|Wolftown Recordings - Tricksta & Late
What is the name of the label?
Tricksta: Wolftown Recordings.
Is there any significant meaning behind the name?
Late: Yes, Wolftown is street slang for Wolverhampton, the place where the label was founded and most of the artists live.
Tricksta: Simple things, its where we born and where we live.
What were the main reasons for starting up the label?
Tricksta: To release music that we where involved in making as well as unleashing all the raw talent we are surrounded by.
Late: We just saw it as natural progression from what we was already doing, we didnít have no big dreams of getting signed or anything we made our first album pressed it up got distribution and got on with it.
Was it initially to put out your own, or friendís stuff?
Tricksta: Yes at the start I think there was an element of that but now it has progressed into much more with releases by DL Incognito from Canada and Cee-Rock ĎThe Furyí from New York.
Late: The first 3 albums we planned from the start but we always looked it as long-term thing.
So, what would you say was the ethos or philosophy behind the label?
Tricksta: To release good music mainly. I donít think we have any philosophy behind the label we just try and keep going. I think the ethos is to work hard. We have always known this so we just deal with it, hard work doesnít scare us! We are on it fully!
Late: To build a future and to enjoy what were doing so it doesnít feel like a job, weíre trying to build an empire.
What are you trying to achieve with the label?
Tricksta: Big things! Some are childhood dreams; other things are things are what we want to, and other things are what we want to do to benefit the scene and the whole genre. We just want to be remembered and be part of UK Hip Hop history. Its early days, we have only been going properly for five and a half years.
Late: To have a label thatís respected worldwide and take our artists to an international level.
Where is the label based?
Tricksta: Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England.
What is the music business scene like there?
Tricksta: There are no other Hip Hop record labels in the city of Wolverhampton. Thereís a few artists doing demos and stuff, and thereís an artist called Shimm1 just getting vinyl out, but thereís no record label pumping out music on an international level like Wolftown Recordings. Birmingham is a little different with Cipher and the Seven Entertainment empire releasing albums and singles by Moorish Delta 7 and Yogi, thereís also a label called Different Drummer who mainly release downbeat stuff also release some Hip Hop too, and then thereís the Corrupt Village crew with Capí and Deadline etc. The West Midlands is a hotbed for tight MCís and producers but thereís no real way of expression with open mic sessions being rare and there not being that many labels.
Is it a problem being based where you are, away from where most of the action seems to take place?
Tricksta: Itís a difficult one really, I think being in Wolverhampton right at the heart of the country we at the advantage of being only two and a half hours drive (at the most) from most major cities and with technology being the way it is communication isnít really that much of a problem. It kinda does my head in a little when a lot of US acts come over to England only do London gigs. Thereís also the added factor that nearly all the distributors, publishers, TV stations, national radio stations, major labels and artist agencies are all down in the Smoke. BUT on the other hand, we donít have any distractions, so we can focus more on what we are doing.
Late: Iím more focused living here, we donít really watch what mans are doing, we have to work a lot harder than most mans cause were not in the London circle and we donít get invited to take part in certain things but were not caught up in all the politics, I drive so if need to get any where it ainít a problem and at least I donít have to pay a congestion charge everyday.
What are your qualities that make you qualified to run a label?
Tricksta: I live the music thing; simple itís a way of life for me. Itís like the only thing I know. I have never felt as comfortable under pressure, than when I am busy with Wolftown. (It's like my baby!!!). When you actually enjoy what you do itís a bonus. I am the biggest fan of the rappers on Wolftown, so that enthusiasm I have is genuine when I promoting my artists. You really have to believe in your product, and have to take time out to be professional. Itís a tough game, but somebodyís got to play!
Late: Iíve been involved in the Hip Hop scene since it started Iíve seen it turn from what people thought was a faze to the biggest music movement/culture ever, Iíve just developed with the scene, I've done my research.
What skills do you need and what is your background personally?
