After a break with our MNMT Label Showcase series, we are thrilled to share with you something special, namely a mix by one of the most innovative electronic music labels in recent times; Nous’klaer. Nous’klaer, founded by Sjoerd Oberman is a Rotterdam-based label that is known for it’s boundary-pushing vision on music. Enjoy the mix consisting solely of unreleased music on the label that can be expected to come out this year, along with a chat we had with their label founder.
1. Hi Sjoerd, thank you for preparing a Nous’klaer label mix for us, as well as taking some time for a chat about the label. How are you?
Very well, thank you for having me.
2. Can you tell us what led up to your decision to start a label? Was there something that inspired you to create a label?
There are a couple of moments that led to the decision. Around 2010 there were quite some parties in Rotterdam where friends would play live, or play their own tracks in DJ sets. I remember being amazed by the amount of unknown talent at those parties. Some guys released on digital only labels, others never released at all.
In 2011 I threw a party together with friends on the beach in Scheveningen. We booked John Talabot, and went to Clone with him the next day. We talked a lot about music. I really admire how he built his label and career. That summer I also started working at Clone, which gave a good insight what happens behind the scene. This all combined made me want to start a label.
Another inspiration is my older brother Chris who at that time already lived from making music and playing. He gave me his turntables back in 2008, which is why started playing too. He mastered all our early releases and taught me how to mix and master tracks myself. There are so many myths about audio engineering that it can be really daunting at first. Learning about this from him early on was super useful.
3. The label was created in 2013, how do you feel about the development of the label in the past 7 years, and where do you see it heading in the coming years?
When I started there was no plan. Just one record I was sure to release. The following few years were also really slow, with only a hand full of releases. The second release was by my younger brother Oceanic. I tried to ask other producers I didn’t know personally for tracks but that never really worked out. I also found it more rewarding to work with close friends. There is something special about releasing someone’s first record and work closely together to make everything grow. It feels like the real start of the label was only a few years ago. Around 2017 there began to be some continuity in our output. Last year we released 13 records. I hope we can keep on doing about 8-10 each year. I don’t have a lot of fixed plans for the future, I’ll see where it goes.
4. Can you share a bit about the concept of the label and how does the artwork tie into this? And is there a story behind the label name?
So one night in 2013 Mattheis and I met to discuss the label plan. Everything was ready, except the name. We talked for hours and still had nothing. It was kind of frustrating so at one moment Mattheis said ‘Nous’klaer hè.’ Which is Dutch dialect from the area we both originally come from. It means something like ‘now it’s ready’ or ‘let’s go’. Right away we said this is it, this is the name. It summed up our idea for the label perfectly.
Over the years a lot of friends helped me out with the artwork. We never really had one clear direction. Only that it had to be colourful, that never changed. The black and white trend at the time was a bit tiring I thought.
5. The releases on Nous’klaer are for the most part by Dutch artists, such as Upsammy, Mattheis, Konduku. How did you meet them?
Back in 2008 friends from friends were throwing a party in a now defunct club in Rotterdam. On the line-up was Mattheis who did a one hour live set. It completely blew me away, his sound was unlike anything I had ever heard before. In the years after that we became close friends. We still live a couple of streets away and see each other every week.
Upsammy is probably the only artist I met through Soundcloud, early 2017. She had a nice mix online plus a couple of tracks, one of them was Zona. I sent her a message to ask for more demos and if she potentially would be interested in releasing something on Nous’klaer. She reacted super enthusiastic, we Skyped a couple of times and decided to work together. I can really recommend beginning artists to put a few tracks public on Soundcloud. That sounds super obvious, but a lot of people I know who make music keep their tracks to themselves to wait until they’re 100% happy with them. But no artist is ever completely happy with their tracks, so…
Konduku I met a little over two years ago. He is a good friend of Tammo aka Melatonin Man. Earlier that year I released an EP from Melatonin Man. Tammo also had this track called ‘Swimming’ that I badly wanted to release. One night after a party with both of them Tammo said “Ok you can release it, but then you have to release ten records by my friend Konduku.” So I jokingly said yes. A couple of weeks later Konduku send me 15 tracks and within a few weeks we decided on releasing his debut LP Kiran. Between then and now we released another two 12 inches and a second album. So I guess it’s possible I’ll really release ten Konduku records, haha. In 2020 we’ll do at least one or two more.
6. What is the label’s relationship with De School, as I’ve noticed there are quite a few artists that released on your label that play at the club quite regularly (e.g upsammy, Oceanic, Konduku).
I’m super thankful for every club that books our artists regularly. The Netherlands is pretty small so if you go out for a couple of years you’ll meet everyone working in the scene. As label we have good relationships with organisations like BAR, Breakfast Club, Dekmantel, Draaimolen and Drift too. Who book our artists on a regular basis and also host us as a label. Without that support from those organisations we wouldn’t exist anymore.
6. There have been a handful of Nous’klaer label showcase events, could you reflect on them for us, and share your plans for future events?
Yes! 2019 felt like the year our showcases took off. Draaimolen invited us to curate an amazing day festival on a beach next to a lake near Tilburg. We did a couple showcases at BAR, which was our favourite club in Rotterdam but is now closed sadly. A nice night in Paris at La Machine, a boat party with Drift, and Amsterdam Dance Event showcases with Dogma and Breakfast Club, among others. Another highlight for me was our ambient showcase at Dekmantel Festival.
In 2020 we’ll throw another day festival with Draaimolen in May, we’ll play at Dekmantel Selectors and throw various label showcases locally. Hopefully some more international showcases will follow as well, as it’s super fun to travel and play abroad with the crew.
7. Could you name some particular highlights/milestones regarding the label for you since 2013?
Most of all I’m happy that the group is still together, and eager to release on Nous’klaer. I like it that we grow slowly, and have one or two new artists each year.
8. Many labels have been expanding in some way through sub-labels, also to release different styles of music. Would you consider ever starting a sub-label, and if so what kind of style of music would you like to release?
We have sublabels, kind of. End of 2018 we began a series named Oemoemenoe. Which means ‘where do we go now’, in the same dialect as the label name. The idea was to release all kinds of genres for home listening in long player format. On this series we released an ambient LP by Mattheis, upsammy’s Wild Chamber, and a Dutch pop album by Meetsysteem.
Another one is the K-series. Which is a 5 piece subseries solely for Konduku. He is super productive and practically all of it is worth releasing in my opinion. Besides producing music he is also a great photographer. The idea of this series was to combine both worlds and curate a series of records with his photography on the covers. We’ll sell a limited amount of giclée prints of those photos later this year too.
9. Can you tell us a bit about the mix you have prepared for us?
It’s a selection of unreleased tracks from our artists and friends, mixed last sunday night at home. The start is a bit slow with some ambient droney tracks in contrasting rhythms, then it evolves into a slightly more ravey vibe until it flows back to the sound of the beginning. Everything in the mix should come out this year.
10. Finally, any news to share with us, regarding upcoming releases on Nous’klaer perhaps?
We have three records coming up in the first two months of the year – by Mattheis, Arif and Pugilist. Then in March the sequel of Paerels, which will be a 3×12” with 12 tracks like the first one. After that two soundtracks made by upsammy and Tammo, in collaboration with revivethis.org.
There’s always a lot more almost ready. Two things I’m really looking forward to are albums by Amandra x Mattheis and Koraal. We’re finalising those now, they should come out before summer.