This week we caught up with DRED Records label boss, John Osborn to discuss the nascent imprint and his own career. During the 90s Osborn began his career in London before moving to Berlin at the end of the decade to escalate his career. His unique style earned him sets at some of the biggest clubs in Berlin including Panaroma Bar, Tresor and Cookies.
From 2013 he curated the successful TANSTAAFL nights whilst holding a residency at the SUB:STANCE Berghain events. After numerous series of events, the famous night lead to the birth of the TANSTAAFL label, a collaboration with Bristol-based October. The last year has seen Osborn leave TANSTAAFL to launch his own label, DRED Records which has its third release, Pablo Mateo's "Fazing Trees" EP hit shelves earlier this month.
So tell me about DRED – what made you decide to launch the label?
I ran TANSTAAFL with October from Bristol for over 5 years and slowly our physical separation became a problem as we both evolved over time and followed of our hearts directions. It became clear that we were no longer running the label together so I decided to continue on my own path and Julian pursued his. We are of course still great friends and have a lot of love for each other, maybe TANSTAAFL would have continued if we lived closer together but this separation plus the natural desire to evolve and change meant it came to an organic and natural end. DRED has become the output or eternal canvas for my message within electronic music
Where did the name come from?
Due to my own anxiety/depression issues. I decided to hit it head on, and turn it into something that i really can not hide away from. With all emotions, once you are aware of, and observe them without judgement they will eventually pass. So essentially it was a name given out of the desire for a better tomorrow through awareness. Plus is sounded cool.
Do you have a creative vision for how the label will be or is it more just a platform for releasing good music?
Yes there is a clear vision for the label but to define it into words is hard. It is dance floor orientated but not exclusively. It is on the left field, outer fringes of dance music but not so far out that it becomes unreachable. I guess you could say the key word to the labels creative direction is ‘balance’
I’m loving Pablo Mateo’s Fazing Trees EP, how did you two meet?
Through the agency, Moving Parts, that we were both on. We became immediately very close and worked on a lot of stuff together but unfortunately we are no longer working together. He made some personal choices that were/are from my perspective unfortunate. Due to this it was not possible for us to continue our relationship personally or professionally, maybe this changes - everything does. He is an extremely talented musician and very very inspiring and I wish him all the best with the pursuit of his desires. I am happy I got to put such great music out from him and deliver a remix I am proud of, it is a great EP.
So you already have three releases from three artists, who else is scheduled to release on DRED?
A lot of great artists and I am happy to say a high concentration of young (ish) talented UK artists: Madder Modes, Reformed Society, Circular Rhythms. Also S:VT & Jennifer Touch from Berlin will feature as will Henning Baer and Joel Alter and a few others that are pencilled in.
When will we see the next release on the label?
I have unfortunately had to put the label one pause for a few months. I received some uncomfortable news regarding my mothers health and I needed time to process this and adjust. Fortunately I had a tour in Asia soon after I received this news and it gave me a lot of headspace to deal with this new reality. I originally planned to fire out a release at least every 8 /9 weeks and hopefully I can resurrect this pace come the end of the year
You’ve featured a remix on every DRED release thus far- is that going to be a feature in all of the releases?
Yes that is a main part of the creative vision. I am a dj first and always will be, so the remix format is something I really understand and feel at home with. I find starting my own project with a blank canvas and all the possibilities that technology presents very daunting. Yet the remix format gives me a starting point, ironically most of my remixes sound very different to the original and become almost a totally new track - but it this starting point inspiration that gets things rolling. I also wanted a much more personal connection with the label this time round and featuring a remix on each release certainly does this.
Will you be putting out any full releases yourself on DRED?
Yes absolutely, but i am not sure when or what direction that will be. There are quite a few projects on my HD that may or may not make it to wax, we shall see. I will alsotentatively be aiming also for a debut LP in the next 18months on DRED.
Let’s talk about your studio setup – what does it currently include?
Today, it consists of Machine, Circuit, KK S25, The Korg Volcas, Soundcraft M12 mixer and two external effects: Fusion Box from Erica Synths & a BigSky reverb plus all the soft synths on my mac you can imagine - its a pretty hybrid simple set up of analogue and digital
Do you have any unusual pieces of equipment?
Not really no, I am very utilitarian when it comes to gear - I simply care if I like the sound, not where it is from or if perceived to be a ‘must have’. I try hard to avoid the ‘gear porn’ attachment - but fail often tbh.
Is there anything that you desperately want to add to your studio?
Only good sound insulation / treatment, and an actual studio. I currently make all my music in my bedroom that I share with my wife. I do have two other rooms in my flat that would make great studios but they are both occupied by my two children. I keep worrying them by entering their rooms with a measuring tape and a pencil behind my ear.
Has it changed much over the years?
Music production has become more accessible through technology. Anyone with a computer can make music now. When I first wanted to be involved with electronic music creatively, production was not financially viable for me. Even my turntables were a stretch and in fact I payed for my 1200s & Vestax mixer with my first student loan! I myself only entered into music production around 2011 because technology made it possible for me to do so, although i was no stranger to studio set ups as i had been in bands before. This of course has its downfalls as a lot of bad music is made because of the ease of accessibility, but ultimately even this is just a matter of opinion.
What is your creative process for production - do you go in with an initial idea or do you just start something see what happens?
I alway have a rough idea as a staring point but then that quickly goes out of the window as I begin following a new path of sounds that inspire me that i have ‘mistakenly’ made or discovered along the way. I try to remain as open as iI possible can be and just allow the creative energy to pass through and take me where ever it leads. Essentially doing my best not to over think anything and follow the groove that I enjoy. Always remembering that there is not right or wrong.
Who are your favourite producers at this moment in time?
I find music these days in so many unexpected places that I try to free myself from having any ‘favourite’ artists. I also no longer read much music press. The reason being is that if i did have what you call fav artists I might find myself blind to great music from the people/places. Of course there are people that always inspire me with their work but I actively choose to try to ignore these impulses and treat what music comes my way equally. Same for reading press - other peoples words can plant seeds and influence they way you think about certain things, so i try to stay clear of that also in a hope that it keeps my choices I make more in alignment with my true bliss.