In an orbit of its own: An oral history of Planet Mu
The Planet Mu label was born 20 years ago into a very different world, and has survived thanks to the vision of its founder, Mike Paradinas.
Set up as part of a deal Paradinas struck with Virgin Records in the 1990s, the label was at first intended as an outlet for his work under the µ-Ziq alias, but eventually evolved into an independent enterprise with Paradinas at the helm. Planet Mu soon became a hotbed of daring electronic sounds, and over two decades it has released music from a dizzying range of experimental artists, covering a plethora of emerging and established genres.
It’s hard to summarise the importance and impact Planet Mu has had on the electronic music landscape. From IDM to dubstep, footwork to beats, Planet Mu has all too often been a lone voice shouting in the wind, long before others would hear its call over the constant noise of the music industry. Perhaps most telling is the fact that Mu has spent 20 years innovating without the same infrastructure and budget that other pioneering independent labels have enjoyed. It has been a genuine labour of love.
What follows is an oral history of Planet Mu told by Paradinas, Luke Vibert, FaltyDL, Boxcutter, Ital, RP Boo, Kuedo, Venetian Snares, Roly Porter and Mary Anne Hobbs.
Mike Paradinas has also put together Spotify playlists that highlight the length and breadth of the music Planet Mu has championed for the past two decades. To listen to 50 of Planet Mu’s best singles, head here; to hear 100 of the label’s greatest album tracks, go here.
Please note that the quotes attributed to Venetian Snares are taken from a Resident Advisor feature.
“I liked Planet E, Carl Craig’s label, so I thought I’d call it Planet Mu.”
Mike Paradinas (aka µ-Ziq, founder): I signed to Virgin Records in 1995 to release my debut, Salsa With Mesquite. Virgin had specific distributors for each type of music and so they needed to set up a label for me. I had a couple days to come with the name. I liked Planet E, Carl Craig’s label, so I thought I’d call it Planet Mu. That was it. Also, one of my old unreleased tracks is called ‘Planet Mu’ and it was the name of my studio, by which I mean bedroom.
Luke Vibert: Mike and I both played the Fuse club in Brussels in February 1995, but I’m sure we’d met before that round at Grant [Wilson-Claridge, Rephlex founder] or Richard’s [D. James, Aphex Twin] place in 1993 or 1994. We got on well as we have a similar bullshit detector and liked lots of the same music.
Paradinas: I knew Luke from our time together on Rephlex. We were friends before all this, we recorded and toured together in Japan and Europe.
Vibert: I wouldn’t want to ruin Mike’s reputation, so I’ll just say three words: Japan, kimono and vodka!
Marcus Scott (press and A&R): I’ve known Mike since he first started making music as I was friends with all the Rephlex lot from Cornwall. I was about 16, 17 when I first met him and he was at college with Richard Aphex in Kingston. He was pretty awkward back then but he’s less so now, he’s more confident.
Paradinas: Until 2007 it was just me doing pretty much everything at the label. Now we have a staff that includes Tom, Marcus and Gavin to handle everything from accounts to publishing.
Scott: I was brought in to do A&R as well as press and radio around 2009. I’d started label managing Hyperdub at that point and was still doing some A&R at Warp after working there for a bit, but Mike paid me off. I decided to do it as I like Mike. I gave them a hand modernising and turning the label around a bit too as they weren’t set up quite right.
Paradinas: When I started there was no intention to have other artists on the label.
Drew Lustman (aka FaltyDL): I heard µ-Ziq well before I was aware of Planet Mu. My friend played me some of his music one day in his car to show me there was more than Aphex Twin out there.
Barry Lynn (aka Boxcutter): I first heard of Planet Mu in the early 2000s. I’d really got into the Braindance Coincidence compilation in 2001 and Mike had a track on there called ‘Swan Vesta’. So I chased that up and then bought Tango n’ Vectif, Mike’s Rephlex debut.
