Get Familiar: Steven Julien (Apron Records)
Apron Records has been instrumental in shaping the current landscape of contemporary electronic music coming out of the U.K. since 2014. After almost a decade of pushing their unique vision, the Apron Records imprint has become one of the most in-demand labels in most independent record stores. Now more than 45 releases deep in their journey, Apron Records have teamed up with Patta Soundsystem to work on their first various artists release and to celebrate this monumental milestone, both camps have collaborated to create a clothing capsule to accompany this release.
After working with the artist formerly known as Funkineven on ‘The Wave’ late last year, it was only right to showcase the diverse talents behind this movement. This project champions one of the people that have been pivotal in the success of the label, Steven Julien whose track E46 is an emotional journey through his synth-laden East London studio. On location for the photo shoot in South London, we caught up and got familiar with Steven Julien.
How did the whole Apron Records project get started get started?
In the early part of my music career I was releasing on Eglo Records, this label from Alexander Nut. After a few years, I wanted to drop some boogie edits on a white label so I spoke to Alex to see if he would be down to do it as we already had a working relationship and he suggested that I might as well do that myself. With that I decided to just give it a try myself. I got connections from Kyle Hall about pressing plants, factories and distribution - the essentials in doing your own release. Once I could see the foundations, I gave up on dropping these edits and figured I might as well do a proper EP with original sounds as this would be my first release on my own imprint. The name Apron came from this one day when Kyle and I were watching TV, it was an inside joke and it just stuck! That was the point from which we set sail really but it wasn't until 2015 that we really created our own space. People started recognizing our palate and then the next year we began putting out merchandise starting with a few T-Shirts before expanding the range.
Apron Records has a very specific aesthetic that you don’t usually get to see in an electronic label, what inspires this?
I guess it's because I'm very heavy influenced a lot of genres, sounds, art, culture and the world around me. I really never try to pigeon hole Apron. We avoid formulas. I still don't even see us as an "electronic label" - we grab tasteful aesthetic from everywhere and everything! On this journey, I have discovered that not every musician has an eye for certain things so having your own taste isn’t built for everyone so it’s cool to mix everyone’s specialty and give birth to an project that looks and sounds dope and different elements compliment each other.
How do you pick what gets released on Apron Records?
I sort of let the stars align - allowing the process to be as natural as possible. Most of the EPs and Albums that have come out are from friends that I've known for a while or a project from someone that Apron is affiliated with. Very rarely have I released a record that started out as a demo someone has given me. As long as I feel some type of emotion from a song and it sound honest, then it will get released!
You were also behind the soundtrack to Patta x Nike’s ‘The Wave’, what was the thought process behind the tracks that you made?
The whole project and brief inspired me enough not to think too much about the process of writing each score, again it felt natural as it’s something I’m really into and want to get into more, scoring for a film - I always imagine scenes and movies while writing music so the opportunity working on such a dope project was a lot of fun.
Next to record-label, the Apron merch is evolving into a globally recognised clothing brand, even with some bootleggers in Asia, did you expect this coming up?
To be honest, I have very much been into clothes ever since I was a kid you know. I was stoked on black music, hip-hop, ragga and everyone alway looked fresh. I remember my uncles always looking fly and my Mum was and still is super into her clothes. She always tried her best to have me looking fresh from the get go, so it was almost inevitable for me to fall into a clothing brand that Apron is becoming. I must say though, first and foremost, that the music carries the light then everything else falls into place, I guess it’s all a reflection of myself! They went crazy with the bootlegs in Asia. I saw some velour Apron roll neck jumpers and everything! I guess that's a compliment - you know you're doing something right!
You recently collaborated with Lucian Clarke and now you are collaborating with Patta, how important is collaboration to your creative process?
Lucien has been the home for quite some time now but we recently got closer in the last year or so. As the bond grew, it only seemed to make more sense to collaborate on something but we weren't sure what that collaboration would be. One day in the group chat, we were having a conversation and we randomly spoke about scarves and Dan from Apron did a quick mock-up. Lucien shared ideas for it and then gave birth to a banging scarf. It's all happened pretty quickly and naturally which is the best way to create in my opinion, when you're not even thinking too deep!
Collaborating with Patta, the process was similar. I had an idea about racing cars and a trucker racing cap to go with it - after talking to Victor about the collaboration, I brought up this idea. We selected the tunes from the Apron gang and affiliates that go with the racing theme. Yet again, a natural progression creatively came together for another amazing collaboration. I'm grateful for this friendship and to be able join up with such a dope brand and community like Patta.
You're a real car buff, how did you get into cars?
Back in the day, I was a boy racer. I blew all my money kitting out my Volkswagen Polo - until I wrote it off. After that I cooled down a lot for sure. God only knows why I'm into cars! I even used to steal mini metros with friends back on the estate where I used to live. We were on that dumb shit you know. After shooting the video for this campaign, I think it's about time I save up and get a Porsche after driving the one from the video shoot today.
You have a very analogue sound so for the gear nerds out there, can you let us know what you’re working with?
These days I'm only really using my Roland FM synth and the TR 808. Sometimes I will use the Sequential Circuits Drumtraks and the Akai MPC 2000 XL and some stuff in the box. What I'm really into at the moment is outboard gear and using a variety of plugins to help shape and mix my sounds. I also really like the newer SSL gear and UAD plug-ins.
How did you all meet and how long have you been playing records together?
Half of us met though the East London nightlife, clubs like Plastic People, parties like Deviation at Gramophone, Chain Gang nights and warehouse parties all around the area. I guess we got close sharing the same passion for music and culture, so I’ll say 15-10 years ago with some of the crew and even more with some others.
What is the car scene like in London and what similarities and differences do you see between car people and club people?
The car scene is pretty big, I need to start going to more car shows and meet ups a lot more, I used to collect car mags like Max Power, Fast Cars and VW Performance and wished getting my car in one of them, maybe I should spark that idea again!
I guess they share the same passion and enjoyment as it’s a lifestyle going out raving watching DJs I should I say dancing to a DJ set and car peeps going out to meet ups or car races burning their cars out and some of them have big car systems, I don't know yet but let’s find out on the 16th April at the launch party at Ormside Projects, bring y’all cars and yourselves down there.
And Conway the Machine was just spotted in the wild wearing the hat from the upcoming release, once again bridging the gap between nations, what does the phrase “better together” mean to you?
Yeah that’s crazy, gassed to see Conway wearing a hat that has an Apron logo incorporated into it sitting next to Patta’s logo, funny as I starting as hip hop fanatic before the electronic scene so feels good for a rapper to be wearing it, it’s like full circle, so I guess “better together” can mean so much in that sense, it’s like more than just cities connecting, it’s different entities too!
The Patta Soundsystem x Apron Records capsule collection will be available on Friday, April 15th at 13:00 CEST on patta.nl, on our mobile app as well as in-store in Patta London, Patta Amsterdam and Patta Milano.