Brooklyn label Dance Artifakts represents the deep connections formed between friends and artists. The common goal of sharing what moves you is the collective focus and driving force.
Founded by Terron Darby, the label was born with the vision of becoming the culmination of his personal experiences in the music industry since the early ’90s. Through decades of work in records stores, music studios – both private and commercial, A&R, DJ-ing, releasing records and throwing events, Terron has been exposed to many aspects of the business, always dreaming of having his own personal outlet in the form of a music imprint to bring all those separate experiences together.
Debuting in 2018 with the ‘One Again’ EP from Terron himself, joined by Elwan, Dance Artifakts has kept its catalog strong all the way up to 2020 with its tenth release, ‘N´Bife’ by Jay Skelly feat. Astan KA with remixes by Neil Flynn, Nomad In The Dark, coming out on March 23rd, 2020, meaning that Terron’s genre-defying vision has come to life, spreading throughout dancefloors all over the world, and pushing the boundaries of progressive, house, and techno beyond convention.
We chatted with its founder Terron Darby about the label’s vision, the latest release by Jay Skelly, and how he manages to run the output.
Electronic Groove: Hi Terron, good to have you on EG. Tell us about the initial idea of creating Dance Artifakts and how did it come together?
Terron Darby: Thanks for the opportunity. The idea for my label, and the vision behind it, has been a culmination of my personal experiences in the music industry since the early 90’s. Through decades of work in records stores, music studios – both private and commercial, A&R, DJ-ing, releasing records and throwing events, I have been exposed to many aspects of the business. I’ve always dreamed of my own personal outlet in the form of a music imprint to bring all those separate experiences together. Some time ago, I landed on the word Artifact. The general definition is “an object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest”. This stood out to me, as I’ve always enjoyed the “experience” of music in the form of physically “creating” it and then “collecting” it – purchasing the actual vinyl or CD, admiring the album art, reading about the artists/collaborators, etc., and then reflecting back on different styles as time passes. I wanted to evoke this feeling in my own label and create both digital and tangible special edition vinyl of some releases, so this is what brought me to ‘Dance Artifakts’. I felt like the entire concept came together, and it had meaning and depth in representing my take on the electronic music culture.
“I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. We want to make music that is timeless so when you do discover our Dance Artifakts the music will withstand the test of time and remain relevant”
Electronic Groove: What have been some of the challenges of creating a label?
Terron Darby: One of my main challenges is I have a full-time career as an audio engineer, technology educator and designer of professional studios. Those responsibilities consume a lot of my time. So, making sure that I found a balance with my life in general, before attempting to create the label was important. In order to find this balance, the label’s artist roster is comprised of a small collective of close friends allowing me to manage what time I do have leftover to give it 100%. Another challenge I face is that we have a substantial amount of music in the cue, and I have to have patience and allow enough timing for every release to have its moment without overshadowing the previous. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. We want to make music that is timeless so when you do discover our Dance Artifakts the music will withstand the test of time and remain relevant.
Electronic Groove: When releasing a new EP, how important is it to have good marketing and PR?
Terron Darby: I think that there needs to be a balance of people naturally finding out about your music, and the efforts towards marketing and pr. I take an organic grassroots approach to it. However, in today’s very saturated market, it’s an absolute must to have a good system in place. Working with dance music media outlets like Electronic Groove plays an integral role.
Electronic Groove: What would an artist need to do (artistically & professionally) to get signed on Dance Artifakts and how would they get in contact with you?
Terron Darby: I am always open to starting a conversation about new music as I haven’t really thought to open up the label for submissions. However, I have been receiving some amazing music from people all over the world that have caught my attention. Artists can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get a conversation started and get to know each other and talk about music.
Electronic Groove: Do you have any personal advice for those who are venturing into the label business?