Paradinas: I brought up releasing other artists at some point with my A&R guy, Dave Boyd, and eventually he relented and we did our first compilation, Mealtime, in 1997. I’d been compiling it for a while so it was a little out of date by the time it came out. Virgin said that if I wanted to do more I should do the label by myself.
Boxcutter: I found the Mealtime compilation in the second hand section of Backbeat Records, Belfast, and snapped it up because it had an AFX track. I also bought a Mogwai 12″ that featured a µ-ziq remix [1998’s Fear Satan Remixes] there. I mentioned that remix to Mike recently and he said Mogwai had never paid him because he was on Virgin and they’d assumed he didn’t need any more money. When they got in touch later to reissue it he apparently recorded himself saying “Mogwai are wankers”, and quietly layered it into the master he sent over.
Paradinas: I’d been talking to RTM, our distributor, about splitting the label away from Virgin because I wanted to release music by my flatmate, Jega, and others like Boards of Canada, who’d sent me a demo. The idea was to start it off at the same time as the compilation as many of the artists on there I also wanted to release. But RTM went into administration and Vital, who took over, weren’t interested. It took another nine months to find a new distributor and that was SRD. It was all sorted by around July 1998. We changed the catalogue numbers to ZIQ. Some of the releases I wanted to put out ended up going elsewhere like Skam.
Barry Lynn (aka Boxcutter): You hear a lot of the same things that make µ-Ziq records work in the Planet Mu discography, like portamento synth lines, but reconfigured and popping up in weird contexts.
Mike Paradinas: I wanted the label to be quite wide ranging. What restricts me is the type of melodies I like rather than the type of music. I had the idea that it could end being more like a major label, with all sorts of music on it, much like XL Records now or Matador then. Electronic music is what I love.
Boxcutter: It’s interesting how running a label can support and embellish someone’s ideas about music. It definitely inspired me to start my own, and run it from an artist’s perspective.
Daniel Martin-McCormick (aka Ital): I first heard of Planet Mu in 2004 when my friend picked up the Remarc album, which blew me away. Soon after that I copped Shitmat’s Killababylonkutz. It seemed like the craziest thing in the world.
Paradinas: I think in the beginning we had the IDM phase, then the gabba/breakcore/jungle phase, then grime and dubstep and then footwork. I think that’s how people perceive it. And within that there were still all sorts of different things at different times. We still do some IDM now, or electronica, or whatever people call it. It’s all fun.
“I tend to rely on gut feeling for A&R. But then you like to justify it afterwards.”
FaltyDL: The best electronic music right now sounds like IDM to me. In disguise of course! Never say it is IDM.
RP Boo: My first encounter with Planet Mu was strange. I was asked to do a project [Bangs & Works Vol. 1] with the label, including some interviews, through some people that DJ Rashad had introduced me to. I was excited to be asked. I actually ‘met’ Mike on a Skype chat in 2014, years after Bangs & Works and it was clear we had a bond.
Ital: I was living in California so I missed out on a lot of the more dubstep, mid–2000s stuff, instead checking out house and noise mostly. But then Bangs & Works came out and blew me away all over again and I started to check out the label more. It’s an incredible catalogue that keeps evolving.
FaltyDL: I became aware of Planet Mu around 2005, as they rolled out some of the very early dubstep which caught my eye and ear. I would go cop Vex’d but then realised many artists I had always enjoyed released on Mu as well, like Venetian Snares and Luke Vibert.
Jamie Teasdale (aka Kuedo and one half of Vex’d): I wasn’t very knowledgable about contemporary experimental electronic music at the time we met Mike. I was really impressed that they’d put out a Remarc compilation. Mike invited us to come to a Mu show at Elektrowerkz in 2004 where I heard Venetian Snares and breakcore for the first time. That was eye opening.
Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares): In the late 1990s I released a record on a Minneapolis label called Greg Hates Car Culture. I guess Mike was on tour in the US and he listened to it, bought it and then tracked me down and just asked me if I wanted to release some music on his label. He sent me some other records he put out. I guess it was pretty much the beginning of [Planet Mu], too.
