Founded in 2007 in Paris, Moveltraxx was one of the first collectives to bring Chicago’s electric footwork scene across the Atlantic to Europe. It was originally launched as a vinyl-only imprint by Big Dope P and his friends as a way for them to have their records exist in real life. It was also a place for them to share their energy and love for the hip hop scene they grew up in and what they loved about dance music.
A dynamic imprint that has shared over 100 records in the last 13 years from various styles and collectives, this includes Ghetto House OGs Waxmaster and Traxman, Juke/Footwork artists DJ Rashad (Moveltraxx were the first European label to release his music) and DJ Earl and Jersey Club from DJ Tameil, DJ Sliink and Tim Dolla, Moveltraxx doesn’t have a roster in a traditional sense. Instead, they focus on an open-door policy, welcoming new artists that they’re passionate about and placing them alongside all of these legends on their Street Bangers Factory compilation series. On that project only, they’ve featured the likes of DJ Earl, Feadz, TT The Artist, MikeQ, Big Dope P, DJ Nasty, Dudley Slang, DJ Manny and many more.
It’s so incredible to see what they’ve achieved over the years as when the label was first launched they experienced difficulty, bringing a sound to Europe that wasn’t yet appreciated and persevering with amazing global success. The label has become one of my favourite imprints in the last couple of years so I’m excited to have had the opportunity to get to know their working process and journey so far a bit better for our latest Label Love Affair series.
Having launched Moveltraxx over a decade ago, how have you managed to consistently push out forward-thinking records and keep things interesting?
First thing first, we’re very lucky to work with amazing artists who make incredible music but other than this it’s the passion. Passion for the music, passion to share it with an audience we try to grow, passion for the music business as well and its constant evolutions. It really doesn’t feel like it’s been 13 years we do this as the “job” changed a lot over the years. Musically our essence is constantly trying to bring something new to the table while paying respect to the originators of the genres we defend.
What’s your process of signing releases to Moveltraxx? Do you usually have a pre-existing relationship with the artist or are do accept demos that come through?
Well, there’s artists like DJ EARL(Teklife), BIG DOPE P, TRAXMAN or DJ TAMEIL to name a few who’ve been releasing music on Moveltraxx for 10 years or more but we also sign a lot of new artists regularly, we’re totally open to demos. We receive a lot but do our best to listen to everything. That’s how we released SELKY recently. We don’t have a standard process. We randomly met HOUSEHEAD SAMIRA during a trip to Tunisia, ALEX AUTAJON sent demos and we met him with his mom in Paris haha. For MIGHTY MARK & TT THE ARTIST, we were playing a lot of their music on a radio show we had back in 2012/2013 and ended up asking them to release with us. KOZEE messaged us one day in 2018 like “go check BASTIENGOAT he’s sick”. We’ve been talking to AMADEEZY and played his tracks since 2014 and only released his debut EP this year, DUDLEY SLANG is family since the beginning, met FVLCRVM on tour in Slovakia… Each story is different for real. At the end of the day, there’s no standard process except maybe when someone in the team finds a new gem, he/she shares it with other members and if we all love it we release it.
What have been some of the standout releases for you? And any pivotal moments that have happened since founding the label where you’re just like holy shit as if this is happening?
To be real, Moveltraxx has been slowly growing & evolving. We took the stairs not the elevator. There hasn’t been any handout but just hard work over years so it really feels like each release or achievement is a pivotal moment. I could name label nights or the times we charted or got big licences/sync deals totally organically without PR/Publishing behind but truth is working we who we work is what truly makes us say “holy shit”. To give a recent example, we recently signed a Paul Johnson record. He was our introduction to dance music when we were kids so this means a lot to us. Whatever happens with this record when it’s out won’t be as big as how we felt when we agreed with Paul to release it together and the process to bring the record to life.
You mentioned in a previous interview that one of the reasons for founding Moveltraxx was to put the tracks out on vinyl so they’d exist. Only a selection of the releases on the imprint nowadays exist on vinyl, what changed your mind about the importance of vinyl? And why did you launch the white label series last year?
