, 4 A-sides really, no pointless dubs or remixes and just total freedom for a producer to do his thing, but still tied together sound-wise. It’s also one of the releases on WPH where I was very actively involved when it comes to A&R and engineering”

San Soda ‘Quilombo’

Red D “Any first release is a special release for a label and artist, and here’s one that combines both firsts. This is the track that convinced me to start a label for San Soda’s music. I didn’t doubt for a second that this was something special, and it being picked by Ame as release of the month a week after I released it only confirmed my expectations.

Reggie Dokes ‘Dreamcatcher’ (FCL Edit)

Red D “A special one in two ways again. The first original material on WPH that was not done by my Belgian family, and the very first FCL effort. I had a CD I got from Reggie Dokes with some rough and not-so-ready material, and one studio day San Soda and I just started jamming with this one and the end result wasn’t too shabby if I may say so. A Mr Scruff standard for years now this one!

Kiani & His Legion “Reggie Dokes is one of my all-time favorite producers and I bought this EP for ‘Dancefloor Spectacle’, which reminded me of early Psychostasia tracks. It was only after a while that I really discovered the FCL edit, which is a real gem, possibly my favorite FCL outing.”

Kiani & His Legion ‘Records & Culture’

Red D “Other labels give free downloads, we here at WPH decided to give away a free vinyl… Debut by Kiani & His Legion, the latest in a series of top class Belgians to join WPH. This was part of the V.I.P. Series (Vinyl Is Personal) that started with FCL’s ‘It’s You’ and that will be a place for well...shenanigans like this…”

Kiani & His Legion “This track is a combination of two jams I did in December 2012: the first one was designed to be a dance floor tool and only contained a kick loop and a siren, the other one was a summer piano track. I experimented with linking them together and that track did really well on the dance floors. When Red D played it at P-Bar, it was the first time I heard someone else play it, a moment I won’t forget, even more so because the P-Bar shades opened up in the break…”

San Soda ‘Birdies That Fly’

Red D “San Soda had a couple tracks that I wanted to release but I couldn’t see them fit on a ‘real’ E.P. together, and seeing as it was summer I just invented the ‘Summer Special 2010’ release… ‘Birdies That Fly’ was an immediate sing-a-long anthem and one the girls love to hear and dance to. The Summer Special series has since then been an annual release on which I release the odd ones out.”

Locked Groove ‘WPH Brown’ - ‘Latency (Sunrise Mix)’

Red D “First full E.P. of Locked Groove on WPH. Belgian trance-influenced power and after getting a big name for himself on Hotflush it only took a couple of meetings with Tim Locked Groove for him to join the WPH family. It’s a musical and also a humour thing ;-)

Kiani & His Legion “I’m a fan of early trance, so this EP is a winner all the way. I’ve been playing that B-side a lot, it’s that kind of track that people come and ask you about after your set. Also, in times when old school house music has become the standard again, it’s good to see WPH exploring new territories. The new beat EP’s are very much ‘out there’, but trance is the genre that I really expect to have a worldwide revival in the coming years.

Locked Groove “My first full E.P. for We Play House Recordings. I sent both tracks to Red D sometime around the summer, and he basically made me sign it to WPH…it’s not like I had any choice… On a serious note, I’m really happy I signed them to WPH because I think it was the only Iabel I could do it on sound wise.”

Various Artists ‘Our Beat Is Still New’ - Locked Groove is Frank De Wolf ‘El Rio Negro’

Red D “A project that is very dear to my heart, as it’s our tribute to the sound of Belgian new beat that shaped much of my taste end of the 80ies. Not just a collection of old tracks, but rather a bunch of my favourite WPH and non-WPH producers all providing their idea of a new beat track. A fourth and vinyl only E.P. will be out in May, and that might not even be the last of this, because I thoroughly enjoy bringing these Belgian sounds back to everybody!”

Locked Groove “There’s no way I could pick a favourite in this series. I was always surprised no one really tried to do a new beat revival in Belgium. So when Red D asked me to make a new beat inspired track I was pretty excited. My track ‘El Rio Negro’ will be out soon on the last after take of the series. The entire series is so varied that we pretty much covered all the aspects of new beat in my eyes. For my own track I went digging in Antwerp’s AB Club past & came up with a track that’s inspired by the likes of Absolute Body Control, etc. If you don’t know, look it up!”