Ninja Tune at 25 @ London Electronic Arts Festival, 06.03.15
Just when I thought attending the London Electronic Arts Festival was a peak in and of itself, reporting on it turned out to be an even bigger honor. First 808 State shared my post about their concert on Facebook, then LEAF’s page shared it and then – dun, dun, dun – the amazing, humble human being that is music legend Nile Rodgers left a lovely comment on my post about the things I learned from his talk.
So in the past couple of days I’ve had absolutely no reason to feel bad about the level of my geekness and the fact that I don’t really have a life outside of this.
And hey – will you look at that! – I’ve got plenty more notes from LEAF events to share with you. I’ve even got my mind on learning shorthand at some point in the near future. Then you’ll see!
LEAF’s Friday day of conversations, interviews, talks, master classes and what-have-you also hosted a ‘Ninja Tune at 25’ panel moderated by Alex Hoffman, Head of Music at VICE. The panel included label co-founder and one half of Coldcut Matt Black, label boss Peter Quick and Ninja artists Toddla T and Andreya Triana.
Amidst the conversation, we were treated to a musical collage of tracks released by Ninja Tune and its hip hop offspring Big Dada. Of course, Raya ‘Notebook’ Raycheva wrote them down in order of appearance so that she could share the experience with you.
I think my favourite quote from the hour-long chat was Matt Black’s slightly gross but very eloquent major label modus operandi metaphor.
‘Major label music business is like going into a sausage machine,’ Black said. An artist goes in, soon enough someone presses a lever and out they come in mincemeat.
Contrary to that method, Andreya Triana told us that Ninja Tune feels like a partnership and lets its artists – shock and horror! – do their thing and create their music.
And the sausage machine wouldn’t even be possible at the label since, according to Black, ‘Ninja Tune attracts oddballs.’
‘Everyone on Ninja Tune has a character that can’t be reduced to a formula,’ he said, but admitted that one thing most NT artists tend to have in common is a background of being big hip hop fans.
‘Everyone on Ninja Tune has a character that can’t be reduced to a formula.’
An interesting question was asked by a professor at the London School of Economics inquiring about the label’s ability to – despite its success and devoted admirers (Me! Me! Me!) – sustain its independence and relatively small size. After the joke answer – ‘We haven’t released enough hits!’ – came the strategic one from Matt Black.
It’s the label’s philosophy to grow organically. According to Black, they never wanted Ninja Tune to be one of those ventures who achieve some success, run to the bank to take out the loan needed to expand immediately, and, in the end, grow up too much too fast before totally losing it. By not doing that, Ninja Tune has avoided creating a gap of communication between levels of management and artists and has, as a result, created the feeling of partnership Andreya mentioned earlier.
My own personal conscious Ninja Tune history starts with Bonobo’s ‘Flutter’. I say ‘conscious history’ because once I started putting the pieces together, I realized that Ninja Tune had been in my general orbit since before that. Seeing as I was born in the year the label was created, I can’t pretend I’ve been a fan since its conception, you know. But falling in love with Bonobo was when the words ‘Ninja Tune’ really engraved themselves in my mind and the rest has been a sea of admiration and dedicated following.
I remember Nevy and I went to a Ninja Tune 20th Anniversary party back in the homeland (Bulgaria), which had DJ Vadim, Deadulus and Tokimonsta on the line-up. The party was in February 2011 – a month after we decided to team up and start blogging about our favourite music of the moment. And becoming friends in the first place was, of course, highly influenced by our musical passions, Ninja Tune being one of them.
So thank you, Ninja Tune! You’ve been and continue to be a huge part of our lives and for that we salute you – here’s to another 25! Cheers!
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