Back in 2007 it was all about Myspace and iTunes. Juke and Chicago Footwork was really “niche” here like I could count on my fingers the people in Paris who were into it outside of us. Putting records out on iTunes only with no blogs or press supporting the movement felt useless & that’s why it was important to be taken seriously back then. While the movement and interest for the music grew up, this thankless investment was not a must anymore which is why most releases from 2011 to 2017 were not on vinyl and it felt smarter to put the money in other areas like big remixers, for example, to bring attention to said releases. We launched the white label series as an answer to the ton of people messaging us like “I wish this was on vinyl”. The first one sold out in one day it was crazy which encouraged us to do a lot more vinyl releases. So far this year we had Text Chunk & Hood Joplin’s LP + Selky’s 12″ and we just released Househead Samira’s debut EP on vinyl too and there’s a lot more about to drop including a new Moveltwaxx white label.
Outside of the need to exist on vinyl, what else inspired the launch of Moveltraxx? Did you ever think that you would still be running it 13 years on?
Mr. Mozaphanka (RIP) & Big Dope P & Princess Soja founded the label. The music we made and the music we listened to wasn’t represented anywhere in Europe. We wanted to promote the new Juke / Footwork scene and everybody was sleeping on it in Europe. Like people were into Dance Mania repress, Ghetto House & stuff but as soon as tracks went higher than 140bpm cats were hating haha. We also wanted to show love and respect to Chicago OGs let down by french touch house scene. The Paris scene got super influenced by Chicago. And nobody can say otherwise. It’s cool to give shoutouts on tracks or mention them as an influence in interviews but when it was time to share their major labels budget for remixes or sign records on their own labels nobody did the work. We wanted to change that at our small scale from the very beginning which is why you have WAXMASTER or TRAXMAN in the very first releases on the label.
The main goal was also to connect those genres to our hoods as we grew up to think we weren’t allowed to listen to dance music like it was a strictly white bougie thing in everybody’s mind. We had to explain this shit comes from Chicago hoods which sounds obvious when I say it but when your only examples on TV & radio were white rich kids and yet you can’t get into the clubs it’s being played at, it’s very hard to feel included. So there has been a lot of work to do on that front when we started. The work isn’t over either.
About running the label for over 10 years, the passion and the things and adventures that happened and still happens behind the scenes made it clear that we were going to do this for life. It’s really beyond music. There’s no social media drama king/queen in the team so we don’t talk about it but we’ve been through a lot: deaths, treasons, liars, fake people, jail, boycotts… Karma is real though, at the end of the day we’re really thankful to be able to do what we do.
Having been one of the few labels bringing footwork over the Atlantic, what do you think it was that woke people up to the genre in Europe? What are your thoughts on the current scene?
The music is sick. That’s as simple as that. Sooner or later everyone will be into it. It still hasn’t reached its full potential. Footwork is the new hip hop for us, there are so many ways to be involved, there are different disciplines, the dance, the music… It hasn’t touched everyone it is supposed to touch yet. We brought a lot of rap heads into it when we started, you got people from dubstep who got into it when Planet Mu & Hyperdub got on that wave, Sherelle’s Boiler Room grabbed the attention of other cats mixing it with Jungle, Juke Bounce Werk is doing an amazing job, Iberian Juke the list goes on…. It’s a global mission. Everyone’s doing their part of the work.
About the current scene, I like the fact more and more people are into it, we really receive demos every day. When a genre gets popular there’s appropriation, there’s no way to avoid it. We can be pissed about it but honestly, it just shows there’s a growing interest. While this happens and a lot of artists jump on the bandwagon now, it’s very important to educate everyone and it means involving key players / OGs to any conversations and not just your buddies who started making it. I also see a lot of people talking about “Future Footwork” or “160” which are in our opinion are different terms to erase people from the conversation. This goes to labels, publications, DSPs, radio people…
You regularly release records from the Tekilfe crew, how did your relationship begin with those guys?
