Jason Smith

When Ai Was Ten
One of the world's most underground and best electronic music labels, Ai Records is celebrating it's tenth birthday.

Areainfo or better known as Ai Records is the label that even Warp envies, because of it's high-end electronic music productions and diamond valued limited artworks. Ai have always been on the upper side of musical fetihsism.

Can it be different? Jason Smith, the real founder of the label spends most of his time designing artworks for music companies and more than in his spare times he has built this underrated but legendary electronic music label. In fact this is the way he wants to keep up the 'business' because he really knows the habits of the music consumers and after all he pursues Ai Records with an amatuer will and excitement.

As it is his dream project, he takes his time compiling the right tracks from the right producers and he as much tries to achieve the same on the creative side. Look at The Third Man's Clarion Call EP. The artwork in fact is a medical illustration drawn by a German legend in his field. These important details make up Ai Records really big. Claro Intelecto, FZV, Yunx, Plant43, Sinner DC and The Third Man are only a few important producers that came up from the label.

Jason is a tough guy, and it is not easy to please him. But me also as a Ai lover, we are more than pleased to have such a lovely and precious label which we will tell about to our grand children while we are spinning those very limited copies of precious vinyl. Thank you Jason and please go on as far as you can, at least I promise to buy every vinyl you release, because Ai can't go wrong! Check the Ai website to see by your eyes.

In fact you are a graphic designer right? But you ended up a label owner as well and the label stuff takes most of your time usually. How Ai was born and then evolved?

I work as a designer, designing record covers for loads of different bands.  I run Ai in my own time, in between work, family and play so I have to plan releases in advance to make sure they run smoothly - that’s the theory anyways. Ai was born with three friends that set up the label in july 1999. Then a few years ago I took sole control. Being here ten years later,  surviving in the environment of file sharing and downloads is quite an achievement. Next year things will change for Areainfo Records. More on those developments next year.

What were you thinking 10 years before? What are you thinking now in terms of the vision and aspect of the label?
10 years ago electronic music was something new to me and very exciting. I never thought I would have a successful underground record label ten years ago. 10 years later the music industry is now driven by marketing departments telling you what's cool and what's hot. While the good independent labels are struggling putting out good music that’s really hard to find as a lot of good independent stores have disappeared in recent years. Areainfo Records will morph into what's needed to help the label run its natural course, while still remaining independent and underground, which I think is where the majority of good music lives.

Which signings and albums were very important for the label’s evolution and for you? Do you have a personal favorite?
I do think EOC is very underrated. And hes a really good guy. Like everyone still on Ai.  I like artists to grow and evolve on the label and everyone seems pretty chilled.

Ai is more on the dance side then it was on the idm side now. Is it a natural process, just like all other labels around?
It's a natural progression that’s not forced or intentional.

How has Ai’s relationship been with hypes and trends?
Personally try to ignore them. I do listen to the latest “HYPE” albums to see if they deserve the hype, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I’m not keen on certain labels jumping from one-IN–sound to the next. There are a lot of labels that do this. Ai definitely doesn’t.

Ai is also a cult label well known with it’s highly limited coloured vinyls and very sophisticated artworks. You are one of the guilty men for this coloured vinyl madness. How do you think music and it’s packaging and how it is served is important for a release? What is your and Ai kind of perspective on this?
I love LTD beautiful things. And always want to produce these for other people. As someone else said about my labels releases: “Ai Records has succeeded in creating objects and not just products". This is important to me as I do work in the music industry by day. And I see and hear some things about the struggles and battles to sell music.

People are finding it harder and harder to sell music. But these people don’t understand that cutting packaging and making cheaper product has its consequences to the industries long term future. But there is a lot of people now doing beautiful special product and selling it direct and this will help keep this industry going amid all the doom and gloom.

What do you think about the current techno and disco revival? How do you predict this will effect other subgenres of electronic music?
I love old disco. This fascination comes from my youth when I use to listen to old Derrick May - reel to reel tapes from back in 88 – 89. (when I first heard detroit techno). These tapes did the rounds in my home town of crawley -  along time ago when guys like  Insync and Matt Cogger went over and crashed on his couch and borrowed these tapes.

One great example is -  he's got  the break of  “Life is a Jungle by Kikrokos”  and turned it into almost his own track by looping and looping it and cutting it up. It's still amazing now 20 years on.. These tracks offer something that electronic music lacks at the moment – soul and a vision of the future. As most proper Detroit techno and good disco had in abundance back in the day. I also remember going to a bleep43 night @ corsica studios and walking in and hearing IF playing disco and I never moved from that room till he finished. Very impressive.

How will be Ai’s strategy in the forthcoming days in both digital and physical music industry?
It’s ever changing. But I really don’t want to go purely digital as I feel that its a cop out. It’s too easy to release a lackluster digital release cause you can and it costs nothing to do. That’s why the industry is in the shit it is. As for a physical releases its a financial gamble and not a cheap one at that. If it doesn’t sell you loose money so you have to believe in it with all ya heart.

You also have a sub label called RUR, a very secret project. Lot’s of aynonymous releases. Is it something related with liscensing or keeping beeing underground?
Just something I wanted to try as an experiment  and it seems to be working. I got a lot of shit off people from forums for this in the beginning but it seems to have grown into a great success. Sometimes I think people don’t like change or something different but its worked well.

RUR is a reaction to the music industry I work in. People are obsessed by names not by the music and to me it’s always JUST about the music. If  people don’t know who it is there listening to, its like their entering into something unknown and exciting. Next year I will be doing more RUR releases.

What are the forthcoming release projects? Will we see new signings in the new year?
Theres one more special 10 year anniversary release being made now. Ai001X. Then we will see what the future brings. I’m always listening to the next project planning and thinking ahead. At the moment im listening to some new Plant 43 tracks that are killers. For a project next year.

What about an Ai label night in Istanbul?
Sounds like a good idea, more people should put on Ai nights. I’m trying to organise a big 10 year party in London at the moment but if anyone wants to contact me in Istanbul regarding a party /venue etc. that would be great. Takes quite a lot of cash and organising big parties abroad so it there’s a rich Ai fan out there. You know how to contact me!

What do you know about here?
I need to be educated.

Lastly what will you say to Turkish Ai fans?
Çok teşekkür ederim, görüşürüz!

Interview: Christopher Çolak
02 December 2009


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