From the years behind the decks, to running a label, and even working in a record shop: Adam Shelton could never be accused of resting on his laurels. In 2005 he threw his first Below party at Birmingham’s Rainbow Pub, a series of discerning but inclusive nights that cemented his reputation as a local lynchpin. Then in 2009, alongside DJ and producer Subb-an, he founded One Records, a label which has become renowned for its championing of a particular strain of of raw and raucous house music. Recently, however, he’s been spreading his wings, leading the steely charge of the electro renaissance, flooding his sets with the sound and giving the genre a meaningful focal point in the UK. It’s a move that’s informing the next chapter in his career as he develops a new label to run alongside One.
Yet despite pressing forward, he’s a DJ and producer who’s always never forgotten his roots: the city and the sounds that made him. We talked rave tapes, his unbreakable Detroit connection, and what’s next for Birmingham’s hardest working son.
Let’s start with a broad question. What does the word analogue mean to you?
Analogue I associate with many things, a constant moving wave, a word used to summarise a piece of music for example “a raw analog house track”. It’s also a fixation of artists and musicians to always produce on analogue equipment. The word can be applied to a wide variety of things, it’s used so much in the electronic music world. It wasn’t really until around six, maybe seven years ago when I started to understand and hear the difference in the movement of sound and hear it in the records I was buying. There was that rawness that I have heard spoken about; a fresher more real sound. I feel with a lot of people buying records again – with the resurgence of vinyl during the last years and more and more high end audio offerings popping up – the want for analogue sound is in demand. A very good thing in my book!
Where did your relationship with music start?
I was eleven years old and my friends from school had older family members that used to go to raves, they would travel all around the UK and then share the tapes. We used to sneak into their rooms after school and listen to the tapes. I was hooked straight away, the one that really stands out to me still as the game changer was Fantazia, ‘The First Taste’. This was a compilation where all the tracks were separate, so you could really study the music, and the quality was higher than other mix tapes which were recorded live from the raves. I was hooked from then and started buying tape packs from shops, copying as many friends recordings as possible and building up my own collection. Looking back now that was my first addiction to music and I wanted to have as many tapes as possible.
My first memory of records was pretty much the same story. Older friends who had one turntable and a big speaker, and a small but really concise collection of rave music and what was known at the time as “mellow” – which to me with only rave to go by felt really slow but there was a 4/4 beat so I was still interested. It was a nice alternative to rave but still seemed to fit in the same family. I purchased a full set up – a very basic one which came with two turntables a small mixer and around a hundred house records, ranging from early Felix Da Housecat, early Nuphonic records, some French labels and some UK house labels. I was fourteen by this point and started buying from there, mixing and listening as much as I could.
When you started One records, what did you want to capture?
We started it as a natural progression from running parties. Wanting to be involved in the music scene as much as possible, to connect with artists you follow, to give friends that are making music a platform to release on. It took us a while to find our sound but I feel we have that now. It’s crazy, the label is nine years old this year. Music tastes change but one thing I feel from the experience that stands out is that I don’t look back on any release we did with regret. I have felt all of the music and am grateful to all the artists involved.
I know Detroit has always been a huge influence for you. What is it about that scene, and that part of the world, that had such a big effect on you?
If you know Network Records from Birmingham then you will know that it was pushing Detroit artists from day one, and having known about that label since I started buying records it’s not hard to figure out why I’m in love with it. For me, Detroit is at the top of the game and has been since it started. Forward thinking music, artists that have real stories and aren’t afraid to be who they want; techno, electro, soul, whatever comes from the city is real. I feel through Network Records there is a connection between the two cities that others don’t have. Both places have their struggles: homeless problems, the motor trade problems over the years, heavy drug use. It’s not about who has more of one or the other, it’s that these things have affected the cities and I feel a connection that I don’t have with any other place.
You’re now working in a record shop in Birmingham now, right? Tell us about that.
Cafe Artum is the city’s newest record outlet – also a cafe and a really cool hang out, located opposite the historical Q club on Corporation Street. It’s now six months old, still very much in its infancy but already gathering a wide section of music lovers. We have been doing some really cool in stores with the likes of local legend Surgeon, as well as Alexander Nut and Craig Richards. We also took the records on the road to Houghton festival as part of Trevino’s record stop.
I’m excited to see where it goes in the next six months. It’s been a pleasure been involved so far.
Before we spoke I was listening to your electro set from Houghton last year earlier. Why is that sound having such a moment?
Electro ticks all the boxes. The broken rhythms have more swing and energy, the sounds that are used to structure the tracks are often forward thinking, and the sci-fi element is ever so apart at a time when, let’s face it, a lot music isn’t pushing forward that much. House music isn’t telling stories like it used to, techno is pushing but the fresh stuff is very hard and that’s not for everyone. Electro appeals to the breaks heads, the D&B heads, and anybody that’s looking for something new that doesn’t already know about or feel it. Electro is a genre like disco, techno, breakbeat, whatever. I don’t see it as a fad.
How has running a label changed?
It’s a strange time at the moment actually. I feel there are a lot of labels out there, lots of new labels and people seem to be getting very scatty with managing this. It’s amazing that vinyl is back and sales are up, however it’s still the same with the pressing plants, with the wait. I really hope it gets under control and doesn’t collapse. In nine years we have seen different waves. When we started you could get a record pressed in weeks, four to five. Then with the boom around five years ago it’s been eight to fifteen weeks depending on who you are working with, and now it’s getting better but only marginally.
You’re starting a “sister label” to One Records, called Eon Records. Why a new label, and why now?
I’ve been immersed in a different world of sound for the last year or so, playing electro sets at Houghton Festival in 2017 and at Resonate Birmingham. Also playing at Houghton this year under my new A-Future alias, as well as sharing the decks with artists such as Billy Nasty, DJ Stingray and Radioactive Man in that time.
So it feels very natural for Eon Records, as a sister label, to focus on pushing electro, breaks and other broken sounds, with the real goal being to have no boundaries. Eon’s first release comes from San Francisco based Sepehr, who first came to attention with a release on Monty Luke’s Back Catalogue label in 2017. This year he followed with a release that reached high critical acclaim on Honey Soundsystem Records. Sepehr’s offering for Eon is the perfect first output for the label and is true to his unique style as an artist. The release also sees collaboration with Stratowerx & A-Future on the remix. Although Eon is taking on the same style as One Records in appearance, the sound is very different.
words: Angus Harrison
cover photo: Daisy Denham
Since discovering electronic beats during the early 90’s, a sentiment was installed, a vision, a direction was forged. Hailing from Walsall in the West Midlands emerged a masterly lucid rhythm. Soon after his record collection evoked in 1995, Adam Shelton was divulging conscience melodies before taking the helm and running the infamous Below Sunday raves that were held at various haunts around Birmingham, the city where he is now firmly based. The Rainbow courtyard and warehouse was a venture Adam co-owned, whilst starting One Records alongside Subb-an in 2009, collectively they were also known as SAS.
Adam’s long time rapture with electro and broken sounds steers us to Eon records, the descendant label spawning from One, which is launching in the spring of 2018. As an extension of his creative output Adam is also a label selector for Birmingham’s freshest record escape dubbed Café Artum, alongside Jason Wynters. The method is to bring high end sounds to the city scape. Adam is also running a London based gathering with Craig Richards, Tantrum, a journey through all forms of electro and otherworldly beats.