For 20 years, Function has been one of New York’s most important techno figures.
Otherwise known as Dave Sumner, the producer is known for his role in legendary techno collective Sandwell District alongside Regis, but has more recently been focusing on his own label, Infrastructure New York. Originally launched in 1998, Sumner rebooted it in 2014 with support from his friend Ed Davenport, aka Inland.
As well as using the label as an outlet for his own material alongside that of Davenport, Sumner has been slowly building the imprint with a family of like-minded, under-the-radar artists including Campbell Irvine and Post Scriptum, acts whose sleek, meticulously crafted techno mirrors his own.
Next month sees the release of Facticity, the label’s first multi-artist compilation. As well as collecting tracks from the Infrastructure family, Sumner has called on old friends Silent Servant, Rrose and Vatican Shadow to contribute alongside Steve Bicknell, Cassegrain & Tin Man and Dial’s Efdemin. Ahead of the compilation’s release, I spoke to Sumner about the label and how the tracklist and four-vinyl boxset took shape.
Stream Function’s Facticity track ‘Low Lights & Trick Mirrors’ below ahead of its release on June 3. Catch him along with Inland, Campbell Irvine and Post Scriptum at the compilation’s launch at Fabric in London on May 21.
Why did you decide to release a compilation at this point in the label’s history?
I guess it stems from taking stock of things since we relaunched the label. The idea was to create a compilation that read more like an album, involving not only the current core group of artists but also connecting dots between the label’s past, last year’s Berghain 07 mix, Sandwell District and our respective histories.
You’ve built up a solid core family of artists around the label in the past few years. What is it you for look in an artist when you’re listening out for new music to release?
One of the key ambitions, for Ed [Davenport], Stefanie [Parnow] and myself, when relaunching the label was to develop new artists – explore the A&R process. And, since so much has been accomplished in the last 30-plus years within electronic music, I would immediately say the first two things we’re looking for are originality and that they’re highly creative. But it’s also about developing a relationship. If something feels like work then it isn’t happening. There has to be a certain magnetism involved in order for things to happen naturally.
Most of the tracks are artists close to the label or that you’ve known through Sandwell District. How did acts like Vatican Shadow, Cleric and Efdemin come to be involved?
Again, magnetism. Dominick [Vatican Shadow] has become a close friend and colleague in the last few years. Having had a lot of mutual friends and a mutual respect for each other’s work, we were drawn together. When we finally met it quickly forged into a working relationship and strong friendship – resulting in an album, 2014’s Games Have Rules. I love him and find him wildly inspiring! Same with Steve Bicknell, Efdemin and Cleric. I’ve known Bicknell since booking him at Limelight in the late 90s and we’ve remained friends since. But I’ve always been a huge fan. I’ve always admired the way he carries himself. He’s one of the most respected techno artists to stem from the UK scene and has done so with a take it or leave it attitude. I really appreciate that. Whether through Lost or Cosmic [Bicknell’s club night and label], the quality has always been formidable.
As for Efdemin and Cleric, Efdemin has also been a long time friend and we’re both Berghain/Ostgut artists and DJs, so it’s close to home. Decay is such a killer album and I love how his contribution to the compilation reflects it, yet still fits perfectly into the narrative. And Jordan [Cleric] is such a lovely guy. I met him when he came out to a show of mine at Corsica Studios a couple of years ago. I play a lot of his music and asked him to send me some tracks, which is where ‘Concrete’ came from. I’ve been playing it for ages and last year it appeared on my Berghain mix. I’ve had the luxury of having this monster of a track exclusive for so long. It’s become an important record for me, a real secret weapon. So needless to say we’re super excited it’s finally seeing a proper release.
Artwork is central to Infrastructure’s aesthetic – why did you choose to work with Robert McNally for the compilation?
I’m a huge fan and honored to call him a friend. It’s clear to me why the Chapman Brothers recently selected him as their artist of the day at a show in London, and why Damien Hirst also collects his work. I’m in absolute awe of his contribution to the comp. It’s part of an ongoing collage series he hasn’t yet shown publicly. But his real strength is in these stunning, massive, surreal pieces that are meticulously drawn with pencil. I love how he works with scale. He’s also been one of the first to use ultra black carbon nanotube coatings, this crazy material which is meant to be the blackest substance known. He’s currently represented by David Risley Gallery in Copenhagen and Aeroplastics in Brussels, and you can see more of his work on both his website and Instagram feed.
Now you’ve put together a compilation, what’s next for Infrastructure New York?
Well, this year I’m celebrating 20 years releasing as Function. So this Recompiled project that’s been in the works for the last year or so, after some delays, will finally surface this fall. Then Ed (Davenport) will debut his first EP on the label under his Inland guise and there will be EPs from a couple of artists who appeared on the comp, followed by a killer new album. After that there will be a new collaboration. Something I’ve been working on the last few years with an artist I have known for a really long time…