We connected with DJ Rashad (RIP) in 2007/2008 exchanging tracks and chatting on Myspace. We were the first European label to sign a track from him & have him tour europe in 2010 with Big Dope P, DJ Tameil & DJ Spinn. Rashad introduced us to a lot of other artists from Ghetto Tekz which was the name before Teklife. So it was quite natural to involve them in our projects. Some of them only did a few compilations appearances and others like DJ Earl or DJ Manny released full projects. Earl’s music really stood out for us from the very beginning and we started releasing his EP’s in 2011. We are releasing his new album later this year and it’s incredible.
What were some of your first experiences with the footwork scene in Chicago?
Receiving props and love from DJ Nehpets, DJ Slugo or DJ Deeon from the very beginning on our music. That’s the kind of validation that gave us the confidence to go hard from the start. For the story, the Moveltraxx vocal tag you hear in tracks & mixes is actually Slugo’s voice. I think it’s from 2009. There’s a lot of artists we instantly clicked with like we felt closer culturally than people who grew up in our city which was a strange feeling. I also remember hearing stories from OGs about how older french artists took from them but didn’t really give back.
Aside from the artists you’ve released on Moveltraxx, who are some of your favourite artists at the moment?
It’s hard there’s so much. The first names that comes to my mind are Lauren Flax, Smoke Boys, Ninajirachi, Hache P, Lxury, Basement Jaxx, Crystallmess, FreshtillDef, Darq E Freaker, Joseph Marinetti, Ikonika, Redinho + everything coming from labels like FDZ INC, Club Queen Records, Juke Bounce Werk, Hooversound, Trekkie Trax…
How do you feel that Paris and London have influenced the label and your approach to running it?
I think Paris influenced us musically to include more funk/disco elements to our tracks as it’s a city with a big boogie heritage. As a label, the city influenced us to propose something else than the very uniform soulless scene that was there back then. Adversity forced us to create a platform to defend the music we wanted to exist. I don’t like to talk too much about race or stuff like that but it’s a fact: the Paris club scene was 200% white rich kids. Launching a french record label by 2 guys & 1 girl from Cameroonese, Tunisian & Chinese heritage in Paris banlieues was a trip in 2007. The city influenced us in a “for us by us” way at the very beginning.
Access to regular clubs wasn’t easy and the first 2 years there’s been a lot of illegal parties. As a label we also wanted people to listen to that music when they run, when they go to work/school, when they drive. Not just music for the clubs you know?
When I moved to London, it was totally different. From radios to clubs and press it felt like anything was possible because everyone was just more open-minded and curious by nature. Meeting people like Jamz Supernova, Naina, Sherelle… I mean, let’s just say they are very different from the kind of people in the same positions in Paris. The diversity of what you can hear in clubs, radios, publications is just different too. In that way I think London had a “really do whatever you want to do” and “make stuff with clubs in mind” influence on the label.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned over the years?
It’s a thankless job, you have to do it for good reasons. If you do it to have a pat on the back you gonna be disappointed real quick lol. If you’re not fully passionate about it don’t get into it. Don’t try to fit into something that’s already been done. Do what works for you and your artists. Don’t try to step on others to go higher. As I said earlier karma is real.
If you feel slept on or boycotted by a club or publication, no worries, the guy in charge will be fired soon and someone new will notice. Work harder too, none of them are eternal anyway. Your work ethic & art is.
What has your approach been like to the artistic direction for the label? There’s a very distinctive look to the Street Bangers Factory series in particular. Are there any artists/illustrators you look to for inspiration?
