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Madloch [Interview]

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The seventh installment of our label manager interview series welcomes Madloch who runs Sound Avenue, 3rd Avenue, Future Avenue and more, with Sound Avenue now laying claim to a twelve year history with some of progressive and organic's biggest artists. We had a chance to catch up with Dominique for an exclusive chat about his vision for the labels, day to day operations, advices, pet peeves and much more. Enjoy.

Hi Dominique, thanks for sitting with us today! What is your current mood, and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hi guys, thanks for the invite to this interview! I usually start the day by listening to an ambient mix! Today it was a great mix by Bålsam for Deep Electronics on Soundcloud.

How has your start to the year been, and what are your plans for the week?

2023 is the busiest year of my life so far! Apart from running my own labels & creating "South America Avenue," I started a new label project with my good friend Patrick (Bynomic) from Another Life Music.

Tell us more about your story. How did you discover electronic music?

I discovered electronic music around 1991 via a local radio show. Every Saturday evening, I was ready with my cassette deck to record this show. After a while, I started making my own mixtapes with my favorite music from this show. I remember creating artwork for each tape with markers & pencils.

The genre I listened to at the time was a real mishmash. From house, dance, disco to techno & even hardcore! I liked everything. I had guilty pleasures such as 2 Unlimited & Snap! but also appreciated stuff from The Prodigy, The KLF, Slam and Plastikman. 

How has growing up and living in Belgium contributed to your passion for electronic music?

This is the same story for each DJ & producer. You are influenced by your immediate surroundings like friends, radio (back in the 90s), and what other DJs played at parties & clubs. So you start filtering out the stuff you like & build your collection from there. 

At which club or event did you experience electronic music for the first time, and what memories have stuck with you from that moment?

My first event was immediately a mass event called "Dance Opera Trip 6" in April 1996. Dance Opera was one of the biggest underground record labels in Belgium. So I thought I would only hear music from their labels, and I remember I was so shocked to hear music in DJ sets from other labels like their big competitor at the time, "Bonzai ." I had no idea the DJs could play tracks from other labels, haha! I also remember the loudness of the music in the event center, how the bass went through my body, a fantastic feeling as a young kid exploring the world of music. It was also the pre-internet era, so there were no cell phones; people were only there to dance & enjoy the music. 

Can you name five tracks that were influential in your musical development?

Cosmic Baby – Loops Of Infinity (My first 12" I bought back in 1993)

Mackenzie feat. Jessy – Without You (Long Trance Mix)

Push – Universal Nation

BT - Remember

Danny Tenaglia - Elements

So, how many labels are you currently running? Can you even keep track? 😊 

Too much for the time I have, hahaha! A good spreadsheet is the key to keeping track of all the releases. It's the best job in the world! 

What led you to start Sound Avenue initially? Was that your first foray into running a record label?

It was never my intention to run my own record label! The idea came when I had to wait over a year before my first track with a former partner would get released. After the frustration of waiting so long, I thought It would be easier to have self-control. So that's how it happened. 

What was it that led to the formation of 3rd Avenue and Crossfade Sounds shortly thereafter?

Because of the unexpected success in the first months & the first year, my inbox was flooded with great demos, which I always had to let go of. Running more labels gave & still gives me the freedom to place demos easier to a label.

In terms of DJs and artists, who would say are the biggest sources of inspiration for your labels?

As a DJ myself, I think I'm my own biggest inspiration. If I would release music in the hope that DJ x or DJ y would play the label's music, it would not be a good intention. I have to like the demo in the first place. Getting support from big names is always a nice bonus after releasing tracks. 

How has running a label 10 years ago changed to what you are doing on a daily basis now?

A lot has changed. When I started, I still had my full-time day job in the family company. Two years ago, I decided to go all in on music. With several labels, it's a challenging job to get my work done each day, but I can say I love doing all this work; for me, it's the best job in the world!

If you had to pinpoint a few tracks that you released which were crucial in the development of Sound Avenue, what would they be and why?

Very tough question, but I'll try!

Mitrinique – Saturday (Eelke Kleijn's Dark Matter Remix) (2012)

This remix from Eelke was responsible for the rapid growth of the label back then. Probably also because a guy like Hernan Cattaneo played this track for over half a year in all his sets which brought so many people to the label.

Anthony & Georgio – Equilibrium (Madloch & Beat Syndrome Remix) (2013)

The original mix was one of my all-time favorite tracks. I knew this track from my first clubbing experience in a Belgian club called "Atmoz," where they played this track each week in '97. A year later, this track was featured on Nick Warren's Global Underground: Brasil. This was before I knew GU existed! Years later, when I started producing, I always had this track in mind to make a bootleg version. When I got in touch with Georgio & heard the rights to this track were free, I decided to re-release this track with an official remix from me & Beat Syndrome. I'm still very proud of this remix now, ten years later! 

Eric Lune – Embers (2019)

The progressive monster by Eric Lune was one of the biggest hits in 2019. Also, once again, thanks to Hernan Cattaneo, who played a big role in supporting this track. It brought a lot of new fans & a new generation of producers to the label.