Tricksta: I worked in a record shop from 1991 to 1995 learnt about the selling of records and distribution first hand, and then went to work at a music group from 1995 to 1999, and have now released Hip Hop with LATE for five years. I started DJíing with LATE back in 1989, so I been active in music for fifteen years. Thatís fifteen years more than most.
Late: You have to understand Hip Hop to sell Hip Hop, I tried the job thing when I left school but it wasnít me, Iíve been doing the music thing since from pirate radio, club promotions, DJíing since 89, putting on dances, writing for magazineís and trying to scrape a living by doing something I enjoy.
OK, so was it hard to set up the label?
Tricksta: Very. Itís a headfuck from day one; trust me the chips are properly stacked against you. Thereís no infrastructure yet for Hip Hop in the UK unlike America, Japan, Germany, France and Spain. So its hard yeah Ė it really is, its like you get a full-page feature in HHC, you get a yourself a video on Channel U, press 500 vinyl white labels and youíve blown up! No. It ainít like that in the real world man. The reality of running a label is much different. Bills, bills, bills!
Late: Any new business is hard to set up at the start you just gotta believe in what your doing and keep going.
What were some of the initial problems you encountered?
Tricksta: Funding and distribution, just like every other Hip Hop label in the UK.
What advice would you have for someone starting up his or her own label?
Tricksta: Take ya time, itís not a thing to rush into. Get ya music sounding nice, think of a good name and have a good logo. Donít bite, we never do that shit. Be original, even if people think youíre off-key at first fuck um. Do ya own thing and go with your heart do what you believe. Belief breedís confidence, which makes people believe.
Now that you have been running for a while, what have you had to change in terms of business process in order to run smoothly?
Tricksta: We have done things that we will never do again, because you learn from experience. Sadly the only way of gaining experience is by doing it! To keep doing it is the challenge!
What would you say is the most useful process you have put in place, and what, in your eyes remains the hardest task to complete satisfactorily?
Tricksta: I still think distribution is a problem, I really do. The way people are buying music is drastically changing and I hope that independent labels can afford to be part of this. Itís such a fast moving industry right about now.
Late: Not to run away with yourselves see thing right through to the end it easy to start a project and get bored of it and start the next thing.
Is running a label what you expected?
Tricksta: Definitely. Everything I expected and then some. Itís NOT a glamorous job, its stress and hard work. Mentally it can just shatter you sometimes. Me and LATE do our own heads in with it all sometimes. We canít speak for longer than five minutes without the label getting mentioned. Itís a mad life man!
Late: It does take over your life I never switch off, I can be at some ones wedding and I find myself handing out flyers.
Who do you press and master with?
Tricksta: We master ourselves now, used to use Loud Mastering in Taunton. We press with various manufacturers depends on the product.
What are the reasons for this?
Tricksta: Turnaround time, quality and cost.
Are there price issues?
Tricksta: We call around; there are loads of manufacturers. Places like the Czech Republic and Holland have cheap pressing plants.
Would the artists supply their own artwork as well as music, or do you have a graphic designer who works with the label?
Tricksta: Yes the artwork is done by Andy Hayes at Pencilworx. He has done every single release (four albums CD and vinyl, two CD singles and ten 12Ē singles), as well as all the adverts in the magazines and now the website and all the mixtapes we are jumping off with. LATE comes up with ideas, we listen to the artists ideas too and then Andy will come with ideas. Itís a good vibe, but something I am not really involved in.
Late: Pencilman is the only man I trust to fulfil my concepts when it comes to the artwork, I can do a matchstick man sketch and he makes it happen - the mans a Dan.
What sort of advertising have you found most effective?
Tricksta: I think the HHC adverts because itís still the only magazine in the UK that reaches all sides of the UK. Also advertising on our website is good too www.ragomagazine.com.
Late: Yeah magazines, thatís why we started RAGO MAGAZINE no one else was going to put us on the front cover of a magazine when we came out so we started our own.
