Levon Vincent - Novel Approaches

Photo Sophia Drevenstam

Photo Sophia Drevenstam

Ahead of his show in Leeds on February 25th at back to basics I caught up with Levon Vincent to have a chat. 

RL
I’m not going to ask the usual questions you get asked as you can find them in some good pieces written and filmed for Resident Advisor. But I do want to just recap for people who may not know. Basically you do everything yourself. From the initial idea to the writing to the release, it is all Levon Vincent. No remixes, no modern marketing tactics and, if you’ll excuse the pun, a real novel way of releasing records.  From giving away your debut album as a free WeTransfer link to hand crafted self released vinyl records, there is always thought and consideration in your approach. 

LV
Yes, thats correct - I am very hands-on with every production aspect of making and releasing dance music.

I do everything right down to the label artwork these days.

I grew up collecting records, and I was also inspired by my parents record collections. I always try to take care of the collectors, and the people who supported me at first. So I try to make things special, I try to do something collectable with each release. I always do separate editions - never have done a repress. Or maybe I'll include some limited artwork in a release… Things like that.

How can I make money in my lifetime without screwing people over?

RL
So my first question relates to inspiring new minds. The most fascinating thing for me was your offer in late 2013 to take on a new producer (or band) to come to Berlin and get a 90 day musical bootcamp with yourself.  The demo that stood out and you selected was from Irish duo, Terriers. What do you feel is the best advice to give young musicians and producers entering the world of house and techno music?

LV
I didn't actually spend any time with the Terriers in the studio, I certainly had no time to spare then… it was a very busy period of my own life… Nah, what I did was offer to pay for an artists' residence. I paid for people to come to Berlin and have a flat to live in and a studio to work in for a period of 3 months - the point was just to offer that little time period - 3 months without the problems of financial stress weighing over you. I would have rather done it for a year - an artist residence should be a year long.. But it wasn’t in the budget. Anyway, in the end, they had some success of their own following that experience, releasing a couple records. I am sure you will see those guys making moves in the business for the coming decade or two. 

RL
Terriers loved the experience and it must have been an incredible introduction for them. Do you think there should or could be more music academies that teach not only the musical side but also how to retain your integrity and find the best avenues for your music?

LV
I would really like to see yearly sponsored residences where available. Where an artist who qualifies can go to work for a year, without worrying for rent or for a studio space to work in and a place where it’s safe to work and be loud.

RL
Do you think online academies such as Dubspot cater for young producers adequately or is one to one hands on coaching more effective ? 

LV
Youtube is great. I am amazed what can be learned from youtube about production and composition. 

RL
Were you happy with the experiment of releasing your self titled album for free digitally?  It certainly didn’t diminish from the vinyl release but does it add up for a musician to give music away for free? 

LV
I was happy with how the LP turned out. But I’m off that program now. I’m not really engaged with any person at this time. I just keep focused and try to really savour each gig these days. 

RL
I recently read, “How Music Got Free” by Stephen Witt.  A fellow New Yorker. Did you read it ?  Pretty interesting story looking at the organisations that pirated music directly from the pressing plants and made them available online to their chat room groups known as ‘The Scene’ at the time. It focuses on the crew Rabid Neurosis (RNS) and the origins of how they made music free to huge amounts of people.  Do you remember them ? 

LV
I have not heard about that book but I checked it out, it looks interesting. I can tell you I never participated in MP3 era activities, I knew immediately - that MP3s were no format for me. Although I did love Soulseek when people were participating in that, and sometimes I give away MP3s myself. I remember record pools. Back when I was younger a lot of DJs belonged to record pools, and received new records in the post ahead of release. That was a real status thing back then.

RL
I was so interested in the book I actually got in touch with Stephen and interviewed him. I asked him straight up if he believed music should be free and his one word answer was, ‘Yes’.  Is it really quite that simple ? 

LV
MP3s sound terrible in my opinion. I just worry about making a nice record which plays back properly with no tuning errors, no skipping etc. A record is something you can ask money for. I like that transaction - it’s direct and honest. I hope I get to continue making music and releasing it in that format.  I enjoy every aspect of making and producing records. I mean, I will say I don't believe that's the right format for clubs any longer, a nice moving coil cartridge can get you much better sound quality for playback through a CDJ. But that just means one extra step of digitizing to keep your record collection in mint condition.
 

Levon live in Belfast. Photo Niall Murphy

Levon live in Belfast. Photo Niall Murphy


RL
Listen Levon, I could keep asking question all night but I know you’re busy so I’m just going to tie it up by asking specifically about your times in Leeds. We have played together at back to basics over the years but it’s been a while. Basics was 25 years last birthday, you are also a great believer in longevity.  How do you feel right now playing music in a club, are you as excited as ever or are there new avenues to explore that you find more interesting?

LV
Actually I have been enjoying DJing more lately that I ever have. For me, I think I wanted off the merry-go-round a little bit. The music business was kicking my ass. It feels good now to be on the other side of all that, just back to my roots, really focusing on my music and exploring my love of DJing. I love every minute of this career and have enjoyed it endlessly. I hope I get another 20 years!

Levon plays back to basics on Feb 25th 2017
Tickets