Das Sind Wir is a San Francisco-based independent electronic music record label. Trev Campbell (a.k.a. Jack Horner) and Lupe Jaques formally started Das Sind Wir in March 2016. On the label’s Facebook page, Das Sind Wir is called a “ … label with a focus on quality and without genre bias. It’s not about the quantity, but rather the content.” Trev and Lupe are true to their word: their first two releases – Powel (April 6) and Death On The Balcony (July 22) – are top notch.
I start a Google Hangout video chat with Trev and Lupe. The three of us exchange greetings, remark on the weather in San Francisco and DC, Trev takes a moment to light a spliff, and I ask the first question of the interview.
We’re going to get to Das Sind Wir, but before we do, I want your thoughts on record labels in general. What characteristics make a label good? What are some labels you particularly admire?
Trev: Lupe, you wanna go first?
Lupe: I think that’s a tough question [pauses for a few seconds] … it’s a really tough question. I admire a lot of labels –
Trev: I know the first one you’re gonna say.
Lupe: I know, I know. I have a lot of respect for Dirtybird for what they’ve done, for the sake of San Francisco particularly. I started at Om in the 2005-2006 era when they were first coming up with their barbecues and the five got together. So I got to see Om go from the beginning to where they are today – that’s been an exciting journey. And understanding where house and electronic music were at in San Francisco then, it was very nice to see what [Om] did for the electronic music scene as a whole. That was an era of rap and hip hop and they took over what was going on. There weren’t as many promo companies and record labels in San Francisco at the time that were keeping the scene alive. The scene was kind of dying down, and Om records was the big boy in that space.
Oh, Om record – I thought you were talking about Dirtybird …
Lupe: Well I was talking about Dirtybird –
Trev: Om managed Dirtybird. Dirtybird is an artist owned record label, so it’s owned between Claude VonStroke, Jess Phillipe, Christian Martin, Justin Martin, and Worthy. And they were so busy concentrating on the music that they had Chris Smith – who runs Om records – help run Dirtybird. Chris also runs Smoke N’ Mirrors. Smoke N’ Mirrors is a proper deep house label whereas Om Records is pretty fuckin’ massive. Om’s a San Francisco label, but there are so many other ones out there … I’m looking at my labels on Traxsource, and I’m like, “hmmm, that’s a good question” … daaaaaaamn, I have like two-hundred labels [on Traxsource]. Holy shit …
Trev: Ummmmmm … Traxsource. For as far as me going through music, definitely Traxsource. But what I’ve realized running a label is that Beatport – fortunately but unfortunately – is the best place to sell your music and do exclusives. So from the business aspect of it, Beatport; and from the music aspect, Traxsource.
Does Beatport give you a better cut of the sales?
Trev: No, no … it just …
Has more traffic?
Trev: Yea. Everybody knows who Beatport is. There’s a lot of friends in San Francisco who’ve been doing it for a minute and they’re like, “What the fuck is Traxsource?”
Lupe: And then I’m all over the place: I like Traxsource, I like Beatport … I also like Juno [Download]. (Editor’s note: Lupe mentioned another online music retailer that he said was good for obscure releases that normally slip through the cracks, but I couldn’t find it) And then you have Boomkat as well. So you have [four] different places to get music –
Trev: Bandcamp is where we need to focus all of our shit! That’s where we need to sell all of our records – through Bandcamp.
Lupe: From a business standpoint, when I’m approaching Europe, I’m thinking Juno. In the United States, I’m thinking Beatport, just because of all the benefits that come along with it, and – for lack of a better word – how trendy it tends to be. They give a lot of love too, so that’s a good thing. There’s a lot of relationships that we’ve built throughout the years that have overlapped, and [Beatport] does a lot for us. So that’s how I see it: [in] America, it’s probably going to be Beatport. Although when we think of artists, [they] are using Traxsource … [especially] a lot of in-the-know artists are using Traxsource over Beatport, and that has to do with financial reasons more than anything – you can get WAVs for a better price on Traxsource.
Trev: I go to Traxsource strictly for the music – I don’t care about the money. Regardless, you’re still paying $2.50 or $3. It’s more about the variety of music … I don’t know … I think I switched over from Beatport to Traxsource because my Beatport got so fucking whack – it got filled with a bunch of random labels on accident. So I was like, “Fuck this, I’m going to Traxsource.” And now every time I play music, people are intrigued as to what track I’m playing – which is good because as a DJ, I don’t really want people to know what music I’m playing. It’s good because I can play songs where [the audience] is like, “what the fuck is this?!” But at the same time, as one works their way up the ranks as a producer and DJ, you get promos for days. So a lot of music that people are playing are tracks that most of us can’t get our hands on. That’s the way to go! I know Matthew Dekay is only playing his edits out … so his sets are just him. But he does it right. All those cats do it right.