What other promotional activities could you undertake? Artists getting out and gigging must be one of the most important things?
Tricksta: Playing live is important full stop. Reaching all sectors! We want to do this more so any promoters out there get at us [email protected].
Late: Playing live and a video also helps but is a risky game we have spent grandís on a video that never got played you have to use your budget wisely.
And getting tracks on Mixtapes?
Tricksta: Yeah, collaborations and mixtapes, even doing our own mixtapes now. Getting about full stop, networking and talking about shit is always good for new artists too.
Late: Weíre getting a lot of love in the states just lately and have been asked for exclusives by some big DJís over there.
As an indie label, how do you feel about the Majors? Are there certain things you are locked out of, like radio play?
Tricksta: I am worried about the lack of MCís on major labels chatting shit. I think itís a dying shame that real Hip Hop artists donít get a look in with majors. They control the radio, BUTÖ majors are only a way of taking the cream of a scene to a larger audience. Youíve got to be making noise to get signed, and they are looking for things that are going to chart. Look at Estelle she ainít sold out, but I never heard all that singing in her earlier tracks. Accessible is what majors do, and 85% of UK Hip Hop isnít accessible. A lot of people say to me that it is a genre that constantly beats itself up about not being accepted, when it should concentrate on just doing what it does and making the music that has to get accepted because itís so good.
Late: The whole rap/r&b thing is getting a bit of a joke, since 1996 thereís just a formula that majors have just rinsed with the 16 bar rap then a girl on the hook method, its getting tired.
The scene has just split artists on majors are selling more and independent artists are selling less. Kids are not searching for that underground artist that much any more the radio and TV plays the same 15 artists day in day out, its big business now so its more cut throat, with back-handers for videoís and tracks getting played, if you ask the average kid on the street what was the last underground release he bought or downloaded he will probably tell ya a 50 Cent or D Block mixtape, 'cause he doesnít know about the latest independent release because they donít get in the magazines havenít got a video or being played on mainstream radio.
Do you have an online presence? What do you achieve with that?
Tricksta: www.wolftownrecordings.com is our site now, and RAGO Magazine is www.ragomagazine.com.
Can you explain to the readers some of the problems that labels encounter when their material is freely distributed over the net by fans that may be unaware of the law and how you make your money?
Tricksta: What you are doing when burning a UK Hip Hop CD for someone is taking food out that artistís mouth. Sales arenít great for anyone right about October 2004 and when people are rocking burnt copies or illegal MP3ís they starving the artist. Without even realising it the fans rocking bootleg copies are probably making the artist think the sales are low and make him give up. They could destroy something before itís even built!
Late: I dunno I think a man thatís down loads or copies an album would probably never of bought it anyway, But saying that it has definitely affected sales because there is always the man that before would buy an album to check it out, now he can download and think nah I'm not gonna buy that.
Conversely, for small labels, there has to be some benefits too? What would they be?
Tricksta: Freedom of speech, and being in control of your own destiny.
Late: Being in total control fulfilling your vision.
Do you expect any creative control over the artistís output, or are they entirely free to come up with whatever they want? I would guess that you would try to come to a mutual understanding and agree on the level of commerciality.
Tricksta: All A&R is done by myself and LATE. The artist has the freedom to do what whatever he/she/they want to do, but we ain't looking to put out shit records nah mean?
Late: We have schooled our artist they understand the game.
Realistically, how many units are you expecting to shift of each release? Have you found this disappointing and how do you see sales going in the future?
Tricksta: Sales are hard to come by, but itís about building.
Late: If you ask any artist indie or major and they will always think they should of sold more, but I think indie labels in all genres in this country that is driven by pop music are finding it hard.
I hear artists like TY and I think this should be in the top 10. It seems if you are not on a major the powers that be are not gonna let it happen.