In the early days of the label let’s be real we did not really care about that aspect of running a record label which is weird because we had a lot of people big in the graffiti scene in our crew. Our close friends wanted to take care of it and people we met along the way got involved more & more. With the exception of a few artists like Morgan Hislop who does his own artwork or artists like Ezekiel & Alex Autajon who already had connections with artists they wanted for their releases, it’s something we too often think about almost at the last minute unfortunately. There’s no limit in terms of style like once a record is done we think about what would look sick and then get in touch with an artist we already know or an artist we discovered via Twitter / Instagram and bookmarked for when we have the right project for them. For the SBF series, some people could think the track selection is all over the place (it actually isn’t at all btw) so having something you immediately recognize was important to us. Alejandro Pimpon who did a few artworks for us before did volume 1 to 9 and Sywell took over since volume 10. I discovered Mary via Insta & fell in love with her pixel artwork. I love the 8bits/16bits aesthetic and we never had that on the label before so I thought it would work well to design the characters etc…
You recently released the 14th edition of the Street Bangers Factory series which is a combination of legends from around the world, how do you go about selecting artists for these compilations? Is there something in the back of your mind during the selection process that you know you want to achieve?
We always try to have a balance between Juke/Footwork & more classical club music (130bpm). In the 6 tracks, we pick there’s always have to be at least 1 newcomer. Other than that it’s usually music from artists we work with + extended family that we can’t wait to share with people.
What does this series allow you to do outside of the standard release format?
We have always been into making compilations because it’s a great tool to introduce new music. At the beginning we used it to force narrow-minded people to listen to Juke & Footwork. The genre never cohabited with house music in releases for example. We did it so if someone’s want to hear the new track from their favourite artist in our compilation they also have to check Rashad’s or Earl’s track for example. And it often ends up in a message like “wow it’s actually sick”.
We started those smaller compilations to be able to push each track as even on our most successful compilations there was always 1 or 2 tracks getting less attention than others. With only 6 tracks we’re able to defend everything correctly. With the streaming explosion, the compilation format is not the easiest right now even if we’re doing good so volume 14 will be one of the last in the current format. The 15 will be very different and a big surprise…
What have been some of the major changes you’ve seen in the industry since launching and how do you think the scene could do better?
It changes all the time it went from vinyl is dead to iTunes is king to it’s all about streaming. Even with press it was all about blogs then regular mags bought the most successful ones and premieres became a must etc…It really changes all the time. I feel like people are more open-minded to different sounds than when we started. For a new artist i think it’s harder than before to get heard & discovered only on the back of your art which is why a lot are overusing socials to get noticed which can be annoying but I get it. At the same time Bandcamp makes it easier for a lot of independent artists to get heard and they are not forced to work with shitty labels anymore to publish music so that’s a good evolution.
When we started it was a very racist industry and narrow-minded game and now it looks like mentality are slowly evolving but I’m scared it’s in fact really performative so I’m not sure. All I know is I see more and more diversity when I look at people in power and it makes me very happy. That wasn’t the case at all in 2007. It’s good to talk about issues, it’s great to count the victories as well. There’s a long road to go still.
What’s up next for Moveltraxx?
We are going extra hard in the next weeks / months. When COVID happened it got tough for everyone like less streams / less sales (except Bandcamp via their operations) we decided to sign more records and invest in the label & go extra hard instead of playing it safe. We just released Househead Samira debut 12″, and we have new music from Alex Autajon, Kozee, Amadeezy, Big Dope P, Dj Deeon & Traxman coming + we signed a couple records from legend Paul Johnson as I mentioned. That’s only for the summer too. We’re going to release DJ Earl’s 2nd album that is one of the best Juke/Footwork records ever made in our opinion & lots of surprises. We hope to be able to re-launch our club nights in France and the UK as soon as it’s safe to do so as well .We did a party in the south of France with TRAXMAN, BIG DOPE P, ALEX AUTAJON, SAMIRA & ROMANESQUE just before COVID that was awesome so we really miss those right now. There was a new London residency that was supposed to start in May so we’ll see.
‘Street Bangers Factory 14’ and ‘Radio Safia’ by Househead Samira are out now on Moveltraxx. Check out their full discography on Bandcamp here.