Paradinas: There were pop records at the beginning. One of our first albums was by Capitol K and his follow up, Island Row, was picked up by XL for licensing in 1999. They took a year or two to release it and then dropped him, but the album still sold pretty well for us. I think that’s one of the reasons why we managed to carry on, because the licensing advance from XL was rather large. In a way it’s thanks to them that we survived in the early stages.
FaltyDL: Planet Mu is always there doing new dope shit. Every other year they’ll release something completely new, like clockwork. I think I have listened to at least part of every record Mike has released, which is into the 300s by now. There was this wealth of material just there to be heard.
Paradinas: I tend to rely on gut feeling for A&R. But then you like to justify it afterwards. Why the fuck does my brain like this? You come up with all sorts of reasons. Who’s to say why? That’s for writers to say.
Marcus Scott (A&R): The things I’ve brought to the label tend to be people I liked and thought would work well. Most recently John T Gast is someone I brought in because he was sending me stuff for ages and I just encouraged him. And eventually he got better.
Paradinas: I’ve always been slightly involved unless an artist presents me an album that’s fine as it is. And that happens, quite often. But sometimes an artist will give you all the tracks and say “you do it.”
“I like to support artists to a certain extent, as long as they’re still interesting to me.”
FaltyDL: Mike worked with me on the tracklisting for In The Wild [Lustman’s 2014 album for Ninja Tune]. On my first two albums for Planet Mu, he handled all that. It felt like a small triumph tracklisting In The Wild and The Crystal Cowboy [his most recent album for Planet Mu] in a way that was aligned with Mike for the most part. Like, we trust each other’s ears at this point.
Boxcutter: I was so naive about the process of releasing music when I started. Mike used to call me at work and I’d sneak into the filing room to talk track orders and selections. I generally made no ground if I argued with him. Our main differences were about which versions of a track to use. He used to do a bit of EQ’ing to my tracks before getting them properly mastered, especially earlier on. I think he was fine-tuning them to the soundsystem in his car, that seemed to be his main venue for checking stuff at volume.
Scott: I’m always involved to some extent in the A&R of the label, finding artists and making decisions though probably a little less these days. I’m a kind of last test for records and orders quite often.
RP Boo: I was asked to do my first solo project with Planet Mu right after Bangs & Works Volume 1 but I told Mike the time wasn’t right. I let things move on and then one day in the summer of 2012 he asked for a solo album and I said yes. Rashad had played one of my tracks on Don’t Watch That TV and the timing felt right.
Paradinas: I’ve always found RP’s records to be hard to tracklist. Marcus helped on the first one and Jamie is helping with the new one.
Scott: RP’s an incredibly enthusiastic guy. Once he warmed up and saw what was happening he worked hard. His energy is contagious so he’s a pleasure to work with. That energy will always turn into something good.
Paradinas: I like to support artists to a certain extent, as long as they’re still interesting to me. Sometimes I think people go off the boil and it’s hard when that happens. Especially if you’re friends. All you can do is be honest, but that’s a difficult conversation to have.
Vibert: Mike has taken so many risks over the years, just by releasing music that he loves. If he believes in an artist, he’ll stick with them.
“Mike gave us the freedom to release the music we wanted but also a lot of support and advice. I’ve always trusted his opinions.”
Boxcutter: Mike has a pragmatic approach to change in the underground. We both like to move with the times not in the kind of arms race direction that some electronic music fans prefer.
Roly Porter (one half of Vex’d): Mike gave us the freedom to release the music we wanted but also a lot of support and advice. I’ve always trusted his opinions.
FaltyDL: I model a lot of my career after Mike and things he showed me. The fact that he would call made a big impact on me. I wonder what goes through the minds of artists the second they see him calling. Probably a little panic and excitement at the same time.
Boxcutter: I’ve always got on really well with Mike. That’s why I’ve worked with him for so long. He’s got a very droll sense of humour and he’s super honest. The label has a proper production line going on at all times.
