1996 was the height of a golden age for British techno.
It was the decade when Surgeon turned Birmingham into a UK techno mecca with the House of God night, Regis and Female released hard-as-nails music on their Downwards label and James Ruskin and his friend and collaborator Richard Polson launched Blueprint, which has been one of Britain’s most respected techno labels for 20 years.
June 7 sees the release of Structures and Solutions: 1996 – 2016, a compilation that celebrates the label’s 20th anniversary with exclusive tracks from veterans including Ruskin, Luke Slater and Steve Bicknell and productions from new blood such as Blawan, Tessela and Randomer.
Streaming in full below, the compilation is a 17-track whirlwind of kick drums that also features producers from outside the UK sphere including Irish duo Lakker and US producer DVS1.
I spoke to Ruskin about how the British techno scene has changed over the decades, and how the compilation was assembled.
How does the UK techno scene now compared to 1996 when Blueprint was launched?
There wasn’t the level of labels and artists we see now, and the process of releasing and selling music was for us contained within the vinyl format. We obviously didn’t have downloads and the internet was still in its infancy and some time from distributing music as we see everyday now. I don’t think techno went anywhere, but we have managed to ignite the next generation of producers and an audience who want to take the music forward. Techno has been around for a very long time now, and it’s this renewed interest from a younger generation and the continued exploration musically that keeps us here.
Why did the label go dormant in the mid-00s, and what prompted you to relaunch it?
Blueprint’s co-founder Richard Polson passed away suddenly in 2006 and I had to spend some time working out what it was that I wanted to do and regain a connection with the studio that I had lost. The label was then restarted as it felt like the right thing to do to move forward. I had been working in the studio with Regis and we recorded an EP [as O/V/R] and it was this record that made me realise it was time to continue the mission.
Why did you decide to open it up to younger producers rather than keep it to core Blueprint artists?
I wanted to create a compilation that looked forward and wasn’t a retrospective of past releases, the idea being that although we are celebrating this landmark it is also the start of the next chapter. Having the core Blueprint artists together with a new generation of producers that are going to take techno forward made sense to me.
Now that you’ve reached 20 years, what does the future hold for Blueprint?
I have been lucky enough to work with people that I respect and release music that I believe in, and that will continue into the next chapter.
Blueprint celebrates 20 years on August 28 at London’s Studio Spaces alongside Jeff Mills, Ben Klock and Silent Servant – details and tickets here.