We met up with Al Bradley ahead of his gig at Sheaf Street this Friday.

I caught up with him at 212 along with my mate, Marcus Kitchen, who’s EP Into The Wild was released on Al’s label 3am Recordings in 2015.

3am Recordings celebrates its fifteenth birthday this year and has recently started pressing releases to vinyl again.

Al: Someone’s selling one of my records on Discogs for something ridiculous. It’s somebody in America – because there were only a hundred copies, so the only place you could buy it was Juno online – and somebody’s got it on Discogs for something stupid like a hundred and sixty dollars. I mean, I didn’t make a hundred and sixty dollars off it.

(The record Al is referring to is his Maalndro EP, released on Midnight Social recordings)

Roya: That’s pretty funny.

Al: I’ll have a look if it’s still there.

Roya: Yeah do – it is really funny.

Al: I know, yeah, it’s ridiculous. Completely and utterly ridiculous. And d’you know – the most ridiculous thing is there’s still a couple of copies left on Juno and you can buy them for about fifteen quid or something.

(everyone laughs)

But yeah, cos it wasn’t available in America probably, some guy in America has just bought one, had it sent to him in America from Juno – it’s probably cost him about twenty odd dollars or something – and if he can sell it for over twice as much then he’s made a load of money.

Roya: Well it’s nice to know that you’re in demand.

(everyone laughs)

Al: Yeah – well it would be great if that was the case, wouldn’t it, but… (laughs) …it’s actually just some bell end in America doing it to make some money, and not me or Carlo [Gambino, Midnight Social Recordings manager].

But yeah, it’s like the 3am stuff that I’ve put back on – well I don’t understand how Discogs works, because it’s like things that are still available on Juno and for less money a lot of the time – like the first one Juno’s still got some copies left.

Marcus: It’s like you say – there aren’t really any hard and fast rules are there?

Al: No.

Roya: Yeah, I guess it’s just whatever people decide to sell stuff for sometimes and then that sets a mark.

Marcus: It might be that somebody’s charted it.

Al: Maybe. I really don’t know. Like one of our [3am’s] records – you can buy it on Juno for £5.99, but there’s somebody selling it on Discogs for thirty five quid. So – why would you do that?! Just buy it from Juno. Or off me. I’ve got some.

(everyone laughs)

Al: D’you know what’s funny is when I did it I’d done the first three [tracks on the Malandro EP] and Carlo wanted a fourth one, and I was like ‘pfft, oh alright’, so I did that ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Acid’ – I just did that in an afternoon – and that’s the one that’s sold the most digitally.

That’s sold way way way more than the others, and on all the feedback that’s the one that got the most attention. And that took me about four hours.

Roya: (laughs) I guess life’s a bitch sometimes.

Al: (laughs) Yeah yeah.

Roya: I’ve spent about a week trying to make a tune that I had in my head and it was just going nowhere, so I was like fuck it, I’ll just do something else, so I just fucked about for a bit and I was like ‘this is actually quite good – but no – I didn’t want to do this, I wanted to do that’

Al: Yeah, with that it was like I got it to a certain point and then I thought ‘I don’t really know what else to do with it’, so I sent it to Carlo and went ‘I’ve done this, but I don’t really know what else to do, I’m kind of stuck, I’ve reached a point where I either need to step away from it or do something totally different’ and he went ‘No, that’s brilliant. That’s ace, I’ll have that.’

So he put it on – I was like ‘Yeah, just stick it on track two, side B’, you know, just like a little bonus track, and yeah, that’s the one people like the most.

So yeah, there’s probably some kind of message in there, isn’t there? Like – just fuck about. Cos the others I spent ages on.

(everyone laughs)

Roya: I think when you spend too long on stuff you can kind of go to a weird place in your head.

Al: Yeah, you get sick of hearing it and stuff don’t you, so you’re like I don’t know if that’s good. But this – because it’s so simple – it’s just drums and acid and some hiss…

Roya: Yeah, that works though.