Terron Darby: Be organized, get a music lawyer (not a friend), a music lawyer. Invest in a good CPA, know how to communicate, stay true to yourself and don’t do it for fame or money. You have to love it. Be patient and know you will need to navigate many personalities and creative ideas while figuring out how to get the world to hear your music. Make sure you have the money to invest without an expectation of return on investment for the first year or possibly more. Make sure you have the time and right support system to deal with running a label. Learn how to be comfortable with saying no if you don’t feel something. Just because it doesn’t fit with your label’s sound, doesn’t mean that it’s not good, remember that. Work with people that get you and your vision and want to see you succeed as a “collective” not just out for themselves. Most importantly, take the time to hone your craft the music will speak for itself.
Terron Darby – Dance Artifakts Manager
Electronic Groove: Let’s talk about the label’s latest EP. What are your thoughts on it? What makes it special? How does it fit into the label’s concept and sound?
Terron Darby: I Love It! As always, I take a very personalized approach to each release as they develop. Our family of friends/artists that provide music for the label are all special because they each have a unique style and are not confined to a specific “genre”. We like to make tunes and remix each other’s music to give each release a groove for different moods. I’m so excited for Jay (Skelly) and his two amazing originals and of course the lovely voice of Astan KA! I could not be happier with the music video that they produced together. It is very special to share the video on the premiere day. On the remix side of things, I could not be more stoked than to have my dear friends Neil Flynn and Nomad In The Dark at the helm. The main intention for how each record fits into the label’s concept is simply music that moves you.
Electronic Groove: We are very fond of the cover designs. Who is the artist behind them?
Terron Darby: Yes! The art is so special to me. The illustrator behind the art is the great Jack Liakas. We met through a good friend, Artem Artemov. Months prior to the label’s launch he and I discussed the logo design of the label which he also drew by hand. After we created the concept of the “disco ball/world globe relic” idea we knew we were on to something. I was so happy with the outcome; it was apparent that he had to continue as the label’s artist. The rest is history. The art is very important behind the name ‘Dance Artifakts’ as I wanted every art piece to be hand-drawn instead of computer-generated. Jack being an illustrator by profession was the perfect fit for this relationship to flourish together. I’m so happy to have him as part of the DA family. He is 100% the backbone behind the art direction with collective input from each artist and myself. I trust Jack to be as creative as he wants, to deliver the perfect art. Be on the lookout for the prints becoming available as 12”x12” ‘collectors’ editions soon.
“We want to make music that is timeless so when you do discover our Dance Artifakts the music will withstand the test of time and remain relevant”
Now we move forward with Jay Skelly about his latest release ‘N’Bife’.
Electronic Groove: What can you tell us about the inspiration and production process behind the EP?
Jay Skelly: For the past 3 years I’ve been slowly finding my feet in the production process to the point where I more or less stopped gigging so I could pour my heart and soul into it. Before this I had kind of dipped my toe in but never really committed fully (I’m impatient!). After about a year or so and many many hours of self-doubt, half baked sketches and lots of tinkering, I began making music that I liked. I love live percussion.
Growing up in Ireland, I was around traditional Irish music a lot. As I got older I kind of moved away from it in favor of electronic music but I would still hear it in the streets. Busking is a common thing and I would often give some money to the Buskers playing. The music just seemed to follow me. Since I moved to Berlin in 2012 I’ve fallen head over heels for the “sound” in the city. German producers, in particular, have a signature style that I feel captures the groove in a unique way and I guess a combination of both past and present rubbed off on what you hear in ‘N’Bife’.
The track was a sketch that I worked on for almost 8 months. It didn’t have a name. I was in the usual back and forth over what it needed but in the end, I felt a certain rawness and the kind of powerful emotion that I couldn’t get from instruments. That was around the time I met Astan KA. Normally she would sing in jazz bars around the city so at first the idea of an electronic track was a bit like “Wow!..OK…hmmm”… It took a few takes but on the last two she really went deep into her heart and brought up what she was feeling which was love. ‘N’bife’ means I love you. When she finished I was in awe. It fits the track beautifully and the message in the track shines through in her powerful vocals. I also asked my good friend Kev Sheridan to lay down some Djembe drums, and in the end, it balanced the whole track.
