Former member of the late Bass Cadet Records shop in Berlin, captain of the On Board booking agency and its newborn eponymous label twin On Board Music, French-born Barcelona-based DJ and entrepreneur Laura BCR is a busy woman with a solar presence. Operating on all fronts of the music industry with inexhaustible poise and energy, she keeps undertaking exciting new ventures, looking to break boundaries between genres and the usual calibration of normative dance music.
With a debut release from Italian sound experimentalist Healing Force Project just out via OBM, her label is on to a promising future. Eager to see what tricks she’s got up her sleeves we invited Laura for one of her rare podcast appearances. Stepping up at the 262nd position in our mix series with a 100% vinyl treat, the multi-talented French lady delivers an hour of sweat-inducing techno, off-axis Detroit house and dynamic electro dashes sure to switch on the dancer in you.
Interview by Baptiste Girou Photography by Irwin Barbé
"I'm not really interested in doing club music. This is not the first goal of the label. I'm more into releasing records you can listen at home or on the radio."
Hey Laura, thanks for this banging mix! Please tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
Hey, thanks to you for hosting it! The mix has been recorded a few weeks ago at a friend’s place with 2 MK5 SL1200, a Rane mixer and a Tascam recorder.
In addition to taking part in Bass Cadet Records and its late eponymous twin, the Berlin-based record store BCR, you are the driving force behind the artist agency On Board and its record label branch On Board Music, which counts a flurry of friends amongst its ranks. How do you keep up with that insane rhythm?
Actually, I wasn’t involved in the Bass Cadet Records label but only in the record store. A group of friends founded the label 6 years ago in Berlin (Arcarsenal & the Fidan’s brothers) when I was still living in Paris and then we decided with Etienne (Solune) to start the now-closed record store in Neukölln.
At the beginning, we were just a group of friends who wanted to listen to music and make parties around or open a club! This kind of dreams… then it started to get a bit more professional I would say. Rhythm at the store was already quite intense during the 3 years I’ve been in charge of the clothing and accessories section.
At some point I decided to launch an agency to help friends develop their DJ skills (laughs). No joke! I had lots of good DJs and producers among my friends who were doing pretty well; both talented and under-represented so we decided to gather all together to create the On Board Music agency.
It grew really fast like a family, with more and more artists joining us and now we are making our first big parties, taking over some clubs in Berlin. We run a label whose first release just came out, we are doing parties in Barcelona at Razzmatazz or in Paris. That’s cool, even though of course sometimes it’s really stressful and asks lot of work, but I can’t really complain.
Your new endeavour, On Board Music, recently came to life with an inaugural drop from experimental Italian producer Antonio Marini aka Healing Force Project. How would you describe the label’s vibe and aims?
Starting a label has always been something I wanted to do – especially when you are working in a record store and have all your friends around who express themselves through what they like and their own labels. It’s something you really feel and need.
First idea here is to release artists from the agency but also friends. The label is dedicated to ambient and experimental sounds but not only. If someone wants to do a punk album or an IDM EP and I like it then why not. When I play I like to mix everything and being versatile, not only in a specific genre; this is really interesting to me. To be surprised is important. For example, labels such as Macadam Mambo or Firecracker represent a large range of sounds, which are the kind of things I like.
Are the agency and imprint’s catalogues linked or do you envisage the label as a whole different entity?
Of course it’s linked. It took me sometime to put out the very first EP as I really wanted to start the label with a record I really feel represents us. When Antonio (Healing Force Project) sent me his new tracks I thought ok let’s do it, that’s the right moment. He gave me the impulse.
The record is quite particular and not an easy one but I’m really happy with it and we got such nice feedback. We will continue releasing artists from On Board but also producers who want to propose a version of their work in a more ambient way. At the moment I’m not really interested in doing club music. This is not the first goal of the label. I’m more into releasing records you can listen at home or on the radio.
"I bought my first turntables when I was 17, really shitty ones with a terrible mixer. I was alone, living in the countryside in France with no one to help me. We didn't even have internet at home but I had huge speakers in my bedroom!"
Can you lift a corner of the veil on the next release?
We are doing a new Mini LP from a Finnish artist who used to make banging tracks. He presented a remarkable new ambient live set recently and he is going to do some like-minded jams for the next OBM. Already super excited of the first cuts he sent me. Should be out in the late spring.
Let’s talk about your debut in the vast world of electronic music. What appealed to you the most in dance music and nightlife in general? Were there specific releases, gigs, or persons to trigger this interest?
Hmm that’s a good question. I started to go to free parties at 16, then going to big warehouses in the south of France, listening to Drum & Bass. When I moved to Paris I was more into electro: Adult, Miss Kittin & The Hacker, Gigolo, DJ Assault too… this kind of music, which is making quite a comeback these days.
I saw Arpanet playing live at La Geode. It was one of my first strong experiences in electronic music I would say, a really intense moment. My first real crush goes to Detroit: UR, Dopplereffekt. Was a long time ago now but still totally in love with the sound and that will never change. Same goes for Warp’s discography and Aphex’s releases and sub music in general.
Who are your all-time heroes behind the decks?