Al: Right, let’s see how much this thing [the copy of the Malandro EP on Discogs] costs… bloody hell – yeah look – that’s hilarious – two hundred dollars – that’s insane. Two hundred dollars!

Marcus: Bloody hell!

Al: Well – I guess if it’s not available in America then that’s possibly why.

Marcus: yeah I guess so. People would be looking at the shipping and…

( At this point someone comes over with a dog, which causes a bit of a distraction. Al’s dog, Jeff, also present, is almost as well known around Leeds as Al)

Al: I’d like to find out who it was [selling the record].

I was going to message them and say if you sell it, can I have like twenty percent of your sale. Maybe I could send you a few more..? (laughs)

Marcus: Get some royalties out of it (laughs)

Al: It’s funny though; it’s like the company I used for distribution for the new one – it’s a company called Straight Distribution in Stuttgart and they’ve actually stopped doing vinyl distribution now.

They’re going to be stopping at the end of this year. So I’m going to have to find another vinyl distributor. And how it is now, it’s worked really well because I’ve just looked after the UK myself, which has taken a bit more effort because I’ve had to ring up shops and send things, but it’s been good because I’ve done that and then just left them to deal with the rest of it.

But yeah, they’re stopping doing vinyl distribution and they’re only doing promotional stuff, which I guess there’s more money in. Doing PR stuff rather than distributing vinyl. So that’s what they’re doing, so I’m going to have to find another one.

(Another dog-related distraction happens. Following this I decide to start the interview ‘properly’, with the vague outline I’d prepared)

Roya: So – right – tell us about fifteen years ago then… Did you think that you’d be doing this for fifteen years?

Al: No. Nope. It was me and this bloke called Guy Williams who set up the label originally in Manchester, and – to be fair it was Guy that came up with the name. He just decided that most of the time you heard the best music at houses at 3am.

Roya: Yeah, it’s a brilliant name. It is what you say.

Al: Yeah, it is. Most people do work it out.

Yeah, and that’s what it was, and he didn’t really do any of the DJing stuff, he kind of set up all the business stuff, and I didn’t really have any involvement in that. I contacted artists, and we worked quite well with that, but then we just went a bit mental really for the first twelve months, and it was just at the point where vinyl was slowing down and digital was starting to come in, and we’d not really thought about it properly.

Roya: I guess nobody did, did they?

Al: No, nobody did really, but I think because we were new to it, we were just dead excited about it, so we got like a business loan and we basically spunked it all.

We went to Miami, for the Miami Music Conference; we got part of that paid for by the – I think it was Stockport Council, they gave us a grant, if you went and tried to do business overseas then they’d fund it.

So we did that, which actually was quite good because a lot of the people we’re still in contact with we met there, but we didn’t even have a distribution deal or anything at that point. We’d literally got a load of CDs with the first couple of EPs on, and went round giving them to people. And then just spent loads of money. And then we did – how many did we do in the first year? We did eleven releases I think in the first year. Which is ridiculous. Because we spent so much money, and then the distributor went bust, so we didn’t get paid for any of it. So we’d spent about – I think we’d spent something ridiculous like sixteen grand, and we got about four back.

So that was in about 2005, and then Guy decided he didn’t want anything more to do with it really. Because there wasn’t really anything more for him to do with it. We’d lost all that money and then because he didn’t DJ, I think his heart wasn’t in it any more.

Roya: What was his interest then?

Al: Well, he loved the music, and he sort of helped the contractual stuff get set up and all that. So then I had to learn all that. He didn’t want to be part of it and more, and I just had to decide do I do it or do I not? Do I carry it on?

So I had a break of about a year, and then – I dunno – I think I just thought I wanted to try. And then all the digital stuff had happened, so we put all the stuff on Beatport, because that was the only one really then. And the first few years of the digital stuff, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I just kind of winged it.

(At this point our mate Russell Master, also a Leeds based DJ, comes over)

Al: Now then! Come join. Do you want to be part of the interview?

