Dissident Records is one of the most talked about UK labels of the last year, its emergence synonymous with the rebirth of London’s underground disco scene. Yet despite putting out 12”s at the astonishing frequency of one a fortnight since its inception last July, Dissident has retained an envious aura of mystique. All its releases are strictly vinyl only, in editions of 200, and there is no online presence – not even a blog or a Myspace page. Message boards have been rife with speculation about the characters behind Dissident and its oddly-named artists like Invincible Scum and Binary Chaffinch. However, when genial label boss Andy Blake emails you to invite you round to his New Cross flat for a cup of liquorice tea and a chinwag about Dissident disco, it’s clear this isn’t a man who’s gone to Burial-style lengths to keep his true identity under wraps.
“We’re not trying to be mysterious or unapproachable,” explains Andy, sweeping aside a lock of his lustrous disco hair. “There’s an email address on the label of each record that you can see from space. We just want people to engage rather than consume.”
Andy has been DJing around London for 20 years, often in the second rooms of house or techno clubs, where he always noted that the stuff he played – wonky disco, classic house, electro and anything else with similar verve and spirit – often got a much more physical response than the linear, laptop sets going on in the main rooms. Andy was bemused. “A lot of those seminal Detroit records were full of rage and passion, they used to make people go crazy. Now dance music in big clubs acts as a pacifier.”
Andy had tried the label thing a couple of times before, with disillusioning results. But last year the climate seemed right for a new disco-oriented venture. Most of the first Dissident releases came from within Andy’s circle of dusty-fingered, analogue-obsessed mates – people like Ali Renault of Heartbreak, Ben aka Gatto Fritto, and Milo Smee, Chrome Hoof’s drummer, who records for Dissident under the Binary Chaffinch and Kruton aliases. Much of the Dissident output has actually been recorded in Andy’s home studio, which he’s gradually restocked with vintage analogue equipment after initially dumping it all when Logic first came out in 2000. Several of Dissident’s daft pseudonyms – Invincible Scum, SCS, Control Voltage – are just Andy and a mate jamming away up there in the label’s spirit of rapid-fire spontaneity. New Dissident acts that Andy is excited about are Photons, a youthful duo from Portugal, Naum Gabo featuring Jonnie Wilkes from Optimo, and Peach Melba, a happily indulgent collab between Andy and Dan Beaumont from Disco Bloodbath. Their first compilation on (whisper it) CD is out this month.
“Good shit to dance to,” Andy summarises, simply. “Something that sounds vibrant and original and puts a smile on people’s faces in a club or in a bar. If there is an ethos to Dissident, it’s about music that works communally.” Hence the dedication to the 12” single format. Dissident releases are malleable club tools, their context to be decided by the DJ.
“Our music’s all a bit ballsy and rough-arsed too,” adds Andy. “There’s a fiery nature to it. A lot of current productions, they can sound too perfect. Follow them with a weird old Italo-disco record when you’re DJing and suddenly the room will come alive. We’re trying to put a bit of that naivety and spontaneity into our records. We like them to be a little more… unshaven.”
I’m afraid there are no tracks to post, nor online mixes to link to; that’s just not how Dissident do things. However, if you would like to engage rather than consume, Andy encourages you to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may even end up making a tune with him.