Trev: “I go to Traxsource strictly for the music – I don’t care about the money. Regardless, you’re still paying $2.50 or $3. It’s more about the variety of music … And now every time I play music, people are intrigued as to what track I’m playing – which is good because as a DJ, I don’t really want people to know what music I’m playing.”
But yea, I got my labels [that I admire] for ya if you’re ready for them. They’re pretty standard [laughs]: Defected, Hypercolour, Freerange, Keinemusik – I don’t know how the hell you say that … There’s actually this super dope label called Steyoyoke [pronounces it as Stay- yo-yolk]. [Starts spelling it out] S-T-E-Y–
Oh, Steyoyoke [pronounces it as Stay-yo-yokie]! They put out Animal Picnic.
Trev: I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time. A long, long time. But as far as what a good label is – put out good music. It’s not really our place to say how somebody [should run] their curative outlet. Some people like to go with the trends, some people like to stick with one thing. As long as the music’s fuckin’ good – that’s the bottom line.
Lupe: I like Culprit down in LA … I think they do a really good job –
Trev: FUCK, I’m out weed! Fuck.
[Everyone laughs and then Lupe continues what he was saying.]
Lupe: I like a few labels out of Germany and London –
As far as what we want to do with the label, we want to create this, showcase it around the world, and bring these artists along with us. These artists are our homies. Das Sind Wir translates to “This is Us”–
That’s actually the next question. Das Sind Wir is German for “this is us.” What’s the story behind your label’s name? Who are you? What is each of your roles in the label?
Trev: The backstory on Lupe and I is we’ve been friends for five years. When we first met, we were talking about labels, and Lupe said he was going to run a label … that was stuck in the oven for hella long.
I used to run this party called Black Magic Disko, and originally we were going to turn that into a label, but my business partner and I butted heads a little too hard, so we separated. After we separated, I thought, “might as well do this label.” Once I committed to doing it, I called up Lupe – and I was living out in the woods for a year, so when I hit up Lupe, I was in the middle nature – and said, “Lupe, you down?” And he was like, “Who’s the first release?” And I tell him “Powel.” And he’s like “shut the fuck up!” So that’s around the same time that I put up Powel’s mixtape, the first Das Sind Wir mixtape, and that’s at almost 10,000 plays right now, so I’m really in awe about the response we’ve gotten, both with the number of plays, and the support on Soundcloud. That’s legit! To me, as far as metrics go, that’s fuckin’ solid. Once the label started and I told my friends around the world [about the Powel release], they were like, “oh shit, this is on your label?” And I was like, “Yea! I’m finally not blowin’ smoke anymore. Here you go!” And then all of a sudden, people were sending us music left and right. So now we’ve got four or five EPs lined up for this year (Pattern Drama & Jon Lee, Louie Fresco, and San Francisco artists). So yea, this is us, this is family. Lupe’s like my brother – I’m actually living with him right now … I moved back to San Francisco and Lupe was like, “Just live with me. I know what you do in San Francisco and we need to get work done.”
Lupe: And being here, we can actually get work done, whereas meeting back and forth on the computer all time [is a little harder]. It’s easier being in the same room with your business partner, getting things done, and putting things on the calendar. It’s crazy because spontaneity happens at any given moment, and in that moment, instead of writing it down and saving it for later, we can sit down and put it in motion. As far as our roles are concerned, we both do a little bit of everything, and I think it’s going to be like that for a while. He’s basically taking care of the first three [EPs], the fourth one I’ll do with his help – he’s kind of walking me through some of the things I need to touch on and how to go about it. We both plan, work together, and work with the artists. When working with the artists, we hear them out and try to get a good feel for what they want and expect from a release, not what we’re going to do. We have an idea of what we’re going to do, but we want to know what the artist has in mind. We take notes and listen to everything they’re saying. We want to touch everything they want from the label.
Lupe: “It’s easier being in the same room with your business partner, getting things done, and putting things on the calendar. It’s crazy because spontaneity happens at any given moment, and in that moment, instead of writing it down and saving it for later, we can sit down and put it in motion.”
Trev: We want to pay our artists, we want to [help] pay their rent. All of our homies are like, “We never see any money.” So once we get our first check in from royalty … I think I’ve dropped like two grand already on these first three releases, and that’s just for mastering and other random shit. And that’s cool, but I’m coming to realize that owning a record label is a money pit – we’re strictly out here to get our friends’ music out into the world, and then through that, be able to get them gigs, whether that’s doing showcases with us, or something else. I was just in Seattle, and I was talking with some promoters out there, and they were like, “Oh, [you started] Das Sind Wir?! That first release with Powel was so dope.” And I’ve been working with Powel’s agent for like two years, and they’ve been trying to get him to Seattle. Just to get that confirmation that the music got up to Seattle – that’s pretty [cool]. So for just starting, it’s gonna be a little bit of a slower growth, but not in a negative way. I think going into next year, we’re going to be doing even better. And this Death On The Balcony release is really going help us there.
