Noah Pred didn’t just run his own label. He has run a label that has traced a lot of the finest music of the past years, making its way from Toronto to Berlin. And he did it while juggling his own career as a techno producers’ producer, a DJ’s DJ. At 100 releases, he’s got plenty to say about what that musical journey has meant – and not just the easy bits. I pressed Noah to reflect on what he really thinks of the flow of the music industry’s power and resources to the top, and the conflicts that can happen in trying to keep a label like this going.
And, like any meeting with Noah, there’s plenty of great music to discover along the way – stuff you know, stuff you don’t. Certainly, I’d never be afraid of not being able to name-drop every release; Noah has a way of discovering superb music you wish you had known earlier. So let’s go along for that trip.
If you missed the last seven years, don’t worry. We have not only a chat with Noah, but some music to hear.
There’s a 50-track mix to mark the latest mixes, free to hear. (Track listing below, at bottom.)
And 130+ podcasts to hear, on Mixcloud, which I suppose should cover your next seven years.
No? How about the entire catalog on YouTube in celebration of 100 releases:
“Ah,” you say. “But, I can also read.” Good! Let’s! The music to hear, the life of a label, the effect of global capitalism on our souls – I’d say we’ve got our bases covered.
CDM: 100 releases – there’s a lot here. Walk us through it; where should people start if they’re new to the catalog?
It’s difficult to single out specific records when we’ve done this many. I’d like to think there’s a lot of entry points to the catalog. People into more classic techno sounds might discover the label by way of artists like Rennie Foster, Shane Berry or Arthur Oskan, whereas people on more of a deep house vibe might get there through Murr, Canson, or Derek Marin. Fans of rougher upfront sounds could find a path through Deepchild, Alland Byallo or Tonepushers, while those into dubbier stuff could get there through material by Meesha, Evan Marc or Stare5 (a.k.a. Bryan Zentz). Each release is a thread in the label’s fabric.
In particular, I really appreciate some of the artist finds over the years – thinking of cats like Dave Aju and, well, you. Who are some of the artists you’d like people to get to know?
We’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing talent, but I would probably steer people toward some of the lesser-known acts. Auk is a new duo from western Canada with loads of potential. Toronto’s Brian Johnson has a quite unique sound worth checking out. A guy who went by the name Platypus did a couple really special records for us, and two of my favorite releases from the catalog are from a short-lived Canadian duo who went by the name Co-Op.
It’s amazing, too, looking down the artist list, at the network of people who are here and their life beyond Thoughtless. Brendon Moeller, Hrdvsion, Johanna Knutsson, Kate Simko, Lando, Maceo Plex, Mike Shannon, Rick Bull, Qzen, Stewart Walker, Tim Xavier, XI, just pulling down the list. I’m not name dropping; these trigger memories, musical and social, people I keep bumping into… what is the role of community in that way? Does it mean something different to you that you have had them involved in the label?
I’ve always thought of it as a family, and yeah, as an extended community as well I guess. With all the artists and remixers we’ve been able to work with over the years, the label has brought a lot of people together. I knew some people on the label for years before ever working on a release with them, others I met through the label and then became good friends – there’s a wide range of relationships there.
Looking back, that’s one of my favorite aspects of the label: how many good and talented people have connected through it; lots of them have even gone on to work together in other capacities. And especially with all the Thoughtless events – where there’s always a family vibe – we’ve had some great times over the years.
Label head and producer – this is a lot to juggle. It’s pretty obvious how they conflict, but how has it influenced your work?
As a DJ, there’s few moments more exciting than dropping a new track from the label before anyone else has heard it or has it – it’s a thrill I’ve always looked forward to. But as a producer, it’s been tricky. Running a label, you have to hone your critical skills and maintain your version of quality control at all times. Applying the same critical approach to my own music has maybe improved my production, but it’s also made me second guess myself out of more and more decisions. I’d like to be able to move past that a bit and get back to a more natural, less mediated relationship with my own material.
We’ve talked a lot about the struggles independent music faces these days. Part of the dance music scene really is becoming an industry the likes of which the planet has never seen before. So let’s talk the dark side: what are the obstacles independent labels face now? Are there bright spots? Are there things that need to change for imprints like yours, artists like these to thrive?
Sure, there’s bright spots – plenty of talent being exposed that may never have seen the light of day in previous incarnations of the music industry; at the same time, there’s plenty of bright talent losing inspiration from the struggle to get noticed above the ever-growing fray of mediocrity.
In my view, most of the problems in the music industry are more deeply entrenched than people tend to realize. The music industry has always been tied up in a recursive relationship with technology, most noticeably during the past couple decades, and everyone’s been more or less trying to adapt in real-time. Those with knowledge or prescience of upcoming technological advances are best equipped to take advantage of emerging market forces.
Having said all that, I don’t see any of the fundamental problems in the music industry being solved until people are ready to collectively step back and ask what the purpose of all this competing infrastructure really is: what are we ultimately trying to achieve? Who does this infrastructure really serve? What problems are we trying to solve, in terms of cultural development, music delivery, and adequate compensation? Are the models currently in place serving those aims, or do we need to retool everything from the ground up?
The system now in place seems to remain fairly slanted towards the consolidation of capital, and many of the problems within the music industry tend to spring from assumptions built into the overall economic system – as above, so below. I think it’s crucial not to view or discuss the music industry in isolation, as though it exists in some kind of vacuum. Large-scale cultural changes may be necessary before we have a system in place that truly works for artists and fans.
