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It's been a hell of a year for the Suol label, scoring international chart-topping success on the strength of an uncompromising A&R vision and a formidable string of releases. And the man behind it all is DJ/producer, tastemaker, and all-around musical badass Chopstick, AKA Chi-Thien Nguyen.
Suol can only get bigger this year, as hotly tipped artists like Till Von Sein, Daniel Bortz, and Trickski continue to beef up the label's catalog with tasty choice cuts. But a growing international touring schedule will also continue to help the gang convert fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Recently, New Times caught up with Chopstick ahead of his Miami debut performance with Suol co-owner John Jon, Daniel Bortz, and local promotion collective Young Hearts.
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New Times: How did the Suol label first come about? What concept did you have in mind when you first launched?
Chopstick: It's an interesting question, as our label Suol was actually set up in 2007, under a different name. But officially, the label, under the moniker Suol, launched on January 27, 2010.
At the beginning, in 2007, we called it Baalsaal, which had a third founding member and 12 releases overall. In January 2010, the third member went on to do his own thing, and we changed the name from Baalsaal to Suol. So our first release under the Suol name was actually our 13th release. A bit complicated, but we felt the necessity to make these changes. And so far, we're running well as Suol.
Our concept wasn't something totally new — a lot of labels had that "family label" approach. But for us, it definitely was a game-changer. We spoke with our friends, such as Till Von Sein, Trickski, and Fritz Kalkbrenner, about our label concept and our desire to build a caring "home" for the artists.
To this day, our artists often just pop by the studios and offices because they want to hang out and get feedback on new material they've been working on. In the end, it's really just friends who all share and follow the same musical vision we do. And that's what makes Suol so fun and great!
What is your criteria for signing artists and selecting material? Is there a specific style of aesthetic you want to define the label?
We never set musical boundaries for our artists. Once we do sign on a new artist, we let them do whatever they feel like. We are always in the loop of what our artists are producing and writing. We share a lot of emails back and forth during the working process, and we always give our opinion if we're being asked. But ultimately, we trust our artists and shape the releases together.
We are probably best-known for deep house music, though putting our catalog in that genre would be unfair, as we have mad love for various other musical styles. You'll find a more R&B or left-field track on our B-sides. Really, we do not limit ourselves in terms of style — all it takes is that we feel the music.
What were Suol's proudest moments in 2012?
After 2012 was coming to an end, [we ranked near the top in] a lot of [EDM] polls. Our second album with Fritz Kalkbrenner has been nominated for several national awards. And our Suol Mates mix release was also a nice success. We signed two new artists, Chasing Kurt and Meggy, by the end of 2012. Both have promising futures and incredible voices.
There's many other things that we are proud of too, such as having a really good team behind our label who do the daily business and keep the engines burning. They are not traveling around the world and DJ'ing all over, but without them, we wouldn't be able to follow Suol's vision. And last but not least, we (almost) finished our five studios, which was a huge pain in the ass. So after almost two years of building, we can actually go and make music in our studios. That was a huge relief in 2012!
What can Miami expect from your gig with John Jon and Daniel Bortz for the Young Hearts party at the Delano?
The three of us are all DJs at heart. Everybody started DJ'ing at a young age, driven by passion for the music. And even after all these years and lots of gigs, it's getting stronger and stronger. On our recent tour through Brazil, we played a six-and-a-half-hour set (instead of the three hours planned), because we, the crowd, and promoter agreed that this had to go on just a bit longer. We're looking forward to every gig, and it's our first time in Miami. So you can expect three DJs giving everything they got. That's for sure!