Based in London, Adam Curtain has been quietly pushing out sick electro releases on his Trouble Maker imprint for two years now. It’s a hidden gem in the hustle and bustle of the city. However, it’s about time Adam and Trouble Maker were recognised for the outstanding work they’re doing for the UK scene. Nurturing homegrown talent, the label has released the likes of Hatterman, Bobby Pleasure and Extra Terrestrial – the moniker Adam produces under alongside Bobby. as well as branching out to Japan with a release from takecha. They’ve also had remixes from Carl Finlow, Craig Richards, Oli Silva and Desert Sound Colony. Trouble Maker and Adam’s releases focus on an interpretation of electro which sees elements of garage, house and techno all merge together for a genre-crossing experiment.
We catch up with Adam to discuss his journey in music so far, how the idea for Trouble Maker came about, tackling some of the current environmental issues and the benefits of travelling as an artist.
How did you first get your foot into the music scene? Was it something that you fell into or did you grow up surrounded by music?
My first foot into the music scene I guess was going to free parties back in Nottingham when I was around the age of 15, listening to all sorts – jungle, techno, drum and bass. I started taking an interest in how these things were run and at the same time was trying to find my feet with what I wanted to play myself. Around that same time I got bit by the 2-step/early dubstep bug, so we started throwing our own raves at a little club called Blueprint and the legendary Marcus Garvey Centre.
What does music help you do? Is it a form of escapism for you, something that helps you deal with life?
Music for me is one of the only things that keeps me fully occupied for hours on end. I’ve always struggled with my concentration, even at a young age, so it’s nice to be able to do something all day and be fully consumed in it with no distractions! It can definitely make or break my mood depending on how productive I’ve been in the studio that day though!
Is this something you do full-time now or are you balancing between two worlds? If so, how do you make it work?
At the moment I’m lucky enough to get about 3 days in my studio a week, with the other 3 days working from home on the label – I also rent out a few studios which I built in Clapton last summer with a good friend of mine, which keeps everything ticking.
Having done a fair amount of travelling in your time, how do you think these experiences have contributed to your creativity?
Seems a bit cliché but I think going to places that are far out of your comfort zone can have a mega change in how you think, act and work. Time away from the studio and music in general I think is really important, I often come back from festivals for example massively inspired and create some of my best stuff off the back of them. Balancing that feeling and the recovery can be tricky though!
What is it draws you to travelling? What’s your favourite aspect of the experience?
Seeing different cultures and the way people live outside of my norm fascinates me. I’m also a massive foody, I love eating the local cuisines of the places I visit and especially trying the different types of street food in Asia for example. The food in Vietnam is banging! I work my arse off so I can continue to do what I love but also to make money for exploring the world and adventures, these are the most valuable life experiences for me personally and worth more than any possessions.
Have there been any notable experiences in your life when you left a specific city or country feeling especially inspired?
Even though it’s a festival and it’s not some far out destination – every year after leaving Love International in Tisno, Croatia I feel extremely inspired. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there’s something quite magical about that festival and the location. I’ve made friends for life on the dancefloor at Barberellas (one of my favourite clubs in the world!). Nothing can quite prepare you for your first visit to Berghain/Panorama Bar in Berlin though – I first went when I was 19 and that definitely changed my perception of clubbing culture.
What was the motive behind starting your label Trouble Maker? Have you always wanted to run your own platform or was it something that came up because of the situation you found yourself in?
I did always have a vision of putting out my own music but it wasn’t something I wanted to rush into. I wanted to wait until I had reached a certain level technically and also I wanted to be settled down here in London too. I feel like I was on a bit of a journey finding my way with music. After being here a couple of years, good friends of mine Hatterman and Bobby were sending me some mega music, so it felt like the time was right to start something new and amongst ourselves. So far out of 10 releases, the only other original material featured that wasn’t from myself or one of the lads was from a little-known japanese producer called ‘Takecha’, so it’s very much just a label for my mates and myself to release our favourite work on.
As a label owner do you feel that you have to be constantly aware of consumer trends or is it more important for you just to focus on garnering a loyal following instead of catering to the masses?
I really don’t consciously pay attention to trends that are going on. We’re all influenced subconsciously by certain sounds we’re hearing and playing though, but I think as soon as you start hopping onto a trend that could be your downfall. Keep it original – I know this from experience! The main focus of the label for me isn’t making money – it’s purely to get the music I believe in out there and heard.
Do you ever think about the environmental impact of running a label? It feels like it’s definitely an important conversation to start having as we begin looking at all corners of the music industry for ways to make it a greener scene.
It’s something I’ve started to consider more recently for sure. We’ve got rid of shrink-wrapping as it’s made from plastic and we’re also using only paper and card to package records. I’ve read a bit about large scale vinyl washing which would mean that we’d be able to recycle old vinyl which sounds really interesting. I feel like there’s definitely a conversation to be had between labels, distributors and pressing plants about what we can do and I’d 100% want to be a part of that.
The label is very focused on UK talent, what do you love the most about the scene? How do you feel about the UK scene at the moment and its current standpoint?
I think the scene here in terms of music production is probably the strongest it’s ever been. It’s really exciting to see so much talent and so many great labels putting music out, it’s hard to even comprehend! I think the UK sound has always been a little different from other countries and that’s what’s made us stand out in the dance world, even going back to the breaky/bleepy late 80s early 90s stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is and what it sounds like – but we’ve definitely got a ‘sound’.
Where do you see yourself going with Trouble Maker? Are there any avenues you are hoping to explore?
It’s hard to say where I see myself going with it but I definitely feel happy with the path I’m on at the minute. Keep expanding the family with new wicked music and some quality remixes in there too. I am planning some showcases for the label both in the UK and abroad along with our quarterly showcases at The Lion & Lamb and our one-off warehouse parties too.
When it comes to your approach to social media it’s quite personable, is it important for you to keep this human element rather than only posting DJ shots?
I actually find the whole social media thing a little awkward! I just post random funny stuff I’ve been getting up to and a few records that I’m putting out or playing etc. I’m not massive on it, if I could push a button to delete the whole thing I would!
What keeps you inspired outside of music?
I’ve got an incredible group of mates who are daft-as-you-like but are my constant source of inspiration.
What’s your favourite way of relaxing and ensuring that your stay mentally healthy?
Keeping mentally healthy is pretty simple when you’ve got a girlfriend as good as mine! She knows the score and keeps me in check – this industry could easily consume you and mess with your head but she keeps me on a level.
Check out Adam Curtain’s record label Trouble Maker here.