As his Lumberjacks In Hell label reaches its 10th birthday, iDJ meets a German producer who insists he's just getting started…
Lumberjacks In Hell have been keeping us all guessing for a full decade now. Since starting life as a humble re-edits stable in 2010, the Amsterdam-based label has since spread its musical wings considerably, and is now releasing only original material that spans from disco/nu-disco, via deep and soulful house, to scorching acid.
About the only thing that's truly consistent about the label's output, in fact, is the quality that's on offer. And that's almost entirely down to one man: label boss Marcel Vogel, the German producer who set up the label 10 years ago and still runs it pretty much singlehandedly today.
To celebrate their anniversary, the label have just released From Hell Love 2, with label regulars like Detroit Swindle, PBR Streetgang, Waajeed and James Curd invited to submit a track apiece to a collection which follows the original From Hell With Love set that was released on the occasion of their fifth birthday, back in 2015.
Which seemed as good a reason as any to reach out to Marcel and find out more…
Congratulations on reaching the 10-year milestone! That must feel like quite an achievement – what are your memories of the label's earliest days, and how have things changed now?
“The journey started with a lot of doubts and examination. It's quite often like that for me: an idea is pretty much finished but then it takes a lot of time and consideration to figure out if anybody cares. In the end, nothing changes and I have to jump into the deep end anyway. Silent overthinking. After 10 years things have gotten a bit easier, though… I know that most things will work and some things will be collateral.”
Pardon my ignorance but I don't know much about what you were doing before Lumberjacks In Hell. So can you fill us in a bit about your own background and how you came to set up the label in the first place?
“Ha ha, you are excused! I've worked in retail for 10 years. Lived in Frankfurt, Berlin and Basel before moving to Amsterdam. I've organised parties and DJed and once I arrived in Amsterdam I studied audio engineering. The label was just a natural progression, one step after the other, following the DIY ethos. Its just part of being a music enthusiast.”
Is the label a one-man band or do you have a team around you, and if so who/how many?
“It's pretty much a one-man band, plus the designers I work with and occasional PR from companies like Lollop.”
How do you describe the label's sound/music policy – now, and when you first started. Has it changed in any way?
“Soulful music with some balls! So no, it hasn't really changed, although we are usually not messing with samples anymore.”
Lumberjacks In Hell is over 100 releases deep. If you had to hold up three of those releases and say “this is us” - what three would you pick, and why?
“To be honest, I could almost chose any of them because I am very picky with what I release! But the three that may be most important to me would be Giovanni Damico – The Sounds Of Revolution, Karizma & Marcel Vogel – The Deadpool EP and V/A – Chicago Service.”
You also run the label Intimate Friends. What's the difference between the two labels – and are they interlinked, or completely independent operations?
“The stuff I release on Intimate Friends is way more experimental and the sound is all over the place – maybe too much so. While Lumberjacks always maintains a certain vibe and energy, Intimate Friends used to switch vibe and tempo wildly.
“For the last two years I've just been focusing on Lumberjacks, though. I didn't feel my attention was enough to make Intimate Friends a success the way I wanted it to be, so I think I'll let it rest for a while and bring it back when needed.”
Over the past 10 years, what have been… the biggest mistake you've made?
“Not clearing the sample to Work It Out beforehand. I didn't know how at that time, and it made the record disappear in the end, even though the tune lives for ever.”
… and your most genius move?
“Starting the label. Staying true and authentic. Staying humble and focused.”
Of all the artists you've signed music by, were there any in particular that were a 'pinch yourself' moment for you?
“Like I said earlier, almost every release has been a high point for me. What can I say? Rahaan, Jamie 3:26, Hugo H, Karizma, Soulphiction… the list goes on and on. If I don't get really excited about a release, what's the point in doing it at all?”
Now that From Hell With Love 2 is in stores, what's coming up next, release-wise?
“We've got music coming up from Lay-Far, Prequel, Jonna, M.Hook, Dikkens and Giovanni Damico… we haven't released anything since February because I didn't know if people would still be buying records, so most of 2021 is already under wraps. And I hope we'll be able to catch up with our anniversary celebrations soon!”
And finally… is there anything else you think iDJ readers need to know about, before we sign off?
“I firmly believe I'm just getting started. I'm working every day to become a better musician and producer, and I've had a very good run of remixing other people during the past 1.5 years. Before that it didn't occur to me – to remix as a means to growth – but I really enjoy that now. It's all about creation and foundation.
“My inspiration is in hip-hop, house, pop, disco and funk. So don't get confused if you see my name appear in unexpected places: it's the same mind and energy that's fuelled Lumberjacks, I'm just on a journey making as many experiences as possible!”
Words: Russell Deeks
From Hell With Love 2 is out now on Lumberjacks In Hell