Label Feature: Themes For Great Cities
- Date published
Carhartt WIP Radio proudly present Themes For Great Cities – a Düsseldorf based label that showcases the sound of its hometown like no other. Since 2009 label owner Arne Bunjes (aka Rearview Radio) has been documenting the work of young artists who have emerged from the buzzing club-bar Salon Des Amateurs. On his first Themes For Great Cities release Mogul, he featured now-globally acclaimed DJ and producer Jan Schulte, who back then went by Jantronix Schulte. Schulte is also known as Wolf Müller, an alias under which he brought Themes For Great Cities its first major success in 2013 with the release of his second EP Balztanz. In 2016, Themes For Great Cities garnered further attention through Tolouse Low Trax’s EP Rushing Into Water, Kabuki by Young Wolf – the collaborative project between Wolf Müller and Amsterdam’s Young Marco – and Schlachthof Aufnahmen, the first solo EP by Stabil Elite and BAR member Lucas Croon. For Carhartt WIP Radio, Arne Bunjes has conducted a moving, experimental mix which features released and soon to be released works by the already named artists, as well as Düsseldorf-based newcomers like Phazer Boys or Neuzeitliche Bodenbeläge. Here, we speak to the man behind the music about his adopted city, its burgeoning music scene, and people knocking on his door to buy records.
Hey Arne, did you fall in love with music before you moved to Düsseldorf?
Arne Bunjes: Sure. I’ve been buying records since my teens. In the beginning it was more hip hop. During my social service I started to buy more, and in 1999 I moved to Düsseldorf to study social work.
And how did you enter the music world of the city? Was it by accident or on purpose?
Arne Bunjes: At the beginning I went home every weekend and continued to hang out with my friends from the city where my parents live. It was around 2005 when I met Jan Schulte at a party of a friend’s. I started to spend more and more weekends in Düsseldorf and eventually ended up at the local flea markets, checking out sampled hip hop records and stuff like that. At that time I also started to hang out at Salon Des Amateurs – but we did not go inside. We bought some cans of beer and drank them outside since the platform in front of the Salon is a pretty common place to hang out. One night we went inside and it was like, ‘Hey this is actually a pretty strange kind of sound.’ This was the time when they still played a lot of Italo and Cosmic, like 2006/2007. Around 2008 we started to play for the first time at Salon. By chance they did not have a DJ for Saturdays, they asked me, and I directly asked Jan (Schulte) to help out. After a while I realized there is so much going on around me musically, that it’s the perfect time to start putting things out on vinyl. Lucas Croon and the Stabil Elite made great music, Jan started to produce and experiment. I needed to capture this and so Themes For Great Cities came to life. I must confess, I’d had the dream to do a label before but it was all those guys that really got things going.
When did you firstly dream of it?
Arne Bunjes: Old friends of mine from my hometown ran a little DIY hardcore punk label and they showed me that everyone is able to do a label as long as the passion is there and you had music that is worth for realising. A great help from the beginning was Carsten Dämbkes, he knew about all parts of the process to produce a good vinyl record. He also mastered all releases. He ran also the record store Flipside (RIP) – a place that was also important for me where I bought my records.
Was there an initial moment when you thought like ‘Now is the time’?
Arne Bunjes: The move to do a label was definitely inspired by spending multiple nights at Salon and hanging out with the guys that you can find on the first records.
And how was the beginning, did the label sell well straight away?
Arne Bunjes: No not at all. We pressed 300 of the first "Mogul" EP and it took one and a half years to sell all. Also, I sent the first record to many people and forgot to send an invoice. For me, it was always like this – I sell the records and with the money I press the next. I also didn’t do much promo. I remember one promo move I did, I wrote to Prins Thomas and asked him for his address so I could send him a record. I sent it and some weeks later he had a little article on him in the German music magazine Groove, where he was asked to name three of his current favourite records. The Themes For Great Cities was one of them. I thought, ‘Wow, now we might get some more attention.’ But nothing happened.
What was the first time you got more attention ?
Arne Bunjes: It was “Baltztanz” by Wolf Müller. Jan and I played a lot at Salon and Jan did his homework and produced some percussive tool tracks to play them during our sets. I really loved that stuff and I said, ‘Let’s do a record.’ Jan was like, why not? And from that moment on he became more serious and spent more and more time refining his music.
This means you are more than just a label runner... You also encourage your artists to do new things or dive deeper into their work?
Arne Bunjes: Sure. I try to get the best out of the artist. Since we all started together, we grow together too.
You have no distributor. How do you choose the selling points of Themes For Great Cities music?
Arne Bunjes: A-Musik, Rush Hour, Oye, Public Possessions, Discos Paradiso, Redlight Records – I choose shops which have a certain attitude and a well curated stock. They stand out and represent the old idea of a record store as a melting pot for like-minded people. But since the Tolouse Low Trax record Rushing Into Water was such a hit, people now knock at my door and want to buy records. You still can order record directly from us, but it is getting more and more complicated for me to send the records out. My house looks very messy when a new pressing arrives. I’d rather work like that than being represented on a distributor’s list next to music that has nothing to do with the stuff I release.
The latest Themes For great Cities if by a band called Mekine U Teksi. Some say this is the new generation of Salon Des Amateurs.
Arne Bunjes: That’s right. They are somehow the third generation. I’ve know Irfan Derin – one half of the duo – for a long time. He would always hand me some tracks wanting to know my opinion. He listened deeply to what he played and checked the whole sound that was going on at Salon. Then one day he handed me his latest music and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s what you always wanted to do – melting Turkish music heritage with a Salon inspired sounds.’ It really overwhelmed me, so I released it.
Would you say that the Salon Des Amateurs is integral for what you do?
Arne Bunjes: Fully! I discovered so much music through it. Big thank you to Detlef, he is maybe the biggest influence on everything I do. Especially his attitude, he is a true artist with a passion that not many people can call their own.
And what will the future of Themes For Great Cities bring?
Arne Bunjes: The next record will be by a project called Neuzeitliche Bodenbeläge. I will do a 7” of it as I like the format. And then I want to make a new Mogul edition – this is my compilation series that features leftover tunes that I couldn’t place somewhere before, or that gives new producers some space for a release. In 2018 I will also do a new record with Lucas Croon.
Themes For Great Cities discography
Tolouse Low Trax: Rushing Into Water (video by Banz & Bowinkel)