Berlin-based label maestro Francis Ledisko AKA Due Diligence has spent the last half of the decade curating and operating some of electronic music’s finest underground imprints. From guiding Tiga’s legendary Turbo Recordings as label manager to overseeing a legion of respected outlets on !K7 label roster, the Montrealer has garnered a stellar reputation for taste and touch. November sees a first from the Canadian as he launches his very own imprint EARUHAVEIT. We caught up with him this week to get the lowdown.
Welcome Francis, good to have you here.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak my mind and tell my story!
You’ve been the driving force behind Tiga’s label Turbo in recent years. How did that relationship begin?
Back in 2012 my best friend introduced me to Tiga’s brother Thomas who was running the label at the time. He took me on as an intern (without even interviewing me first) and I found myself making youtube videos, washing the dishes, and doing the door at afterparties. When I graduated from studying music business at UCLA, Thomas and the rest of the crew happened to be moving on to other things, so I came back to Montreal and became in charge of the running the show pretty much overnight. My relationship with Tiga evolved over the years and I now accompany him on tour. But the real uniting factor is the fact we all went to the same high school, in fact Tiga gave us a career day speech around 2005 that really stuck with me, despite the fact I had no idea what this music was about and had never been to a club before.
What inspired the move to Berlin?
When Turbo signed a distribution deal with !K7, I started visiting more often and was blown away by the freedom this city has to offer. I felt like I had reached a glass ceiling in Montreal and I was looking to get away, so when !K7 were looking for a label manager I took the opportunity to make the jump.
You have a new label EARUHAVEIT launching very soon. Can you tell us a bit about the ‘why’ behind the creation of the imprint?
Between my roles at Turbo and !K7, I’m looking after about 15 different indie record labels owned by established DJs. I’m more involved in some than others, but at the end of the day these are other people’s companies. I realized I was spending all my time and energy working on other people’s projects and ignoring my own pursuits, so I should probably have one that is my own where I get to be the captain.
For those not in the know, can you give us the lowdown on TRACE7000? How did the first release come in being?
Ferdous (TRACE7000) released an amazing EP on Turbo a few years ago. We stayed in touch and started meeting up every time I’d be in the Netherlands. The first time we met was at Lowlands festival where Tiga played a live show. After his show, Ferdous and I walked around and shared a lot of the same opinions when discussing the acts we saw. He drove me back to my hotel in the middle of the night, blasting MIA’s first album. I barely had time to take a shower and I was off to the airport again. Anyway – that night, a true friendship was born, and I started asking Ferdous for more demos, but he was busy working on another more pop-leaning project (Klyne). When Ferdous finally came through with the demos over a year later, Tiga turned them down, which was gut-wrenching for me because I loved the tracks.
When I was preparing for our Turbo 20-year anniversary tour last year, I rediscovered the demos and put them back into rotation in my playlists. I ended up playing them in every set, and realized I had to find a way to put these out. I texted Ferdous right away to ask if they were still available, and he replied they were dying a slow death on his hard drive. I had to save them!
Is there a story behind the name?
The anniversary tour was an amazing experience for me, and when I finally made my way back to Berlin after a long voyage from Los Angeles, I lay in my bed in the afterglow and the inspiration pipeline opened up. It all came to me very fast. I was going to start my own label, the first release was going to be the TRACE7000 tracks, and it was going to be called “EARUHAVEIT”. I trust my ear as an A&R (I did sign some bangers on Turbo, including Charlotte de Witte’s first records) but couldn’t always flex it because I was at the mercy of someone else’s final decision. This had been bothering me for some time and it I wanted to do something about it. I actually got up from my bed, wrote it all down in my notebook and even drew a sketch for the logo right away.
I have what they call Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, so I tend to procrastinate and never put any of my own music out because I want it to be “perfect”. But that keeps me from realizing my ideas, except for DJ’ing where the constraint of playing live means you have to live with what just happened – you can’t go back and fix it. So the name is a wink to me having an ear for talent but also not overthinking it and just doing it. Like, here you have it, I picked these tracks out for you.
The artwork is strikingly brilliant. Can you tell us about the concept?
I had a particular aesthetic in mind, and I found out that a young Montrealer by the name of Tyrone Palmer whom I knew because I had sold him a pair of Jordan 3’s ages ago shared the same taste – so I reached out and discussed my ideas with him. He totally understood what I was looking for, and over a period of seven months we went back and forth on the designs. He kept pushing it to the next level – the original artwork concept was much more simple – and we elevated the design to the point where it is now.
The artwork stems from the idea that although music is consumed mostly digitally now we still refer to releases as “products”. The result is a tangible-looking 3D artwork, which would essentially be a plastic case with a download code inside, but it lives only digitally. I hear that’s how video games are nowadays but I wouldn’t know. Tyrone and I also designed a custom font exclusive to the label, which I’ll be able to use on posters and whatnot.
You’ve got extensive experience in the label game. How have the challenges facing labels changed over the last 5 years?
Five years ago I couldn’t believe anyone would be interested in streaming dance music, to me it was music for DJ’s that need the .wav files – but it turns out I was wrong and people love listening to techno on Spotify. Digital downloads are down, streaming is up but we’re collecting pennies – so the revenues are much, much lower than when I started, and in the downloads era they were already lower than when physical was dominant! Combine that with the fact that making & distributing music is so democratized now, literally anyone can do it, so every DJ is starting their own label… it makes it pretty hard to convince artist to sign with you when you realistically don’t have that much more budget to invest in promotion than they do. The result is that the market is so saturated I don’t think anyone can really keep up with it, and we’re all fighting each other for attention. The upside is, I can start my own record label with minimal investment – the downside is, I probably won’t make any money off of it despite my hard work. It feels like the worst business decision to make right now, but I feel compelled to do it so too bad.
There’s some much noise out there right now. In your eyes, what does it take for a label to pierce through the noise?
If you can make something both original and good quality, you’re off to a great start. If you can find a way to connect with a greater audience, then you’re in business. Sometimes you’ll connect exponentially because you happen to fall in line with a greater current trend, which is achieved either by winning the lottery or by playing yourself to catch that trend. But if you want to stand the test of time and be genuine, just do you and hopefully you’ll be the one starting the trend. To me, it’s about being visible enough so like-minded people will find you. Water those seeds and your community will grow! I’m all about connecting with people who vibrate on the same wavelength as me musically, and making an effort to develop those relationships, help each other out, so we can hopefully topple the business techno empire together in a few years.
What else can we expect from the label in the coming months?
The next release will be by Healthy Boys and is slated for early next year, the rest of the music will come from various artists in my friend circle once they come through with their demos for me!
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