Bubblin’ Up: Junes
XLR8R spends an afternoon with the Galdoors co-founder at his home in Berlin.
Bubblin’ Up: Junes
XLR8R spends an afternoon with the Galdoors co-founder at his home in Berlin.
Back in the Spring of 2013, a new Audio Werner record surfaced as the debutant release on the then unknown Galdoors record label. A totally faceless affair, it was packaged with minimal artwork, even less information surrounding it, and just a trio of solid house tunes. It was a curious thing, a name like Werner’s (normally associated with the likes of Minibar and Perlon) popping up as the first EP on the anonymous operation—a bit of a head turner. The imprint has gradually moved from strength to strength, dripping out releases by Elgato and Leif, as well as the team of brothers who coordinate proceedings, Tames and Junes. As time has gone by, the aesthetics and philosophy have remained the same, and we still know little about the characters pulling strings behind the scenes.
One half of the team is Neil McDermott, or Junes. Originally from Newcastle (a small city in the North East of England, famed for its ale and football fans over any musical heritage), he has been residing in Berlin for the past few years. A friendly spirit, he’s a bit of a joker and we rattle through all sorts of conversation; yet when we arrive at the topic of his own music, he comes over all sheepish. “I feel quite shy about it all, to an extent. I don’t really enjoy talking about the tunes to people I don’t know very well.”
Even if he isn’t keen on selling himself, his produce certainly will. Junes’ third EP, Trails, is due out this May, and is some of his best (and darkest) work to date. “It’s by far the thing that I’m most happy with. I just see it as part of an ongoing progression.” Those with their ear to the ground might already have clocked one of the cuts, “Precipice,” in a recent Ben UFO Rinse show, or even the flipside getting dropped at his Berghain gig the week before. Honing in on a sound that takes some guidance from techno, his use of melodic elements injects the tracks with greater personality, and a versatility that makes them suited to rooms big and small, and both club and home sound systems.
It’s a long way from Junes’ first EP back in 2013, Colours—the second release on the label, its recordings excitedly jumped around between ambient and tribal patterns. In retrospect, it is the work of an artist getting to grips with his style. Some trademarks are present still, though the channels have been narrowed substantially today. “I started to think that I wanted to do something with elements of techno, but without such a hard aesthetic—to take bits of that vibe, and make it less full on.” His move to Berlin and exposure to the local scene played some role, though it can’t be overstated. More than anything, changes in his personal life, and a feeling of real maturity, radiate through the music. “I’ve had a bit of a coming of age thing. Moving country, getting a proper job, all that sort of stuff.”
“I decided at that point that I didn’t want to make super positive music. I prefer the idea of tunes that sound like something is not quite right, but in the future maybe we can work it all out. That’s the thing that has underpinned everything.”
Never one to ask for much, he explains that his only goal was to make some music that someone he liked would want to play. “Root Pattern was the moment that I felt like I’d achieved everything that I had set out to do. That was big for me.” His second record hit stores in the tail end of 2014, and consolidated the ideas he had toyed with previously. “I honed in on the more stripped-back stuff. I decided at that point that I didn’t want to make super positive music. I prefer the idea of tunes that sound like something is not quite right, but in the future maybe we can work it all out. That’s the thing that has underpinned everything.”
It’s a mood that ripples through the rest of the Galdoors catalog. “We never tried to come up with a sound that Galdoors would have, but we knew it would be a bit more subdued. Stripped-back, tracky cuts for the dancefloor. Gradually it fell into place. Other people would say, “oh, this sounds like Galdoors,” but I don’t even know what that is. I’m starting to sense it a bit more now, but really it’s just what we are into.” The most recent addition is Leif’s Macro Beat, an EP built out of hazy, ambient house numbers. Prior to that, Elgato drafted a reduced two-tracker, worlds apart from the bass-heavy crossover tunes he had been releasing on Hessle Audio (closer to the Audio Werner approach that had kicked things off). “We managed to join the dots between their different scenes, and I’m happy with that.”