Ercos Blanka – Kafka (2020)

This track was part of the third "Correlation" compilation. For me, personally one of the most beautiful tracks I've ever released on the label. A nice bonus is that this track got featured in several big Spotify editorial playlists, which led the track to 2.5M streams! This is & will be a timeless track that still sounds great 30 years from now!

Jean Caillou – There

Without a doubt, this track is my favorite track ever released on all my labels. This track has such a great soul, which I can listen to over & over again. For me, it's an absolute masterpiece. 

Your musical taste is quite broad, but it's no secret that some artists and genres tend to sell better than others. Is this ever a factor in what you sign to your labels? 

Not really, to be honest. I have to like the track 100%. Otherwise, I would not sign it. The only thing I try to do is to keep a great balance in the remixes. For example, I could ask a producer in a genre that sells well next to a producer who makes a deeper & more experimental remix that probably will not sell a lot, but that musically would be something completely different but great. I love doing remix EPs like this. Try to find the right balance.

I know you have two new progressive-minded labels in the works, which I'm quite excited about. Can you give people some insight into what those are and when they might be launching?

The first one is "South America Avenue ." This label will exclusively feature artists from South American countries who have played a significant role in my career as a DJ and label owner. Over the past 12 years, I've met some incredible people from these beautiful countries, and I've had the pleasure of releasing music from both up-and-coming talents and superstars like Hernan Cattaneo, Martin Garcia, Mariano Mellino, Nicolas Rada, and many more. My demo inbox is always overflowing with great music from South American producers. Because I'm busy enough already, I have Lucas Gomez from Buenos Aires, Argentina as the label manager. With a full release roster on all Sound Avenue labels, producers from South America can expect to have their music released quickly. So, if you're a South American producer, please send your demos to Lucas via southamerica(at) sound avenue.be. And feel free to communicate in Spanish if you prefer! The first release is planned for May 22.

The next one is "Distant Desire Records ." This label will focus on Progressive Breaks. I've always been a big fan of breaks, broken beats & progressive breaks. This love goes back over 20 years ago when this genre was a hype in the vinyl days. I've never lost my passion for this genre & from time to time, I see some great tracks coming out. So with the new label, we hope to stimulate producers to create more stuff like this. I say 'we' because I'll run this label with Bynomic from Another Life Music. The first EP is a nice two-tracker from industry veteran Christian Monique which will get a release on May 12.

Organic House has become a trendy sound in electronic music these past couple of years, do you think this genre has become a bit over-saturated? And what is your opinion on the current state of the genre? And to add to that, with the emergence of Organic House, has the Progressive genre suffered to some extent?

For sure! A lot of DJs in the prog scene jump on the organic house bandwagon. It's always great to explore other genres. But unfortunately, I see more copycats than original & creative ideas in many productions. Most guys have a simple loop & some chirping birds… over & over again. Damn this is so boring. I had a conversation earlier today about this when some producers were doing a remix. They just add a boring loop, change the tempo, add a few elements from the original exactly like they are, and they think they made a life-changing remix. Give me a break!

The typical prog house has not suffered, progressive house has always been here, and I don't see it going away in the future. But just like in many other genres, I hope there will be more new producers who challenge others by creating innovative new sounds & techniques & not copying each other over & over again.

Are you solely responsible for the A&R on the labels? And if not, who else contributes to what gets signed or is helping with the weekly duties?

Yes, on all Sound Avenue (sub)labels, I'm doing all A&R myself. The only thing is sometimes done is send demos to my production partner & best friend, Subnode, to check stuff in his great studio for feedback on the mix or master.

For the new labels, I'll work together with Lucas & Patrick.

Do you have a special spot to listen to demos? Outside of the studio, I mean, a place where your mind resets a bit, and you have fresh ears in a way.

Not really; I always listen to demos in my home office behind my desk. When I'm outside on the bike or in nature, I don't listen to music. Then I want to clear my mind, or sometimes I listen to an interesting podcast instead.

Let's discuss artwork for a moment; all your labels follow a very recognizable theme which is working very well for you. Should labels be putting more time and thought in their artwork?

Oh yes, I see so many labels with poor artwork where I'm wondering how someone can like it! I'm maybe not the best graphic designer, but I love spending a lot of time creating new templates for my labels or searching for the right background pictures which fit the theme of the labels.

What advice do you have for artists hoping to get signed to any of your three primary labels?

Please surprise me with good outside-the-box productions. Don't copy other artists on the labels. Or if you do & you have a really good track, make sure you spend more hours on finetuning your mix than on the arrangement. So many people can't mix & don't hear they have a bad mix. Instead of spending a lot of money on new plugins, I recommend that everyone take some mixing lessons!

When you finally send your demo to me or another label. Make sure you're 100% satisfied with the mix. And don't send 3 or 4 new versions after I received your track already. This is the biggest frustration for every label owner. If you send your mix, make sure you don't regret it. If a label accepts your mix because they think it's good, then accept this and don't think you'll make a world of difference by putting the volume of your snare -0,1dB less.