Do you have a distribution deal? If so, who is it with, what do they do for you, and are you happy with the results? If not, how are you getting round this and getting your product out there?
Tricksta: Wolftown has been with a different distributor every time we have dropped an album. Pinnacle, Shellshock, Amato and now are with Units through SRD.
Are you at all interested in overseas markets? The US for example? How important could overseas territories be to your bottom line?
Tricksta: Everyone wants to break the USA and everyone tries to do it in the same way. There has to be a plan, a meaning to you making sense in that country. Itís also knowing who to speak with. Europe is nearer and a little bit more receptive to UK rap.
What activities are you undertaking to get out overseas?
At present, who are the acts on the label and how did they come to be working with you?
Tricksta: Villains, Vicious Circle, Wolftown Committee, LATE, DL Incognito and Cee-Rock ĎThe Furyí have all had releases on the label, but we are working on stuff for 2005.
Right, so what can we expect in the future from you in terms of releases and label development?
Tricksta: Itís all about Cee-Rock ĎThe Furyí at the moment. Thatís the next release, a four track 12Ē and then the album. Heís a good cat, full of life, animated and full of talent. Heís one of the family. Then we got some coming from 10Shott one half of Vicious Circle.
Are you currently soliciting new material and demos from unsigned acts?
Tricksta: Not so much rappers itís more producers we are looking for.
Late: Everyone in the Wolftown Committee is working on various projects we must get those projects out first.
If so, what approach would you prefer potential signees to take? Is simply sending you a poor quality demo and a hand written note enough, or do people need to make a better impression than that?
Tricksta: CD only. And track listing and contact details need to be on the CD in case we lose the case on our travels.
Late: We get a lot of CDís sent to us that havenít even got writing on them just a phone number saying bell me, as soon as you put it down in the office you have lost it, there is so many people rapping now you have to stand out from the rest.
What difference would it make if someone stepped to you with a fully recorded and finished LP? Are you going to look at them more favourably because you wouldn't have to do much, or maybe that wouldn't leave you the option to mould them or give them any direction?
Tricksta: I would listen and if it was good enough weíd release it simple things.
Late: Yeah because if I have to get you in the studio it means I'm not in the studio or our mans are not in the studio and we all no how precious studio time is.
Do you have any studio facilities and in what ways would you be looking to develop artists if you take them on?
Tricksta: We got a set up in my cellar. The lab, the cellar, the basement whatever, itís the big mans room!! Thatís where a lot of the best hooks and rhymes are written!
Does the label do anything to either give back to the community or try and stand up and say anything political?
Tricksta: Me and LATE do RAGO Magazine which is a FREE Hip Hop magazine, we give that away to the youths and show them that shit can be achieved. Itís going on line now too, we do RAGO because we know the hard work that goes into music and sometimes man gets NO recognition. We like to give back to Hip Hop and www.ragomagazine.com does that. I also www.ukrunnings.com a UK Hip Hop only mixtape which encourages man to send freestyles or tracks to get on there.
If it is the case that you are too small and your finances don't allow you to do so, would you have any aspirations to do so in the future and if so, what would you like to achieve?
Tricksta: To open peoples minds more. People are so fucking blinkered in 2004 just into like the top 15 rappers or UK Hip Hop but just London artists. I donít just mean Wolftown here, thereís bare shit all over the world not getting a look in because the MTV generation donít think you exist unless ya on the telly. I would like to think that Wolftown offer a different and original flex, we unique. Ain't no label in the UK like Wolftown.
You have entered what is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace, with many new labels springing up almost weekly. Is this competition good for you?
Tricksta: Not being big headed but a lot of the new labels only stay around for two to three years or something, thereís not much staying power in some of these labels. As the market place gets crowded only one thing can happen, it will implode. All the fake wannabeís will not sell units get bored and die, those not releasing good music will die and all that will be left will be the serious people.
