At first glance you would be forgiven in thinking that Brighton is your typical British seaside destination, with its arcade encrusted Pier, numerous Hotels, gift shops and chippys dominating the seafront promenade. However with a little exploration you’ll soon discover that Brighton’s not all ice cream & slot machines, but actually a vibrantly diverse city who’s countless boutique shops, cafes, eateries and bars point to a deeply entrenched belief in artistic freedom and individuality. This sentiment flows through the very fabric of the city making it a stimulating haven for the pioneering of spirit. Its with this in mind that we decided to meet the man behind the increasingly esteemed ‘Well Rounded Records’ before his label showcase Thursday May 10th at ‘The Great Escape’.
BBB: Having scoured the net and the local library we must confess that details on Well Rounded’s origins are a little sketchy, could you give us a little back story to help set the scene……
Donga: Humble beginnings in a depressing flat near the level. Established the label to release my friend Deadboy’s tracks that were getting too good to ignore. Orchestrated the release of the first few 12s from Internet cafes and phone. Absolutely no market research or strategy, just pure vibes and love for the music.
BBB: Deadboy ‘U Cheated’ was your first release in 2009 and it quickly established the label as a credible source of new electronic music. Did the success of this record take you by surprise and how did it define the label going forward?
Donga: Well, to be honest it is a strong EP for the time and context so really I think it’s success was deserved. We didn’t try to consciously follow it up, just went forward with our instincts. The only thing that defines the label is my own personal taste really.
BBB: We read in one interview that you didn’t feel the Brighton music scene had much influence on the labels direction. How would you describe the health of electronic music in Brighton?
Donga: Ok. It’s not the second coming of Christ. I hope people wont get complacent. The danger with electing a scene is that what starts as a grouping of likeminded individuals can become diluted to the point where people lose their own unique identity. Well, that’s my concern. So I try to keep myself autonomous. Plus there’s more of an element of surprise in store for people when they don’t get every insight into your plans. We should earn each others respect and inspire each other, not get off with each other haha. Plus, who’d want to get off with me? The beard’s a barrier for a start…
BBB: If Brighton is not the source of inspiration, where does you passion to seek new music come from, in a recent interview with Jimmy Edgar he sited fashion, what would you put it down to?
Donga: I cant tell you really. It’s in my family genes – my father was a DJ. I spent nights in the front room with him selecting for me and watching his passion for the music was incredibly affecting. It’s what I’m naturally compelled to do.
Btw even though I am incredibly scruffy I do love style and fashion – from Italian Mod tailoring across to a well designed baseball cap. Creativity comes through just as strongly in visual arts and design, architecture etc etc.
BBB: Since 2009 the Well Rounded sound has refused to be type casted, with releases tipping their hats to bass, house, techno, UK Garage and even a little r&b. However despite the diversity it feels like there is an underpinning thread that ties the releases together, what would you say that is?
Donga: Not being too commercial, not being too experimental? It’s not easy for me to get a perspective on this. I know certain things emerge across separate releases, like at the moment we seem to have stumbled into the Juke / Jungle thing with Wheez-ie, Distal & Rashad on Individuals. This of course was not a conscious plan or strategy.
RnB will be making a reappearance fairly soon I’m pleased to say. What’s not to like about modern sexy female vocals?? However, this time round we’re putting them in a different context. Look out for Cash Antics Vol 3 on Well Rounded in a month or two.
BBB: Having read a few things its clear that music has been a life long passion of yours, of which owning your own critically admired label must be the pinnacle of achievement. Where does Donga & Well Rounded go from here?
Donga: I just want to DJ as much as possible and I hope to maintain the label at it’s current level at the very least. We are releasing the vinyl we want with no compromise – I hope to keep that going and perhaps strengthen our position further if possible.
BBB: WR is part of a particularly vibrant and diverse underground electronic scene, who out of the current crop of producers has caught your attention, and what is it about them that pulls your strings?
Donga: Hodge, Leon Vynehall, Spatial, The House Reverends, and Archie Pelago immediately spring to mind, however there are literally loads I could mention, so apologies to anyone watching if I missed you.
BBB: Finally if you had carte blanche and could sign 3 artists from any era (past or present) to Well Rounded, who would it be?
Donga: Pharaoh Sanders. Actually, no – my friends. I owe most things to my family and friends who inspire and nurture me.
Thanks for talking to us, see you at The Great Escape.
Jonny Cassell (BBB)