The internationally renowned label Milk & Sugar Recordings has always been independent and forward thinking. Their founders formed it back in 1997, early in their careers, at a time when the music industry was undergoing radical technological, structural and financial changes. It has succeeded far beyond their expectations. Milk & Sugar Recordings is celebrating its 200th release this November and its 20th anniversary in summer 2017. For Milk & Sugar Recordings’ 200th release the label’s core artists Milk & Sugar, Yves Murasca, Ben Delay, Lissat & Voltaxx, Dry & Bolinger and Oriano have joined forces to create an “Anniversary EP”, consisting of seven super fresh and exclusive club bombs, showcasing the diversity and production quality of artists and releases throughout the label…
Interview by Dan Prince
Mike, Steven welcome to DMCWORLD and firstly a huge congratulations on chalking up the label’s 200th release, the ‘Anniversary EP’. 7 exclusive tracks by Milk & Sugar’s core artists, please talk us through the tracks…
Mike: Thank you very much! Getting to release #200 was a rollercoaster journey occasionally, but most of the time we had a lot of fun. Our anniversary release features six fresh tracks from our core artists as well as one new Milk & Sugar record. First up there is a great tech house remix from René Amesz of our most recent Milk & Sugar single ‘Ready Or Not’, followed by a topnotch original from Yves Murasca entitled ‘Underground People’. Then Ben Delay again succeeded with a new interpretation of our label’s vocal classic ‘Love & Tears’ as well with a second production of his namely ‘My Game’, a more experimental but really cool acid house track. Next up is our artist Oriano with his original track ‘Choke’ embodying heavy bass and moody synth pads. Lissat & Voltaxx presented an exclusive re-work of their tech house milestone ‘Sunken Bells of Ibiza’ and finally Dry & Bolinger are closing act on the EP with their track ‘Got Back’, a cool little groover for all the ones who love some good old school flavored house. We are really happy with all these great productions who, in our opinion, form an awesome anniversary EP.
You have also conjured up a wonderful DJ mix showcasing the breadth of Milk & Sugar. This must have brought you great pleasure…
Mike: Indeed, it was a lot of fun and I am very happy with the result. We invested quite some time to get the right tracks for this mix. This mix 100% shows our Milk & Sugar signature sound, something between house and tech house, but always very funky and of course loads of great vocals.
What is your earliest musical memory from your childhood?
Steven: I remember that my parents were very much into Jazz music and loved the Beatles, so I think that might have had some influence on my passion for melodies. Later my grandma taught me to play piano and the guitar.
Mike: My dad played the accordion, keyboards and drums. I think that’s basically how I was introduced to music. I always had a dual personality when it came to music—on the one side rock and on the other dance.
What was the first electronic music you discovered?
Mike: When I was 17, my dad bought me some turntables and I started throwing parties in our cellar. By the time I was 18, I had earned a DJ residency in a Munich club and was throwing parties everywhere — warehouses, empty swimming pools, parking lots — you name it. I was obsessed with Todd Terry, Kraze, Bomb The Bass and the whole Acid House movement.
Steven: I was very passionate about the synth-pop bands in the early 80is like OMD, Art Of Noise, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode or ABC. And, of course, I owned all records from Kraftwerk. I think without this band the electronic music we are listening to nowadays would simply not exist.
The label started about 20 years ago at a time when there was no label in Germany releasing ‘your sound’. How would you describe your early productions and what was the overall aim for the label.
Steven: When we were just beginning in our careers, it was just as if we were throwing a party in the studio, inviting our friends and creating music. It was more about the fun and passion for the music we loved.
Mike: It was great! We’d come to the studio at really crazy times, like four in the morning after a party. We’d work in the evening—sometimes go in with some girls and ask them if they were able to sing something. It was very casual—not very professional or planned in those days. We simply wanted to release our vision of house music. We called it Munich Disco Sound, following the roots of mighty Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder who both lived in Munich at that time.
Steven: With the first successful records we were able to set up a proper infrastructure and build a professional company.
There are A LOT!! But what would you say are the biggest changes running a label in 1996 and 2016?
Steven: in the 90s the biggest challenge was to bring a good vinyl quality to the market. Whatever came out of our studio, we could never be sure how it would sound until we had the first test pressing in our hands. It took ages to correct mistakes, to get the graphics right. Also sending out our promos via post cost a fortune. Nowadays digital distribution is ways easier, but the competition became harder. So many people are trying to run their own label and to produce records out of their sleeping room. You need to keep the bar high to compete with the mass of releases every week.
