Location: Chicago, IL
Year founded: 2009
Releases to date: 8
Joe Beats: “Spring”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/09-Spring1.mp3|titles=Joe Beats: “Spring”]
Maker: “Owner”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/03-Owner.mp3|titles=Maker: “Owner”]
David Humphries had only one goal in mind when he moved to Chicago from South Carolina: to start a record label. Specializing in instrumental hip hop, Fieldwerk Recordings was born in June of 2009 when Humphries (a.k.a. Crushcon7) produced his own tracks on the label. This connected him with other like-minded musicians with roots in Chicago, and now the modest label is celebrating its second anniversary.
Fieldwerk’s roster includes notable producers such as Joe Beats, Maker, Void Pedal, and Zavala, whose collaborative credits include Onry Ozzborn (Dark Time Sunshine/Grayskul), JFK (Grayskul), Qwel, and I Self Divine. Recently, the label has garnered attention in local publications such as the Chicago Reader, Centerstage Chicago, and even the Chicago Tribune, and the rest of the US is starting to catch up with what Fieldwerk has to offer. We spoke with Humphries to get the scoop on pending projects and the future of the label.
What was the impetus for launching Fieldwerk?
I’ve always been a beat-maker, and one of the things I’ve always wanted to do is start a record label. I moved [to Chicago on] January 1, 2003, and the whole time I was making beats. I worked on a project or two that never came out, and then eventually, I just to a point where I was ready to put some things out. I did a couple of songs and did a seven-inch, and that’s kind of how it started.
Several years before, I met Zavala, and we became really good friends and would go digging for records and stuff. Through Alex (Zavala), I met Void Pedal like a week later and started to build some really good relationships with those guys — good friendships. We’re all beat-makers, and we just kind of bounced ideas off of each other. At the time, Alex was working on a project with Sleep from Old Dominion, and Void Pedal was just workin’ on beats just like I was workin’ on beats, and we all just kind of came together. I was surrounded by a lot of talented guys. We’re all in it together; we’re a crew, and those guys motivate me a lot.
In your opinion, what is the role of a record label?
The role of a record label has changed a lot in the last several years. Everything is a lot more do-it-yourself, and it’s easier as a artist to have your work released digitally. A record label, especially Fieldwerk — I look at it like we’re a team. Fieldwerk, to me, is still a label in the traditional sense of a record label, but it’s also a crew. I mean, I’m going to do everything I can to promote the records that we put out and do everything that a label would traditionally.
Void Pedal: Omni Colour (Fieldwerk, 2/22/11)
Void Pedal: “Let It Fall”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/10-Let-It-Fall1.mp3|titles=Void Pedal “Let It Fall”]
How does your label find and take on new artists?
So far, I’ve been lucky that I know so many great artists. It’s been pretty easy. With the Meaty Ogre record, I knew I wanted to do a record with Meaty, and I knew I wanted to do a record with Joe Beats and Maker. There are so many talented artists out there; it’s just a matter of connecting with them. Basically, to this point, it’s been guys that we know and that we have a close working relationship with. We’re continuing to grow the label, so we’re reaching out to other guys and trying to make connections with new artists. We look for artists that kind of fit with what we do.
How have Chicago’s style and your connections within the city influenced Fieldwerk?
There’s a raw side of Chicago that I really like a lot. I think what’s really influenced me the most are the people that I’ve met from Chicago that have become some of my best friends and have really had an impact on how I see things. The friends that I’ve made here like Zavala, Void Pedal, Maker, and Meaty — all these guys have been great to work with, and I think that’s had the biggest impact on me.
To this point, Fieldwerk has specialized in instrumental hip hop, but you recently signed a rap act (Cloudy October). Do you plan to release more non-instrumental music?
I like beats; I’ve always been a beat guy. But we don’t just do beats. We’re not strictly a beat label, but we’re heavy on the production side of things. Over the next several years, we plan on continuing to grow. We just started the label in 2009. This year we’ve already released three records, and we have two more scheduled to come out this fall. [We’re] continuing to grow and build and find new artists [whose music] we want to release. There’s no limit to what we may put out.
Zavala: Vessel Instrumentals (Fieldwerk, 5/10/11)
Zavala: “Run”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Zavala_Run.mp3|titles=Zavala: “Run”]
What new projects do you have coming out in the next year?
Right now I’m working on the Crushcon7 LP, and I’m just trying to balance working on my solo album with running the label right now. It’s a work in progress, so I’m just making as many beats as I can, and we’ll see what it turns into. We have the Cloudy October release coming out in October, and another split instrumental LP will be out in the fall. Also, we have Void Pedal’s Omni Colour CD and LP as well as the Maker & Joe Beats Falcon By Design LP (vinyl and digital) and Zavala’s Dark Time Sunshine Vessels Instrumentals LP (vinyl and digital) available at fieldwerk.com.
How do you see Fieldwerk growing and expanding now that you are somewhat established as a label?
I would like to have bigger projects come out [and] continue to be innovative. We’ve had album artwork by Adam R. Garcia, and his artwork has played a huge role in Fieldwerk. The first thing everyone notices about the LPs is his design. We have one LP, Zavala’s Vessel Instrumentals, that was done by Michael Crigler. The artwork plays a huge role in the presentation of the music. I would say that as we do bigger projects, [we want] to make the packaging more elaborate and continue to be innovative and try to sell records.
Zavala and Void Pedal have been touring a lot the last couple years and have made some great connections on the road. We’re just guys making beats; this is our art, and there are a lot of people who like what we do. Sometimes I’ll shoot E-mails back and forth with the guys that order records from us. You get to build relationships with people who really dig your music. I’ve always wanted to have a label and be doing exactly what I’m doing now.