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In the first of a new series of features, dubbed Local Spotlight, we’re going to be shining a light on the talent that’s right on our doorstep – whether it’s artists, labels or collectives – that are making waves in the Northwest of England.

This week we sat down with Mike Burgess who is the driving force behind Night Shift Sound alongside his partner in crime James Medina. Having previously worked together as critically acclaimed Heavy Feet – for the last 24 months they’ve been focussing their collective minds on their new label Night Shift Sound that continues the duo’s penchant of bass-leaning house and garage.

The label are about to embark on their biggest release to date – a brand-new compilation, dubbed Northern Power House. We sat down with Mike to drill down on why being a Manchester label has had a huge in pact on their sound and identity, how they approach mentoring and signing artists, and what we can expect from their forthcoming compilation, which is dropping at the end of the month alongside a live event with community-focussed Manchester-based Reform Radio.

Night Shift Sound is a Manchester-based label – is being from Manchester an important part of the label’s identity?

100%. Manchester is intrinsic to what we do, how we do it and why we do it. No question. It is hard to quantify the specifics, but as a music city, successful creatives in Manchester tend to have a habit of doing the unexpected… reinventing the rulebook somewhat, if you like, or pushing that bit harder to create something truly unique. You can’t argue with the fact that there is a unique element to Levelz, Everything Everything, DRS, Grey Collective, Gaika, Ben Pearce… even The 1975, to a point! As far as we’re concerned, there’s a quality in all the above mentioned projects that stands out above and beyond much of what the UK is producing creatively at present… something which we’ve always been very mindful of when developing Night Shift Sound as a label.

For want of a better phrase, our unique selling point is that we put out a heavier, more bassline-focused blend of house music than many other labels are choosing to focus on right now. We’re all about dance music that makes you actually want to dance, as opposed to the more watered down, radio-focused house stuff that’s doing the rounds at present. Having a club orientated sound as a label and collective has been at the root of what we’ve built and is very much why we’ve quickly generated the DJ support we have done and why we’re now starting to generate some fantastic additional opportunities for our artists and as a label, too.

You’re just about to release your first compilation ‘Northern Power House’ – can tell us a little bit about it?

Sure. We felt it was important for us to acknowledge what we’ve achieved since launching in 2014, as too often people forget to appreciate an element of the past and present, as it feels largely we’re all very much focused on the future, as a society and as music lovers!

Creating the Northern Power House compilation is really our way of saying, ‘in case you’ve not seen what we’ve been building here, check out our world in one easy-to-digest release’. It’s a 21 track compilation that showcases our sound via some new and exclusive tracks and some back catalogue favourites, essentially. It comes as a 60 minute mix, which we created with the intention of this being for the daily commute or workout, as well as an unmixed bundle for DJs, too. There’s also a limited edition physical bundle within includes a tape cassette release of the mix, a pretty sick t-shirt and some stickers… for those that like the concept of a more collectable release.

What did you want to achieve with the compilation?

The aim of releasing Northern Power House is to show people that we’ve created our own unique Northern-grown sound via the roster of artists that we’ve worked hard to develop since we’ve launched. It was important for us to put together a landmark release for our 2 year anniversary and getting everyone involved in the label to come together to promote a single release will generally always allow the music to reach more people. In addition, doing a proper, well strategised compilation is also a great excuse to go that bit harder on a project too… and we like to push ourselves!

You’ve got a good blend of known and unknown artists – can you tell us a bit of some of the unknown artists?

Of course. Manchester-based Arcane Youth has recently just picked up two big remixes off the back of releasing with us, Essro, also a fellow Mancunian, has recently signed with Sam Supplier’s label (Rinse FM), which is great to see and Leeds-based Bang Tidy, who produced our most in demand record of 2016 (Body Drippin’ – supported by everyone from Roger Sanchez to Hannah Wants), has just delivered us an absolute banger of a second release, which we’re readying for a winter release at present… so it’s all happening!

Where do you see the label down the line, say, in five years time?

I think it’s always difficult to say with certainty where a largely digital business will be in 5 years, as so much can change so quickly in terms of your online reach, but ultimately something we are already developing is a physical presence in the market, as well as a digital one. It’s important for us to build towards a more experiential element with the label, though our own events and physical range of products, of which the first bundle is now available in advance of the Northern Power House release (at shop.nightshiftsound.com).

Most pressingly, it’s important for us to ensure that we’re drawing as much attention to the artists we’re developing as possible, even if that means they go on to sign elsewhere. This has been our approach since day one and will continue to be our outlook in five years time, as far as we’re collectively concerned. In an era where many labels apply a land-grab approach to signing music, IE they just sign whatever lands in front of them that fits into the genre specification they release, we utiliise a more time intensive, old-school A&R process. We invest a lot of time into signing records. We offer detailed feedback, creative support and if necessary, studio time, to ensure we get the right tracks at the right quality for release. Bottom line, we don’t just sign any old shit we get sent. The music has got to be right for us to dedicate time, energy, money and resources to it and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

How long has it taken to bring the whole compilation together?

In terms of how long it’s taken to put the compilation together; it’s actually taken quite a while. Months as opposed to weeks… or days, as I feel I sometimes see with certain other in-house label compilations! If you look at what we’ve already released online in terms of content, we’ve dropped bespoke video content which shot and edited ourselves, online premieres of sections of the compilation’s content, various chunks of press and PR, plus a live radio event which we’re about to unveil with our radio partner, Reform Radio. We’ve invested a lot of time and resources into this project, essentially, as it’s something we’re a) proud of and b) believe our growing audience will really enjoy, as a release.

Tell us about the launch party – you’re doing something with Reform Radio, right?

Yeah, the event we’re about to unveil with Reform is something we’ve wanted to do for a while now. We love working with them as a station, as they totally get what we’re about… which is what everyone wants from their media partners/colleagues, let’s be honest! As far as we’re concerned, they’re Manchester’s answer to Radar Radio. Wicked schedule, great facilities, cool branding. Without giving away too much, the Northern Power House launch party revolves around the idea of presenting a live radio show… but with an audience. It’ll be like our own mini, Mancunian, Maida Vale session! We’re inviting some special guests to get involved too, so it won’t just be our usual fortnightly radio show efforts. We’re stepping things up a notch for this one again. We’ll be inviting some people down to hang out with us, as well as offering a live stream for our non-local followers. Keep an eye our socials for info in the meantime!


Andrew Rafter

Andrew Rafter is the editor and founder of Harder Blogger Faster.