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James RuskinBlueprint Records
Since launching in '96, James Ruskin's Blueprint Records has played a key role in the evolution of UK techno. Kone-R talks to him about current releases and plans for the label
James Ruskin is one of those stalwarts of the UK techno scene who constantly appears to be somewhat under the radar and yet deserves massive respect for his productions, djing, label and club nights. Moving on from his hip hop and electro roots, in the mid-nineties he teamed up with studio partner Richard Polson to release a number of seminal techno EPs as Outline on their jointly established Blueprint label. Despite being London based, James soon found himself identified with the Black Country techno sound being pushed by the likes of Regis (with whom he would later form a recording partnership as O/V/R) and Surgeon. Under his own name, James has released his emotive strain of shadowy dancefloor minimalism on Tresor, Ostgut Ton, Dynamic Tension and Meta, as well as Blueprint's sub-label Coda.
Kone-R caught up with him ahead of the first Blueprint party of 2011, to be held at Cable in London.
Blueprint was away for a while. Why was this and what inspired you to bring it back? Did you consider starting afresh with a new label identity?
The label was quiet for a while for quite a few different reasons, but essentially I had to get my focus back and feel that I was in a position to push the label forward musically.
I never considered starting a new label partly because I didn't think the Blueprint story was anywhere near over, and secondly I still consider it to be fundamentally linked with Richard Polson and his legacy, and to finish something that Richard was so intrinsically involved in creating was not an option, and I'm sure Nick Dunton will tell you the same thing with Surface.The O/V/R 12" has now had three sets of remixes, from some of the hottest names in techno. Was it always your intention to get all these remixers in or did they start approaching you after hearing the originals?
The original idea was to have a second 12 with four remixes but Ben [Klock] delivered three and we agreed they should all come out as a separate EP, then Marcel [Dettmann] did the same! So with these and the mixes from Robert [Hood] and Zak [DVS1] we ended up with a series of 12s, which weren't planned but now make perfect sense.Before relaunching Blueprint, you released an album, The Dash on Tresor. It seemed to reflect a more eclectic approach to production compared to some of your earlier albums, with a wide variety of tempos and quite melancholic moments. Is this a blueprint (sorry) that you intend to follow on your next album, assuming you have one planned? And if you do, when can we expect it, and who's putting it out?
The Dash was a turning point for a lot of reasons and it was definitely a statement of where I wanted to be heading. I don't have any interest now in recording an album of straight up club tracks; I’m far more interested in creating music that has more than one function and that can translate on a much wider platform, as the dancefloor can be way too restrictive especially if you want people to listen to a project as a whole and not just remove certain tracks from the context they were created in.
Mark Broom and myself are in the process of recording an album for Blueprint at the moment, and the idea from the start has been to explore what we are feeling musically without placing any constraints at all on what needs to be achieved. I think this is the most relaxed and enjoyable album I have ever worked on.It's great to see Blueprint is still putting out vinyl. Last time I saw you DJ, you'd switched to an entirely digital setup. Alongside the likes of Sandwell District, this approach seems to be becoming quite common, whilst also appearing counterintuitive. What's your personal take on this?
This music's roots are in the use of technology and I think to some degree you have to embrace the future. I use Traktor with the vinyl control; as for me it’s the middle ground. I love the fact that I am not tied down to one box of records and still have the tactile approach to djing.
I love vinyl, it's what I was brought up on, and Blueprint will never be a digital-only label as personally there has to be something tangible to make it seem real, and to make sense, but presenting the music in clubs is about entertaining and what method you use to do that is kind of irrelevant. If there is someone playing music you don't like from a laptop, it won't sound any better on vinyl! Obviously the digital side of things makes it very easy for someone to step into djing without having to grasp the basics, but a computer allowing you to play a collection of tracks perfectly in time does not make you a DJ, it’s about so much more.
Now that the O/V/R remix trilogy has come to a conclusion, what's next for Blueprint in 2011?
The next release we have is from Sigha which is an artist I am really happy to have record for us, and that will be out in April, then we have two 12s from myself and Mark, one of which has a mix created by Plaid and that is the precursor to the release of our album after the summer. There will also be a new O/V/R 12 and we are looking at a couple of new artists for the roster.Finally, the Blueprint nights in London seem to be becoming a regular occurrence. What can we expect from the next one and what plans do you have for them going forwards?
It's become a lot more interesting for us to look at things beyond the usual two-hour DJ set and instead try and look at the night as whole, and from that keep a relevance to the music. The next night we have is March 26th with myself, Surgeon, Luke Slater, Nick Dunton and O/V/R live in the main room and the second room will have Sigha, Shifted and the guys from Colony.We have several more lined up for London and are also taking the idea to different clubs around the world after the success of the Blueprint night at Berghain. It’s definitely something that we are going to be expanding on a lot more in the future.
Thanks and all the best for the rest of the year!
A pleasure, thank you!The O/V/R Post-Traumatic Son remixes are out now on Blueprint.
Blueprint Records hosts a party at Cable, London on 26 March 2011.