Next week sees underground electronic label Upitup Records celebrate a decade swimming against the tide…
In a city dominated by guitar music, it’s heartening that with passion and talent, a group of electronic artist-promoters are able to not just survive, but prosper. Which is exactly what Upitup Records, founded a decade ago this month, have managed to do. We caught up with Jacques, one of the label’s founder members.
Upitup Records launched as an “online platform for sharing ours and our friends’ music”, he explains. The label, which operates on a free download basis, is “the brainchild of fellow Romans Jacques, Pierlo, Isocore and Stuttgarters Roglok and Tracky”, he tells us, and unintentionally, “one of the first ever 100 net-labels to exist”.
What motivated the label’s inception, we wonder: “We all had similar taste in music and we were all making electronic music, so instead of sending demos and trying to get our music released by other labels, we just thought it’d be good to set up our own website and share our music.” Before they realised, they were running a cutting edge label. “In 2003 [free music] was still considered a taboo, napster had only recently been closed down and Metallica were suing their fans for downloading free music. We just wanted to make our music available to everyone and easily accessible,” says Jacques.
Not the easiest or perhaps most obvious of genres to push in Liverpool, we asked how Jacques sees the cities electronic scene now compared to a decade ago. “Electronic music in Liverpool has always been a tricky subject, but … it has always been a part of the city’s musical history … inevitably if you put on underground music there are both really rewarding and also disappointing aspects.”
Before Upitup got going, Hive Collective were an inspiration and in turn, it’s safe to say that fresh-faced promoters Deep Hedonia will have taken encouragement from both their forerunners. Jaques explains that “as Hive took a break from organizing events, we started putting on gigs on a more regular basis (over 30 events between 2007 and 2012) … but we simply ran out of energy and time, so we had to slow down and take a break. The Deep Hedonia guys are doing well and organizing really interesting stuff, and also the new Bloop night in Drop The Dumbells is putting on really good and generally less known artists.”
As discussed above, the collective never set out to make any money from the venture, but with nothing coming in from album sales and less frequent gigs, what we want to know is how do they keep going? “We work and dedicate a lot of time to the label and don’t get paid for it, we do this purely out of passion for the music and artists we love.” With a steadfast belief that “mp3s should not be for sale, being essentially a virtual and intangible format”, the label is working toward more physical releases (following last year’s first vinyl release, Union Jacques – Dub Pets). The label also accepts donations via the website.
Next week sees the outfit celebrating a decade in business in style, Thursday marking the start of a three day extravaganza showcasing the label’s varied taste in music, at the same time welcoming back many of the acts they have previously released. “It’s been a long time in the making,” confides Jacques, who admits even for them it’s something of “an adventurous line-up; very rarely would all these artists be billed together, but I think that’s what really distinguishes us and makes us different from other events.”
Featuring the likes of composer Ergo Phizmiz – “his performances are always unique and outstanding” – and Ceephax –“he has extra significance to us because he played the first ever Upitup event in Liverpool” – the weekender will utilise some of the best-loved and most interesting venues in the city, with Mello Mello, Drop the Dumbells and the Kazimier all on board; no wandering from one end of town to the other then.
The three days look at different aspects of live electronic music; Thursday is all about Ergo Phizmiz’s ‘techno-opera’, with support coming in the form of locals Kepla and Chiz Turnross, while Friday is being described as “the ‘rave’ event, dedicated mainly to forward thinking dance music”. Saturday is the label showcase day, which Jacques describes as one of the highlights: “it’s the first time we will bring together 14 acts all from the Upitup roster (and from all over Europe), including the 5 founding members, old time favourites and newest additions.”
What the weekend constitutes, quite apart from all the great music (for the princely sum of £15), is the celebration of an inspiring, groundbreaking bunch, overcoming the odds and inspiring others in the process. Talking of inspiration, Jacques and Paolo made us a playlist (above) of some of the stuff that got them into the scene in the first place. Enjoy!