We’re building the foundation of our label right now. We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into any one genre. I have no genre bias, but as long as it’s good music, and especially if it’s from a friend, we’re good. If a homie wants to put out some ambient music, I’m down – I love ambient music. There’re no rules. It’s nice to follow the trend line in a path, but shit comes at you all the time, so you gotta go with the [flow].
Trev: “… I’m coming to realize that owning a record label is a money pit – we’re strictly out here to get our friends’ music out into the world … We’re building the foundation of our label right now. We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into any one genre. I have no genre bias, but as long as it’s good music, and especially if it’s from a friend, we’re good.”
Landing Powel as the first release on your label is impressive. How did you accomplish that? Doesn’t he normally work with All Day I Dream?
Trev:[Laughs] This is funny here. So Powel and I are really good friends. I work in tandem with Rocky from Bespoke Musik out in New York, and we’ve been bringing in a lot of similar artists over the past couple of years. Powel came out and stayed with me, we had a blast, and we really connected. Over the next few years, Rocky and I helped coordinate a couple more tour dates for Powel, and Powel and I built a friendship. When I told [Powel] we were starting a label, I asked him if he wanted to be involved, and he was like, “Fuck yea!” It took a while to get the tracks, and I wanted the first release to be around my birthday last October, and then it came out in April [laughs]. But hey, that’s the music industry – there are delays. We got the tracks, and I was just like, “Wow, this is dope!” So I sent them over to Dance Spirit because they do all of our mastering, and they were like, “This is dope. Good shit, Trev.” And that release got pushed back because Lee Burridge approached Powel after I had approached him, so it’s just by chance that it all went down like this, but I think it’s a blessing because one, I’m friends with Lee, and two, Powel followed by Death On The Balcony – I’ve been friends with these guys for years! It was nice to have them lined up – same with Corey Baker (Pattern Drama) and Jon Lee, the release coming after Death On The Balcony.
So people were like, “Why don’t you do an All Day I Dream thing?” And I’m like, “I’m not [doing that] – just trust, just trust.” And then I saw Lee at the All Day I Dream in San Francisco – which was fucking amazing by the way – and I was like to him, “You know that guy who started Das Sind Wir, the label who just released the same artist you released? That’s me yo!” [Everyone laughs] And he was like, “I had a feeling it was you!” [More laughter all around] But it was really helpful: I had given out all of the [Das Sind Wir] stickers I had to Bubbles – I don’t know if you’ve heard of Bubbles … Bubbles is sort of a [San Franciscan] rave legend (our friend Anthony), who dresses drag on a regular basis. And he has big chops – so if you [Patrick from Blisspop] shaved right here [motions to chin], then you’d have the Bubbles facial hair. He always has big boobs and these crazy blond wigs … he’s like one of my brothers, and he’s so funny. He’s the perfect promoter. You just give him stuff, and he’ll get it to everyone because everyone wants to talk to him – they’re like, “who’s this fuckin’ guy with the wig here?” So yea, I gave him most of my stack, and I had run out of stickers by the time I ran into Lee. So I ran over, grabbed one from Bubbles, and gave it to Lee. Lee was like, “yea, this is cool…” The next morning, I get a text from Lee saying [that the sticker] made it onto the last spot [on] the record bag. And I was like, “alright, if he supports, we’re good.”
As far as how we get these artists, I’ve been doing A&R for about five years, and I’ve been working in the music industry pretty heavily in San Francisco until last year when I decided to take a bit of a rave sabbatical. We’re people-people, we try to stay positive, and we do this for our homies. The hardest thing for me to do was to put my nose down and not to be such a music snob.
Trev: “We’re people-people, we try to stay positive, and we do this for our homies. The hardest thing for me to do was to put my nose down and not to be such a music snob.”
Lupe: Yea, I do really good job at [not being a music snob].
Trev: You do, but you don’t DJ yet.
Lupe, I know he said that you don’t DJ, but do you produce?
Lupe: I dabble a little bit in production and I’m classically trained, but I don’t mess with music [production] too much. I do more work on the back end of things. I started to learn how to DJ for a little bit because I’ve always had an ear for good music. I can beat match, but I don’t really touch the decks as much as I’d like to. Beatmatching is always half the battle from what I’ve heard.
