Establishing a record label in the last couple of years is no enviable feat. Yet Farren Laen launched Laen Disc in 2020 with a slow burn that befits his understated deep house productions.
Sustainable growth is never instantaneous, and his stint as part of the buoyant Montreal scene – with the 00:AM collective – has helped the formulation of a distinctively woozy and engaging sound. With Montreal left behind and a new home found in New York, we approached Farren Laen off the back of his second Laen Disc release to contribute a podcast to the IA MIX Series.
Laen’s mix is crammed full of Inverted Audio favourites from Workshop, NAFF and Smallville, alongside quality heaters from Clone’s Royal Oak and the unstoppable Rawax. It is certain to defrost you throughout the stark month of January. Hit play as we talk through his journey from Montreal to New York, the ins and outs of his dreamlike sound, and how what we thought was a duck isn’t actually a duck. Everyday is a learning opportunity!
Interview by Tom Durston & Simon Whight
"Whether you feel like a professional or an amateur, a musician, a designer or a business person – what you choose to put your attention to is, in that moment, your reality"
Hi Brendan, congratulations on the release of your second EP on Lean Disc. How does it feel that it is now out in the world?
Thank you! It’s always exciting to finally get a record out. I love the process – writing the music, mixing it, figuring out the label design, working with a bunch of other amazing people to help realise it from mastering, to pressing, distribution and PR.
When it’s finally out, there is this anti-climactic feeling, where all of that work is condensed into this one record, and you have to just let it go into the world and start working on the next one. I feel like this is a pretty common human experience when we reach a milestone or “achieve” things. That being said, I’m really happy with the tracks on this record and the evolution of Laen Disc so far.
Thank you for recording this mix for Inverted Audio. There’s a strong indication that you’re a purveyor of Germanic deep house. Please tell us more about your mix, where and how you put it together, the vibe you have created and if you included any tracks that you are stoked to have featured?
Digging back through the past 1 – 2 years of music I’ve collected but haven’t necessarily had the chance to play much due to COVID was really interesting. It was a bit daunting but exciting because everything feels fresh. Prior to lockdown I was consistently finding and testing out new music in a club context, which would help shape my recorded mixes more naturally.
Ultimately, I tried to highlight the types of music that informs my production and that gets me excited when I’m out dancing – emotive but driving, whether slower and chuggier or faster and skippy. There are two tracks of mine from the new Laen Disc record and one unreleased one to tie it all together, along with some new(ish) tracks I love from SL Jung, Tiago Walter, Priori, Karlos Moran, and a bunch of others.
How did you get into house music. Did you find you were a DJ first or producer first?
I actually got a turntable and Zoom SampleTrak in high school to try and make beats on, but the results were pretty scary.
DJing really came first when I was 19 or 20 and had moved to Montreal for school – that’s where I started going out and hearing a lot of new electronic music for the first time, which like many, led to putting on and DJing small nights with friends, and then eventually starting to experiment with producing with Ableton. It’s been a constant learning process ever since.
When did you first start to experiment with turntables?
In terms of DJing it was only really a few years ago – I had been DJing on CDJs for 4-5 years before that – once I had started buying more records and also felt confident playing vinyl in clubs. There were some embarrassing moments, but that’s all part of it.
Eventually I found that the ability to detach from screens or BPM readers when mixing was a really, really fun experience. It helped me become a better DJ and enjoy it more, even when playing digitally. That being said, I’m no vinyl purist and my collection is still relatively small – when I play out now I play a mix of digital and vinyl.
Your studio looks like it is crammed with more boutique hardware, rather than the usual suspects. Can you tell us about a few of your favourite boxes?
I’ve always tried to look for pieces of hardware that could produce the sounds I was looking to make, without focusing on the name. Budget has also always been a big factor – I’ve been building my studio with 1-2 pieces a year, so I’ve tried to look for kit that’s versatile and let’s me get more tactile and outside the box.
My favourite is definitely the Erebus – it can do anything, it sounds amazing, and its really fun to work with the patchbay. The Digitakt has been great too because it brings my drums outside the computer which lets me jam completely live.
The Squarp Pyramid is the brain, it ties everything together whether a piece of hardware or a sample coming from the computer. And I’d be remiss not to mention the unsung hero, the USAMO, which keeps everything in time.
You’re now living in New York. What spurred you to move away from Montreal – and what are you looking to achieve in NYC?
My girlfriend (now wife) was accepted to an acting school here and the company I work for was also looking to expand into New York – so the timing just kind of worked out and it felt like the right next step for us.
It was hard to leave Montreal, where I’d been for 10 years, but we go back and visit often and I’m hoping to get more involved in the local music community here in New York as things open back up this year.
As well as being label founder of Laen Disc, you’re also part of 00:AM, a record label and party collective from Montreal. Tell us about your involvement, the founding principles of the collective, record releases, club nights and who’s the team behind the crew?
00:AM is Martyn Bootyspoon, Kane O, and myself. We had all been friends for a long time and after spending a chunk of time in the UK, decided to start it initially as a party in Montreal to book a lot of the new artists we had met or seen out there who weren’t being booked in Montreal yet.
This has evolved over the years with us creating a record label and releasing music from local friends and guests of the party and DJing together more frequently as 00:AM DJs. There’s no grand plan, we just have fun together and try and support the music and artists we love whether through the parties or the label.
Canada seems to have a really close knit scene in general, the artists and labels all seem to be really supportive of each other. Do you think you’ll miss it?
