Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle have been instrumental in Glasgow’s electronic music scene since the late 80s.
The two lads formed Slam in 1988, co-founded Soma Records in 1991 and now run one of the most respected broadcasts in Britain. We caught up with them to mark Soma hitting a milestone.
Congratulations on Soma Records turning 25 this year, very few labels can boast such an impressive number of years at the forefront of techno. After all this time how have you guys managed to keep the label’s releases at such a high and consistent level?
Thanks very much. We never thought when we started we would still be doing it 25 years later. Firstly Soma is a labour of love we release music that we truly love and we try not to make any compromises. Whether it’s deep electronica like Deepchord or more dance floor orientated techno it has to be something that strikes a chord with us.
DJing and collecting music in general helps us keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s working in clubs and what’s working for our personal tastes.
There is so much out there now its hard to try and keep good quality up but we are lucky that we have some great artists on Soma like Gemini Voice Archive, Lewis Fautzi, and Charles Fenckler who have all turned out to be great artists in their own right.
And as producers, how have you continued to find inspiration to make the calibre of music you make after all this time?
Again DJing inspires us a lot but I think our experience in producing has helped us bring the ideas we have into fruition. Fully grasping new technology has made some things easier and faster these days. We tend to make three ok tunes to every good one. We try not to release the ok ones, haha!
Also we have actually really limited ourselves in terms of software and hardware recently because it’s better to understand a few key units really well rather than have a small grasp of lots. Limitation is a good thing!
Having been in the industry for as long as you have, how have you found the trends and styles in techno to have changed over the years?
I actually think things really haven’t changed that much in techno. I suppose what’s changed is what people call ‘Techno’. Now everything seems to be called Techno and its maybe more Tech House or Progressive. But there are still tunes from back in the 90s that sound amazing now only difference is people play them a little slower now.
Was there a period in time that stuck out for you the most that you felt the best techno was being made?
Yeah right now is an amazing time of course.There is an abundance of great music and producers out there at the moment. But as I said earlier the early to mid 90’s was a great time, from UR to Robert Hood, Claude Young, Jeff Mills, Plastikman, and Surgeon, and all the Downwards stuff still sounds fresh now.
The past three years have seen you develop Slam Radio. How do you find the process of selecting the right guest DJs to come on to the show and to keep the shows massive following?
These days people tend to get in touch with us, which is cool. Originally we started the podcast to show a side of the genre we thought was kind of being overlooked by other podcasts, so the selection process begins with artists that turn us on musically. It doesn’t matter if they’re not that well known.
What matters is that they have something to say musically. We haven’t repeated any of the guests yet apart from ourselves of course, which shows you how much great music there is out there.
Why do you think radio culture, although it has risen and fallen over the years, has never truly died?
I think it’s because people like to be turned on to music they maybe haven’t discovered themselves.
BBC6 Music is a testament to that! Although the choices maybe a little more esoteric it shows that people are willing to seek out new and interesting things to listen to. I particularly like the concept of a podcast because it is free from commercial constraints, which can sometimes dictate what you are fed musically.
As well as this, you’ve had your own Slam Tent at T In The Park for the past 18 years. How do you ensure that each year you keep the line up of such a high and relevant level?
The bar was set high from day one. People like Hawtin, Mills, Garnier and even Daft Punk played from the start. So it’s hard to maintain that level every year but we somehow manage it. We start with our favourite artists of that year see who is available and take it from there really.
We try to book a fine balanced line up of both relevant, established names and new acts. As soon as one year finishes we’re already thinking about the next. We now have another festival in May in Glasgow called the Riverside festival which is a fantastic location on the banks of the Clyde River in the grounds of the transport museum which was designed by architect Zaha Hadid. It’s a fantastic backdrop for a festival.
You’ve obviously seen the video of the Slam Tent filling up in 30 seconds at this years T in the Park, how does it make you feel when you see something you’ve curated get such an explosive reaction?
Yeah it’s a great a sight to see! It shows the passion of the Scottish crowd. That mad rush happens most years this is the first year it’s been caught on camera though and it went viral.