In the first of our “Conversing with… series”, we chat to Manchester’s Steve Conry, label boss of Ten Lovers Music, who has been djing and producing for the best part of 35 years. Having been a fan of his regular show for deepArtSounds on Motion FM, I reached out to Steve to see if he could grace Somewhere Down There with a mix. He obliged with a wonderful mix of deep house from the Ten Lovers Music back and future catalogue, and more goodies. In addition to the mix, I asked Steve some questions about his musical past and what next is in store for him and the label.
Firstly, how are you coping at the moment with COVID-19? Has it impacted on you much?
Personally not at all as I work from home, regards the label its pushed the release schedule back three months for this year’s releases, which has been no bad thing as Runaway Galaxy really did want to come out in June. I’ve missed one six and half hour set at Eastern Bloc in Manchester this year in April and probably be lucky to do my next one there at the end of July.
I always find it interesting how people get into the music we like. How did you get into it?
I’d always been into electronic music, firstly Gary Numan and I think the fact he had a drummer rather than a drum machine probably shaped the path I was on musically right up until the present day. I suppose like most people it was then into electro through the Streetwave albums and finally house music around 1985/6.
Do you remember the first record you bought?
First record I bought was We Are Glass by Gary Numan was I was 10 in 1980. I remember it well as I was on holiday with my Mum and Dad and saved up enough pocket money to buy it, even asked them to play it in the B&B.
What is the best party or club you have played at? Favourite record store?
Best party is a hard one as there have been so many but probably my residency at C Club in Hong Kong or guest spot at Centro Fly in New York. The best party I have ever been to and not been DJing was at Miami WMC in 1996, the Maxi Records and MAW Records Beach Blanket BBQ, that really was something else and changed the direction of Ten Lovers Music over the years. Favourite record store, Eastern Bloc in Manchester.
How did the Hong Kong residency come about?
The Hong Kong residency was pretty mad, I was there for 8 weeks playing three times a week, 11pm – 5am. It came about through a friend Danny Hussein who put me forward, I asked at work if I could take 8 weeks off unpaid and they said yes so off I went. My day would be breakfast, beach, meal in a choice of 13 5 star restaurants, DJ, bed for two months haha! I had an apartment in Central Lan Kwai Fong that was £1000 a week to rent and just signed for everything, £500 a week wages, I never really spent anything and flights all included, they even paid for my records to be flown there! Even had a maid! Judged the Hong Kong DMC final, as you can imagine I shed a tear when I left. C Club was the perfect venue, low ceilings, great sound system and walls covered in maroon velvet curtains. In a basement too!
Who are three people that have shaped you as a dj?
Richard Bithell (Moonboots), Mark Turner and James Holroyd. Richard and Mark both worked at Eastern Bloc and always had something under the counter for me that they knew I would like. They both definitely helped me find the music I didn’t know I wanted to buy. James Holroyd has always been my favourite DJ, I spent a lot of time with him driving him to and from gigs and learnt a lot from him.
How did Ten Lovers start, and where did the name originate?
Ten Lovers Music was originally myself and Cziz Hall. It was a chance meeting in Miami (again) in 1996, I met him through a friend and collaborator Mike Woods (we released two EPs under the artist name Badroxx) and arranged to see him back in Manchester once we had retuned. The company he worked for was called Love.Net so it is a very simply net backwards and then Love(rs) Music! Two of the engineers Matt Cox and Chris Tetley that worked at the attached studio Planet 4/Studio 2 as it became known also became part of the Ten Lovers Music team and we all chipped in with tracks and ideas for releases.
What are the major differences you’ve noticed between running a label in the mid to late 90s, before social media, and now?
I wouldn’t say costs have increased that much just the amount of sales have drastically reduced, I used to sell 150 copies to local shops out of my car back in 1996. It’s not so much how much money you will make these days, more of how much you are prepared to lose on each release. Still enjoy the process though of finishing tracks, mastering, test pressings and final copies. Don’t think I will ever tire of that! Also the window to sell your music is ever decreasing, there are tracks released every day now, whereas in the 90s it would be a Friday or Monday delivery to the shops. Digital music has taken away the quality aspect of music in that it doesn’t have to be good to be released as there is nothing to lose. At least if something is being pressed to vinyl it has to meet certain standards that will ensure it will sell and justify the investment.
There’s a gap of about 6 years from when you released Four Walls – No Use on Magic Feet in 2012, to your release on deepArtSounds. How did that project come about, and was that release the impetuous for resurrecting the Ten Lovers Music label?
The Magic Feet release was something I did with my good friend Iain Macpherson and was one of those tracks that we knew was good right from the off and sent to Craig Bratley another good friend of mine, he was setting up Magic Feet and wanted it as the first release. The deepArtSounds release is a great story. I bought a copy of Traveller by Ron Trent direct from them on Discogs, when it arrived it was a diploma for a girl in Germany. I wasn’t too happy and we had a “discussion” on Discogs and they very kindly sent me a replacement copy and a test pressing of the release. It turned out the label from my parcel had become detached and stuck itself to the diploma envelope. After carefully removing my label I returned the diploma to Germany. I offered to do a guest show for them and the rest is history so to speak.
Regards resurrecting Ten Lovers Music I was thinking of starting a new label but thought it would be good to resurrect Ten Lovers Music after a 17 year gap. The main reason I decided to go with it was getting a message and then subsequent phone call from Paul David Gillman a couple of years ago. He had recently had a release on Sacred Rhythm and had done a search online to see who had played it, my name came up at the top of the list so he got in touch and we’ve been good friends ever since. Actually getting the vinyl pressed though and truly relaunching the label was initially down to Alex Attias from Visions Inc after struggling to find someone that would press 150 records. He suggested Mother Tongue in Italy as they had just started up and I contacted Patrick Gibin and Ten Lovers Music was back.
Do you still produce with the same gear you used back in the day?
We used to have access to a proper studio back in the day full of drum machines and old keyboards so in that respect it has changed a lot. Started off with an Atari ST and since then always used Macs though never PCs since.
What is next for you both as a producer/dj and label owner?
Working on a few tracks at the moment and have releases as Caruso (written with Cormac Fulton) on deepArtSounds and Javonntte’s new label LightSpeed Recordings both of which featured in the guest mix. As for Ten Lovers Music we have the Javonntte album Runaway Galaxy out next on the 26th June, then three 12″s, a various artists EP featuring Jose Rico and Anthonious, Javonntte, Trans Of Life and Caruso (TLM 024) which will follow the album then an EP called Transcending from Paul David Gillman as RedEarthDesign (TLM 025) and possibly finally for this year a collaboration between RedEarthDesign and Caruso called AskaFara (TLM 026)
Can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together?
The mix starts with some of the older Ten Lovers Music back catalogue the more current sounding tracks then goes into some of the tracks I’m really liking at the moment and finally into a section of unreleased tracks on deepArtSounds, LightSpeed Recordings and Ten Lovers Music. It’s a journey as I like all my mixes to be.
Lastly, a few random questions:
Some of your records and your mixes for deepArtSounds feature beautiful flowers. Are these from your own garden?
Yes all from my garden and my daily morning two hour walk.
You’ve released under a number of pseudonyms, one that stood out, The Neglecatarinos. I may be incorrect, but am I right in thinking that came from The Simpsons?
Yes it was from The Simpsons! A Ned Flanders classic. I rented a room off a friend Matthew Sparkes and saw it whilst living there. Matthew also came up with some great track names for some of our old EPs in the late 90s early 00s.
United or City?
City of course!
Lastly, tell us a random fact:
My first ever release in 1995 was recorded on the same mixing desk as I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue at PWL in Manchester.
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