Definitely, it’s tough to leave such an amazing crew of friends and scene in Montreal. Luckily it’s only a 5 or 6 hour drive from NYC, so it’s easy to get back and a lot of those friends are also making great music and getting booked to play here as well, which means we get to see each other quite a bit.
"It’s scary to put something you’ve put so much time and effort into out into the public domain, and while it shouldn’t matter, positive reinforcement is always a plus"
What triggered you to establish your own imprint Laen Disc and what is the symbolism behind the hand-stamped duck?
I’d finished a collection of music under the name Farren Laen, but didn’t have an outlet to get it out into the world. Through the records we released on 00:AM, which were focused on highlighting other artists, I learned a lot about the process and felt like the easiest thing to do was just release it myself – Rich from Rubadub was luckily on board from the start and that support on the distribution side made it all work.
The duck is actually a Loon! An iconic Canadian bird that symbolises the lake that the name Farren comes from and is where my grandfather built a cottage by hand over a few summers about 50 years ago.
I’ve seen your releases so far being well received from everyone from Giegling enthusiasts to the well regarded finger on the pulse – Bandcloud’s Aiden Hanratty. How have you found the reception so far?
Overall, the feedback has been positive and it’s really cool seeing different aspects of the tracks connecting with different types of artists and listeners.
It’s encouraging to not only see the same shops I’m browsing in stocking the release, but also referencing it to other artists I’m inspired by. It’s scary to put something you’ve put so much time and effort into out into the public domain, and while it shouldn’t matter, positive reinforcement is always a plus.
So far you have self-released two EP’s via Laen Disc, do you plan to release music from other artists?
Not at the moment – I don’t view Laen Disc as a record label in a classic sense, but more so an outlet or avenue for whatever I’m creating. That being said, it may likely expand into collaborations or remixes from other artists and as with 00:AM, it may be something completely different in two years.
Is there an ethos behind the imprint?
“Attention Renders Our Reality”, the title of the first record, best represents the ethos of the label. It’s a reference to the idea that whatever we surround ourselves with and make our present, becomes our reality, and that’s an active choice. Whether you feel like a professional or an amateur, a musician, a designer or a business person – what you choose to put your attention to is, in that moment, your reality.
It’s no easy task establishing your own imprint – tell us about the journey you have been on in order to release your own records? How have you found dealing with the demands of pressing and international shipping?
It’s been a natural step by step process, and I’ve been in no rush. It all stems from the enjoyment of creating music, and then creating a visual identity that represents it and forming some sort of world to invite people into.
Luckily, others have been interested by this world and helped to make it a reality – thanks to a few cold emails and some recommendations from friends of friends. It does take a team to release a record, and there are so many great people within the industry to work with – you’d be surprised who might be interested if you just ask.
It doesn’t happen magically, there is a financial commitment you have to make and that isn’t always easy or even feasible. While I saved to fund the pressing, distributors do offer P&D deals that can help, the first step is create your world and then, reach out!
Living in New York, I’ve been lucky to work with a local plant called BrooklynPhono, which haven’t had the same level of delays as what I’m hearing about in Europe. So, against all the odds of the last 24 months, it has actually been pretty straightforward on that side of things.
Musically, what producers or labels should we be keeping an ear out for this year?
Label wise, I’ve been discovering some great current and past records on OCP, Nous’klaer Audio, Counter 99, and all the labels in the Safe distribution sphere. It’s no secret, but Workshop has continued to put out amazing records year after year after year – it felt good to play Willow’s new record on a big system earlier this fall.
Check out Martyn Bootyspoon’s Self Portrait mix for some wild WIPs and forthcoming stuff, and his recent Incognito Tabs release.
Tell us about the record stores you spend your time in most, and the record stores that you have yet to visit.
Around New York, it’s most often A1, Human Head, or Public Records and definitely La Rama when I’m in Montreal.
I didn’t make it to Two Bridges pre-pandemic, which I regret, and I just moved around the corner from The Mixtape Shop so I’m looking forward to checking it out in the next couple weeks.
Last year I came across this cool mail order shop in San Diego called Ocean Grown Vinyl that has an amazing selection of newer imports.
What else do you have lined up for 2022?
I’m planning on continuing to make and share more music with those who are interested in listening.
‘To Will One Thing’ EP is out now via Laen Disc. Order a copy from Bandcamp.
1. DJ Fett Burger & DJ Speckgürtel – Enjoy This Limousine (Loop) [Clone Royal Oak]
2. Whodat – feeling<blu (Ft. Sophiyah.e) [Self Released]
3. Joy Orbison – Born Slipping [XL]
4. SL Jung – Upcoming Terrain [Seafoam Fiction]
5. Metropolitan Soul Museum – Deeh [Rawax]
6. Marvin Dash – Lost In The Woods [Paloma]
7. Priori – Winged [NAFF]
8. Farren Laen – Reality [Laen Disc]
9. Simoncino – S [Rawax]
10. Karlos Moran – Doctor J [Klasse Wrecks // Moran Music Group]
11. DJ Slyngshot – Untitled A2 [Workshop]
12. Devoye – Some Kinda Drum Machine [HAUS of ALTR]
13. Daisuke Kondo – Nightfall [Jazz Cabbage]
14. Farren Laen – Wonder, Wander [Laen Disc]
15. Index 968 – Secret Fantasy (TP’s Plastic Soul Remix) [Intangible]
16. Tiago Walter – No Purpose [JISUL]
17. Farren Laen – Elude The Path [Unreleased]
18. Move D – Inside The Freero Dome [Smallville]
19. DJ Fett Burger & DJ Speckgürtel – Enjoy This Limousine (Loop) [Clone Royal Oak]