Before Rush Hour’s Soichi Terada retrospective, Sounds Of The Far East, there was the Far East Transcripts. The inaugural release from History Has A Tendency To Repeat Itself (AKA Hhatri), it marked the first in a trilogy of EPs that plundered the back catalogue of Terada’s Far East Recording imprint, but curiously, dropped just 4 months prior to that well-documented Rush Hour compilation. Either way, Hhatri flourished through an unlikely partnership with the Japanese house luminary. The first 2 instalments flew off the shelves, prompting speedy represses from the label, but for the first time since its inception, Hhatri has offered up some new music for our listening pleasure.
Enlisting the services of good friend Oli Warriner AKA Traela, December saw the London-based label release some fresh and previously-unheard material. Absorbing and emotive, Traela’s debut hints at a possible new direction for Hhatri so we spoke with label owner Suthan Logan about the trials and tribulations he’s faced and what 2017 might have in store.
The Traela EP Pt.1 is out now on Hhatri – buy the vinyl here.
Is there any significance in the acronym ‘History Has A Tendency To Repeat Itself’?
That’s a difficult one to explain. Initially, it was a mixture of frustration and me being a bit cheeky or ironic, in reference to the underground music scene (at the time) and the direction I saw it heading. But the name also started to signify to me the current times we live in and how we are seeing a kind of messed-up cycle or a repetition of events, both at home and abroad, that in hindsight shouldn’t be occurring. In a sense, I hoped for those who come across the label (and its name), that they may interpret it in their own way, whether that’s the scene’s direction or the times we live in.
Your first two releases were retrospectives of music original put out on Soichi Terada’s Far East Recording label. How did you come into contact with Soichi?
This search took around 2-3 years. You have to understand a few years ago, there was very little information about Soichi Terada, especially in English and I was starting with no contacts. There were a few YouTube videos but relatively little, otherwise. I was trying to pinpoint him using Google searches or Facebook using the information provided by his releases catalogued on Discogs. Closer to the time, I remember checking the ‘vinyl list’ on the Far East Recording site and seeing nothing on there, so I assumed it was a bit of a dead end.
Then I got a tip, that the contact email address on the Far East Recording site went directly to Soichi Terada and he still had some deadstock records for sale. So, I emailed and found one of the sweetest souls replying back to me. And he was kind enough to sell me some of his original pieces. That’s how I initially got in contact. After I heard the records themselves, I was completely determined I had to get Soichi and Shinichiro’s material out to the attention of the wider public and that’s how The Far East Transcripts happened.
Soichi’s jungle records are pretty hard to come by. Any chance of a Sumo Jungle Transcripts?
I had been thinking about this very very early on. The ‘Sumo Jungle’ release, in particular stands out among his fans who love his experimental, soundtrack style. But it’s the costs and the technical aspect of pressing so many tracks on an EP/LP and preserving the sound quality that has postponed that idea. It’s possible much later on, when there’s a more concrete plan to do a reissue which does that particular release justice.
Hhatri004 was the first time the label released some original music. Can you tell us how you and Traela first met?
Traela is an oldish friend. We were introduced to each other through another friend, only formally meeting over Skype, surprisingly enough. At the time, I had moved back to London from Manchester and I was toying with the idea of a new multi-platform blog-esque project for music. And one of my friends brought in his hometown pal, Oli, to also work with the project. Eventually, I derailed from the project but we started working on various other things together due to our passions in music.
He’s one of the few other people I’ve met who shares my opinions and respect over music, the scene’s digression and has that an unquenchable thirst to discover previous music from soul to the various electronic that has been either underrated, relatively forgotten etc. I share almost all the things I find with him. We’ve been sharing certain types of records to each other with unique production niches and quirks and I asked him to make the next record because of all the experimenting he’s done in terms of music production from our exchanges.
The first three releases were mini-retrospectives on the work of Soichi Terada and Shinichiro Yokota. Did you consider focusing Hhatri on reissuing old music alone?
Yes and no.
My true love exists in the spirit of the original house/soul/disco music scene and what the ’70s, ’80s New York Party culture gave us. The music was part and parcel of the culture and it was a refuge from the harsh realities of that time. It’s the stories of those heroes (i.e. Mancuso, Levan, Francis Grasso, Siano, etc) and the aftereffects which has fuelled an enormous inspiration to me for the label. There are so many stories and artefacts left behind from those days, which amaze me and touch me, despite the fact, I was born in a completely different age and place. Young and old people across the world were able to make such incredible music with all manner of equipment and ideas. Unfortunately a fair number of those records slipped away from the public eye or became incredibly pricy.
