Set up by Slum Science in 2005, Hudd Traxx belatedly celebrate their 15th anniversary this month
May's Label Of The Month are northern house stalwarts Hudd Traxx, who've been supplying the nation's dancefloors with underground deep and tech house goodness since 2005, and who are about to release the second of two EPs – delayed somewhat by the coronavirus pandemic – celebrating their 15th anniversary.
Originally, Hudd Traxx was the brainchild of Slum Science, the trio consisting of Danny White, Dan Ruck and Eddie Leader, and was based – as the name suggests – in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. These days, with Messrs White and Ruck having stepped down some years back to concentrate on raising their families, Eddie [pictured] is based just outside Manchester (where for several years he ran the much respected club night Content) and running the label single-handed. The once vinyl-only imprint now also makes most of its money digitally, though they do still release actual, physical records on regular basis.
Nothing else has changed, though: quality underground house music remains the label's stock-in-trade, and they continue to attract artists of the highest calibre – not just from here in the UK but also, somewhat unusually for a label of their size, from across the pond, with the likes of Chez Damier, Stacy Kidd and DJ Sneak all having made appearances on the label over the years. The two birthday EPs are no exception, featuring as they do cuts from Jovonn and JT Donaldson, not to mention UK scene veterans Nightmares On Wax and Mark Hawkins (now operating under his real name, but formerly known as Marquis Hawkes).
So with the first vinyl EP in stores now and the second to follow on 11 June, when you'll also be able to purchase the full package digitally, now seemed like the ideal time to find out a little bit more…
When was the label set up, and why?
“We started in 2005, which means we're actually 16 years old now, but like most things last year the anniversary celebrations have been delayed. I set up the label with the Slum Science lads (Danny White and Rucky) because we wanted an outlet for our music. We already had a few releases on other labels, but we felt that it would be better to be in control of our own music, and that we'd also make more money. The first part was right, the latter not so much.”
Describe the label's music policy…
“Good quality house music, with the occasional touch of techno.”
Did you ever think, when you started out, that you'd still be doing this 15 years later?
“I was fairly young when I started the label, and didn’t really think too much about the future, so to think 15 years ahead wasn’t really on my radar at that time. I didn’t even want to start the label it was the lads’ idea. I thought it was too soon as we had only been releasing records under the Slum Science name for a few years. We were actually turned down by a few distributors, but luckily Tony Hewitt at Tango Recordings signed us up and the rest is history. Funnily enough he’s from Manchester even though he’s based in Oakland and has been for a long time.
“After we started the label, I enjoyed it and we started getting a name for ourselves, so I've just never looked back. But Danny and Rucky left the label in around 2012/2013, I think it was, because they both had families and just didn’t have the time anymore.”
How many people are involved in running the label today, then?
“I run all the label stuff by myself, but my friends Edward and Natalie Meziani do the art direction, which is all drawn by hand.”
What have been some of your personal highlights over the past 15 years?
“Oh, loads. Whenever I’ve signed a ‘big’ artist it’s been a huge deal for me at the time, and still is now to be honest. For example, when I signed Iz & Diz and JT Donaldson back in 2005/2006… I couldn’t believe it. And I was still pretty young back then, so it was an even bigger deal. Other personal highlights since then have been Rolando remixing me, working in the studio with Chez Damier when he did the vocals for mine and Tomson’s track, getting Matthew Herbert to remix Accatone, and most recently signing Nightmares On Wax and Jovonn, who are both huge inspirations to me.
“I’d probably have to add in hosting Room 3 at Fabric, and a lifelong ambition of playing Back 2 Basics, both for our 10th birthday."
Where are you currently based? Because obviously the name refers to being founded in Huddersfield, but Soundcloud says Manchester…
“These days I'm based in a small village on the edge of the Peak District, about 30 minutes outside Manchester, but I'm originally from Huddersfield, hence the name. To be honest I wasn’t a fan of the Hudd Traxx name in the beginning, it was either Danny or Rucky’s idea, but it’s grown on me over the years.”
Why did you decide to do your 15th anniversary release as two EPs, rather than an album?
“Good question. To be honest, it’s mainly because historically not many people buy doublepack vinyl, due to the cost. I was very close to releasing it as a doublepack, but I did some research and that’s still the same in this day and age.
“It's been bugging me a little that I didn’t, though, so maybe for the 20 years comp that will happen. However that’s probably going to be 4x vinyl as I’ve got big plans for that, so let’s see. I want to do a full-length album and for sure Iron Curtis will do one as he’s released more music on the label than anyone else, so either way it will happen at some point.”
Has the label's music policy or ethos changed in any way, over the past 15 years – and if so, how?
“I’m not sure I’ve ever had a policy or ethos other than releasing good music. For me, you need to be totally vibing off the music when you hear it, cos if you’re not nobody else will be. It needs to stand out as original, not just be the same bog-standard stuff you can end up trawling through. I guess there's an element of a personal connection with the artist in there as well: most people on the label I've had a connection with, whether it be through email, phone or being friends for years.
“But if you listen back to our early releases, there's a fair bit of that jackin’ Chicago house sound… since then, I’d say the majority of it could be labelled as deep house, but I’m not one for giving music labels to be honest. So in a nutshell I’d say it has evolved, yes: it's maybe a bit more refined now, but still true to its roots.”
You emerged at a time when a lot of other labels were dying off… could you be regarded as one of the first of a new generation of labels that launched in the digital era, rather than having to come to terms with it?
