With over fifty releases from the likes of Inigo Kennedy, Ø [Phase], Rødhåd and Xhin, Belgium’s Token imprint has become one of the most influential techno labels of our time. We caught up with label boss Kr!z to discuss Token’s past, present and future.
"I've never released anything because I’m not satisfied with the results. It’s also not a huge priority for me."
Where did you grow up and how did you discover electronic music?
I grew up in a small town in the north of Belgium. I discovered commercial ‘electronic’ music through the radio. I didn’t have much money when I was 12 years old, so I rented CD’s from my local public library, took them home and recorded them to cassette for my Walkman (for those who are too young: that is a portable cassette player).
I picked music from the ‘dance’ section based on their artwork. Happily, that library had a very eclectic selection cause that’s how I found DJ Shadow, Daft Punk and Aphex Twin. Coming from the ‘commercial dance music’ that I heard on the radio, it was a huge leap, but I’d always found music very interesting so my taste evolved rapidly.
I discovered techno later, by accident, when I was visiting a festival in Belgium to see Goldie, DJ Krush, Kid Koala and other artists. My friend and I stumbled into a tent hosted by Fuse club where Steve Rachmad was playing, and he basically blew my mind.
The first time I saw a DJ mix two vinyl records together was a few years before, in a new record store that had just opened up in my town. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and was hooked from that first second: I just knew I was going to do everything to be able to do that myself. I think I was around 13-14 years old.
"My friend and I stumbled into a tent hosted by Fuse club where Steve Rachmad was playing, and he basically blew my mind."
Have you ever written music? How come you’ve never released anything?
Yes I have written quite a lot of music, but not that much techno. It’s been a while since I actually sat down and made music, probably over 2 years now.
The reason why I haven’t done anything since is simply a lack of time and I’ve never released anything because I’m not satisfied with the results. It’s also not a huge priority for me.
Where did Token come from, where is it now, and where will it be in the future?
I launched Token in 2007, mainly because there was not a lot of good techno around at that time. The kind of techno I loved wasn’t very popular around 2005-2006, a lot of labels stopped releasing and a lot of artists I liked couldn’t get their music out.
I contacted a few artists whose output had dropped and Inigo Kennedy was one of those people, but he definitely wasn’t the only one. Since then we started releasing more records, albums, compilations, doing label nights across the world.
For the future I don’t want to change too much, except for expanding our audience even more. I want to keep on releasing quality music that will stand the test of time. That’s not just a plan, that’s been a mission statement since day one.
"Artists share their art and inspiration with me, I feel it’s my duty to share that art with the world in the best possible way."
What’s your motivation behind releasing music?
I just love music, so if I can play any part in releasing great music myself, that makes me very happy. Artists share their art and inspiration with me, I feel it’s my duty to share that art with the world in the best possible way.
"Design is important to me, but to be honest, it bores me to think about stuff like that. I’d rather think about the music."
Is design important to you? I really love the industrial-themed, rusty-colored covers of your first 15 or so EPs and the font you used. Since then you’ve made some changes in the covers – would you be so kind to tell me the conception of the graphics?
Design is important to me, but to be honest, it bores me to think about stuff like that. I’d rather think about the music.
Happily, I have a good designer who does an amazing job and knows what I like and what we need. I loved the design of the first releases too, but it started to bore me at some point.
Token has more than 50 releases, which is an exceptional achievement. What do you think is the key ingredient to long-term success?
Good music? I think if you’re sincere, great things will come to you. That goes for everything, also for producing and running a label.
What has been the biggest challenge over the past 8 years?
Good question. I don’t really reflect on things like that, I always try to look to the future. I’m surprised when I see how some of our older records aged so well and still sound great.
In terms of highs and lows, there’s been big sellers and there’s been low sellers, but it’s always been pretty good. I guess the big challenge is to be focused on what we (me and the artists) want to do and not being distracted by what other people are doing or expecting from us.
"I feel it’s my duty to share that art with the world in the best possible way."
This year you’ve introduced two new artists to the label. In Token’s history it is very rare, you usually work with the same group of producers. Can you tell me the reason behind this expansion and why you choose Tadeo and Antigone?
There is no big reason really, apart from the fact that I’ve always loved their music and wanted to work with them since a long time. Finally, this year, the time was right: I had time and they had time. It doesn’t always work out like that, sometimes I want to release a record from someone but our schedule is too full. Sometimes artists I want to work with are too busy with other labels. It all depends.
What prompted the Aphelion compilation? What was the main criteria when you selected the featured artists?
The concept came about pretty organically. I’ve had contact with all of the artists on the compilation for a long time and relationships have developed over the years.
Three of the artists on Aphelion (Surgeon, Luke Slater and James Ruskin) were and are huge influences on myself as a DJ, so logically they were also a big influence when I started Token in 2007.
Then there’s Inigo, Ø [Phase], Ctrls & Rødhåd, obvious choices and definitely my favourite producers out there at the moment.
Added to that there’s Karenn (Blawan & Pariah) and Lucy. I’ve been talking with them for years now to work together and this seemed the perfect opportunity.
"There’s a lot of mediocre cut & paste techno coming out nowadays but that actually pushes me to keep going with the label to offer an alternative for people."
What do you think about the current state of dance music? Is it still an exciting thing to be a part of it?
Yes I think so, even though I definitely miss some originality and identity in most of the music that’s coming out lately. However, I can still easily feel inspired as I’m lucky to have such creative minds on the label.
There’s a lot of mediocre cut & paste techno coming out nowadays but that actually pushes me to keep going with the label to offer an alternative for people wanting more than the run-of-the-mill techno ‘bangers’ that are coming out lately.
What can we expect from you later this year and in 2016?
I can’t reveal too much at this point, but we’ll have another big 3LP project coming in autumn. More news soon.
For myself: I have quite a busy DJ-schedule until beginning of next year and I’m looking forward to discovering new places, meet new people and share the music that I love with them. I know that sounds terribly cheesy but that’s how I feel.