This is just a small glimpse into the ideas, that had been following me for a long while. Many of those tracks were very unique for their time and still are! In comparison there’s not a lot that inspires me in more recent years. There’s nothing quite like the feeling and ecstasy that you get when you find an old record which sounds so remarkable, fresh and unique. Whether that be certain aspects of the mastering or recording processes that you find to like. At the moment, a vast proportion of the newer music is hard to find as appealing.
So what prompted you to approach Soichi?
As I started digging through music I also started to find the older works or styles of production far more interesting or unique than modern production styles/sounds in dance music. So during my time in Manchester these ideas grew led me to start compiling an endless list of expensive, ‘cult’ house, techno, even soul and boogie records that I wanted to reissue eventually but no real formulation, motive or aesthetic. It was only when I first heard Soichi and Shinichiro’s work, I knew I wanted to reissue their material. It was unbelievably refreshing to hear that kind of music. Circa ’91-’92, very different to the house sounds of those years, as well, so it was a power combination of charming, inspirational and super special.
There weren’t many people who knew Soichi or Shinichiro at the time. The house scene during my time in Manchester, although quite diverse, had become monopolised by what the Warehouse Project was pushing. So this fuelled my interest in creating a label, where I would reissue these gems from producers who were relatively unknown and give them the recognition they deserved to audiences who hadn’t heard them or allow those who couldn’t acquire copies the chance to.
It’s become incredibly trendy to reissue to records so I’ve seen my list shrink dramatically over the past three years years due to the reasons stated before or the fact that there’s all sorts of stories such as lost or unattainable copyrights, missing producers, personal reasons that holds some of these producers to not desire any reissues of their holy grail records. So it’s not always feasible to run reissue only in the house world unless you don’t mind or care about compromising on the quality of the output. Which is a real shame as there have been many reissues that I had wished I had been able to oversee instead. Just a lack of care.
Have any other labels dealing in reissues stood out for you recently?
Best Italy has been doing the Italian funk/Italo records I love. Also, For Those That Knoe, run by Ben Parkinson, top man! He’s been pushing out the more obscure experimental techno works and a few new ones (you’ll yet to hear about) have followed his example, it seems.
Hate to admit it, but Flash Forward is doing a great job with what I hoped Hhatri would eventually do, reissuing Italian House gems. Those records had been on the bucket list for a while!
There’s a few but the ones I’ve mentioned stand out from the crowd for me. They have put a heap of care into the whole process; from the mastering to the pressing and most important, how they’ve dealt with the artists, which is in a very personal and sincere manner. That’s really inspiring.
Is there any particular reason you have decided to adopt a series format with the releases so far, first with The Far East Transcripts series and now Traela’s own?
With the Soichi/Shinichiro works in particular, I had always planned to have their tracks divided into three parts. There were a lot of reasons but one of the primary ideas being that each release would showcase the various and versatile sounds they had made.
It would also give time, for the audience to digest their music, especially, if they hadn’t come across their work before. There are a ton of new releases in various formats being thrown out every week, so it can easily become overwhelming for someone to actually go through it all and find something special.
(Admittedly, the tracks I planned for each release changed in line up quite a bit over the last two years and some tracks were unfortunately dropped. But there’s a still lot of amazing material from the works on Satsujin No Jikou Ha 15Nen from ’97 and Twin Base from ’91 that people haven’t had the chance to hear yet. So who knows!)
With regard to Traela’s. Before Hhatri002 was released I approached Traela to do one of the next releases in the label’s repertoire. He was sending me tons of material he was experimenting with. Every track sounded completely different and with a lot of thought and time put into it. The latest four are the one’s on this release, but it was him, who suggested to make this the first part of his own series. Stating, he was planning on making more releases for Hhatri, each one, evolving. Could be any number of parts with regards to Traela’s work.
Releasing music on vinyl you’re often at the mercy of distributors, pressing plants and the like. Have you encountered many hurdles in the process of getting this one out?
It is always frustrating, but it is what it is. Everyone is busy from distributor, artists to the plants so it’s always easy for things to just drag out longer than you had previously expected it to. It’s pretty stressful when things don’t always work out to a carefully prepared plan in advance for a scheduled release date, but with the times as it is, there’s no real away avoiding the obstacles. It can just be utter chaos.
