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by amy 2015-02-12 14:10:55

Label Mates: Glasgow Undeground Recordings

Kevin McKay is a busy man indeed, with four labels, a music career, oh, and he does his own artwork too...


Kevin manages it quite well though, perhaps this is down to having helped kickstart Mylo's career back in 2003, a partnership that led to what most label bosses can only dream of, a release that charted as one of the decade's best. It's not all about Mylo & Breastfed Recordings though, you can also find Kevin running the show at Muzique Tropique, Heartbeats, & of course Glasgow Underground, and he does all this in just 3 & a half working days per week. Impressive. Back to Glasgow Underground though, GU was home to the late Romanthony, and the label we're here to speak with him about today.

Hi Kevin, introduce yourself!

Hi! My name is Kevin McKay and I'm a DJ, producer and label owner. I've been DJing since the early 90s and have played everywhere from the Sub Club in Glasgow to Propaganda in Moscow; I've recorded music for labels like Exploited, OFF Recordings, Noir Music and made remixes for the likes of Larry Heard and Andy Weatherall. I own the Glasgow Underground label, Heartbeats (home to Grum) and I founded the Breastfed label where I discovered and developed Mylo.

Where are you from?

I was born in Edinburgh but I grew up in and around Glasgow and the west coast of Scotland. (Glasgow, Paisley a wee town called Fairlie to be precise!)

Why did you start the label?

Honestly? I started my first label (Muzique Tropique) because no one in Scotland would release the music I was making. I started Glasgow Underground because my distributor said that if I didn't get some new artists on Muzique Tropique, people would get bored and stop buying it. I couldn't get the people I knew to record for Muzique Tropique but they were up for working with me if I set up something new. So I started Glasgow Underground.

What’s different about your label?

I guess the only difference is that it’s governed by my taste in music. Its only ever had me deciding what music gets released and I just put out music I like, although in reality that is restricted to music I would play out when I DJ.

Who or what was your biggest influence?

From a dance label point of view I grew up buying a lot of US house releases so labels like Nugroove and Strictly Rhythm were a big influence although that has a lot to do with how they looked. In the early days I was hooked on the sound of Prescription Underground and really looked up to Chez Damier and what he did.

What was your first record release, your biggest and your best?

The first record on Glasgow Underground was a record I made with Kenny Inglis as Studio Blue called "Just A Mood". The biggest record has to be Romanthony's "Bring U Up" selling over 25,000 copies worldwide and reaching a very respectable 74 in the UK singles chart. I don't think I could pick the best record. There are too many to chose from and they all have a special place in my heart.

Can you make a living running a label?

Yes... just! It's not easy but I've been doing it since 1994 and listening to others stories I'm very thankful I've never had a "real" job.

If you could sign any artist, who would you go for? And why?

Haha... the answer to this question changes every year. Just now I'm very lucky that a lot of the people I want to work with do agree to release music on Glasgow Underground. In the 90s I would love to have signed Mood II Swing. I'm such a fan I've written to both Lem and John trying to convince either Lem to re-record some of their classics so I could get them remixed and John to come out of retirement but with no success. Current people I've asked to do things that have said no include Carl Craig, Jackmaster, Four Tet, Matthew Dear, Tale of Us, Dixon, Ame. The reason is always because I love their music.

Upcoming plans?

I'm in the middle of doing a series of compilations in collaboration with the lovely people at Toolroom records. The next one is a collection of the best of our vinyl releases (currently unavailable digitally) from 1997-2007 called (imaginatively) "Glasgow Underground 97:07". Next up is a collection of Miami-influenced jams from our roster. We also have new material from the likes of Piemont, Pavel Petrov, Brett Gould, Stefano Ritteri and Illyus & Barrientos.

Tell us a funny story about some of the artists on your roster.

Ahh, I have a few stories about silly behaviour but I'm not sure they'd want me to tell them! I do have a story of my own though. One of the places I was keenest to play was the Deep House Mecca of Sir Henry's in Cork. A track I made with Omid 16b called "On My Mind" was a big tune there and I had a great night DJing and then hanging out with the amazing crowd. I was there with my friend Marc McCabe (who ran Under The Counter) and we both ended up at an afterparty. We finally got back to the hotel around 6am mainly because we had a long train journey to Dublin, a flight to Manchester and then a drive from there up to Glasgow the next day. We got to our room and crawled into our beds only to find them soaking wet. Further inspection of the room showed up a few holes in the ceiling above the beds that were letting the heavy rain straight through on to our sheets. I called up reception and tried to be as polite as I could. "Sorry mate, I don't have any other rooms," was his reply. "I tell you what though," he added, "I can send you up a case of lager as an apology." There was nothing else to do but to carry on partying... and that pretty much sums up the Cork attitude. 


What's the most difficult part about your job?

There's not too much that's difficult really. At the moment I look after my wee boy for a day and a half a week as he's only 18 months old and so the hardest thing now is doing a weeks worth of work in 3 1/2 days. I'm getting pretty good at being ruthless with my time decisions though!

How do you deal with unecessarily inflated artist egos?

I'm very pragmatic, perhaps overly so. In the past I was always finding new ways around problems that big egos create. Mainly the egos came along with huge success so the extra dancing around was worth it money wise. These days I'm just not interested in the "can don'ts" of the world. The music business is so small compared to what it was that the rewards just aren't big enough to put up with dickish behaviour so if you're not a positive, hard working person I'm really not interested in working with you.

How important is the artwork / packaging for the label, and how would you describe the aesthetic of your own artwork??

I think it’s really important. I do almost all my own artwork at the moment just like I did in the beginning. I love doing it. Which is good because I couldn't afford to hire the designers, I love to do everything. (the last person I hired was the brilliant Jack Featherstone on Grum's latest album project.) I like my label to stand out and ideally I'd have every release as strong as a great company logo. I hope that describes it well enough!

Who distributes your records, what is your relationship like with them?

On the digital side, I have a direct deal with Beatport and Believe handle everything else although I've started doing some special projects direct with Traxsource too. On the physical front, Above Board look after all our 12", LPs and CDs.

I'm really happy with all the relationships. I hope all the distros are too.
Thanks Kevin!


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by info 12th February 2015

jaysus thats a blast from the past. Used to be a big GU fan back in the day . Was a big fan of Omid 16b's early stuff too. 


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