'Collective' is a word frequently heard in the worlds of hip hop and electronic music, but why is it so significant? What does a sense of fellowship do for an artist's creativity? We spoke with SertOne, head honcho at Fly High Society, to get his opinion
"It's definitely my experience of being Irish, having other people around and having strength in numbers."
When Bosco McAlinden set sail from Northern Ireland to England as a teenager he was leaving behind a very different musical landscape to what exists today.
While the underground electronic music scene in Ireland had it’s heroes, its popularity was nowhere near as widespread as it is in 2016.
As SertOne puts it himself, “to me club nights were mostly rock, only once in a blue moon you’d have a DJ or an electronic producer over. Now most teenagers can go and see a DJ perform nearly every day of the week.”
He does admit though that it was probably the isolation of moving to the countryside that kept him out of the loop.
“There was loads going on in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast, but at the time it seemed like a better idea to go to England and try it out. You look at Belfast now though and there’s club nights, the Feel My Bicep boys, labels like Rudimentary Records, AVA, there’s loads going on.”
There was an up side to his country living and isolation from what’s “in”.
“I had a good chat on a podcast with the Rusangano Family about that recently. We were saying it’s probably a good thing. It means you’re cut off and you’re not necessarily influenced by anything else.
“You become single-minded, which obviously isn’t always good, but in this situation it means you develop your own signature sound. Whereas I feel some producers could be trying to capitalise on the ‘sound of the moment’.”
At the tender age of 18 he went to Liverpool with a wallet full of student loan money and the intentions to press as many records as possible. But reality soon seeped in.
However, Sert got acquainted with talented artists during this time, which showed how sharp his ear was.
“In those early days I was talking to people like Jonwayne, who later went on to release on Stones Throw, as well as Samiyam. But at the time I missed the opportunity to put their music out.
“But the labels that the people I was interested in went on to release on were All City, Stones Throw, Brainfeeder, so I knew from that age I had a good ear for talent.”
This skill in talent scouting further manifested itself when Sert put Fly High member Iglooghost in touch with Brainfeeder.
“We’re smart enough to know that we’re not the biggest label in the world. Iglooghost is a good example of that. When we heard ‘Chinese Nü Yr‘ we knew it was bigger than us.”
"Having that community means if someone does a release we automatically have a bunch of artists who want to help out, producers who want to do remixes, a bunch of people who would be happy to be support acts."
Fly High Society as a label was kick started by a self released EP by Sert called ‘Mouthful‘. However it was the Fly High club nights in Liverpool with his long time collaborator and friend Bolts that formed what it is today.
“Then myself and Bolts would get bookings in Ireland and any time we played they’d have our names and Fly High in brackets beside it, so after a while we thought well I suppose we are ‘Fly High Society’.”
While Sert has been on Merseyside for nearly nine years now, the idea of Irish community never left his subconscious.
Liverpool and Ireland are also closely intertwined. It was recorded in 1851 that more than 83,000 Irish-born people were living in the city, which accounted for 22 per cent of the population. These people are now the ancestors of current Liverpudlians, and along with immigrants like Sert, it means Scousers and Paddys draw many similarities.
“The idea of community just followed me throughout my entire life. It’s always been something I’ve been really passionate about, so when it came to running a label I wanted to run it with that ethos in mind.
“It’s definitely my experience of being Irish, having other people around and having strength in numbers.”
While it’s a distinctly international collective, there are also many directly Irish influences on Fly High.
“From touring on our collaboration Almighty Sion especially myself and Bolts met a lot of Irish artists.
“Our second release was actually Voids, who are a two-piece from Galway. Since then we went on to work with more Irish artists like Monto, and now Rusangano Family and myself have an EP coming out.”
"Myself and Bolts had lived and toured with each other for around two years so we're like brothers. But I feel really close with everyone who's involved"
“Myself and Bolts had lived and toured with each other for around two years so we’re like brothers. But I feel really close with everyone who’s involved, and even though there are some people in the collective that I’ve met only once or twice, they’re people that I instantly clicked with.”
But what’s the fundamental benefit of a collective?
“Having that community means if someone does a release we automatically have a bunch of artists who want to help out, producers who want to do remixes, a bunch of people who would be happy to be support acts. It just makes things a lot easier.”
The next level
Besides managing the label and the different members of the collective, Sert and Fly High are increasingly busy with the radio shows.
“The label stuff takes up a lot of time, but the radio show has become a big part. When we first started it was one monthly two-hour show, and in a couple of week’s time we’ll be up to ten shows a month.”
That growth is all within a year, so I was curious to see if the radio aspect will become a big aspect of the collective.
“I’d love to have a proper broadcasting station, something akin to NTS or Radar, but it’s not pressing right now.”