(I explain briefly that me and Russell went to interview Steve Middleditch of Paradise Systems a few weeks before. Steve builds wonderful audio equipment, and it was through Al that we met him, at the 3AM Recordings 15th Birthday night at Wire.)

Al: So anyway, that was that, and I started producing round about then – around 2007 – mainly because – I don’t know whether this is true or not, I’m sure I heard it, but I might be totally wrong, I might have just made this up – I’m sure that around that time, Beatport, because there were so many labels trying to get on Beatport, they were saying that if you didn’t have any releases within a certain amount of time then you’d be taken off.

Roya: Yeah, that sounds right. I remember someone saying to me that there was some guy on Beatport and he was constantly releasing tunes, but like this really low quality stuff.

Al: Yeah, people were banging anything on there.

Roya: Yeah, I’m sure that they had to then bring in some kind of quality control. But I might be wrong.

Al: Yeah it was something like that. Something like you either had to have new releases coming out every six months or something, as a minimum, and at that point you were dealing with them directly, so you just had your own account with Beatport, and you just uploaded everything to Beatport yourself. And back then, they were really all there was I think. I don’t even know whether Traxsource was going then.

So essentially, yeah, you could just knock something up, and bang it on Beatport, and then it was fine because you had a release and that was it.

So yeah, really, that’s the only reason I started producing. Because I was like ‘Shit, I don’t really want to be pissing about with loads of money or anything, so I may as well do some stuff myself just to keep it ticking over.’

So yeah, that’s why I started producing. There was no big masterplan or anything. It was primarily to stay on Beatport, which is ironic because I don’t actually put anything on Beatport any more.

So that was it, and then I did about – how many years? – of that – what did I do? 2007 to 2016.

Roya: Are your current vinyl releases not available digitally then?

Al: Not on Beatport, no they’re not. I made a point when I moved it back, to just keep them on vinyl.

Roya: Would you put them on Bandcamp or anything?

Al: Well, I did – not the last one but the middle one – I did put that on Bandcamp, but it’s a strange thing Bandcamp; for sort of general house stuff it’s not that good, and I’ve heard that from lots of people who would generally sell loads of stuff.

Roya: Yeah, it seems to be more good for jazz and experimental stuff.

Al: Yeah, it’s brilliant for experimental stuff.

Marcus: I think The Revenge do pretty well on it.

Al: I think if you’ve already got a massive profile then it’s good. If you haven’t, and you just put stuff on there then you just fall into the background. It’s kind of like being on Beatport, you just fall into the middle of it all.

So yeah, I did it, tried it, and it didn’t work that well.

But yeah, it’s funny doing vinyls again because although there’s more money involved, there’s less pressure really, because you don’t feel like you’re having to constantly be putting things out. You’re constantly either signing something or getting stuff mastered, or promoting something, or releasing something. And you just end up kind of – while one thing is coming out, you’re promoting something else, and things have to be still ticking along from before, and it just did my head in to be honest.

In the end I was like I’m just signing stuff and I don’t really know what I’m doing here. And when I signed yours [Marcus’s EP], for example, that year, I made a point of going ‘I’m not doing that this year. I actually want to sign about three or four things that I really like, put them out.’

Roya: Yeah you don’t want to stuff just for the sake of it.

Al: No, but that’s what you end up doing. Because you’re purely doing it for presence. Which is like you were saying, there’s people just making rubbish.

And now it’s even worse because you’ve got all those self mastering programs, which are alright if you want to just do something and try it out, but people actually are doing stuff, then running it through these programs – and that’s what people are doing now, so you don’t even have to send anything off for mastering.

Roya: I think it’s quite horrible in a way, because I think it’s all a cash cow. A lot of the whole digital thing. Not just releases, but like CDJs with a planned obsolesence. Like there’ll be something else in five years and that one won’t be useful any more.

Al: Yeah absolutely. But the irony is that most digital labels don’t really make any money. Well the bigger labels, they’ll make loads, but the smaller labels won’t.

