Plus 8 & M-nus

These days the Plus 8 and M-nus labels stand among this country's pre-eminent exporters of Canadian electronic dance music. With a back catalogue that features elder statesmen like Richie Hawtin, John Acquaviva, Speedy J and Ian Pooley, Plus 8 deftly pegged Windsor, Ontario, on the techno map. These days, M-nus is raising a new crop of talent, with the likes of Mathew Johnson, Matthew Dear, and Magda all pushing minimal techno in new directions. Label manager Clark Warner takes us through the history, ethos and challenges faced by an organisation that garners the VIP treatment on turntables around the world.

The Plus 8/M-nus Relationship
John Acquaviva and Richie Hawtin started Plus 8 in 1990. They quickly became a collective with people like Kenny Larkin, Dan Bell, and Speedy J. That crew of four or five people really got the label humming, very much modelling it after Detroit. By 1997, it got to a point where John and Richie's DJ careers were so heavy that running the label just became too much. At that point, Richie bought John's share of Plus 8, and John took over Definitive full-time, which he had been using to put out house records. Plus 8 was put on hold and M-nus began in 1998 as a new platform for Richie.

Ears to the Ground
On average, we release two to three CDs a year, and about 12 to 14 [twelve-inch] records. We put 80 percent of our priority on vinyl. We're driven by DJs and dance floors, so that's our main target. If anything, vinyl is a bit of a breeding ground, just to get ideas around, and we found that with vinyl we can react faster than we can with a CD. By the time singles are finished, we try to get them out as soon as we can. We've been doing that as well with digital distribution, which we've found to good for getting the music out while it's as fresh as possible.

Friends Make the Best Talent
M-nus is very friendship- and family-based. It's an echo of the way Plus 8 was. Either they're bedroom musicians, people who just hole up and do their own thing, or the crew of people who are DJing and very social and on the party circuit. And then we have producers like Marc Houle, Run Stop Restore and Magda who were going to a lot of the early Plus 8 parties, and were influenced by that to make music. It's all very organic. Being a small company, we try to be as professional as possible. We've learned a lot from Rich's career over the past 15 years so, if anything, we have a lot to offer new artists because we have a lot of experience.

Keeping it International
We have a stronger reaction in Europe than we do in North America. Germany is our strongest market, then Spain, the UK, France, and Japan. I think it's a response to the culture. We have great magazines in North America, but they're not as huge on an impact level as the ones in Europe. Richie actually works from Berlin, and I work in Windsor. We have an office in Windsor and a part-time bookkeeper, as well as a part-time employee in Berlin who helps with Rich's bookings.

Going Digital
Digital distribution is liberating. Everything that's been out of print for years, all the vinyl we've released, is now coming back and available to people without the expense of keeping it pressed. I think it's what you have to do to reach out to the new generation of people who are getting into electronic dance music. You definitely have to know what technology is out there for distributing it legally, and what technology is out there for cracking it. We face illegal downloads and file-sharing all the time, but it's become the struggle you just have to embrace.