Trev: There are people who program their sets, others who set up certain folders, but I go through my music the night or afternoon of. I think of what party and night I’m playing to, and how I’m feeling at the time. Going out there, I try not to bring too much music, and I play what the dance floor needs. And that’s what the DJ’s there for. If there’s a certain set you want to play and the dance floor isn’t responding to it after a couple of songs, then it’s your job as the DJ to switch it up. We’re here to make them dance. It’s our job to bring release to people on the dance floor, and to have those tracks in your flash drive, records, midi, computer, or whatever … the track just comes down to you … it comes down to the ear of the DJ. People know what good music is, they just need to be exposed to it. When I go hear someone spin, and I don’t have any of the music, I’m like, “Fuck yea! This is fuckin’ dope.” It’s not about what the DJ is doing (stage presence) – it’s about what they’re playing. It’s fun when DJs have energy behind the booth, but in my opinion, that’s not what makes the DJ.
Trev: “People know what good music is, they just need to be exposed to it.”
How is San Francisco’s dance music scene these days? Is it more big club and EDM-oriented, or is there a good underground house and techno scene with warehouse parties and such?
Trev: The club scene as far as “underground” music is concerned is on fire! Friday night there’s gonna be five events with five headliners, and you’re gonna be like, “which one do I go to?” I went to an underground pre-party for Sidney Charles at this startup of all places, and I was wondering why [it] felt so odd – it was because it was with the above-ground, tech-industry, young-money club attendees, the people who go to Ruby Skye, Temple, or 1015 Folsom, and are shuffling to house music. There’s this other aspect of clubs in San Francisco that I had no idea about, but what I do know is that they’re thriving. There are a lot of young people here … but to be honest, I don’t really go out anymore, and I’m done partying at night for the most part. I’ll go out and support my friends’ parties, stop by for a minute, and have a beer. But to be staying out until seven in the morning … nah, not unless I’m in another country. I did see sunrise in Vancouver when I saw Jay Tripwire and Marcus Wyatt … It was dope. So I’m not saying I don’t do that. But the same city over and over? It’s fun, but no más.
Lupe: Like he said, there are going to be five clubs with really good headliners [on any given weekend night]. For the underground scene, you have three or four afterhours spots. And then the new trend you have going down in San Francisco on Saturdays and Sundays is we’re having places like Breakfast Club at Monroe and that techno party that happens at Cosmos. From Friday to Sunday you could go from 10 at night to 10 at the morning, get your brunch, and then do it all over on a Saturday. There used to be a lot more underground spots in San Francisco.
Trev: I really got my start in San Francisco through Delta Funk, Smoke N’ Mirrors, Listed Productions, and Black Magic Disko and the underground circuit. We brought Eddie Richards and Jay Tripwire … and then we brought andhim for their first time in the States. There was rave rain dripping from the ceiling – they played off that place.
Lupe: There was a time in San Francisco where you’d have as many underground afterhours spots as clubs with headliners. And sometimes the underground parties had bigger names and were better parties to go to than the clubs. I miss that era.
Trev: It’s the tech boom!
Lupe: “There was a time in San Francisco where you’d have as many underground afterhours spots as clubs with headliners. And sometimes the underground parties had bigger names and were better parties to go to than the clubs. I miss that era.”
I’ve heard that San Francisco is undergoing mass gentrification and that even wealthy people are being kicked out, leaving only the uber wealthy. How has this affected the artists and musicians in the city? Has gentrification helped or hindered dance music growth in San Francisco?
Trev: The clubs are stoked because there’s money in the city and people are going out and partying. But it’s forced out the artists. Unless you know somebody who has a room for rent, it’s hard to live here … unless you have a real job and do your art at other hours, but that takes away from your creative powers. Cities change, but we have a lot of friends who are high up in the tech industry, and they’re already talking about how the deflation is starting to happen. And people in Seattle are starting to talk about how things are getting expensive [there] because the tech boom is moving North. It’s good and it’s bad. It’s good because change is good, but it’s bad because we’re losing a lot of people who made the city what it is. San Francisco is still weird, don’t get me wrong, but I think it used to be a lot weirder. There are pockets of art going on in San Francisco … there are galleries and record labels popping up left and right.
Trev: “San Francisco is still weird, don’t get me wrong, but I think it used to be a lot weirder.”
Lupe: A lot of artists travel, and when they come back to the city, they have to deal with the inflation. So my artists are moving up to Portland or Seattle, and some are even doing the permanent thing in Berlin … it’s so much cheaper. It’s the same feel as far as the music scene and the culture. But yea, unless they Airbnb their room, they can’t afford to keep living in San Francisco. Finding a new permanent home, whether that be Portland, LA, or Seattle, Barcelona ….
Trev: … Bogota, Sao Paolo, Rio – there are so many places. If you’re spending three grand a month on rent, you might as well travel some. The city changes.