The North East of England is a special yet humbling corner of the world; a history rich in both glory and struggle. Step backs have generated strength via community, and an escapism in music has bred to a thriving underground scene that inspires generations of homegrown artists. Within the North East lies the City of Newcastle, famed for its industrial heritage and more recently, art, culture and nightlife. At the heart of it, event series-come newly founded record label, Ape-X has spent the last 13 years pushing forward thinking music bringing acts from overseas to the city whilst also pioneering new and local talent.Ape-X is operated by a small team of warming people who live and breathe electronic music. It serves as a hub in the city for an amazing audio and visual experience; a place no stranger to the likes of Octo Octa, Eris Drew, Haai, Ben UFO, me and Joy Orbison any night of the week; a credit to the work Gabriel, Luke and their team have put in over the last decade. Championing local talent however, is a value that always appears at the forefront of their philosophy; NORD is a prime example of a local artist flourishing from his time there.
This philosophy has also been translated through into the record label, since 2019 they have welcomed releases from Marske, REES, Dyslecta and Dufraine – all artists with strong North East links. The label is going from strength-to-strength and continues to deeply embed themselves into the local music culture, we sat down with Luke to find out a little more about what makes Ape-X tick…
Hi Luke, pleasure to have you on Bolting Bits! I’d like to start at the beginning, what was the driving force behind starting Ape-X?
The answer to this isn’t quite as deep as it may be for some other nights – the driving force behind Ape-X was Newcastle wasn’t catering to the sound that the community surrounding Ape-X at the time wanted to hear. This is a little before I myself joined, but as has been the case throughout our time, there were a lot of places to hear dance music made for mass audiences and less for those willing to look a little deeper and past the surface. It’s also worth noting it was born really organically and simply – as a party for a group of friends at university.
What kind of ethos does Ape-X represent? And do you look to show the label through a similar light?
We always talk about Ape-X in terms of energy more than anything else. It’s never been about genre or who wants to attend. If the energy in the music is right, and the energy in the people on the dancefloor is right it just works – and it’s always been amazing to be in those moments, when the night is in full swing, it’s a bit hectic, but also super exhilarating and just sort of a beautiful chaos.
With the label, we’re definitely looking to represent that energy, especially with what we refer to as the 3AM moment. With the majority of our nights finishing at 4AM, 3 often represents the pinnacle of the night and the start of the race to the finish. It can take on many forms; super fast and energetic or emotive and heady – whatever form it takes it’s actually the ‘Ape-X’ of the night. We look for the 3AM moment within EP’s that we put out, doesn’t have to be the lead track, but we’d like something that would create some form of euphoria in there. We’re also pushing North East talent such as yourself and the aforementioned and we’re committed to continuing to be part of the musical community that continues to plant a huge flag in the ground for the rest of the country/world to see. The musical tapestry here is wild and it’s great that it’s having such a moment right now from both North East natives and those that have formed their sounds while living here or studying here.
What have been some special stand-out moments over the past 13 years?
– KiNK live at the 2013 Christmas Party. People with their head in their hands at how mind blowing it was.
– People singing along to the lyricless breakdown of Genius Of Time’s edit of Love Thang.
– An extended b2b masterclass from Joy Orbison & FOLD in 2014
– Andres getting our 7th Birthday party going with some Kendrick Lamar before midnight
– Paranoid London’s live set being essentially a punk gig.
– Roman Flügel conducted the sonics in some kind of wizard like way.
– Fort Romeau closing the 9th birthday with a beautiful remix of Underworld.
– Artwork wheeling up every song Pangaea played for the first hour of his set lol
– Octo Octa & Eris Drew’s love for their music, their craft and each other
Let’s talk more about the label, Dufraine’s recent release makes that four in a row for North East artists you’ve pushed – how important is it to push local talent?
It’s incredibly important for us. The North East is teeming with talent and people might see that as a modern thing, but that’s not true. It’s been an amazing creative scene in Newcastle and beyond for a mighty long time. Some may disagree but the North is and always has been under represented in the arts and it’s not due to lack of artists, we’re still a very London centric country and we’re always going to be flying the flag for the North East with our parties and our records.
Who are some artists that have that Ape-X sound you’d love to see on the label? How long have you got?! 😂
I’d be remiss to not mention Special Request in a chat about Ape-X. He’s our most booked artist across the years and someone we consider a friend so we’d love to get a remix off him at some point in the future. In terms of the labels sound, everything we’ve put out has an electro edge so far with Dyslecta’s having a more UK bass feel but we’re certainly not limiting things in terms of genre in the same way the club night is open to lots of genres as is the label.
What’s next for the label? Any future plans you can share?
We’ve got a young Geordie man by the name of Dharma releasing with us next, he’s released with Me Me Me, R&S & Nothing Is Real previously and his the 4 tracks we’re putting out with him are mostly lush breakbeat affairs taking you to a euphoric place. We’ve also got someone we admire a lot on the remix for this one and someone we know a lot of our fanbase really dig. Past that we’re cooking something up with Shawn Cartier hopefully very soon and working on a VA for the end of the year too.
Interview by Adam.R