Late: We donít see any one at the moment as competition I just think there is a lot of people in the way clogging up air time with shit music, people rapping for the wrong reasons, doing it cause it seems a cool thing to do not because they want to express their art form, a lot of mans came out of garage and jumped on the rap ting cause they wanna make a little change and have no knowledge of Hip Hop lets see where they are in another 5 years.
Do you think UK Hip Hop is a fad that will pass, or will it continue to grow?
Tricksta: I have been into UK rap since 1986 and still into it strong. From Duke, Einstein, MellíOí, Goldtop, London Posse, Blade, Caveman, Hijack, Demon Boyz, Lords Of Rap, Daddy Freddy, Overlord X thru to Skinnyman, Mystro, Jehst, Creamo, Blak Twang, Roots Manuva, Lowkey, Karl Hinds, Social Misfits, MD7, Yogi, Seanie T, Universal Soldiers, Symbolic, Tuberculosis, 57th Dynasty, I love it all. To me it isnít a fad, but the people in media who blew it up in 2001 have moved on, but so has the music.
Late: I can see the media and majors fucking it up a bit with groups like Big Brothers and rent-a-rappers that spit a 16 about ice and bling on a r&b tune, But as the scene develops I hope that certain mans will retire from rapping and become the men in suits and run companies and continue to build the scene and develop artists and labels.
Generally, although your label is slightly different, what are your thoughts about the state of UK Hip Hop?
Tricksta: It needs more characters in the scene, less rappers and more promoters! I think all the fucking crap needs to fuck off, all that fake Yankee shit and all that Ďcomplicated wordplay metaphorí bollocks that sounds like some reading a Thesaurus!
Late: Itís more healthier now with things like 1Xtra, but itís still in a bit of a mess. The scene is split into 2, Thereís the mans who are making albums doing live shows trying to push their music and the UK movement forward to get the recognition they deserve, and then there the mans that have got 2 Jay Z albums in their collection and have decided to make a Hip Hop video and press up a mixtape and murk mans on a playstation beat.
Are there any UK artists that you might potentially like to sign if they were available, or get to collaborate with any of your acts?
Tricksta: Nuff. Thereís a lot of talent out there man, and I am finding new talent every week. We are always looking for man to collaborate with and are always up for steppiní on mans shit too. Check my mixtapes www.ukrunnings.com to find out what Iím on!
Late: I love doing collaborations thatís why I done the International Rhyme Spittin project Iím the only man in the world to have a posse track with 50 MC's on it from all over the planet.
To bring this to a close, do your marketing bit and tell the readers where they can pick up your stuff?
Tricksta: The newly designed www.wolftownrecordings.com you can buy on-line. You can get it in HMV too.
As an introduction the label, which records would you recommend the uninitiated to pick up first?
Tricksta: Villains ĎUK Soundí and ĎDark Visionsí, Vicious Circle ĎTold Youí and ĎBurglarsí, Wolftown Committee ĎBlastí and ĎDangerous Placeí, LATE ĎInternational Spittin (Featuring Cee-Rock ĎThe Furyí and LATEís ĎCold Worldí track which features Houston legend K Rino, Problem 13 & Miami Mac from Southern Affiliate and Kuwait. Oh, and lock ya'self in a room smoke a phat skunk head, down a quadruple brandy, put ya head phones on, turn the light off and listen to ĎDark Angelsí by Wolftown Committee.
Late: First get ďVillainsĒ - Welcome To Wolftown. Then get ďVicious Circle Ė Bagged outĒ then ďWolftown Committee Ė Legendary StatusĒ then get ďLate Ė international Rhyme SpittinĒ and you will get the full picture.
Is there anyone else you would like to big up?
Tricksta: All the Wolves crew, everybody that has properly helped the label and everyone who has brought a record on Wolftown Recordings. We salute you!
Late: Everyone that has ever supported Wolftown Recordings and everyone that featured in the International Rhyme Spittin EP.
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