The tunes are only half of Galdoors’ identity though—the brothers have already crafted a distinctive aesthetic, with only a handful of releases to their name. “It was pretty mysterious from the off, and I think it’s interesting when things are open for interpretation. The idea is that there are no promos, no long bios, and no banging on about how amazing it is. Hopefully the depth of how much we are into it seeps through, in the music and the artwork.” In today’s music world, where everything is available on tap, and the stream of electronic releases runs stronger, often polluted with lesser quality productions and overblown promotions, it’s a sentiment that shouldn’t be undervalued.
With strict genre constraints not being too much of a concern, the most significant influence on the direction taken by the label has been the original idea behind it. In its original incarnation, the Galdoors brand belonged to a garage door fitting company owned by McDermott’s grandparents. Galdoors as we know it today was set up with money inherited from the brothers’ late grandmother, and owes a lot to that former endeavour. “The whole idea wasn’t necessarily to be a dedication, but it gave it deeper roots, and the label already had an identity that way. It made a lot of the decisions very easy.” He explains that the pylon featured in their logo was a spot near their grandparents’ residence, and that the rest of the artwork is zoom-ins of snaps from around their house. Most importantly, that community, family-driven spirit, has resonated through their selection of artists. “The conversation quickly turned to the idea that we would keep it within that family-run idea, and release music by people we were already friendly with.” Elgato was a schoolmate of Tames, while Leif and Audio Werner had become close friends with the brothers after being booked at their party.
The more we talk, the more it becomes apparent that the family thread runs strong through all stages of McDermott’s development. He recounts tales of his Dad’s Beatles’ obsession, and the Christmas he received a drum kit via Santa (a wish inspired by photos of his brother banging a similar set). It would later be his brother who would shape his tastes in electronic music, too. “My Brother and his friend Jamie ran a monthly night called Twaddle in Leeds. When I was about 16, they had got decks. I hadn’t been into electronic music before then, but I clocked onto it. It was old, jacking house that they played back then—DJ Sneak, Derrick Carter, Justin Long, and stuff like that. It was just happy, positive music.”
Around that time, the transition from Neil to Junes also took place. Dubbed it by his elder mates, he earned the nickname as the junior of the bunch, and it stuck. “I was trying to think of DJ names as I didn’t feel right just using my name. I’m a big fan of the weird culture in dance music, where people take different names, and create an ulterior life. Junes is something a bit separate, and it gives me another space to be Neil McDermott. There’s still a lot of overlap though.”
Soon, Junes had relocated to Leeds for University, and was joining the Twaddle crew behind the decks at their regular parties (which he explains was always a “raucous affair”). Immersed in a city which at that time had a wealth of interesting club music on offer, things moved quickly. He cites the notorious Back to Basics nights as having a profound impact, especially the then residents Buckley and Paul Woolford, who were riding an acid tip around that time. “I became completely obsessed with everything, way more than I am now. I was looking for tunes all the time, going out every weekend, and it completely consumed me. It was the classic thing of going out and getting bitten by the bug.”
“Galdoors is the friendly option. I’m not adverse to the idea of doing stuff on other labels, but then at the moment it just seems better to do it via Galdoors, and have full control over how it is presented, when it comes out, and all that stuff. No surprises.”
We listen to a mix he recorded back in 2010, warming up for DJ Sneak at Twaddle. The content has shifted substantially to what you can hear him play today, but his flow remains the same. It’s all a part of his ever-maturing taste (something that is showing itself these days in his production skills), but what comes next? Thus far, with the comfort of creative sovereignty at home with Galdoors, he hasn’t been looking to contribute to other labels. “Galdoors is the friendly option. I’m not adverse to the idea of doing stuff on other labels, but then at the moment it just seems better to do it via Galdoors, and have full control over how it is presented, when it comes out, and all that stuff. No surprises.”
And so it seems the natural growth trajectory that Junes and Galdoors have mounted will continue to thrive alongside one another. After its brief hiatus last year, the label is fully back in action, with a feeling of real conviction. For two lads who didn’t have a clue about that kind of operation, the headfirst dive into the unknown has paid off. Curating things according to their instincts has pushed them in the right direction, and allowed them to share the experience with their favorite artists as well as good friends. As for Junes himself, it seems like things might just be really getting going.
Ahead of the release of his next EP, Trails, Junes has put together an hour long mix for us, available to stream and download below. It’s an insight into the kind of material you can expect to hear him playing, covering techno cuts, minimal house and UK garage, recorded at his home in Berlin.