“I was gonna say that when we launched, digital wasn’t really a thing, but then you got me thinking and I googled it and Beatport launched in 2004. We launched in 2005 but Beatport only had about 70 labels at that time, so I wasn’t aware of it. And then when digital did become more of a thing and everyone was doing it, around 2006, I didn’t want to do it – I was a big believer in ‘vinyl only’.
“Once digital really got up and running, and vinyl sales started to drop off right across the industry, we didn’t have much choice but to go digital, which we did in 2008. However, it's a double-edged sword as vinyl sales dropped off due to the digital era. Fair play to any labels that are doing vinyl only these days, I can’t imagine that’s easy. So I guess you could say we did have to come to terms with it, as I completely rejected it in the first place, but now it’s a life-saver.
“I don’t think I would do the label if it was digital-only, though. You need a finished product in your hands to make it worthwhile, in my opinion.”
Apart from the above, what's been the secret of your success/longevity, do you think?
“That’s a tough one, because I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet. However I’d like to think that the quality of the music we have released has a big part to play. And of course we couldn’t have done it without the artists and support of the people buying the music which I’m truly grateful for.
“I've also worked very hard at it, so I guess the cliché ‘hard work pays off’ is kind of true in this respect.
During those 15 years – what have been the worst mistake you've made, and your most genius move?
“I think the worst mistake I’ve made was on Brett Johnson’s release. The A-side artwork is supposed to be a clock, and for some reason half of it is completely blacked out. The designer had some malfunction when exporting it, but ultimately the buck stops with me as I have to check everything.
“I’d say my most genius move was signing Matthew Herbert. Matthew is a legend is my eyes, so getting him to say yes to remixing Accatone was a real coup. He really smashed that remix out of the park.”
If you could go back 15 years and offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
“Probably to believe in myself and the label more. I spent a lot of time questioning myself and the label and trying to be a perfectionist. I would tell myself to trust my gut more and go with it, enjoy it and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.”
The roster of artists who've appeared on the label is pretty impressive – not just the usual UK/European deep house suspects but also people like Stacy Kidd, DJ Sneak and Chez Damier. Was any of those names a particular “pinch yourself” moment for you?
“Thank you… and yes, to be honest, they all were. I was always a big fan of Stacy Kidd so when I got the opportunity to sign something from him I was blown away. I can’t remember exactly how that one came about to be honest – knowing me I probably just messaged him on MySpace or something.
“Sneak was probably my favourite artist from when I was around 15 or 16, so to sign him was very special. He actually sent me that demo without me asking, which was unbelievable at the time – I was totally buzzing. Actually, the original track I signed from him had Roland Clark on the vocals, which was ridiculous. Unfortunately Roland didn’t want to release it, which is a huge shame as that was a big track.
“But Chez Damier is probably my proudest moment as he’s a total legend in every way possible: a great musician and an even better human being. I got his details from Joshua (Iz) and asked Chez to play at my night Content in Manchester; we also managed to book him in at fabric, and these were his first two gigs of his comeback. From there we became friends and I was bugging him for ages to do some vocals for me and Tomson.
“Then he was supposed to play Sankeys one Saturday in 2013, and he called me to say his connecting flight had been cancelled from Detroit – he could make it to London, but not to Manchester, and asked if I could pick him up. Of course I said yes and he sang the I Am With You vocals in the car on the way up the M6. After his gig, we took some beers back to my studio with Tomson and Brawther and recorded it there. That was a great night and I'm very proud of that release.”
Was it a conscious decision to reach out to those US producers – or did they come to you?
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to reach out to US producers but I did contact most of them. I think if you look at our earlier releases there are a lot of US producers, as most of the best music around that time was coming from there in my opinion. But the Europeans started to overtake the US in terms of output over the years, and you can see that in our later releases."
If there was ONE artist you could sign to the label that you haven't so far, who would it be?
“Kerri Chandler, hands down… I’ve been trying to sign Kerri for a long time but it hasn’t quite worked out yet. I did book him for Content back in 2012… I was supposed to warm up for him, but I was on my way back from Ibiza and missed the soundcheck, and he asked if he could play all night, which of course I said yes to.
“So Kerri, if you’re reading this, please can I have some music from you? Ha ha! Actually Curtis’s Kerri On on the compilation is a tribute to Kerri, which he’s given his blessing to. That’s as close as I’ve got so far, but hopefully it will happen one day.”
Does Hudd Traxx do events, or do you have any plans in that area?
“Well, as I said I used to run the Content night in Manchester with some friends, but as much as I loved it, it takes a lot of planning for a monthly party. I would like to do maybe three or four events a year, though, so maybe if something falls into my lap I’ll do it.
“I am planning a 15 Years Of Hudd Traxx party in Manchester this year, though, hopefully with Agnès and Iron Curtis and a very special guest TBC. And if I get any other offers to host 15-year events I'd be up for it, if anyone wants to get in touch.”
Words: Russell Deeks
The Hudd064 EP is out now on vinyl – buy it here. Hudd065 follows on 11 June, along with the digital release 15 Years Of Hudd Traxx, which combines the two
Tags: Hudd Traxx, Eddie Leader, Slum Science, deep house, Content, Manchester, Chez Damier, Stacy Kidd, Matthew Herbert, Accatone, Iz & Diz, fabric, Sankeys, DJ Sneak, JT Donaldson, Brett Johnson, Kerri Chandler