As part of our new “Megadata” series of interviews Fnoob site editor, Grant Paterson sat down to compute with RIOT Radio Records head honcho Mike Anderson.
Mike Anderson (AKA Nomad) is a DJ, producer and label boss of the bangin’ techno imprint ‘RIOT Radio Records’, a fiercely independent label based in Livingston, Scotland. The label launched in March 2016, along with it’s sub-label ‘a quiet RIOT’, after the enormous success of Mike’s fortnightly RIOT Radio Show, co-hosted with techno partner in crime randomDisco (AKA Jonny Nisbet), which had been running for one year prior to that point. They’re now into their 6th year and growing stronger with every step taken.
Each RIOT release follows a well-structured approach with at least one original track produced by the starring artist and a remix by another amazing artist on the flip side. And lately the label has been concentrating on more new / unknown artists who haven’t been given a chance to shine, with a mandatory remix by a renowned artist thrown in for good measure on the flip side, if warranted. It may seem a simple enough plan but clearly it works. Slabs of RIOTous plastic and digital downloads of each release are shooting off the shelves and straight into the hands of eager DJs as fast as he can print them.
RIOT Radio Records has a solid back catalog of over 20 releases featuring well-known artists such as The Horrorist, Mickey Nox, Jerome Hill, Subhead and Neil Landstrumm.
Hi Mike, How are you and how have you been surviving the current pandemic and the restrictions it brings?
Hey there, I’m doing marvelous thanx for asking, I hope you are too. Pandemic for me, luckily enough, has been a breeze from being able to work from home 24/7. It gives me a lot of free time, mainly taken up with label shenanigans. However, my belly seems to be expanding at an unsightly incredible rate due to too much booze consumption out of boredom of not being able to get out of the house.
Has that affected the label?
The label has been greatly affected by the pandemic but more so by the idiotic idea that is Brexshite since that kicked in on 1st January. To cut a long story short, we put out a release bang on when the 1st lock-down took place in March last year, sales completely slumped, We didn’t sell a thing for a couple months in regards to vinyl, digital sales were through the roof thankfully which kept the label afloat. As lock-down restrictions eventually eased we decided to put out a ‘Limited As Fuck” series of releases of only 100 copies each, normally it’s 250, and they sold on pre-sale before they even arrived from the printers. We done a few of these, two releases at a time, and when we thought things we’re improving with sales going up again with lock-down restrictions eased during the summer and more online and physical vinyl shops opening their doors again, we decided to do The Horrorist remix release and print 250 copies as we didn’t think things would go backwards. And then what happened, yup, another lock-down and sales went through the floor again as things went backwards. Sales are once again picking up due to the sight of lock-down restrictions being eased and shops beginning to open their doors but now Brexit has screwed everything up again with import duties left, right and center. Who’d be a label boss in these times huh?
So, tell us a little bit more about yourself, when did you start DJ and how did it all come about?
I’ll be pushing 49 whole years old this year but I started making electronic music and DJing when I was 16, so I’ve technically been “at it” for a while now. I’ve been into all forms of music, especially Depeche Mode, from a really young age, always getting in trouble from my parents staying up late under my bed covers listening to John Peel on Radio One. Making music and then DJing were the next logical steps I suppose. Didn’t mean to, I just had an urge ye know.
When did you first experience techno music and what drew you to it?
I first heard techno listening to early Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Throbbing Gristle and all manner of electronic music well before the term “techno” was coined in the late 80’s. I started messing around with Roland analogue gear, Korg synths and an array of Boss guitar peddles around 1987 right at the same time as DJing. I then went to Edinburgh’s legendary techno club ‘Pure’ in 1990 with my 1st night there being introduced to the Plus +8 crew (Richie Hawtin, John Acquaviva, Speedy J and Dan Bell doing a full on live Pa. It was the 1st time Richie and John ever played ‘Thrash’ live as well along with first ever plays of Trak K (all played completely raw on machines), GOOD GAWD IT WAS MENTAL. No turning back after that.
What was the best club night you've been to and why?
Edinburgh’s ‘Pure’ during the 90’s is hands down the best club I’ve ever been to, it’s where I grew up basically. Learned so much from going there and met the best people on the planet who I still hang with today. Every week for 10 years, I only missed a few of those btw, they had the most amazing guests and so many various styles of techno. Each week was a whole new adventure. It was literally like being at school taking in so much musical knowledge.
What's your favourite club track and why?
Mescalinum United – We Have Arrived. Why? Go track it down and listen to it, it’s self explanatory, it’s NUTS.
Who is your favorite DJ, and why?
