Hamburg’s Room With A View imprint has been steadily impressing us over the last couple of years, with sophisticated melody driven house and techno cuts dropping at a timely pace from some of the most exciting producers around at thanjae minute. With one of the hardest working label heads in the business at the helm, Room With A View has in just two short years presented records from the likes of Jimpster, Atjazz, Andre Lodemann, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Basic Soul Unit, pushing it’s unique brand of emotive dance music into the bags and playlists of the game’s most heralded names.
We caught up with the man behind the label and the vision, Phil Darimont aka Dairmount, who speaks passionately about the history behind the label and the timeless and emotional content that has driven his young imprint to it’s widespread early success.
Originally from Belgium, you had been traveling the world and playing gigs since the late 80’s before finally settling in Hamburg and starting the Room With A View imprint with Anja Knupper in 2009. How did those early years shape what you would finally start some 15 years later?
First of all, I’ve spent the first 25 years of my life in Belgium, living in my hometown of Brussels, collecting records since a very early age. My father had a soul band in the sixties and was buying a lot of 7 inches & long players, so I basically grew up with vinyl all over the place. That is one major explanation of my early vinyl bug. The other thing is that Belgium has always been a cultural crossroad and our record shops in Brussels, Gent or Antwerp have been massively influential on my musical development. Music Mania in Brussels & Gent or the amazing Wally’s Groove World basement of Koenie…These shops taught me so many things and I’m grateful that so many imports of UK, France, Germany, Holland & the US were reaching Belgian vinyl shelves that easily.
In other words, my musical background has always been a patchwork of early family influences, fantastic record shop discoveries and, let’s admit it, a very inspiring musical decade (1990′s)… I’m used to saying to my musical friends that I am as much a child of Hip Hop than a child of Detroit Techno. I was born surrounded by black music, embraced the Hip Hop culture in all forms & discovered Detroit Techno & UK Acid House to twist my world for good. As a dj, you are a “musical sponge”, you learn so much about the music itself, but also of the people surrounding you, of the club’s crowd… And one day, I simply felt it was time to re-inject my own vision into this musical universe that inspired me so much. The label is nothing more than an expression of a part of my musical fantasies. It covers only a part of it but I wanted it to be very personal.
How and why did Room With A View originally form? Was it something you had been planning for a long time?
Across the years, I’ve helped lots of people to get their musicalmessage out there but playing their music in my dj sets and in radioshows but also by organising parties, being editor of musical magazines, selling music in stores or later working in music distribution… I also created in 2001 a website called Metronomic Family, which was a blueprint of the mixture we know today of editorial content and weekly radioshows. My only goal in all this was to create bridges between people living in different places & countries but sharing a common musical spirit and feel. If you think about it, doing this 10 years ago was quite a crazy and ballsy idea but bridges were genuinely built. It took me nearly 20 years to explore every possible part of the chain but every part of it was totally worth. A lot of the people I was in contact with and that I helped at one moment or another, were always suggesting me to do my own label. People like Sasse, Jimpster, Atjazz or Mad Mats were part of these people and after a while, I felt ready to listen to them… haha!
At one point, I simply felt it was time to express this personal vision through an imprint. It was also coming naturally in reaction to an extreme level of strict functionality in club music. I simply wanted to contribute to bring another perspective on it by creating my
“room with a view”. It has been very comforting and encouraging to see the pride of the guys I mentioned before after I started the label. I prepared it for a good year, shaped the vision, the identity, selected the people I wanted to work with…
Many artists and people came my way telling me Room With A View felt strongly to them as being a “long term work carefully prepared”. I presumed it is simply the fruit of a very long dedication that took a certain form… I had also the chance to be supported by close friends, no project can see the light of the day without this kind of precious support, I believe.
Room With A View has managed to become one of the most successful deep house labels in the world after just 2 years in the game, releasing music from heavy weights like Motor City Drum Ensemble, Jimpster, Atjazz and Basic Soul Unit to name a few. What do you think has been the most important element in the label’s early success?
