Published Jan 22, 2010Hard to believe, but Cynosure Recordings has been at it for a decade now, making it one of the longer-running Canadian techno labels out there. In that time, the imprint, run by former Kitchener, ON, technophile Mike Shannon, has only registered on the radars of the most dedicated electronic music enthusiasts in the country. Under The Radar celebrates that first decade in similarly modest fashion, with a double ten-inch highlighted by an eponymous Mike Shannon single, which sees the producer building a vocal-driven anthem upon the lurching, detailed dance template that has yielded his strongest work. It's backed with heavyweight remixes by the likes of Ricardo Villalobos, Deadbeat and Rozzo, Massimo Di Lena and Wasted Chicago Youth. Sadly, Under The Radar also hints at the unfortunate state of affairs the label has had to undergo in its first decade. Cynosure belongs to a group of labels ― among them Jeff Milligan's Revolver, Jeremy P. Caulfield's Dumb Unit, and to a certain extent, Richie Hawtin's m_nus ― that were pushed into exile along with Ontario's rave crackdown at the turn of the century. Now based in Berlin, its releases have now found a dedicated following among discerning DJs in Europe and Japan. But for Canadians interested in the home-grown history of the genre, the Cynosure catalogue delivers a treasure trove of largely unheralded Canuck techno by the likes of Shannon himself, Adam Marshall, Matt Thibideau, Monoblock and many others.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned in running Cynosure over ten years?
Shannon: I've learned to trust my instincts on music that I release and not to listen to what people say will "work." No one in this business really knows what flies and what doesn't. The less you take things seriously the more it seems to work out and the releases that you feel are the sure hits are usually misses.
What have been some of your favourite releases?
It's a tough question, but if I had to pick my favourite releases on the label they would have to be Bucci and Pink Elln's Badminton EP. "Mavis 350" was the track named after a type of badminton birdie and featured Raz O'Hara on vocals. What a killer track, with some slick remixes from the Mole and myself. Monoblock's Esas Cosas EP was one of the greats too, and was one of the bestselling twelve-inches that we ever released. There are so many great records that came out over the years; it's really hard to mention a couple.
How did the label get started?
J. Hunsberger and I were members of an arts collective based in Kitchener, Ontario. It was a program set up to help train and assist working artists and musicians to function better in the working artistic world. One of the projects that we set to start was a recording label for the collective that would encompass the works of the artists and musicians involved. So we were rolling along with the project, and when it came down to funding time the director of the project pulled the plug on us. Not so much love for techno over at Human Resources Canada. At that point we couldn't turn back; we were completely broke, but with the help of some friends we scraped the money together and did our first compilation EP called The Focal Point. It featured a purely Canadian roster of Matt Thibideau, Bishop, DJ.Roo and myself. We just remastered and re-released Matt Thibideau's track called "Archenar" from that first compilation, and it came out last May on CYN034. Most definitely the label's true classic. We did a Cynosure anniversary radio show on Fritz FM here in Berlin, and the host of the show, Anja Schnieder, was amazed when we played that track. She almost couldn't believe it was ten years old.
Where and when did you first pick up the techno bug?
I think I first picked up the techno bug when I was 12 years old and went to an all-ages club and heard Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock's "It Takes Two." Then I started looking into that sound further. My best friend's brother was a DJ and introduced me to a few things like house and hip-house, and then I just went further and further looking for that particular sound. Eventually [I] wound up in the Toronto rave scene two years later, neck-deep in techno.
What's up next for you and the label?
Personally I'm working on a few different musical projects here in Berlin. Finishing up a new album that shies away from the dance floor a little bit. It's a project rich in musicality, much more than anything I've done before. Working with Takeshi Nishimoto (I'm not a Gun) on guitar and Fadila on vocals, plus a few other musical guests, all based in Berlin. Should be ready for the summer, I hope. Also working on a few dance floor EPs and remixes for a couple of labels. 2010 should be an interesting year for Cynosure. We're coming out of the gate strong with "Under the Radar," the anthem of the label and the ten-year anniversary special-edition double ten-inch. Then we have a bomb EP from Andrea Fiorito and, following that, another killer EP from Brett Johnson lined up. So, cruising along at the same pace as always. (Cynosure)