“I think having long-term relationships and working with people through tough periods and them staying with you — and you staying with them — is probably something I’m really proud of,” Defected’s managing director and big chief daddio, Simon Dunmore, tells DJ Mag when asked to reflect on the label’s impressive 17-year history.
It’s a period which has seen the powerhouse house label release plentiful anthems from the likes of Roger Sanchez, Bob Sinclar, Kings Of Tomorrow, Dennis Ferrer and MK. “And I think the fact that the label gets the recognition that it gets is something that secretly I don’t think about too much, but if I do I have to be proud of something like that,” Simon says.
Labels come and go, and in these uber tech-savvy times the ones that are still around are to be highly respected and revered indeed — because it ain’t easy out there folks. Which is in part why you’ve voted for them as the Best British Label (again – they also won it in 2011); and they don’t come more deserving than this, to be honest.
When DJ Mag grabs a chat with Simon, he’s in New York doing what label bosses do best — checking out new talent and keeping good relationships with existing house partners.
“I’m meeting some labels, a lot of old school labels and producers,” he tells us. “There’s been a resurgence of where house music came from, an interest in that, so I thought I’d come and see a few old friends. It’s been pretty productive so far.”
House music’s finest first started out in a small office with just three people. “There was myself, Janet Bell, and we had a young lady called Chantelle who answered the door and was receptionist and helped us do mail outs, and we had to take care of everything across the board,” Simon remembers of the early beginnings of his ‘baby’.
The label was born out of his work on major labels, where he was in charge of the dance division of AM, which became AM:PM, under the watchful eye of Polygram and Universal. During this volatile and highly unpredictable time, many redundancies were made.
“A lot of good people and people that I respected lost their job during the merger. So I thought maybe next time I won’t be so lucky,” he muses. Preferring to be a master and in control of his own destiny, Simon started up his own label Defected as a result.
Zip forward to present day and Defected now employ some 25 people. “Initially it was just a record label where we released records, and the by-products were compilations and stuff like that,” he recalls. “Now we release music, obviously digitally, not physically anymore, we have an events company, we have a DJ management company, we have a publishing company, we do merchandise…”
Defected have had to learn to diversify in order to survive the transitions that the music industry has made. “Things like the recessions of four or five years ago was tough to contend with,” he remembers.
And it’s all good. Their cousin label DFTD has allowed for more of that diversity to take place, busting out slightly edgier and more underground releases. Then there’s another success story in the disco-tastic shape of Glitterbox, their new concept launched on that competitive party isle of Ibiza.
“We can’t keep just doing the same thing, for our own piece of mind and sanity. So the success of Glitterbox is something I’m really proud of.”
They’ve also started curating the Strictly Rhythm label again and in the early part of this year they’ll be releasing a new album by Tim Deluxe — a couple of singles from this have been received well already.
And one of the other reasons Simon was in the States was to meet a fresh new talent called Eli Escobar from Brooklyn. “So that’ll be two albums on Strictly, and the start of bringing that label back into being a contemporary house music label is something that we’re going to look at doing in the first few months of 2016,” Simon explains.
So then, congratulations Defected. “Thank you. It’s a nice surprise. Sometimes with these things, you think that you’re in the running and you’re surprised at how it pans out, so it’s nice when it happens.”
Words: HELENE STOKES