Paradinas: Recently a lot of the artists have gone to Ninja Tune when we wanted to do a second release. That’s been a bigger problem. It was a running joke for a few years. Falty DL, Machinedrum, Raffertie, Slugabed. I just phoned up Ninja and asked if they wanted to employ me as A&R. And they did. I offered some good people but I think they had a certain thing in mind and it wasn’t really working. I’d do it again. I’d like to work for a label as A&R.
FaltyDL: Mike understood why I signed to Ninja. I’m really happy to be releasing a new album with Mu because it feels like home in a way. Very early on Mike had told me I should release under my own name and now, seven years later, I have and it’s with him.
Scott: Working with artists on press and promotion changes from person to person. I wish there was more time to work on each record. I enjoyed bringing Nick Talbot aka Gravenhurst to work with Mike. I’m sad that he passed away last year but happy to have played a small part in his musical story.
FaltyDL: Marcus helped tremendously in the beginning of my career. I am forever indebted to him. He is very humble though and would just say he was doing his job.
Boxcutter: I think the hardest thing to agree on with Mike has been cover art. Some of the things he will push are inexplicable to me but maybe he’s just ahead of the curve. That Meast sleeve from 2004 looks like every other instrumental grime record now.
Luke Vibert: I’ve had a very honest relationship with Mike and Mu over the years. No bullshit. He can be hard to please, musically speaking, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Mike Paradinas: Luke is a laid back guy making great music. His first release came about one day around his house, smoking a joint, listening to DATs. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Vibert: Mike was surprised I hadn’t released a track called ‘Flyover’ from 1995 as he’d always liked it. That kind of set the tone for other Luke Vibert releases on Planet Mu as they’re pretty mixed-up.
Paradinas: Aaron’s records didn’t sell very well at first but through his own hard work playing great gigs he built a strong following. What also helped is that we released three albums a year in the early to mid 2000s. He was writing a lot and I liked it all.
Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares): Most of my music I don’t release because I don’t really give a fuck. But sometimes there’ll be something [Mike] has for years and will just be bugging me to release. And then eventually, if I’m in an agreeable mood one day, I guess I do.
Paradinas: Aaron had quite an interesting sound at the time, there was no one quite like him. Even now. It’s all fairly personal stuff. Strange guy but amazing musician. We’ve met many times, we toured together.
“Most of my music I don’t release because I don’t really give a fuck.”
Venetian Snares: Man, I thought [Mike] was weird at first. He’d phone me up and be like, ‘I’m listening to your music in the bath.’ I’d be like, ‘What? You listen to that in the bathtub? What are you talking about?’ We became pretty good friends over the years. He’s a nice dude.
Paradinas: I connected with Drew [FaltyDL] on MySpace.
Drew Lustman (aka FaltyDL): Mike was very accessible on MySpace.
Paradinas: Drew was… quite persistent. He wasn’t really taking no for an answer. He took on constructive criticism. He needed to find his own voice.
FaltyDL: I was sending knock-off Squarepusher. I’ll probably just wait till that’s en vogue again and release it all.
Paradinas: Then he started to put this garage feel to it. That’s when I felt it was the right direction. He decided to stick with some of the garage stuff and that became Love Is A Liability, his first album.
FaltyDL: It took five versions of the opener, ‘Human Meadow’, before it was right. I was a fan of Boxcutter and Barry was very helpful in my early days. He told me to slow down. Mike wouldn’t really give feedback, he never does. He would say this is shit or this is wicked. I once got an incredible, and also an amazing. That felt pretty good.
Paradinas: By the time Drew’s record came out, wobble bass had got boring and dubstep had started to die off. People from the original scene were going in different directions. I think that was the first record we released after Marcus joined. He was quite approving of it. Burial had become popular, the garage sound was coming back in a way.