Roya: And it makes money for Beatport.

Al: Yeah, they’ll be making a fortune. And digital kit will make a fortune. We did a gig, and me and Phil were the only people playing vinyl, and the people who were on before had their own controllers – one was a Pioneer controller, one was something else, and it’s like, it’s literally like people picking up a thing that’s got two CDJs, and a mixer and that built in, and then it just looks like some kind of shit Fisher Price toy. They look awful. And I imagine if you’re banging in loads of loops and doing that kind of thing they’re brilliant – you know if you’re going like ‘I’m not just playing track, track, track’, if you’re doing some kind of sampling or whatever – things you can’t do with a record – then brilliant, that’s obviously great, but most people don’t.

And then all you see is just awful flashing lights everywhere. It just looked like some cheap shit off Star Trek. And this guy, he’d choose a track and then another light would come on and then something would flash to the left, and then there was a little light going around the one that was playing. It just looks really tacky. And I don’t know whether that’s part of the reason I don’t like it all.

I don’t know. When it first came out – I’ve got CDJ 100s, which are the really old ones with the little wheel on top, and it doesn’t tell you what the speed of anything is, no track titles, nothing. You put your CD in, it’s got a pitch control and it’s got a little jog wheel. And you have to use the jog wheel to work out how fast or slow it’s going to be. And I quite like the fact it’s really minimal. And you have to mix on it. You have to work things out for yourself.

Roya: I think the 1000s are the last ones I like.

Al: Yeah, now it’s just gone too mental. And I think because it’s so easy to do, it’s taken out some of the enjoyment of it. And the enjoyment of doing anything like that – part of it’s learning it. I don’t know what the point is of doing something if you have it all done for you. It’s like being a footballer and having a robot foot that never misses.

Roya: One thing – the Leeds scene isn’t like that. There’s a lot of integrity here.

Al: Yeah, I think a lot of people got a bit sick of it really.

And there’s been a generational thing as well. I think it’s kind of gone full circle where – obviously for me, when CDJs first came out, I was amazed by it. It was incredible the fact that you could do that with CDs. Nothing wrong with that at all. But then it just went way way way too far, and then – it’s like my niece is 22, so she’s grown up with ipods and digital and streaming and DJs and all that kind of thing, and she got used to, when she first started going out, people using laptops and digital, so when she started seeing people playing vinyl that was the same kind of reaction I had when I saw someone using CDJs. You know, because it wsa so different. So it’s kind of become a new thing again. Which is nice. People actually want to see someone doing something. Which is lovely.

And it’s not that complicated really. There’s someone actually doing something rather than pressing a button and watching some light. Which is boring as fuck ultimately. Unless that persson is remixing things while they’re doing it live, or playing about fifteen loops over the top of each other.

Roya: Yeah, I guess you’d hope that’s what it was all made for originally.

Al: Yeah, that’s great. I remember – I mean this is going back about twelve years, at Mint Club, they had that guy who does all that Solid Groove stuff – he used to be involved with Peace Division and all those sorts of people, and he was one of the first people I saw using a laptop where you actually haven’t got a clue what’s going on.

And it was brilliant because it was like well that was just bits of tracks and other things and samples and all kinds of stuff where you would be completely be being creative, and it sounded amazing. And that’s fine. No issue with that at all.

Roya: Did you move to Manchester and then back to Leeds or are you from Manchester originally?

Al: No, I’m from Manchester. I started in Manchester, and then I moved here because I got married. And then we split up, but I stayed here.

I was debating whether to go back to Manchester, but by the time I’d um’d and ah’d about it, I’d met loads of people here and decided to stay. And it’s been good. In the period I’ve lived here, Leeds has completely changed.

Roya: I read a lot about Manchester in the 90s.

Al: Yeah, it was mental.

Roya: I can relate some of that to how Leeds is now.

