Imagine a car displaying the smooth & subtle lines designed by Romanian creative minds, powered by a super efficient German engine… Well, translated into the electronic underground, it’s like having a German record label releasing music from Romanian producers… Wait, that’s not an utopia, it really exists! 7 years ago, Berlin based Subtil Records started to invest time and money into a sound that many considered it would be just a passing hype, like many other waves born in the house & techno underground. Even if it is rooted deeply into Germany’s minimal house, this sound developed into something unique but it needed imprints like Subtil to receiving its worldwide recognition.
Nils Weimann and Martin Glowacz, the team behind Subtil Records, bet on young producers by offering unconditional support. And it paid off right from the start. VRAC, Cosmjn, Iuly B or Mihai Pol are just a few Romanian names featured at Subtil Records, now hitting the 20 releases milestone with Direkt’s EP.
We approached Nils to tell us the story behind the record label, the invisible connection between Berlin and Bucharest and about how to run an underground imprint in 2020. Enjoy!
Do you remember how Subtil Records was born in the first place?
Subtil was established in late 2013 by Nils Weimann and Martin Glowacz. The decision to lead a record label is an extension of a longstanding friendship.. Driven by the passion for electronic music, the lack of vinyl releases as a result of the trend for Traktor DJing has grown the desire to take some action.
Is there a special sound you’re searching for in order to be released on Subtil? What are the key elements you’re searching for in a track?
Since the beginning, we navigate ourselves in two simple aspects: the music should contain something particularly special. Hard to describe it, however we believe that “danceable” can capture it very well. On the other hand, a kind of recognition value might exist. Link up music with memories, whether good or bad, enhanced the half-life of a piece of music.
The vast majority of Subtil releases are signed by Romanian producers. What’s so special about Romania’s house & techno underground?
A few years ago, Romanian producers gave a new boost to minimalism and in fact formed a new sub-culture. Those waves have been spread all over the globe, like in Berlin at the turn of the millennium. Currently, you can watch so many skilled artists, countless new music, and a great variety of nightlife and club culture, that you haven’t found everywhere.
What do you think: is this hype about Romania just a passing trend or has it become an influential sound that’s here to stay?
Romanian producers have increased their influence in recent years and I think it will not stop growing even though we live in uncertain times. As a label, we are here to support this growth and forge our partnership, working towards the same goal. We are convinced that they will stay longer.
How do you find new artists to release at Subtil? Through demos? Do you scout for yourself? Do you work only with selected producers?
Let’s say that it’s a mix of everything that you’ve mentioned over your question, however what we clearly don’t base our values on the fame of the artist. The only thing that matters is the music. This encourages new uprising talents to contact us. We won’t narrow it down to selected producers, everyone is welcome.
What’s the story behind the artwork? How did end up working with July Jah?
It was a random meeting at a party in Berlin through mutual friends. We figured out that we are living near each other and started to collab. Julia is a great artist itself. She’s contributing to the success of Subtil. We gave herself artistic freedom from the first release on, we simply trust each other.
How did this whole corona madness affect Subtil Records? Did you have to change your plans for 2020?
We have released three or four records, as every year. If we overlook our label parties, there were no big changes in our plans. Luckily the record sales haven’t went that much down as afraid.
You’re based in Berlin and work with Black Round Twelve as a distributor. Is BRT the best distributor you could work with when it comes to this particular house & techno sound?
Yes, it is! To find the matching distribution partner is probably one of the most important issues. We particularly appreciate the family-like atmosphere and professional work. BRT is not that big player in the scene, but it isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. This gives us room to increase our quality over the time, without pressure.
There’s a lovely side story. Since we teamed up with BRT, the entire manufacturing is made in Berlin. That makes things easier.
How does 2021 look right now music-wise? Tease us with a few details on what will happen at Subtil Records?
Well, our release schedule is set until summer. The plans are on going but not definite yet!
If you were forced to completely change the musical direction at Subtil Records (no more 4/4 music), what genre will you choose? 🙂
A super-rich person offers you 1 million euros for Subtil Records, but you must stay away from electronic music from now on. What would you do?
It depends on the person who makes that offer. An impossible thought to me, I have no clue…
That one EP that perfectly defines the Subtil sound.
That one EP doesn’t exist. Always the latest one (in addition to the past one). In this case, SBTL020 – Direkt – Path of the most resistance which which by the way, got released last week . 😉