The list is pretty long. My all-time hero for sure is Donato Dozzy, who really represents what I like the most in a producer and DJ – he is the most versatile and complete DJ nowadays. Patrick Russell also gave me goosebumps when I saw him at Berghain a few years ago. I was really impressed by the strength of his set. DJ Sprinkles, Burnt Friedman and Anton Zap are completely above everything as well.
When Sprinkles plays a 15-min track with his effects in total deepness, that’s really something! Recently I would say natural/electronic.system. I saw Antonio and Valerio play for the first time together at Paral-lel Festival, a very strong and really rich set.
Also, behind the decks or live, some of my favourite from the past years: JP Enfant, Dorisburg, Aleksi Perala, Peter Van Hoesen, DJ Deep, Christopher Joseph, Edit Select, DJ Pete, Shackleton, Legowelt, Rroxymore, DJ Nephil.
Simon-Chambon Andreani, who used to manage CLFT and now plays under guise as Martijn Verrycken, has musical tastes I really feel, oscillating between techno and electro. He has a radio show called Liquidation Totale which I really recommend.
In an other genre, DJ Sports impressed me a lot a few weeks ago, this guy is really fresh. I’m also really curious to see Erika from Interdimensional Transmissions playing, her online mixes are truly stunning.
How did you come to DJing in the first place?
I bought my first turntables when I was 17, really shitty ones with a terrible mixer. I was alone, living in the countryside in France with no one to help me. We didn’t even have internet at home but I had huge speakers in my bedroom!
I was going to really obscure record stores in the South East, buying hardtek and hardcore records. At this time I was a huge fan of the Heretik crew from Paris. I always collected records but I was not really into mixing in front of people.
Then, with the record store it went pretty fast. I practiced a lot, everyday. My friends who worked with me at the store started to hate me I think, as I kept playing again and again the same records! (laughs) Horrible for them. But yes, a friend invited me to his parties and it went on like that. The very first ‘real’ gig I had with dancers in front of me was at Schwuz in Berlin 4 years ago. I was so stressed. People tried to talk to me and I didn’t even watch them…
Are you a strictly vinyl head?
Yes I can’t even touch a CDJ. Every time friends want to teach me how to use it but I get bored and then I don’t listen to them! No, I’m joking. But you know people change, and buying records is really expensive and you can’t play everything on wax so let’s see how life goes.
"Going to clubs in Berlin is unique, you can't really get that feeling elsewhere. People will try to re-create it but that's impossible, even if that's a bit cliché but there is no place like Berlin."
You’ve recently moved from Berlin to Barcelona, which are two very different cities in terms of ambience, scene and weather. How do you adapt to this new environment?
I lived in Berlin for 4 years, it was really, really intense. I met a lot of people, plenty new friends with the store, lived lots of good and of course bad experiences. Berlin has been a really interesting journey.
I’ve been used to Berlin for so many years, I’m always happy to come back and visit friends. Also going to clubs in Berlin is unique, you can’t really get that feeling elsewhere. People will try to re-create it but that’s impossible, even if that’s a bit cliché but there is no place like Berlin.
Yet after those beautiful years, I thought that was enough and I needed some change. My period in Berlin was over. I needed some rest (laughs). I lived a couple of months in Lisbon before moving to Barcelona.
Coming here was a good move: the scene is interesting, people are really friendly and record stores are really good. Lost Tracks, Subwax, Rhythm Control, Discos Paradiso, Nut Records, Ultra Local… so much choice and good selections! Food is great, weather is nice – and that’s still close from everything in EU so pretty happy with the new city. And also Sonar is quite important when you manage an agency and – good news! – we’ll run our first OFF Sonar party in 2018!
What was the last record store you visited and what did you bag there?
I was in Madrid at Alfonso Pomeda (F-On)’s record store called Is The Place in Malasana. Super nice techno and deep selection. Alfonso is a perfect host and you feel instantly at home. He made me discover lots of labels from Madrid. I got some techno from the city, a release from Discos Pandemicos and also two from De Profundis.
I like to feel at home when I go to a record store and when the guy behind the counter comes up with new artists, labels… etc. especially in a foreign country. That’s the kind of experience that makes me really like records too, I’m a bit “vintage”. When I was working at BCR, what I really liked was when someone asked me to do a selection for him/her and she/he liked the records I had recommended.
What are your plans for the holidays and New Year celebrations?
We are doing a tiny get-together with On Board Music at Griessmuehle in Berlin on 23rd December with artists from the crew and family. Edit Select, Nummer, Stereociti, Sentiments and more artists are on the bill. On the same day, I’ll be playing in a basement in Limoges (a city in France in the middle of nowhere) called ZicZinc. I’ve heard really cool things about the place so looking forward to this one!
Then, we have a big gathering for the first time at ://about blank on 6th January with Firecracker. We have Zozo, Coni, Linkwood, Lindsay and more… I’m also playing at Tresor on Monday for their traditional House of Waxx with my favourite Arcarsenal duo and Lyon-based Labat. Another intense weekend in Berlin!Laura BCROn Board MusicHouseTechno