FaltyDL: I think the impact of that album was slow. Shortly after its release Marcus came onboard to do press and we did an eight-track double pack. It brought attention back to the album, which he said would happen. Off the back of that I remixed Zed Bias, El-B and The xx.
Paradinas: I met Jamie and Roly [Vex’d] through Pinch, he sent me their demos even though we didn’t know each other. He managed Vex’d with James Ginsburg. I really liked the music but they’d already planned to release what were some of my favourite tracks. In the end we did the album, Degenerate. It was amazing.
Jamie Teasdale (aka Kuedo, one half of Vex’d): I don’t remember much sunlight during the making of Degenerate.
Roly Porter (one half of Vex’d): I may have selectively forgotten the stressful stuff so my memory of working on Degenerate is positive. I think I got all the easy jobs.
Paradinas: Degenerate is one of the best, and first, dubstep albums. There’d been a Horsepower Productions album and in 2004 we released a Mark One album which you could call dubstep but I think it’s grime, because dubstep didn’t exist as a term back then. Even in 2005 when the name first appeared people still didn’t really know what to call it. I remember all the forums talking about it.
Kuedo: It seemed blatant that it wasn’t a dubstep album to us and all the dozen core dubstep people at the time. It was uncomfortable how quickly it became canonised into the genre by writers from outside and there was an unwanted tension due to that. We didn’t want to see dubstep taken over by a caustic noise element in the way jungle had been. And we also didn’t want to be curtailed by someone else’s genre.
Porter: Planet Mu was never tied to or defined by dubstep and that was why it was perfect for us. Degenerate wasn’t written as a dubstep album and for people associated with the scene I don’t think it was considered one. Dubstep in its most recognisable form hadn’t properly taken over at that point. It hadn’t become a standard. We never felt the need to fit any particular style and Planet Mu never suggested we did.
Kuedo: I think the album, and Vex’d as a whole, makes a lot more sense in the current post genre climate. The grime and industrial elements might be more apparent. Aesthetically I feel distant from it now but I’m appreciative of the experiences it gave us, the buzz of interacting and becoming friends with our favourite artists, of genres being formed, of a new wave of UK music.
Porter: The album’s impact is hard to judge. There are elements of it which I’m glad didn’t have a bigger impact, for example some of the noisier stuff. For me dubstep was at its best when it had a brutally simple, cold dub impact.
Barry Lynn (aka Boxcutter): Mike first called me in early 2003 about a CD I’d mailed to the Planet Mu demo address. They were youthful Squarepusher-inspired tracks I’d done in Reason 2.0. He was very friendly on the phone.
Paradinas: I started seeing Barry’s tracks in DJ charts from J Da Flex. I thought he was coming from a similar angle to Toasty by then and I liked the more break-y garage sound. People like DJ Zinc, Menta and DJ Naughty, which was Hype. They were all using breaks with this sort of dark garage sound, as it was called. I thought Barry had more of an IDM take on it too which would fit well with Planet Mu.
“Mike’s never given me the impression that he thinks about sales at all.”
Barry Lynn / Boxcutter
Boxcutter: These tracks were like mongrel bass, garage, dubstep and breaks. I sorted a couple for release on Hotflush and then I did a gig with Mike in Belgium that summer and he asked me for a release. I sent him over about four CDs and they became the Oneiric and Balancing Lakes albums.
Paradinas: Oneiric, I felt came from this whole breakstep angle, but also electronic influences. Balancing Lakes was older demos. More Aphex, Squarepusher vibes. Really strong record.
Boxcutter: My lasting gripe is that Mike converted ‘Skuff’d’ to mono somehow during the making of the first album. I don’t think I’d have started compiling my music into albums without his intervention. My stuff always seemed to spill over the edges too much so albums suited me really well.
Paradinas: He accentuated the dub side with the second album, Glyphic.
Boxcutter: I began writing tracks for Glyphic the summer Oneiric came out while working a shitty job at a dole office in Lurgan. I wrote ‘Chiral’, ‘Glyphic’ and ‘Fieldtrip’ during massive lunch breaks. I also signed contracts for one of my tunes to go in a film called Children of Men then heard nothing. I found out after it came out that they’d used Aphex Twin instead.