Al: Yeah, there’s similarities between Leeds and Manchester. The people are quite similar and their attitude towards stuff is quite similar as well. But they are also quite different places really. Obviously Manchester’s a lot bigger. And I think now – probably the one aspect of Leeds now that I don’t like is that there are elements of it that are a bit glam. And it never used to be. When I moved here it was still all quite – yeah, it wasn’t like that. Like you know where all those new bars are as you walk out of that station? What’s all that shit about? That’s nothing to do with what Leeds used to be about. I mean, it’s really good to see that it’s been redeveloped, but I don’t know.

There’s elements of that in Manchester as well, but I think because Manchester’s a bigger city, it’s more spaced out, whereas here, everything is kind of in one bit. So yeah I don’t know, I’m not that keen on that stuff. But then there’s other things that are great. Like here’s really good [212], and what they’re doing on Kirkgate, that’s great.

Roya: Yeah, it’s good to see independent businesses supported.

Al: But yeah, I think with a place like Leeds, because it’s changed so much, it’s massively noticeable because it’s not a big city centre.

There’s some brilliant stuff that’s happened obviously. That’s why I’ve stayed. I like how particularly electronic stuff has pretty much taken over the city. You know, for such a small place there’s a ridiculous number of people doing stuff. Which is amazing.

I thought for example Inner City Electronic was a really good thing to happen. I wasn’t actually here. I was away that weekend, but it seemed like a really positive thing for the city.

I mean, being from Manchester, there was loads of hype about early 90s Manchester, and a lot of it was justified. But lots of the hype – it’s your classic mixture of some stuff that’s totally true that was brilliant – and it was, there’s no doubt about it; I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you and giving this interview if it hadn’t been for all that; the reason I bought my turntables was because of the Haçienda. That’s just how it is. But there’s so much bullshit that went with it.

Roya: Yeah, I can imagine there is. I’ve read loads about it. I find it fascinating, but I wasn’t there.

Al: Exactly. And I think that’s the thing. I think anything like that, it’s like if I read about – say, when I was in my teens I was really into, as well as early electronic stuff, I was really into Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, stuff like that. So you read a lot of stuff because it happened before you were around and it’s…

Roya: Mythologised.

Al: Yeah, and you don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. And obviously things take on their own little stories, don’t they? And if you believe all the stuff you read about Manchester then everybody in the city was at the first Joy Division gig, and everyone in the world went to the Haçienda.

And sometimes the Haçienda wasn’t really good. I never saw any shootings or anything, but obviously you heard about them. But even that kind of stuff’s got totally blown out of proportion now. It’s like everybody who ever went there saw somebody get stabbed. Or you were talking to Shaun Ryder in the bogs or Bernard Sumner was on the dancefloor next to you or whatever other myth you can come up with. So it’s all just total nonsense a lot of it.

But the truth of it, with that stuff, it’s kind of like what’s happened in Leeds – it was brilliant, and it inspired loads of people to do stuff, and that is what’s happened here in the last ten years. That’s why so many people here do stuff.

If you think of – I don’t know – like punk in London, it inspired loads of people, or the Beatles inspired loads of people in Liverpool, so there’s always things that happen like this. I think it’s mad that Leeds – for such a small place – has got this amazing scene.

Roya: It works as well because it’s such a small place. You can go to like two things that you really want to go to in one night because there’s so little distance.

Al: Yeah you can walk across the city from one place and go to something else.

The only downside of that is that there’s so much stuff going on – I mean you’ll both know about that [to me and Marcus], that there’s a ridiculous amount of competition. So it can also end up backfiring a bit.

Roya: It’s good though here because it’s not nasty. I was pleasantly surprised when I first moved to Leeds [by] how supportive people are of each other in the scene.

Al: Yeah, I notice with you lot, Sub:Terranea – all the Wire kind of people, there’s quite a nice fluidity between everybody. I do think Leeds is massively open in that sense. And people are quite happy to help each other out and go to each other’s nights.