Too many to mention but if I had to, and here’s a wee list in no particular order, would be Twitch & Brainstorm, Miss Djax, Mike Dearborn, Jerome Hill (thee ultimate party DJ), Rob Dylan, randomDisco, Neil Templar, Steve Poindexter, Kenny Campbell, DJ Proton, Jeff Mills, Claude Young, Richie Hawtin and Surgeon. There’s plenty more I could add but off the top of my head if doing a fantasy DJ league I’d probably have that lot at the top. Now don’t get me started on my favourite ever live Pa’s……………………….
Where do you love to play?
These days it’s with a pint of gin and tonic in my studio when the wife is out running, which is about 4 times a week. I can mix without a care in the world and if I fuck up a mix I just pour another G&T and see how long I can stand up straight for doing a new mix, which happens a lot. I’ve literally had enough of playing live in clubs after all these years and one of the main reasons I chose do do an online show and label instead as an alternative as I still adore mixing and making tunes. I have actually been asked to play gigs around 30 times in the last 6 years, not many in the grand scale of things tbf, but I either wasn’t feeling it or simply too busy with daily work and label stuff to deal with. I’m not retired from playing live just yet though dependent on circumstances. We did do a RIOT BASH a couple years ago where we had The Horrorist and Subhead playing live and Mark Archer (Altern 8) commanding the cooler. I played a couple sets that night and didn’t feel too shabby after it. That night was a RIOT if ever there was one and we always have plans in motion to do more but are waiting for the right window in time to open up
How did you learn and get into producing music?
I bought machines and pressed buttons until they made noises and flashed after I bought some to see if they made noises and flashed. They did so I was quite happy. And if it’s any use to anyone this info, I did take classical music at high school (passed with flying colours) and Im quite competent playing a load of Beethoven on a piano, although, I haven’t done so for 34 years now so I might be a tad rusty.
What inspires you to create music, do you have set studio times, or do you get an idea and run with it?
Nothing really “inspires” me tbh. It’s more a case of how hammered I am and think to myself “should I turn my machines on and make a racket?” No set times to speak of either. I have my sound proofed studio / decks room so not an issue for loudness making but due to non stop recording of DJ sets for my show and others, label admin and long, long hours at my day job I very rarely get to turn my machines on. In fact, I haven’t made a track in almost two years now, that’s how busy other things are. I did re-cable my entire machines set-up between November and February though, so fingers crossed I will bash something out sooner rather than later.
What was the inspiration behind the label?
I’d been either resident DJ or helping run clubs for many years but got pedantically bored with it all so didn’t do anything for a while for a couple of years prior to 2015. Then from being friends with folks on Facebook I was asked to do a set after one of them heard my Mixcloud sets and wanted me to do one for their show. The set went down a storm and I was asked if I wanted to do my own show. Totally wasn’t expecting that as all and since I wasn’t having to play live in a club in front of a physical crowd I said “why not, and is it OK to have guests on?” From knowing so many folks in the techno community through-out the years I thought that might be an interesting addition to the show. That was the basis for the two hour show i.e. resident set then mental guest set. 99% of the time it was main stage folks like Truss, The Horrorist, JoeFarr and Crystal Distortion but I also wanted to let unknown peeps, those who never get given the time of day by their peers to play out. More or less all of these techno nutters outplay their peers as well they’re that good. People like that should have a stage, even if it is an obscurely new radio show, their talent is going to waste. This is also why randomDisco was brought on board. His talent imo, and so say many others now that they’ve heard him, is undeniably world class and would give any the tops bods around a run for their money or wot. Anyways, the show really took off which was ace and after speaking to a few close friends including Jerome Hill, who was instrumental in tip top advice about doing so, we decided to launch RIOT Radio Records with the same ideology. i.e. Don’t just get big name artists on but let’s build the label from the ground up with the aid of big name folks, who were more than happy to not only get printed but raise the labels status to reach our end goal so that the unseen / unheard get a stage too, those that would normally struggle to get their stuff out in the big ol’ techno world. So that’s what we done. We put out a slew of releases initially with big names in the hope that we could eventually be able to afford to print new artists. These new artists also appeared on remix duties on big name folks releases too in order to get their name spread into the wider community more prior to doing their own release. We’re very thankful that our stylistic and militaristic approach worked and we’re not only are able to release big named established artists now but we can also give a platform to those at the other end of the spectrum. It’s the whole basis behind our label to be able to do this, it’s very important to us. We also want to to have the best sonic attitude possible so every release these days is mastered by the mighty Joe Farr, and what an exceptional job he does too, the man is a master of his craft.
