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Labels We Love: Mothership

Every day this month we're rolling out a new feature on XLR8R's Labels We Love of 2009. Whether it's the eye-catching aesthetics of Type or the model-for-the-future approach of Interdependent Media, these cut-making selections of the best in underground electronic, indie, hip-hop, and experimental imprints punch way above their weight. Feast your eyes on the features and then download many of the labels' related podcasts here.

The original Dirtybird brings his interplanetary assault back to the D.

It didn’t take long for quirky techno/house producer Barclay Crenshaw (a.k.a. Claude VonStroke) to follow up on the international success of his Dirtybird label and take a look back at his roots. Founded just two years after Dirtybird’s inauguration as an opportunity to give back to the greater music community, Mothership, a from-the-heart label whose proceeds help support a children’s music school, brings with it even more new artists, yet also retains the dancefloor ambitions of its big-sister label.


“Dirtybird was kind of a crew in San Francisco, and I just found that my taste was expanding past that sound,” says Crenshaw, a Bay Area transplant originally from Detroit. “But I felt that certain records I was getting as demos—stuff like the Italoboyz and Todd Bodine—wouldn’t work on Dirtybird.


“People were expecting a certain thing from Dirtybird, and I didn’t want to put out a whole bunch of records that were just going to throw off the vision of the label,” he says. Unlike Dirtybird, whose artists’ influences are rooted in hip-hop, funk, and general American booty shakin’, Mothership leans more toward European house and techno. “I have a theory that everyone in dance music can be traced back to either being a Depeche Mode-influenced person or a hip-hop- or James Brown-influenced person,” posits Crenshaw. “All of the people making Dirtybird records are hip-hop people. A lot of the people making Mothership records are Depeche Moders. Some hip-hoppers also get on Mothership but no Depeche Moders ever get on Dirtybird.”


So just whom are we talking about here? Folks like Polish deep-house duo Catz 'n Dogz and London-based minimal-techno act Italoboyz have all taken a ride on the Mothership thus far, and Crenshaw is also “super-stoked” about newcomers Voodeux, whose creepy debut full-length, The Paranormal, came out earlier this year.


After reading an interview with “Mad” Mike Banks of Underground Resistance, Crenshaw was inspired to establish Mothership’s philanthropic side. “[Banks] was saying that everyone leaves Detroit and no one gives a shit once they leave; [that] they go make all this money, and then they never come back,” he notes. Feeling the need to prove the Detroit techno mogul wrong, Crenshaw began donating a large portion of Mothership’s revenue to YouthVille, a Detroit music school for children. The school brings in veteran DJs such as Mike Huckaby to teach kids how to use production software like Pro Tools and Reason. “[It] seemed like the perfect match-up,” says Crenshaw.

While he's happy to send some of his profits back to the Midwest, Crenshaw does lament the cost of living in the label’s chosen home of San Francisco. “It could be cheaper!” he says. “I think a lot of people in Berlin have a big advantage because it’s so cheap over there, and that’s where, like, 80% of the labels are now. It’s hard to run a label, but we’re doing it… I love the Bay Area—it’s my favorite place in the world. Everybody dances here, even if there’s no music on,” he says.

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