A self-professed music nerd, Simon Huxtable aka Real Gone Kid finds great music wherever he can. Today that music is discovered through his many roles in the industry, from DJ to writer, producer and label owner, all which have opened the doors to incredible supplies of electronic music from a variety of sources. Sorting the gems from the rest drives him to keep supporting new talent, with his label ASTIR Recordings as his recent avenue to share the kind of music that has kept him involved for so many years.
The description of ASTIR Recordings gives an insight into its mission:
A place where the artists could build a community; a place of shared ideas and off the cuff collaborations. A place where the art of music would not be lost, giving way to mass media marketing and watering down of ideas for mass consumer consumption. A record label you can once again trust to weed out the mediocre and deliver time and again GREAT music.
Having DJ’d for brands such as Global Underground and Ministry of Sound, and with releases on labels like Mirabilis, Baroque, and Pro B Tech, his work as an artist has given him an experienced perspective on the industry, driving him to create something special with ASTIR. His new show on FRISKY, The ASTIR Sessions, will be his latest avenue for sharing the passionate, soulful music that goes beyond what’s trendy and into what’s DEEP.
With your hand in so many different areas of the industry, what are you feeling most excited about working on right now?
First up, let me thank you for having me and giving me an opportunity to chat. Big ups x
Everything about music excites me. I’ve been connected to dance music in some form since I was 14 and the love affair feels like it’ll never end! Haha. Back then I would record songs from the radio and CDs and make my own compilations; I didn’t actually buy any decks until I was 21, and by then, I was pretty much sure I was going to be a Nurse and music was something I enjoyed in my free time.
But becoming a DJ really shifted my focus, I wasn’t really in it to be famous, I just loved the music and wanted to share that passion with other people. That really hasn’t changed even though I’ve DJed for a number of large brands like Global Underground, Slammin’ Vinyl and Ministry of Sound. At the heart of everything is that same super shy 14 year old kid who just wanted to make a connection with like-minded people.
Aside from the label and DJing, I also write about music. I’m lucky enough to have relationships with people who allow me free reign to review about their releases and magazines who will print my words. For the last 5 years or so, I’ve really only begun to do the thing I was always supposed to do, so I guess it’s still exciting because it’s pretty new.
I love the idea of “old-fashioned ideals” that ASTIR Recordings stands for – could you share more on what that means to you, and why you decided to start the label?
I’ve DJed now for about 21 years and starting a label is something I always wanted to do. The thing was I was scared before; scared of the unknown I suppose. Late 2015, I got to chatting to a few label owners I became friendly with and just aired my fears. Largely what they said was “Don’t bother, there isn’t any money in it now.” But I’m stubborn and didn’t listen. hahaha!
Everything about running the label has been learned on the job and I’ve made a tonne of mistakes for sure. But now I have a merry band of artists and some kick-ass releases. Paramount to me was to remedy all the little things that annoyed me about working with other labels – lack of communication, no control over your music, stuff like that. So with ASTIR, I allow the artists full input in the whole process from what contract they sign, to promotion, to where we place premieres.
So many labels will just take your music and that’s the last you hear until its released, so I wanted to run a label that was transparent, communicative and open to ideas.
What are some of your future plans for ASTIR?
2019 is going to be a make or break year. The current music retail market is in real flux as streaming takes control and we all try and figure it out. Touring is my big focus. I want to get ASTIR out to the clubs and festivals to raise awareness and to get people excited about dance music again. It’s all becoming a little too homogenised and safe. Dance music is a counter-culture, it lives and dies in the shadows on the edge of normality.
Our first show will be a joint venture with a bunch of mates in Amsterdam during the Conference. We missed out on registering it this year, so we have to be careful how we promote it (it’s all very political) but all being well, the venue has already said we can come back and next year we can schedule a week of official label showcases and book some big headliners.
Label-wise, I’ll be narrowing the parameters of the main label and starting two sub-labels, one to cover Techno and Tech House (ASTIRblack) and the other for Downtempo vibes (ASTIRchill). One of the things I’ve noticed is that people need consistency in their label choices. It matters if you put a House cut out one month and a Chill track the next, it’s confusing and people shy away and go with what they know and trust, so in having 3 outlets I can build that trust up. But that’s not to say I won’t change the way I sign music, it will still need to be top quality, creative as hell and have bags of soul.
As you must come across so much music from multiple directions, what is your favourite way to discover standout new tracks and artists?
The way I consume music has changed completely. As a much younger man, I would spend days lost in a dusty second-hand record store digging through the crates for treasure, but these days its all just a mouse-click away. I get sent a helluva lot of music which is a dream really. My journalism allows me access to a complete cross-section of genres which suits me perfectly as a Prog DJ. I’ll also dip into online retail stores now and then, but to be honest, getting so much for free means I rarely need to buy anything, so if I do it’s very special.
Literally anything can catch my attention these days. The stuff upcoming on Sudbeat from Alex O’Rion and James Gill is incredible and The Soundgarden’s ADE sampler has been huge for me too, because Nick (Warren) has this uncanny ability to find really obscure artists that should be superstars. On a Housey tip, I’m really digging a Portuguese guy called Ritz and a good friend of mine in Berlin called Kristen Velvet, who is the label manager at Arms & Legs.
Is there something that you particularly love to hear within the music?
Passion. Music is laying your soul to bare in audio form, so the music must have heart. I absolutely detest cookie cutter dance music: stuff that’s cynically made and uses the same sample packs as a million other tracks have.
What’s most important for you to share within your own productions and mixes?
Passion! Hahaha I sound glib, but I really believe it. If you put a mix together that is devoid of soul, you’ve completely missed the point of how music is an artform. I hear it a lot from younger artists hungry for a taste of fame. They lose themselves in trying to be famous rather than trying to be good and it’s frustrating to be fair.
I’m not for one second saying everything I’ve made is perfect. Far from it, but everything I’ve made has a little piece of my heart attached. If it didn’t I would never show it to the world.
What are you most proud of accomplishing through your music?
So much. But mostly I’m proud I made a connection with someone enough for them to buy my music. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the music world turn upside down and it was Acid House’s dream that we could all make music in our bedrooms.
As a kid, it was only big studios and trained engineers who made music, but now you can download a program and a few samples and make something with no prior education at all in a few hours. I find that both liberating and incredibly powerful. But it comes with a cost and that is to keep the quality as high as possible; that has become Acid House’s nightmare.
What can listeners expect to hear on the ASTIR show?
A lot of great music, of course! I’ll put together a fresh mix each month with upfront tracks, label back catalogue and some forgotten classics. There will also be a guest mix from one of my incredible labelmates and a few surprises along the way. I’m really looking forward to getting started and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to push the music I love on the best internet station in the world.
Big ups FRISKY and let’s get this party started!