You readily admit that one of your biggest challenges over the years has been to keep the vibe for good music. Who are the artists you have been especially proud to work with since kicking it all off?
Mike: We had some great records on our label in the 2000 era like Tim Deluxe „It Just Won ́t Do“ or „Bel Amour“, and a top-20 UK chart hit with Robbie Rivera. Many world class artists have released their productions/remixes on our label, like David Morales, Full Intention, Kolombo, Tiefschwarz, Doorly, Mat.Joe, Todd Terry, just to name a few. All these guys were a real pleasure to work together with. But of course we´re also proud of our collaborations with singers like Angie Brown from Bizzare Inc, our close friend Ayak or Barbara Tucker.
What was your Jamiroquai remix such a tough challenge?
Steven: The original was very slow, like 90 BPM, plus our mix had to be approved by Jamiroquai himself. We struggled pretty hard to get everything right. To get a bit technical, changing a song tempo in the early 2000’s was very difficult, because „elastic audio“ (changing the tempo of audio files in real-time without changing the pitch) had not been invented, yet. Not sure how we managed to jump between 90 and 125 BPM in our remix, but he seemed to like it…
How do you both get in the studio, what are each other’s strengths?
Mike: We always start a production with something like a roadmap. If possible I do a little rough demo to nail down my idea. If we both like it we invest more work in it. Actually this turned out to be the most effective way. For us it is very important to keep both involved in the production process and the evolution of the tracks.
When it goes into details we split some of the work and Steven is doing some detail work with the sound of productions, mixes and mastering, and I am more of an ideas person.
In the beginning of the Milk & Sugar project we also used some illegal record samples in our work, but nowadays we are always re-playing or re-programming them. We have just started to offer this ‘sample-replay’ service to everyone, some of these recordings can be found on our new website www.re-sample.com.
I hear you have some new compilations swinging our way, what can you tell us?
Mike: In the summer we released a strictly laidback deep disco and chill compilation project called „Beach Sessions“ that went straight into the top 10 album charts on iTunes here in Germany. It is a more relaxed less 4 to the floor approach and the people seemed to love that. The next release is our annual “Winter Sessions” mix album which is actually being released this week! You might be surprised to hear that CD sales are still very strong in Germany, so we are always releasing our compilations digitally and physically.
We are all looking forward to the Milk & Sugar 20th Anniversary World Tour next year. Where have been some of the stand out DJ gigs for you this year?
Steven: We just came back from Doha/Qatar and played an open air set with a temperature of 25 degrees at night, this was a great chance to escape from the cold weather here in Munich!
Mike: One of our highlights was also the Brazil tour for NYE. Playing under palm trees has definitely something special. Our first show ever at the famous Balaton Sound Festival in Hungary went down well and good fun as was the LIO Ibiza opening for Sebastian Gamboa´s night.
You were of course residents at Sundays at Space in Ibiza back in the day, a venue we all kissed goodbye to last month. What are some of your happy memories from Space?
Mike: That we can´t remember. What happened in Space stays in Space!
Steven: Definitely the old open air terrace from the early 2000’s. We found a great video in the net of the closing party last month when they dropped our 2001 classic ‘Love Is In The Air’ – and the entire terrace went mad. Goosebumps!
Mike: Some magazine called it a defining moment. It was 10 in the morning on a Monday, I bet these guys were still going strong for a while!!!
The best and worst thing about living in Munich?
Mike: It is a beautiful and safe city, great to live in. The architecture is always making me smile when I am driving home into the city. Also the surroundings with mountains and lakes is unique in Germany. You can ski in the Alps within one hour or in the summer you need only three hours to Italy.
Steven: The Munich airport is huge which is great for traveling. Most likely we have the second biggest party scene after Berlin, and there are loads of great clubs to discover.
The biggest record in your boxes this weekend?
Steven: Freiboitar – Nobody Dance (Original Mix)
Mike: Djuma Soundsystem – Parga (Hanne & Lore Rmx)
Some exciting new talent we should be looking out for in 2017?
Steven: We are currently working on the forthcoming single of Sandy Dae, a young and upcoming DJ and singer from Munich. We also enjoy the sound of swiss producer Dario D´Attis. We always liked his classic soulful direction, but he made a great development into a more clubby style. His remix for Soul Vision was one of our favourites this summer.
And finally. How do you think each other has changed for better or worse since your teenage years when you first met?
Steven: Our lifestyle became definitely healthier, and I´m not getting stressed so quickly like when I was young.
Mike: After a great night out I need longer to recover…
“Anniversary EP” on Milk & Sugar Recordings is out now