Paradinas: Arecibo Message had more funk influences but it didn’t go down well with the audience. The Dissolve did well, I thought it had more of a chillwave influence with a bit of footwork too. His work as The Host went further into footwork meets krautrock. Barry has released all his albums with us. He’s gone on quite a journey.
Boxcutter: I’m impressed at how brave Mike’s choices are from the stuff I send him. He’s never given me the impression that he thinks about sales at all, it’s always about satisfying his idea of where the label should be at that time. There’s always been massive variation in the sort of tracks I’ve made, so sometimes it’s just waiting for the time to feel right to expose people to a particular tempo or style.
Mary Anne Hobbs: Mike and I talked on email for several years. Planet Mu’s music was a part of the mix of sounds I’d select for my Breezeblock experimental show on BBC Radio 1.
Paradinas: I think we began talking on MySpace, or maybe even ICQ, in 2005. We got talking about personal things and we became friends and met up, it wasn’t all about music.
Hobbs: Mike had moved the Planet Mu HQ to Dalston. For the first meal we ever had in Hackney we had a main course in one cafe and then Mike wanted to go to a different place for dessert. So we did. I thought he was as crazy as me and just as exacting. I knew we’d be friends.
Paradinas: The idea for the releases came up because she’d seen other Radio 1 DJs doing compilations on various labels. It was her idea. She said it was the right label for it because she felt I knew where she was coming from. It was the natural thing to do, it was very easy and quite successful, good times.
Hobbs: The day Warrior Dubz was released and I saw it front-racked at HMV, next to Skream’s debut album, was a moment I’ll never forget.
Paradinas: Because it was called Warrior Dubz people thought it was a dubstep compilation but it was meant to represent her taste in music and her show. It’s all mixtures, people cross-pollinating. All sorts of dark, interesting sounds. People weren’t exclusively listening to dubstep. It was one of the first compilations documenting these links and I think that’s one reason it did quite well.
Hobbs: I worked very closely with Mike for about nine months on each of the three compilations we made. I felt like we were changing the world. They were very exciting, heady times not without rows and sleepless nights. Mike is a brutal critic but almost invariably right.
Paradinas: For Evangeline I made a few suggestions like Ital Tek, Boxcutter and Pinch. She came up with Ben Frost and he’s massive now. Dakim is Jamie from Vex’d before he became Kuedo. I really didn’t like the Tes La Rock track but she said it worked really well in the clubs. It took a lot to get Wiley on there. At the same time I was trying to do a Wiley compilation of instrumental grime but it never happened.
“I felt like we were changing the world.”
Mary Anne Hobbs
Hobbs: For me the compilations trace elements of the DNA at the epicentre of a scene, and among the emerging satellite sounds in their year of release.
Paradinas: The last compilation, Wild Angels, was meant to document the rise of what’s now the Brainfeeder sound but back then was known as wonky. I think wonky might become like IDM where you can say it without being embarrassed. A lot of them were artists she’d found on MySpace and I was already talking to Floating Points, Gemmy and Brackles. I thought it was strong but I think people wanted another dubstep compilation.
Hobbs: Those compilations we made together were so special. The Guardian recently singled out Warrior Dubz as one of the most important and influential compilations of all time, which is nice.
Daniel Martin-McCormick (aka Ital): I met Mike when I emailed ‘Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him)’ to the general Mu email. He wrote back a day or two later and was very receptive and we started on the album.
Paradinas: Daniel’s stuff was much better than what I was hearing at the time. The day before he emailed me, Marcus had told me about him and also explained the context of the music, so-called outsider house, which I wasn’t totally aware of.
Ital: I had forgotten Marcus worked there. We had met a few years before when my band Mi Ami was touring the UK. He had helped us with a show and my bandmate Damon somehow got it into his head that he was the Rinse DJ Marcus Nasty. We were a little intimidated.
