With a history in electronic music that’s intertwined with that of his hometown, the Spanish capital of Madrid, Óscar Mulero solidified his legacy as a techno stalwart a decade ago when he began Pole Records; later evolving into the PoleGroup platform. Created alongside his compatriots Exium, Reeko, and Christian Wünsch, the stable has shown a tenacious capacity to survive during its lifespan, evolving through various incarnations over the past ten years.
Last year though was arguably the strongest yet for PoleGroup. The label released its first two artist albums, Exium’s acclaimed A Sensible Alternative to Emotion as well as the equally strong The Blue Album from Reeko, before Mulero himself capped off the year with Unknown Landscapes vol. 1; the first in an annual series of mix compilations that captures the dark techno thunder of the PoleGroup collective in all of its glory.
The concept saw Mulero putting the call out for unreleased records, and handpicking the gems from a collection of 50 new tracks offered up for the project. 16 tracks were eventually selected for the mix, with names like DVS1, Adam X and Jonas Kopp appearing alongside the PoleGroup stable of regulars. And all the hard work shines through in impeccable hard techno of the final product; Unknown Landscapes delivers enough richness, color and form in its execution to make it one of the standout compilations for the final months of 2013.
Data Transmission talks to Óscar Mulero about the process of putting Unknown Landscapes together, as well as what’s coming up for the PoleGroup stable in 2014.
Hi Óscar, hope you’re well. How is your new year starting out so far?
All good, no complaints. I’m fully motivated; I have DJ gigs every weekend and I’m also working in the studio.
Firstly, congratulations on the Unknown Landscapes compilation from late last year, it was one of the standouts for the final months.
Thanks. I am very happy with the final result, with the finished product. And I’m also very happy about the concept we used for this project. We made the decision around June last year, and the idea was to compile unreleased materials from different artists, and to mix them. We plan to release one Unknown Landscapes volume every year, plus a 12″ with four tracks taken from the compilation.
It really does come across that there was a lot of work put into ensuring the compilation made a high impact. Tell us a bit about the process of putting it together.
I think that one of reasons why the compilation works is because of the underlining concept: using unreleased tracks only. Stuff that had never been listened to in records, or in the digital format, before the compilation was made. In our opinion, this idea makes the record special. When you make music on a daily basis, there’s a lot of stuff that may never be released at all; tracks that you made a long time ago and that don’t really fit in with your next release, but that you might still end up using in your DJ sets. So we thought we could base the compilation around this idea. And somehow this made it attractive.
When did you put the call out for artists to begin submitting their unreleased material, and did you feel the overall quality of what you received was high?
I think we started asking for the tracks and contacting artists sometime around last June. The final selection was made around September, when we had to choose 16 tracks from a first selection of more then 50. There was lots of stuff we weren’t able to include in the final track list.
What are some of the standout tracks for you personally, and why?
They So from Tadeo, because it is the perfect ending for the journey, and Adam X’s Meridian Arc, because of the industrial flavour.
The mixed compilation itself is particularly good, and it comes together really cohesively. How conscious were you of selecting tracks that might later work together in a mix?
When I am working on a compilation, the most important thing for me is precisely that musical cohesion between tracks. It doesn’t really matter to me where they come from or whether they would work on a dance floor at 4am. The most important thing is that the whole selection and programming works properly.
Were you happy with the response to Unknown Landscapes?
Yes I was. Happier than I expected to be. All we were aiming to do was to put out a compilation of unreleased tracks, and our motivation was simply musical. So anything above and beyond that is a bonus.
Tell us a bit about the history of the PoleGroup label, and the different changes that it has undergone over the years.
When I originally decided to create a second label after Warm Up, the intention was to have another option for releasing my music that was run by a different distributor. That way, if anything happened to the distribution of Warm Up, as it had in the past, I would still be able to release my music on a different label. I would still be able to release music and have it distributed. Before I started the PoleGroup label, I had a problem with distribution and I was unable to release anything for a whole year. This is why I created the second label.
After that we decided to create our own platform. We didn’t want to stop at releasing our own music, we wanted to do label nights and start a booking agency to take care of PoleGroup artists. Using the Pole label as a starting point for the platform turned out to be a good idea.
How strong a position do you feel the label is currently in, compared to other points over its lifespan? Are there any particular challenges at the moment that come with running an independent imprint?
The label confirmed its position as a stable techno imprint in 2013, with good quality releases and a strong own identity. Over the past year we released the first two albums on the labels – from Exium and Reeko, which also gave a boost. Besides that we noticed a big surge in sales in comparison with 2011 and 2012. We are finding new audiences everywhere, and we are definitely going through one of our best moments since things began in 2004. Now the challenge is to continue this way and to keep the quality standards up, as well as bringing in some new artists without giving up the PoleGroup identity.
PoleGroup is based in Spain, though it’s a sound that also works perfectly in locations like Berlin, for instance. Do you feel that the label’s Spanish roots come across strongly in its sound, or is it the international nature of the artist roster more important?
I think that both things are important. At the beginning we only released music by the Pole guys: Exium, Reeko, Wünsch and me. That was the initial idea. But after some time we wanted to place the label within the modern techno scene, and we wanted Pole to be closer to it, so we thought that it would be a good idea to collaborate with other artists, and to release their music on our label.
What’s coming up in 2014 for you and PoleGroup?
PoleGroup’s upcoming releases for 2014 include a new Óscar Mulero EP, with two original tracks from me as well as remixes from Tommy Four Seven and Sigha. After that we have invited Developer to do an EP, with a remix from Reeko. Exium’s album remixes are also in store, with reworks from Jonas Kopp, Silent Servant, Tripeo and myself. We have an album from Christian Wünsch on the way, and a new Spherical Coordinates EP scheduled for this year. And of course, the Unknown Landscapes part 2 mix.
And as far my own releases are concerned, I have some remixes coming out for labels such as Soma and Sleaze, just to name few, as well as remixes for a Jonas Kopp EP on Warm Up, a solo EP on Warm Up, and two new EPs with Christian Wünsch as Spherical Coordinates.