Thanks for the compliments! Even though, I never considered the label as a Deep House label in a strict sense of the genre as we explore left & right of the House & Techno rich heritage. Honesty has probably been the most important element of our success and I truly believe that people can really sense this in artistic works. There has never been big plans behind the label but more of clear ideas and inspirations. And friendship has been a major part of our story. Most of the artists who released on the label (or made remix work) have been friends for years and everything happened very naturally.
As I mentioned before, I’ve been pushing what I thought was quality stuff for long years and I built solid friendships among this artistic community. I discovered Danilo (MCDE) when he was maybe only 19 or 20 and his very first release as Inverse Cinematics. He is like a little brother for me and I’m very proud of his musical path. He truly deserves it. People like Jimpster or Atjazz have been musical mentors who became very good friends with time. Both Mantis & Freerange have been great examples of long term, smart & inspired musical enterprises. Marino Berardi (today associated as Dairmount & Berardi) is a very old friend of mine with who I made my very first track around 2000 and then nothing again till 2009. Becoming friends with Andre Lodemann, Marlow or Llorca (aka Art Of Tones) in recent years has also been amazing gifts in my eyes as there are very special individuals, very deep persons.
To me, music is directly connected to people. It is a sharing experience in any case, so this label is just another way to make it happen… I think that people in this bizz too often forget that a label is not only a name and a logo, neither a fast way to make yourself a name and get bookings. I think it should be connected to a particular spirit and a sense of generosity. This personal touch and dedication is so important. I’m thankful to see labels like Retreat or Uncanny Valley (to name the first ones coming to my head) around to remind others what is the right sense of releasing & sharing music in a very unique way….
The talk is always of Berlin, but Hamburg has a vibrant electronic music culture with numerous other high quality house labels like Laid, Liebe*Detail, Mirau and Smallville also calling the city home. Do you feel there is a tight-nit community between all the different pieces of the puzzle there, or is it highly competitive?
I’m an adopted Hamburger, I’ve only been living here for some years, so I’m not the best person to talk about it.. But my perception of the city and its mentality is very humble and laid back. Very raw and honest too. What is eventually perceived as a bit cold at first is hiding a great sense of warmth and care in a second step. I learned to really appreciate this “this is what we are, take it or leave it” type of way of life in Hamburg. This is what I see as the main common point between all the crews you have mentioned. Even if people don’t especially interact a lot in terms of collaborations and parties, everybody really respects each other’s work and dedication.
Concurrence is really not an issue here, at least with the vast majority of people involved in the scene. But I suppose there is also a kind of healthy competition growing naturally when you see others doing their thing. It kinds of push you to move your ass to do your own thing I presume. I personally really enjoy to see that Hamburg is a place where strong identities are well received and tolerated in a positive way, There are more examples with Koze, Mathias Reilling (of Session Victim), Christoffer Rau, Lawrence, Lovebirds, Wareika or Kollektiv Turmstrasse..
The depth in the music which you describe as ‘timeless “emotional content” club music with a futuristic flair’ is instantly felt in tracks like Christo’s ‘New Jazzno’ and MCDE’s ‘Moving Through Clouds’. How important is is the presence of that timeless emotional content when signing a new release?
“Timeless and emotional content” are words to be used carefully to define what is my vision of club music in the best way. To achieve to record or release music with this character is another story of course and a huge challenge. It is a kind of benchmark I wish to reach somehow. Of course, it is something I always have in mind when signing new music but it is much more simple than that. I simply sign music that I feel strongly has a genuine identity, made my mind travel and my booty shake. It is a very subjective feeling but this is the only red line I see across the catalogue of the label. By nature, music is a medium of emotions and I don’t see why club music would not carry these. Especially since club music tradition carried loads of “emotional” tracks in the last 30 years.
The vision of the imprint which has been tastefully represented by intelligent graphic design and online presence has been well received in various types of music media, do you think they are crucial elements in making a new label stand out from the pack these days?