‘War Cry’ started off as a jam but as it was produced soon after ‘N’Bife’ was finished, I still had the hypnotic Djembe percussion elements stuck in my head, so there’s inspiration borrowed from that. I also just bought a Moog Sub 37 so I took that for a spin and you can hear it in the big lush bassline in the build-up. The track itself is aimed at peak time and I like the energy it brings in contrast to the first one. When it comes to production: hardware vs software, I’m about 50-50. You can make great music with both. Just put in the hours and you will see results!
EG: The release is tied up to a video premiere that is coming out today. Tell us about your involvement in it and the story behind it?
Jay Skelly: So the video came about when I sent over the 2nd or 3rd draft to Astan KA. She wanted to do a music video because as a performer (acting, dancing, and singing) it all flows together for her, she does all this with raw passion and pure love for it. As a film lover as well she was set on this music video to look and feel like a movie scenario. I also love movies and mystery and a story is fantastic when it’s done right, so we wanted to create a story that had meaning but also kept the viewer interested.
We sat with our friend and scriptwriter, Camille, and explained to her all our ideas and the vision we had in mind, suddenly a story was forming. I asked Astan KA to explain on her own words:
“The music video is an ode to black woman everywhere and also it’s a message that says – when you are lost and you don’t know where you are going or what’s next, stop and remember where you come from. It’s an awakening. Get back to your roots. Many people of African heritage have forgotten about their roots, part of the healing process is to look deep inside yourself and that means going back to your roots, your ancestors”.
Berlin is unreal for creative groups of people that come together and amazing things happen. Camille had contacts for everything we would need to make it work so everything fell into place. When we did the shoot we managed to get 40 friends at 10 am on a Saturday morning to be extras which is a rarity in Berlin (laughter), normally people are either going home from the club around then or still partying somewhere so thanks to all our super sober(ish) dancers!
I shared co-producing duties with Astan KA so that was really nice to see it all coming together. The group was amazing from start to finish. I want to give a special thanks to Rodrigo our cameraman and editor, Davey our Director, Camille our Scriptwriter and Co-Director, and of course, Astan KA for her amazing work from start to finish. And of course, the whole thing wouldn’t have been possible without Exocee, Cassi and little Aria who braved the cold. They were absolutely brilliant.
“As you know Terron runs the label and he supports each of us with the same love and good vibes. He is always totally flexible on most decisions and what’s really important is, he listens to us”
EG: What do you think is the role of music videos in dance music?
Jay Skelly: I feel that sometimes the message or journey in a track can be enough, but in certain cases there is a need to convey your message with more. As the music landscape has completely changed in the last 10 years with a big push towards social media posting whereas an artist it feels as though being almost forced to create content to stay relevant, maybe music videos will play a bigger part in the future and we may see a revival of them. I grew up In a time when MTV was actually MTV and they played music videos, I loved it! Videos like Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ or The Prodigy’s ‘No Good’, blew me away in both detail and simplicity. From my experience though and with all that was involved with producing ‘N’Bife’, it cost a lot even though it was through friends of friends. But if you have the budget and you feel its right, go for it! It’s so much fun and its awesome to see it all come together. Technology is changing all the time and it may become cheaper, who knows!
EG: What’s your personal opinion about the remixes? Who chose the artists?
Jay Skelly: I love them! The EP has something for everyone. I’ve been a fan of Neil Flynn’s music since day one so I asked him and he said absolutely…then took it to a whole new level! I didn’t know Nomad In The Dark until I joined the Darce Artifakt family but he also did a fantastic job with his remix, totally left of center which compliments the EP, and the label bossman chose him. As you know Terron runs the label and he supports each of us with the same love and good vibes. He is always totally flexible on most decisions and what’s really important is, he listens to us. Its honestly like a little family now, everyone on the label is super nice and super talented. I’m genuinely delighted with how it all turned out and I’m already working on some new stuff.