Is big DJ play a factor in signing something? From someone like Hernan Cattaneo or Nick Warren, for example.

When I started in 2011, yes, because times were different, but nowadays it's the opposite! I'll tell you why.

Often, producers send their demos directly to Hernan or Nick. They often play these tracks in their radio shows which is, of course, great & a huge compliment. But from the standpoint of a label who will sign that track, it's not that good. The average waiting time from getting a demo to release day is 3 months. So when one of those big guys plays that demo in his show, no one can shazam that track, no one can find information on that track, and no pre-order,. When the track is released, most of the listeners from 3 or 4 months ago will care about your track because already so much new music got played in the shows.

I advise all those producers to wait to send their tracks until they are released, or at least have a pre-order. This way, people who will discover the track will probably do a pre-order or save the track on Spotify or other streaming platforms.

Another nice example is when some of those big DJs play tracks in big shows for a 30k crowd. A lot of times, you'll see Spotify playlists showing up a day later with all tracks played at those shows. I had many tracks on my labels, getting thousands & thousand of plays thanks to this playlist. But only because that music just got released. Imagine you send your unsigned demo; it got played but released three months after the show & didn't get added to those playlists. You missed a lot of plays!

You generally do remixes on most of your releases, so what is your thought process behind remixer selection on a given project, and how many is too many in your opinion?

As I mentioned before, I sometimes try to find a deeper remix next to the more traditional remixes to have some more diversity. Usually, I go for 3 remixes in a release.

What is your biggest pet peeve about receiving music from the labels?

An email with only a link, an mp3 attachment, a demo that already has 500 plays, a 20-second loop as a demo, 100 other labels in the CC of the email, demanding impossible remixers for their tracks…

Looking back over each label's discography, which one of your early releases / tracks still puts a smile on your face when you listen to it now, and why? (Maybe pick one per label)

This is a tough question because there are so many tracks, some of which I already mentioned in an earlier answer here. On Sound Avenue, I would pick the Charles Webster remix for my track Shadow People with Subnode. I've been a big fan of Charles for over 20 years & was so happy when he accepted that remix request. The sound design, the great groove in his remix is so amazing & timeless.

On 3rd Avenue, it's a bit easier. I picked Eric Lune's "Benji," which was actually a "B-side ." This was the first-ever release of Eric Lune & got a huge hit thanks to Hernan. He played it in countless live sets, which still generate a lot of streams to this day. If you listen to the main melody of this track in that amazing break, it still gives me goosebumps. This is what they call feelgood music J

On Crossfade Sounds, I doubt between Terje Seather's "Blinded" with the MUUI Paranoid remix; the sound design in this track is also timeless if you ask me. The other track I still love a lot was the second release which was Omar Fayyad's "The Future ." A nice laidback track with the vocals of Jim Morrisson.

The Figueras Remix of "Memories in Sepia" from Hyunji-A is my pick on Future Avenue. This is pure quality prog house!

Who do you see as future stars in Progressive and Organic House?

 There are so many great new & upcoming producers! The first, that came up in my mind is the father/son duo of "about : river ." Very hard to put their music in a category; that's why I love their music so much. Some other guys who are doing amazing things: Haen, St.Ego, Fabian Balino, Figueras, Invisible Sounds, Dreamteller, Dunadry, Mind Of Us, Leandro Murua, Rocio Portillo, Hobin Rude, Mike Beryn,…

What advice would you have for new or potential label owners out there?

 Have a good long-term plan! I see so many labels failing because they only have 2 or 3 releases planned & then give up because they don't have many sales or streams. In your head, you should have releases sorted out for almost a year, in my opinion. You need to know with whom you want to work together, who your potential remixers would be. Think about marketing, your socials, growing on streaming platforms, Youtube,… If you want to succeed, you'll need to dedicate a lot of time on your label, not just a few hours a week. Always think forward.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book, and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

I would do a series of 5 events with an all-nighter. I don't like events where a DJ only plays for one or two hours. I'm old school with this; a DJ should play the whole night! At least a 6 or 8 hours set.

I would love to hear an all-nighter from these names:

22h00 – 06h00

John Digweed

Acid Pauli

Francois K

Sahar Z

Kora

What's a book you've read, or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

I don't have much time to read a lot, but recently I've read "The Simulation Dome" by Dutch writer Martin Vrijland. It's about how we live in a real "Truman Show," and how we are controlled by media, politics, and controlled opposition.

The last show I enjoyed was "Westworld". With all the recent AI developments, this is becoming a frightening documentary series as well.

What's a superpower you wish you had, and how would you use it?

I would love to time-travel, go back in time, and make different decisions with the knowledge I have now.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Skiing in deep powder snow! Spending time in the mountains.

What can we expect from your labels for the remainder of 2023 – any special releases we should be looking out for?

On Sound Avenue, I'll release a second artist album. This will be from Australian producer Microlot; this gets a release in November. The first samplers just got released. There will also be a first remix sampler for the "24 Years Apart" album of About : river that got released last year.

Keep up with the latest Sound Avenue releases here: https://bit.ly/3MEz9qt

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