(Another dog-related interruption happens)

Al: Do you know what’s funny is this is the third interview I’ve done where Jeff’s involved in the interview.

Marcus: I like that.

Roya: Yeah, Jeff’s ultimately connected to you and the Leeds music scene. I’d have been disappointed if he wasn’t here.

Al: I’m doing – you know Michael Scott, don’t you? Well I’m doing a couple of things with him and I think we’re going to do them as a separate thing from 3am and we were trying to work out how we were going to do it, and I thnk we’re going to do a hand stamped thing and just do 100 copies or whatever, and we were saying we should do a silhouette of Jeff’s head. You know as the hand stamp?

Roya: (laughs) That would be ace.

Al: Because if I put something about 3am on facebook I’ll maybe get 50 or 60 people liking it. If I put something about Jeff I get about 200 likes. So I think that’s the way forward for me really. Just to incorporate Jeff into everything (laughs).

I can’t remember what I was talking about now – oh yeah Leeds (laughs) anyway – yeah it’s been good for me, because I don’t think I would have done quite as much as I’ve done if I hadn’t moved.

I was toying with the idea of going back to Manchester, years ago, in about 2006. And it’s taken years – it’s really good again now Manchester, there’s lots of good venues, but for years, it suffered because of all that, because of the Haçienda stuff.

It took years for Manchester to kind of shake off the whole Happy Mondays Stone Roses Haçienda kind of thing.

When the Haçienda shut – I’m going to do a film spoiler – you know in 24 Hour Party People, and you watch it, and what is supposed to be the final scene of the Haçienda with Tony Wilson in the DJ Booth? Well that’s your classic that didn’t happen.

The last Saturday night it was open was just a normal Saturday night, and it was Miles Holloway Djing and it was just a normal night, it was a really good night, and on the Tuesday they used to do a student thing, and they did that; I think that opened, and then it was due to open again the weekend after, but then the bailiffs had come in because they owed loads of money and all the rest of it.

So it was nothing as poetic as Tony Wilson going up and playing Voodoo Ray, you know as the final record of the club being open and then saying ‘Come up to the DJ booth and steal the turntables’.

Nothing like that ever happened. You know, which kind of spoils the myth I guess, doesn’t it? But you know.

But yeah, Manchester struggled for years afterwards. But also, when the Haçienda closed there were a lot of people who said it was really good that it closed because it was all drugs and guns.

But you know, the Haçienda closed and then what happens? It gets sold to property developers who then call it the Haçienda flats. And it’s like well you’re not that arsed about it being called The Haçienda are you? You wouldn’t have sold those properties probably if it wasn’t on that site. You know, loads of the people who bought them would have been attracted to it because of the historical references.

And the property developers – they’ve made loads of money out of a thing they apparently hated.

I mean, there are worse cases than that, you know, where people are actually being forced out because of the developers. Like Fabric. And it’s a shame to see that happen to iconic venues.

Marcus: Mint Apartments.

(Everyone laughs, and actually that was slightly weird, because we did this interview a few weeks ago, before it was announced that Mint Club is to close in 2019 due to the area being redeveloped)

Marcus: It’s a bit like places having to close down because of noise complaints.

(This was also before the announcement that ministers are set to change planning rules in favour of venues rather than developers, so it will be the developers that will have to address the noise issues)

Roya: From properties built after the venue (laughs)

Al: Yes I think it’s nonsense that sort of thing.

It’s like there were some flats near Distrikt, and people complained. And it’s like you’ve bought a flat near a venue. You know what’s going to happen. And even if it’s not music it’s traffic or people – you’re in the city centre. If you want to move into the city centre,you’re doing it presumably because you want the vibrance of a city centre. So if you don’t actually want that, go and live on a farm. I think thee should be some kind of law with that. Where you, I don’t know –

Roya: Sign a disclaimer?

Al: Yeah. If somebody builds flats after there’s a venue there, it’s not the venue’s problem.

Anyway, we’ve gone massively off course here.