I really got into The Horrorist's 'RIOT' track from his "When I Raise My Hand" remix release on your label. It plays out like the label's anthem. What does the release mean to you and how did you manage to hook up with Oliver to create the track?
Well funny you should say that because that’s what we wrote it to be. We absolutely wanted a track that shouted RIOT (which is an acronym of Really Intense Overt Techno) and spelled in capital letters for the purposes of being LOUD & SHOUTY. I’d first met Oliver back in the mid 90’s when he visited Scotland playing with the I.S. crew at a huge rave and have been in constant contact with him over the last 12 years on Facebook chatting about life in general and the world we live in. It’s not all about techno you know. Then the show started so I asked him to do the vocal intro’s for them, which are at the start of every show. Once the label started we got onto a triple vinyl V/A album so I asked Oliver, on the basis he was part of writing the Industrial Strength anthem on an I.S. release, for a track to fulfill the same purpose. So I gave him a remit to write something filthy, SHOUTY and based around the word RIOT. Either from the point of view of a participant in a RIOT or being one from from the view point of being a RIOT itself. And as humbly requested he plugged in his TR-909 and his trusty SH-101 and bashed out what’s on the album. In regards to what it means to me, it means the world. Oliver’s music has been an integral part of my life, my world and my mental psyche since I heard his output on I.S. in the early 90’s. I got that label’s tattoo on my arm based on how much his music meant to me then, and still does. And when he co-wrote ‘Industrial Strength’ as part of Temper Tantrum on I.S., that labels anthem, I was blown away. That all combined I absolutely wanted him to do the anthem for my label. “How cool would it be to have Oliver do an anthem for my label like his I.S. anthem?” I thought to myself, so I noised Oliver up and job done. It’s now went down as one of his best tracks ever. It gets played regularly in sets by countless DJ’s all the time. It’s an instant classic and rightly so. Not just my words, but the words of Shakin’ Stevens.
WIRMH has one of the largest collections of remixes, clearly very individual in style. Can you tell us a little more about the thought process behind the remix release?
The original release was a collection of artists who I thought would do mental remixes of a track which quickly become the label’s anthem and instantly well-known. As well as the RIOT remix by Taser, Oliver had worked with Dave Tarrida and Neil Landstrumm on previous releases over the years so was a great time to put both of them on the same release doing their unique thang and we even got Miro Pajic to to resurrect his Stickhead alias for a mental hardcore version. All the other remixes were bonus digital content just to see what different styles would emerge from the same stems. Apart from the Stickhead remix every other remix was a surprise to Oliver. I told him I was getting couple remixes done but wanted to surprise him with him and boy was he ever, he was well chuffed. Then just at the end of last year we thought we’d do a follow up release of even more remixes so we allowed the original stems to be downloaded for a competition, the winners of which would be on either the vinyl 12″ or as digital bonus content. We had almost 100 entries to go through including Chicago House, Detroit, wonky, hardfloor acid style, jazz café, hardcore, industrial, laser disco and techno styles, among others, which took us forever and OMG there was so many great remixes. But we had to whittle those down and ended up with 11 remixes we just couldn’t not use. And that 12″, “When I Raise My Hand ……….. Again” has also went down a storm. Still a few vinyl copies left of the new remix release so folks need to get one while they can.
What are the plans for the label in 2021?
We’ll just have to see how things pan out with virus and Brexshite basically. It’s all annoyingly based around that and how many releases we can put out while being able to pay the artists for their work. We see no point in putting stuff out if we can’t sell it due to lock-downs. People are skint enough without having to buy luxury items like vinyl huh The whole industry is waiting with bated breath for things to get better so nothing solid. However, that being said, we do have six releases either completed or 99% ready to print right now and a further five being frantically worked on but we can’t make any solid decisions on release dates due to so much uncertainty which is a royal pain in the erse (Scottish for your bum). And just wait until you hear what’s coming this year, some of this stuff knocks everything on the label so far off it’s axis, some mental artists with the most amazing music. The 1st of these releases is set for end of March 2021 with ‘Outburst – The Red Mixes’ by Trust True, a total nutter from Moscow, Russia. Pre-sale for that will start any day now on the RIOT Radio Records Bandcamp page. “Hang on though, the Red mixes? What other mixes are there then?” you might ask. To which we’ll reply “ahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, just you wait and see ;-)”
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. So, when are you doing a guest slot for my Fnoob show, CRYOLAB? (Lol)
Send me some gin, I’ll get on the case right away heheheeeeeee
If you want to check out RIOT Radio Records or anything RIOT-related, click on any of the links below to check out one of the most bangin’ techno labels.