Interview: Will Saul

I've heard nothing but good things about Hope Works. I’ve been told its a 'proper' club

Hi Will. Its a pleasure to have AUS music join us at Hope Works for this 10 Years of AUS tour. What can we expect from this show with yourself and Bicep?

Lots of unreleased and forthcoming Aus goodies and a selection of classics and gems form over the years from me. I'll also be road testing the masters for an EP that I’m releasing on Kompakt in June. As for Bicep I would imagine they will be trialing some of their own tracks and remixes alongside their impeccable selection of house, techno and disco.

You’ve not played at Hope Works yet, it's been a long time coming. What have you heard about Hope Works? Where else have you chosen to celebrate this momentous occasion of 10 years in the business?

I've heard nothing but good things about Hope Works. I’ve been told its a ‘proper’ club by many artists over the years. We’re touring all over the UK and Europe over the coming months….too many to list really.

Can you quickly remind us all how,when,why AUS began and who is involved now?

Aus was set up 10 years ago as a left-field off-shoot to my first label Simple Records - Aus means off in German and sounds like house..... No one else was involved in running the label other than me & my wife until I did a deal with !K7 two and a half years ago to get involved with Aus and help us grow the label and support artists for albums. The label was initially set up as a home for albums from Sideshow (the singer songwriter Fink's alter ego) and Lee Jones. Fin(k) is a close old friend of mine and was always my initial sounding board for A&R decisions but has never been involved with the running of the label.

10 years is a very long time to survive never mind thrive in the music industry. This is a momentous achievement, and we salute you. What would be your brief summary of how you’ve changed, if at all, as a label over the last 10 years? What have been the major milestones for you?

We release more music now thats for sure!

You are someone with an incredible pedigree and your label AUS has become a bastion of electronic music here in the UK and worldwide. What would be the single most important factor in your success so far if you utterly HAD to pick one thing?

A&R. Record labels thrive or die on finding and selecting new and exciting artists. I believe its relatively easy to put together a group of interesting and exciting like minded artists and create some buzz and hype in the short term but maintaining that over many years is quite tricky. People grow tired of the ‘new’ thing very quickly and move onto something else so its genuinely hard to keep a label fresh and exciting for a long period so I’m proud of the fact that hopefully we’re still relevant after 10 years.

As well as being a superb artist and DJ you’re a seriously adept A&R. Which aspect of these different hats do you feel most at home with and why?

I think probably A&R or DJ’ing is where I’m most comfortable as these are the disciplines I’ve done week in week out for well over 15 years (20 in the case of DJ’ing). Both feel pretty instinctive to me now and I’ve learnt to trust my gut after so long…..With producing music its something that I dip in and out of and these days have very little time to devote to making music. I intend to make music as I get old and have stopped working in the music industry so I’m kind of saving being an artist until later in life….. but you will hear the occasional record from me until then.

We as human beings often learn by our mistakes. Sometimes we learn on the job. Sometimes we learn by the example of others. Sometimes we don’t learn…. What are the top 3 things you hope you have learned over the last 10 years in regard to surviving as a record label in this ever so crowded and competitive music marketplace?

Take risks and don’t be afraid to fail as you rightly point out its the only way we learn. Trust your vision as its all you’ve got. Collective momentum is what really drives a record label to the next level. You need a group of artists that are all growing and developing at the same time to make the music press, promoters and finally music lovers sit up and take notice. Never pigeon hole yourself with a ‘sound’ as a record label. Have aesthetics that you appreciate in music and be aware of them but a diverse roster of artists is key to maintaining an interesting label that doesn’t grow stale and repeat a formula.

If it all ended tomorrow what would you be most proud of and what would you like as your legacy from your work in the world of music?

The music that we’ve released across my two labels (over 150 physical releases) will always remain (although probably not in its existing formats) and the pleasure that people have taken from the music will be enough for me to smile to myself when I’m old and wrinkly.

Where do you see AUS fitting in the musical story of modern electronic music, or even just modern music?

I would like to think that we’re a reliable source of cutting edge electronic music. A label that people will at least reach for to check out what we’re doing - even if they haven’t liked the last few releases. Hopefully we’ve gained people’s trust over the years.

What should we all be listening and looking out for coming from AUS in the next few months?

There’s 3 more (following Sei A’s ’Space In Your Mind) albums coming out this year on Aus but I’m not able to tell you who they’re from yet as they’re all unannounced…..there will be music from the usual suspects - Youandewan, FOLD, Shenoda, Breach, Marquis Hawkes, Bicep, Midland and more but there will be 3/4 new artists (new to Aus) that will be introduced very soon as well so watch this space.

What’s the track you wish you’d signed , that you had the chance to, but passed and now wish you hadn’t?

There was an EP from Actress that I could have picked up (before his breakthrough album) that I regret not signing.

Is there anyone out there you’ve not worked with yet that you would love the opportunity to?

I’ve been pretty lucky across Aus and !K7 (I’m head of A&R for !K7 and select the DJ’s that do the DJ Kicks compilations) to work with some of electronic music’s greats over the years. I would still love to get a remix from Shed though!

Can you see any new movements in electronic music becoming more prominent at the moment? Do you feel any particular sea changes occurring in what people are wanting to listen to out there both on the dance floor and at home?

We’re in a bit of a transition period following the 'deep house years' at the moment, techno is obviously massive again at the moment but this as a genre has less scope for going mainstream/crossing over. I think electronic music has had such a long time in the charts and mainstream that there must be a push back to guitar based music on the radio again and in the charts soon. For my money we’re lacking a big wave of really exciting bands to drive that forward otherwise I think it would be happening already as I’m sure Radio 1 are keen on this happening.

Finally, what is your favourite piece of music from a Sheffield artist?

Anything from Maurice Fulton - I know he’s not from Sheffield but he’s lived there for many years so surely he counts as an honorary citizen….?


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Ok by me!