Paradinas: Daniel has been great to work with. He had very strong ideas of what he wanted and how it should be presented. And he’s very hard working. He plays out a lot and thinks about his career, which makes it easier for a label.
Ital: Mike and Marcus are very supportive and critical when they need to be. One time Marcus annoyed the shit out of me by chastising me with, ‘I like this but you Americans need to get out of your 4/4, working-in-the-factory drums and supple up a bit. You should just go for it and instead of that synth let a guitar feedback over it aggressively.’ And it totally worked. I think about that email every time I’m in the studio now.
Paradinas: The first two Ital albums came together very quickly and we pretty much released the records he presented to us. The second album wasn’t received as well because we released it in the same year as the first. He was very insistent that it be so, because of a tour. Even though it was a lot better, it got no reviews which shows you that there is definitely a press cycle. We knew and told him but he thought that because the first album was a success it would work.
Ital: For the third album I sent them more stuff to comb through and overall I felt very focused. Mike always pushes for the weirder stuff which I appreciate.
Paradinas: Endgame was much more of an A&R job for me. I was more critical. We knew that we had to come in with a very strong third album. He’d refined the music down to some sort of essence of where he wanted to be. It was received very well. I think it proved to us both that you have to pay attention to strategy, timing and A&R and it does reap rewards. Don’t always rush it. Music doesn’t really have that much of a sell-by date.
RP Boo: Mike’s importance in shining a light on footwork and Chicago is very strong. He had this vision of sharing the music that others might have overlooked and I felt he took a great chance.
Mike Paradinas: I first found out about footwork in 2008 on Wayne & Wax’s blog. There was a DJ Nate track and I followed the YouTube trail. The videos were of people dancing but you’d hear the music in the background. I spent about a year listening to it, trying to find DJ Nate and various others. It took sheer perseverance. They never replied on MySpace.
RP Boo: By the time the music made it out Chicago, a lot of countries were doing research and the sounds were amazing to other people. It acted like a demand for more.
Paradinas: We wanted to release DJ Nate because we thought it was special but in the long term it turned out he was an outsider. I felt he fit in very much with UK music, that he would be a good in point for people to learn about footwork.
RP Boo: Mike didn’t miss a step with those Bangs & Works compilations. It was only after it came out I realised the interviews I had taken part in were for the story displayed in the compilations.
Paradinas: It took about a year to get hold of everyone and compile the first Bangs & Works compilation and releases. It was tracks I liked and an attempt at documenting the scene. I liked it when the samples were more cut up, when the stuff was more syncopated or when it was completely brittle and spare like RP Boo. I suppose I wasn’t into the Teklife sound, maybe that’s it. And that might not have gone down well with the scene, I didn’t represent a side of it which was quite popular. A lot of the tracks are lost. It can be frustrating but also invigorating.
“I never thought that the music would have gone as far around the world as it did.”
Marcus Scott (A&R): Rashad was a little wary when I first met him but we soon broke bread and he warmed to us.
Paradinas: It feels good to have put this music out there. It needed to come out. I don’t know if anyone else would have done it. With Steve [Kode9], I had to tell him a few times. Rashad I knew was good but he wasn’t a fit for us, he needed a different label more in line with his sensibilities. I was often saying to Steve and Marcus that they should release Rashad and I’m glad they managed to do that before he died. I like really weird stuff when it comes to footwork. Rashad was straight ahead. He was the most popular DJ and his tracks were popular too. I couldn’t have done a good job because it wasn’t my thing.
RP Boo: It felt very important for me to release my debut album, Legacy, because after Bangs & Works I had gained fans and dancers around the world and there was a clear demand for a project from me. People had learnt that I was a cornerstone of the footwork sound and its movements on the dance floor.
Paradinas: Being an outsider to the scene was never a real problem. The only problem was when I released DJ Nate but I thought it was worth it musically. I was true to myself, however being the only label releasing footwork it wasn’t a fair representation of the scene, which is what they wanted. And I wanted a good record. It’s for that reason I wish there were more labels doing it so I could release some of the weirder stuff.