I know the engineers building the services we rely on read CDM. What are the best tools right now in terms of getting music out there — not just producing, but on the distribution side? Where is there a place for new tools?
Well, I probably don’t need to talk about music production tools here – you’ve already got those bases covered and then some. But if you’re asking about label management tools, I’ve seen some promising platforms in development that’ll go a long way to helping those with big workloads get a lot of the administrative details handled more efficiently so they can focus on the creative, big-picture stuff.
However – much like the democratization of studio and distribution technology – those very tools pose a classic double-edged sword scenario: while they’re designed to help overworked labels manage their catalog, they also stand to make it even easier for peddlers of mediocrity to further dilute an already crowded marketplace with subpar output.
Keep in mind this notion that simply because you wrote and recorded a song it should automatically be made available to everyone everywhere is a relatively new concept, and an arguably narcissistic one at that. On the other hand, the idea of quality control is dangerously subjective; everyone has their own version of quality.
Instead, I would urge prospective (and existing) label owners to simply ask themselves whether their music is essential for mass dissemination – and if not, would their time, energy and resources be better spent in further development, or maybe even redirected to other fields? It’s a question I’ve begun to grapple with, and try to ask myself every day.
Track listing for that mix at top:
Seven years deep, Thoughtless marks our milestone 100th release with the second installation in our ERA mix-CD series. Featuring 49 tracks each handpicked from our previous 49 releases, one track per release – along with an exclusive new track, We Bug, from label boss Noah Pred to make fifty tracks total – the compilation is mixed by Pred himself. Weaving an expansive array of output through a dynamic narrative that highlights a number of the label’s recent accomplishments, ERA TWO serves to both expose and reinforce the label’s wide-ranging yet coherent aesthetic…
01 Ruoho Ruotsi – Waiting For Troll [TLM053]
02 Arthur Oskan – Use No Good [TLM052]
03 Daniel Ray – Warm Black [TLM078]
04 Co-Op – To Life V1 [TLM064]
05 Ethan Borshansky – Zag [TLM062]
06 Brian Johnson – All Of The Time (Tom Clark Remix) [TLM065]
07 Tomas Jirku – Solaris 2002 (Kenneth Scott Remix) [TLM089]
08 Stone Owl – Planet X [TLM070]
09 Android Cartel – Terminal (Billy Dalessandro Remix) [TLM082]
10 Arthur Oskan – Exit Strategy (Marc Houle Remix) [TLM071]
11 Deepchild – I Woke And You Were Smiling (Falko Brocksieper Remix) [TLM075]
12 Noah Pred – Left Unsaid [TLM077]
13 Derek Marin – We’ve Been Expecting You (Hreno’s Deep Pockets Dub) [TLM066]
14 Platypus – The Streets Have A Voice (Joachim Spieth Remix) [TLM072]
15 Stone Owl – CBD [TLM094]
16 Deepchild – The Suffering Ones (Tim Xavier Remix) [TLM055]
17 Metalogic – Dark Shines [TLM056]
18 Jason Short – Zone Of Middle Dimensions [TLM073]
19 Rennie Foster – Perimeter Abstract (John Norman Main Remix) [TLM099]
20 Lock Smith – Settle Down Na (Dave Aju Remix) [TLM098]
21 Deepchild – Riyadh (Deadbeat Remix) [TLM068]
22 Deepchild – The Suffering Ones (Gingy & Bordello Remix) [TLM057]
23 Santini & Tellez – Lost Thoughts [TLM059]
24 Danielle Nicole – True Romance (Roberto Remix) [TLM090]
25 Nigel Richards – Deeeeep [TLM058]
26 Noah Pred – Circles & Circles feat. Rosina (Joel Mull Hypno Dub) [TLM085]
27 Shane Berry – Akaforme [TLM074]
28 Deepchild – Safe Passage [TLM087]
29 Rennie Foster – Legionnaire (Exercise One Remix) [TLM081]
30 Simon Beeston & Andi Numan – Freaks Back [TLM096]
31 Arthur Oskan – Back In Black [TLM092]
32 Murr – Dive Into The Deepest feat. Rosina (Maceo Plex Remix) [TLM088]
33 Derek Marin – Being Sleazy (Alexi Delano Remix) [TLM084]
34 Alland Byallo – Blunderlust [TLM079]
35 Dave Vega – In A Chord With Something [TLM051]
36 Bryan Zentz – The Sprawl [TLM060]
37 Noah Pred – Monotasking (Brendon Moeller Digital Resketch) [TLM063]
38 Daniel Ray – Night Watchman (Pheek Remix) [TLM061]
39 Deepchild – Neukölln Burning [TLM069]
40 Signal Deluxe – Zero Seven (Reverse Commuter Remix) [TLM091]
41 Phantom Ambulance – Medicine (Dactilar Remix) [TLM054]
42 Brian Johnson – Time Will Tell [TLM080]
43 Deepchild – Slave Driver (Mihai Popoviciu Remix) [TLM097]
44 Canson – Don’t Stop [TLM076]
45 Noah Pred – We Bug [TLM100]
46 Noah Pred – Your Signal feat. Marc Deon (Steven Tang Remix) [TLM093]
47 Auk – Afraid To Fly [TLM095]
48 Noah Pred – Third Culture [TLM086]
49 Platypus – Soft Spoken Trees [TLM067]
50 Murr – Sacred Ground feat. Rosina [TLM083]
And more reading – Noah on his favorite 90s records:
FLASHBACKS 101 | REMEMBERING MUSIC THAT WAS ACTUALLY GOOD WITH NOAH PRED [chasethecompass]