Kees Heus (left) and Antal Heitlager (center) of Kindred Spirits after an afternoon of digging in Rio de Janeiro.
TITLE stocks many wildly eclectic record labels and we thought it was about time to officially introduce you to a couple of them: Kindred Spirits and Rush Hour, two intriguing imprints from Amsterdam. Christiaan de Wit (TITLE Surry Hills) talked to co-owner Antal Heitlager and learned more about his vision on deejaying, new releases versus reissues and Kindred Spirits’ connection with Sun Ra.
In what way are Rush Hour and Kindred Spirits two sides of the same coin?
With Rush Hour, we focus on electronic music. A couple of years later we set up Kindred Spirits together with [DJ and promoter] Kees Heus. We decided to use this outfit for organic, less electronic music - we now release our jazz, soul, funk, afro & latin releases via this label. They really are sister labels now.
What was the initial thought behind KS when you started?
We wanted to release music by local groups and have these releases supported by tours and promotion. We still do this with bands like Jungle By Night, a teenage, afro minded funk band from Amsterdam. But next to that we also became an archive label for jazz and African music.
KS has been doing lots of different things, from wonky beats to Sun Ra reissues. What’s your vision on putting out such a diverse range of music?
At an early stage with did the Beat Dimensions series [on Rush Hour]. Soon after that, we started [Kindred Spirits sub-label] Nod Navigators which we set up for releasing all sorts of post-hiphop beat electronica. Although we kind of lost interest and stopped doing Nod Navigators some time ago, we do release [Dutch beat producer] Jameszoo. But we do this mainly because he is local and we like his music. So not necessarily because his music fits into a certain style or genre. For us, the common denominator is that we have to like the music ourselves first.
How does the combination of reissues and releases by contemporary artists work for you?
Very well. You can’t promote too many upcoming bands at the same time, and since we need to get our fix of new things on a daily basis we like to work on discovering and promoting forgotten music.
How do you see the future of reissue-ing African and Brazilian albums? Do the sources ever dry up or can it go on forever?
Well, sources will never dry up I think. As soon as you start digging you find out you don’t know anything… More music has been made than we will ever be able to listen to in a lifetime.
You’ve been traveling to Brazil a few months ago. Can we expect new titles in the KS Reissues series?
Yes, but I can’t say too much about that right now. I am traveling back in May and that’s when things will be finalized hopefully!
Looking at your catalogue, you must love Sun Ra. What is it you love so much about him?
I love labels like Black jazz and Strata East. With Rush Hour Distribution we have been working closely with Art Yard, a label that’s all about Sun Ra. When the owner of this label asked us if we wanted to become his partnering label, of course we said yes. This is why we have been releasing so many Sun Ra titles. The choice for the specific titles reflects our preference for Sun Ra’s spiritual work. For me it’s mostly about the music with Sun Ra; for Kees it’s also very much about his philosophy.
You’ve been working with Carlos Nino’s Build An Ark for a while now. Can you tell us something about the development of that relationship?
We have been working on three Build An Ark albums plus a solo album from Carlos. He produced wonderful music and I still think that Build An Ark’s music is classic material. For now he’s not actively working on Build An Ark material but I’m sure as soon as this project starts again we’ll be talking more.
Does the KS catalogue reflect the musical taste of the Amsterdam audience?
It reflects the musical taste of Kees Heus [A&R], Boye ‘t Lam [production] and myself. We could be doing many more projects which should have brought us even bigger successes but we don’t care about that. Life is too short to be wasting our time on stuff we don’t care about.
You deejay a lot in Holland and around Europe. Is there a strong connection between KS and what you play as a DJ?
Yes there is a strong connection. The focus on either Rush Hour or Kindred Spirits depends on the country and the type of venue. When I’m in Brazil I can play a samba gig and do an electronic one the next day. In Belgium gigs are always quite housey, while if I play Paradiso [Amsterdam’s most important venue] it is mostly disco, funk, soul and afro. We played a 16 hour gig once at the Lowlands festival and that is probably the only place where you could have heard the full spectrum of the music we like. We played everything from Maurizio to Morrissey, and from Ghanese afrobeat to Joy Division.
Music is music and the only reason why things get isolated is because it sells better and people understand it better. But as soon as you dedicate your life to music there are no boundaries anymore.
So to get back to your question. Yes, there is a connection, but different promoters like different things we do. And some like the full spectrum but only promote one sound. We like it all but we do understand that it’s not always possible to switch between musical genre’s too quick while deejaying.
How about touring? Do contemporary KS artists play a lot of live shows?
Yes, they do. Jungle By Night played about 60 or 70 shows last year and they will do so again this year. They play every interesting festival around Holland and we are now trying to get them to play more overseas as well.
What are the plans for 2012, release wise?
A Burkina Faso compilation [Kindred Spirits], a Surinam Boogie Funk compilation [Kindred Spirits], albums by Jimi Tenor and Jungle By Night [Kindred Spirits], albums by San Proper [Rush Hour] and Hunee [Rush Hour], a Chicago house compilation [Rush Hour] and we’ve got much more in the pipeline!
Sun Ra’s space jazz classic The Paris Tapes, Mandré’s vintage sci-fi soul classic 4 and Touki Ba Banjul: Acid Trip From Banjul To Dakar by Gambia’s psych-funk ensemble Guelewar are now available from your local TITLE store.