Roya: We have. So… Tell me about what you’re doing now…

Al: Label stuff then – Yeah, I put it back to vinyl in 2015. Just because I got sick of digital really. And I just felt like to do the digital stuff you had to spend inordinate amounts of money on massive name remixes and things, which didnt necessarily work out.

And I’d rather put the money into a record. And then there’s a physical representation of something. I get a copy, which I then have, and it’s an example of what I’ve done. It’s available in other places around the world and there’s an actual physical memory of what it is. Digital stuff just sort of dissipates, doesn’t it?

It’s like I remove myself from god knows how many promo lists every week, because there’s just so much stuff getting sent out and it’s impossible to listen to it all. Bearing in mind I don’t even play that much digital I’ll still get about 200-250 promos a week.

I always used to think, you know when I set 3am up and you were sending promos that were actual vinyls to people, you’d have to make a point of going right, for every record I send, that’s cost me three quid to make that record, so if I’ m sending fifty promos out then I need to make sure I try and cover the cost through sales. So you’d make a point of sending it to specific people.

And it’s like I said, I started producing because I thought I needed to otherwise Beatport would drop me – which evidently doesn’t happen – because EVERYTHING is available on Beatport. So say on the Monday you’d be on page one, by Tuesday you’d be on page seven, by Wednesday page eighteen, and so on.

So you think unless somebody’s prepared to go through eighteen pages of music, people won’t find you unles they already know about you.

On Juno, for example,in the past couple of years, there’s been an increase in vinyl releases, but nothing like the volume of releases on Beatport. So on Monday you’ll be a release and by Friday there might have been 120 more releases. And if you’re making a vinyl release, it costs to be pressed so you have to commit to it.

Roya: It has to be good.

Al: Well, that’s subjective, but SOMEONE has to believe in it. You might think it’s shit or I might think it’s shit, but the person who’s bringing it out has to really believe in it enough to want to spend about a grand on it. And that’s the difference.

I mean with digital, what was liberating at the start is it did allow people who didn’t have money to press vinyl to actually do stuff, which is good. That’s a really good thing. But it’s just become too much now to the point where we could record us hitting the table now, sample it, do something with it, and it be available tomorrow. And that’s not good.

And when people talk about vinyl and quality control, the example I’d give is when I set up 3am in 2003, the biggest selling vinyl label in the UK at that time was called Nucleus, which you probably haven’t even heard of, but at the time it was fucking massive. And there was them and Tidy Tracks, and essentially it was just nonsensical hard house. Nobody even plays it any more. But at the time, they were selling like 20 000 copies of things without even trying, and we were trying to sell 1500. And I thought that was all shit. So quality control’s a bit of a funny one because what I think is quality, someone else might not think is quality. Evidenced by that in 2003.

But what I like about it now is I feel like I’m doing it now how I wanted to do it then.

When we set it up in 2003, all we wanted to do was put stuff out we thought was good.

And this is the really nice thing – on the first three that I’ve done since I’ve relaunched it on vinyl, of the twelve tracks, there’s been seven of them by people who’d never been on vinyl before. Including me.

And that’s really nice to be able to go ‘There you go, there’s an opportunity to be on vinyl.’ Because it still means something. People really like it. And I’m prepared to say this as part of any interview, when I put 3am back on vinyl again – so the lead track was by me and I’d never been on vinyl before – and I’ve been buying vinyl since the 80s; I bought my decks in 1991, so vinyl’s been one of the biggest parts of my life – so yeah, when I got the test pressings, and put the needle on the record – it’s my track on my record on my label – and all it was was a kick drum, there was no fancy intro or anything, and I got really really emotional about it. And that’s what it means to somebody. You might have had a hundred digital releases, but when you have something on vinyl and it’s an actual physical thing and you put the speakers on and you put the needle on the record, it’s different.

And the other people I’ve put on vinyl, they’ve said the same thing. And that’s really nice.

Words: Roya Brehl

For more information on Al’s gig at Sheaf Street on Friday go here

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