With Hhatri004 it’s been no less smooth. There’s been a few hick-ups, but the turnaround for release has been projected to be a lot quicker than before. The artwork, mastering etc. all got done relatively smoothly, which isn’t always the case. Comparatively, the last two releases had astonishing delays at the plants.
…It could get worse considering how many labels and producers are popping up these days.
Have you learnt any lessons this time around?
A few. Always, always, always, double-check all the little details, because those can always come back to bite you.
Have you gone about anything differently when putting together this release in comparison to the first three?
What’s different this time, is that I’ve let almost everything in the artist’s hands; it’s his release and his vision, so I discussed with him the type of mastering we opted for, the artwork and so on. It isn’t a reissue and the tracks weren’t already done, so we were working on the development of the release together in one sense.
Would you go about anything differently if you could approach this one again?
Difficult one to answer. I’m not residing in the UK at the moment, where everything is all happening with the label, so, I suppose, it would be to actually be present for all the processes that are taking place. Have a chance to see the producer at work, and oversee the physical side of the process; pressing, mastering and production.
Do you have a particular process when it comes spreading the word about your next release to record stores and media outlets?
There isn’t a real process from my end at the moment. The record stores and distributors are really well connected and there are often some really nice people working at the record stores who will get in touch for shop copies or recommend the records to their regulars. If I were in the UK, Berlin etc. I would probably pop in person and chat to the folks at the stores and drum up their support.
Can you tell us a bit about the physical product those buying the 12” will receive?
The actual record sounds insane. Once the masters were actually put onto the test’s we heard. I couldn’t believe how the sound was translated onto the physical format itself. So in that regard, if you are a DJ, who still plays out with records, you will get an unbelievable set of tracks to play out. And if you are a collector, this is an incredibly special piece for you.
There are few times where you get a record, where you are able to perceive what the artist is trying to express, if at all. Oli was going through some tough times around the time of this release of this production. He poured in all of his emotions into every track he made. And this release captures his raw emotion and vulnerability during that time.
Have you put much thought into the design or aesthetic of this release?
As I said earlier, this release has been primarily been designed by Traela, the artist. And he made something that sounds mind-blowingly sublime whether it’s on the dancefloor or at home.
Can you tell us a bit about what went into each release, from the process and instruments/VSTs used to any inspiration that influenced its creation?
That’s a tough one to lay down. Traela’s been hyper-charged as of late and this EP was done with the aid of one of his friend’s synth caves. He’s been trialing through various instruments and synths and just started using the equipment that worked for his tracks. As opposed to just chucking in a Juno 60, just for the sake of having the famous Juno sound. I know he’s a big fan of the Waves plug-ins for processing the sounds of the Arturia V collection instruments. So for sure, a lot of the sounds have been part-processed through the Waves series. I also bought Traela this heavy lump of a Tascam Midistudio 644 (ultimately going halves), for the purpose of us processing and EQ’ing our tracks through. He put that machine to good use for this release.
Aside from artists affiliated with the label, is there anyone else you recommend looking out for in 2017?
Although I’ve found myself drifting off newer releases, my focus has tuned to the artists who reside in Japan. There seems to be a never ending wave of creativity in music over there. And I’ve heard some promising things from a newer artist called Miruga and from the sounds of things there is probably much more to come from him. Pay better attention to the record stores such as Technique who are championing these producers who we are not always getting first hand exposure to!
Also former A&R at Soul Jazz Records Nicole Mckenzie has a new project “MIC” which is set to release unreleased work by Mike Collins (Sun Palace), which is absolutely not to miss!
If you had to describe the ‘Traela EP Part 1’ in three words?
True Underground Spirit.
And finally, what’s next on the agenda for Hhatri?
This is something we’re really excited about! We hinted something a while back and now we can confirm that we have a new EP from Japanese producer, Takecha aka Takeshi coming out soon. He made a few obscure records on GWM records that are must haves among Japanese House collectors. One in particular costing upwards of a £100.
We have an incredible mix of unreleased and previously released material for the new EP ‘A Tale of Shiga’. We hope people will finally get the chance to listen, love and appreciate the genius of Takecha!
Keep following Hhatri, there’s a few projects we’re working on, that are still to be announced!