RP Boo: One key memory from Legacy was missing out on a release party in New York because J-Cush from Lit City didn’t realise I had an album out. But then I lost my job and a few weeks later it all came together, I got an agent and tours lined up and I played my first overseas show in Poland for Unsound Festival in 2013, and then Japan.
Paradinas: Diamond, Metro, Young Smoke and RP are some of the best producers out there. Their sense of rhythm is incredible. Some of the more popular stuff and the European response to it have been very straight rhythmically. It loses a bit of danger sometimes. There’s room for everyone. One of my regrets is that we’ve had to limit it to two footwork records a year because of budget constraints.
RP Boo: I never thought that the music would have gone as far around the world as it did. I was too tired from working hard at my job and the sounds that I was creating were more like a hobby I enjoyed doing in my down time.
Scott: Working with some of the footwork guys has been great as it’s excellent to shine some light on people like this.
RP Boo: I am still living in the moments that my work with Mike and Planet Mu made possible, so I have a special place in my heart for them.
Paradinas: I think the label has stayed relevant because I’ve stuck to my guns. I go with my gut feeling about music and that’s served me well so far. I’ll hear something and think this was all said 10 years ago, so why do it again now?
Ital: Dance music seems to be millions and millions of moments that are constantly slipping away: killer sets, dope parties, sub-sub-sub genres, crews and aesthetics and all this human energy that seems so meaningful at the time and yet is largely lost to history. Labels like Planet Mu connect the dots over all these decades of moments and all the energy and ideas that surrounded them and made them happen. The fact that there isn’t any single defining genre means that each record has to be taken somewhat on its own terms, more as music than as a branded product. Oddly, this can be a liability in DJ culture sometimes but I think it allows artists to experiment and thrive.
“It’d be lovely for us to continue for another 20 years. Or even 50.”
Mary Anne Hobbs: I can’t imagine how much poorer the UK electronic scene would be without the influence of Planet Mu. It’s absolutely primary within the landscape.
Paradinas: I think if a record is good enough, people will like it. Presentation is important but it doesn’t matter unless you have the right record in the first place. So maybe we’ve released stuff that isn’t good enough. When you look back at our successes it’s always music. And I’d always hope that music remains the most important aspect of all this.
Scott: Planet Mu should be considered as more important than it is to be honest. It’s often over overlooked as it’s not very flashy but there’s some great work on the library to a wide brief.
Drew Lustman (aka FaltyDL): Planet Mu’s importance is bigger than anyone will care to admit. Mike should get some award for contributing to the arts or something. The ripples of his moves have caused waves all around the world.
Roly Porter: For any label to survive for 20 years is a pretty massive achievement but on top of that Planet Mu has managed to stay relevant and retain its identity. It has a shifting relationship with different styles of music but it always makes sense. It was that range of sound that made us so happy to be part of the label. The last Planet Mu party we played at was as much fun as I’ve had at any stage in my life in music. To be able to hear so many sounds in one night and for it all to make sense in some kind of deafening and chaotic way is what it’s all about.
Boxcutter: I suppose one way to look at Planet Mu is as a kind of side project of Mike’s, where he selects stuff instead of making it himself. If you trace the discography back to one person’s taste and selections it’s a really nice achievement, and a unique way of listening back through a lot of the changes in electronic music over the last 20 years too.
Paradinas: It’d be lovely for us to continue for another 20 years. Or even 50. That’d be my wish. We’ll see what happens in the next few years. I think we’re popular. But will the industry allow artists and labels to get paid? Artists will get paid and I think labels will still have a use but there’s always the argument that people see record labels simply as a parasite. On the whole though labels, majors and indies, have given us a good sixty years of great musical cultures.
Pictures by Adam Michaud (Venetian Snares), Stuart Holt (Luke Vibert), Will Glasspiegel (RP Boo).