Sometimes life just pulls you into things, and you’re happy to go there.
In 1994, when I was just a 24-year-old fool, I was invited to join an electronic music collective operating under the alias Trip ‘n Spin. The “initiation,” as I remember it, consisted of me playing a few self-produced dance tracks (recorded on cassette) to Sam Urton (alias Novabass), Greg Lindberg (alias The G), and Stephen Kay (alias DJ Special K or Spesh).
Trip ‘n Spin had already put out a few dance records, but the collective was in flux when I joined. The guys had moved out of their SOMA bachelor loft, with Greg heading off to Japan, and Spesh (Stephen Kay) moving in with his fiance. Spesh and I, recording as Jondi & Spesh, kept the momentum going for a few years with a series of vinyl 12″ singles (all with polka dots on them).
In ’97 Spesh and I wrote a sketch and shared it with a few friends. Jim Cyr, who was at the time throwing the legendary Sweet! parties at CELLspace, encouraged us to take the track further. That sketch eventually became the track “We Are Connected,” which we released on Trip ‘n Spin. The release sold about a thousand copies, received a few decent reviews, and was forgotten promptly by the world (as most dance releases are). On to the next project.
… or so we thought. International superstar DJ John Digweed happened to be record shopping in Berkeley, California a couple years later, and found our record buried in some back stock bin. Unbeknownst to us, he started playing the track regularly at his gigs.
Meanwhile, Spesh and I had started Loöq Records. While the Trip ‘n Spin collective had been a fun ride, we wanted a real business entity through which we could exercise complete artistic and financial control. Each release was a logistical and financial struggle, as we learned the ins and outs of mastering, jacket production, 4-color film, shipping and warehouse logistics, and getting paid from incommunicado distributors.
The support from Digweed gave us a real boost, both in terms of morale and also on the business side — we received licensing offers from Bedrock (John’s label) and a few other UK labels.
Also, we got a little famous, which was nice. Previously, we hadn’t even been acknowledged in the insular San Francisco funky house scene. Now we were big in the UK. Take that, Haight Street!
Over the next few years, with the help of fresh-out-of-college Jackie von Treskow, and later our friend Megan James (when Jackie flew off to London for awhile) we continued to release records. We put out the music of San Francisco producers who we considered to be innovative and ahead of the curve, including tracks from Kylen Campbell (The Activity), Brian Cox (Telemetry), Galen Butler (Shakatura), and Reza (Dirtyhertz). Our first international artist was Jamie Stevens (of Infusion, from Australia), followed soon after by Matt Phillips (Piece Process, from Northern Ireland).
While we had often felt “outside” the music scene, San Francisco finally learned to love us. Our weekly party Qoöl at 111 Minna (an “electronic music happy hour”) became ridiculously popular. Lines started to curl around the block, and the fire department swung by on a regular basis to make sure we weren’t going to pack the place too tight and cause the next disco inferno.
It was as if we had invented sliced bread.
Good thing, too, because at the time, Loöq Records was hemorrhaging money like the U.S. Congress. Our weekly event supported our music label habit. Producing vinyl records was crazy expensive, and we rarely moved enough units to break even. I think we lost one or two grand per release for ten years (fortunately, our release schedule was pretty slow).
Things turned around financially for the label with some high profile licensing deals. Spesh and I wrote some tracks for Konami’s world-famous game Dance Dance Revolution (here’s one of the trance remixes we did for the game, if you think you can handle it). Our friend Kevin Knapp (hey Kev — you need to update your site) introduced us to some Hollywood music supervisors, and soon some music from Loöq was showing up on shows like CSI.
Somehow, despite our questionable business decisions, we’re still putting out music in 2011 (we let go of vinyl production and just release digitally now, which was emotionally difficult but good for the balance sheet). The Loöq roster now includes top notch talent from all over the world, and we couldn’t be more proud of our artists. Remarkably, we’ve reached a major milestone, our 100th release. We’ve wrangled some high-end remix talent from around the world to lend some interpretations of our (now classic?) track We Are Connected.