Everything that can emphasise your vision and identity is welcome as it is correct that it is increasingly harder to stand out in this huge flow of information. But still I don’t think there is a real formula to follow, maybe in the best case a few guidelines to consider. As long as your graphic identity and your way of communication help you to deliver a clear message, i think you are on the good side. I’m happy you appreciate the time and energy we put in certain aspects of our label’s work. Still, it remains a miracle to me that people notice us in the middle of this sea of information we live in.
As a DJ and producer you have worked under aliases Philarmonix and more recently Dairmount. Was it the deeper and more soulful shades of house that originally lead you down the DJ / production path? Who were some of your earliest influences?
Philarmonix has been my original dj name (never a production alias) when I started to play in Belgium and I still sometimes use the name when I play in my “freestyle” mode, playing more Black Music stuff left & right. I’ve always been the kind of dj playing lots of different stuff but always about warm soulful vibes. This is why for example, in the late nineties, I was often booked with people like Jazzanova, Mad Mats, 4hero and that kind of open minded freestylers. The roots of my dj & production path are strongly into Hip Hop and therefore in the Black Music tree. House & techno developed in parallel in my quest for fresh sounds.
My first production heroes have been people like Pete Rock, Dj Premier, Prince Paul but also Derrick May or Masters At Work. And these are just the ones going through my head but the list is quite long. But I never gave up about wanting to offer a certain “sound travel” to people while djing. Today with Dairmount, even in the main frame of House & Techno, I still go left & right in my sets exploring Disco, Boogie or Dubstep in the middle of the rest. Dairmount was really the name that I created for production and that was born somehow with the label in 2009.
The production side of things is really related to friendship. I truly love to be in our studio with Marino Berardi and work on our project Dairmount & Berardi. We are not the fastest to produce but we did a good bunch of tracks the last 2 years and had a good run of remix work this year by remixing Feygin for Composite, Jimpster for Freerange, Master-H for Komplex De Deep, Audio Soul Project for Fresh Meat. And more remixes will follow for American labels such as Halo’s new label Surface, the excellent Kolour or Sasse’s Mood Music. But first of all, we’ll finish our second EP due this autumn on RWAV.
You’ve travelled the world promoting the label, playing at various RWAV label showcase nights. Where have been your favourite places to play?
This year has offered already some highlights…You know, it is always related to people you share these moments with. Our night at Cookies in Berlin has been really great thanks to Norman, their classy A&R and host, their dedicated crowd and the solid sound system. Great moment of inspiration also between Berardi, Joel Alter & myself. The Miami showcase was lots of fun with an improvised back to back session between Lars Behrenroth, Halo & myself in a nice outdoor courtyard, before having Doc Martin & DJ Sneak taking over.
Other great moments have been Gothenburg with my girl on the dancefloor and my dear friends Goran, Andreas Saag & the Genius Of Time boys dancing their ass off. Stockholm the day before with dj Yellow with Mad Mats & family on the floor. And finally Paris with my man Master-H for an all night set…I’m already looking forward to our participation to ADE in Amsterdam or Bermuda days in Berlin this autumn.
What releases do you guys have coming up? And what else is coming up this year that we should know about?
Jeez! Lots of stuff… We just released a lovely EP of our Finnish friend Phonogenic and will follow in August with the third episode of the “My View Of The Room” series compiled by Berardi & myself. The principle is to highlight some forgotten gems of the catalogue, with some unreleased stuff and to mix them all together as a bonus mix. It is a great opportunity for listeners to discover parts of our catalogue in one compact view and the first 2 episodes compiled by Art Of Tones and Sasse were very well welcomed.
Then in autumn, all core artists of the label will return with their second EP : Art Of Tones, Marlow and Dairmount & Berardi. Also coming this autumn are the next 3 parts of our vinyl only Midnight Circle Lullabies series containing my favorite tracks of the label, new tracks and some special surprises. I’m also working on forthcoming stuff by Mario & Vidis, Matt Flores and hot new talents like Christo, Paskal and Nowakowski. Be assured we will not stand still!
Buy Phonogenic’s ‘The Raw Deal EP’ here: