Following the theme from our first interview, with Throne Room Records boss Oliver Carloni, we catch up with up with fellow label owner Nikolas Syrimis. A pivotal member of the Lenk Music LTD team, whom manage both FXtion Records and Swerve Digital, we wanted to get inside the head of what is a clearly motivated industry entrepreneur.
With FXtion Records and Swerve Digital founding separately, both in late 2015, the two labels later joined forces to become a stronger driving energy for their artists. With music from artists such as A-Lister, Pete Dorling, Raffa FL and Tommy Vercetti, it is understandable to consider why these labels have become such powerful platforms for the lesser known artists they regularly have faith in. It is for this reason we have so much respect for what Nik and his team are doing, staying humble in their success and continuing support for those who need it.
Clearly the music industry was a place you were born to be in. What inspired you to begin a musical career?
From a young age, my parents inspired me and my sister to get into music, with us both trying out various instruments throughout our youth. From that point, I knew that I had a soul for music. Then after discovering electronic music and its wide variety of genres, I was instantly hooked.
Some would be happy to possess ONE record label, yet here you are as the manager of multiple labels. What do you think has been the key reason for your success?
There’s still a long way towards where we want to be, as I imagine any other label owner feels. There’s always something new to achieve, but with what myself and Lee do behind the scenes, we put as much hard work and passion, alongside our other jobs, into making sure all artists are in the loop, that our music gets to the right people, we are constantly making new connections, and just generally pushing our releases as much as possible.
We’ve recently taken on Chris Nottingham as PR manager and Colum Harkin as A&R for both labels, so I can imagine from here on out we are going to be able to achieve a lot more.
What was the reasoning behind having multiple labels, rather than focusing all your efforts into one?
Initially, me and Lee were completely separate, both running our own labels without even really knowing who each other were. I discovered Lee after he submitted his ‘If You Must’ EP to Swerve Digital, then nearly half a year later, we decided to join together as we felt we both had the same vision and passion towards music and the industry.
Often an easier question to ask than answer, but, aside from releasing music, what are your goals for near future?
We are going to be focusing on events very soon, so keep an eye out for that.
How about long-term? Providing all goes to plan, where do you see yourself? A third label perhaps?
Haha, maybe. Seriously though, we would love to be taking our labels on the road, doing a good amount of label showcases around the world.
A question to help the aspiring producers now. When you are sat at your desk looking through submissions, what do you look for?
Ah, now this is a question which I can highly elaborate in as I’ve been making several comments on this lately.
We’re wanting to sign new and exciting music, so I’m always looking for something intriguing and standout in the submissions. Anything that has a vein of similarity to something similar that’s out (which is understandable as producers will want to take influence from other producers they like), then usually it’s not for me.
The submitting part is also important. We don’t want an email with just the link in, and not even a subject line! Imagine submitting a demo is like submitting a CV, we want to know as much about you as possible with good references that will help to entice the submission (we do actually read the e-mails by the way!).
Also, we do check your social media to see how well your activity is, so if you’re posting a lot about releases of yours, then we are more inclined to take you in. Releases are a two-way street, if both parties promote, then there’s more chance for success, but if one party promotes and one doesn’t, then the chance for success is less and there’ll be less chance of wanting to work with the other party in future.
And for the aspiring label owners. Is there any advice you would give to them?
Best thing I can say is don’t jump in heads first, or at all, if you’re looking for a quick buck or immediate success. If you’re starting from the ground up, it’s going to take you a long time to get to where you want to be. Technically that is what I’ve done, but because I stuck through it all and we have stayed persistent, we are now finally at a good stage.
Make sure you spend a good few months to come up with plans for the genre or style label you want to be. How you can make yourselves unique? May it be with artwork, the way you promote, or something distinctive you can offer that no other record label can. Also, make sure that everyone is putting in 100% for their role, as you don’t want to fall out over not putting enough effort in, if you are starting as a team.
Without giving too much away, what can we expect to hear in the next few months?
We are working with Pete Dorling on an EP for later this year with Swerve Digital. Not saying much more on that one yet, but the tunes for this release are top notch!
For FXtion Records, we’ve got a lot of releases in the works, none that we can announce yet unfortunately. We’re also working on a big remix album for tracks we have released over the years, watch out for some sneaky clips in the coming months via our social media on this.
Everybody has to start somewhere, and people look in lots of places for their business inspiration. Are there any other labels that you were initially influenced by? And, are there any labels you still look to or aspire to emulate?
The big successes would be the likes of Hot Creations, ViVA, Defected, Simma Black, but the ones that I saw real compassion behind and the ones striving for success (and getting it) would be the likes of Daylight Robbery Records and Throne Room Records. Have grown as a label owner alongside these guys (George Angelou/Matt Brown & Oli Carloni/Liam Armstrong), so it’s great to see all the success they are getting.
I still look up to most hard-working labels, but not necessarily aspiring to emulate, as I feel the moment you try to copy or imitate a label, that’s when you start to lose your own credibility.
Alongside managing Swerve Digital and FXtion Records, Nikolas Syrimis regularly plays out in venues alongside his artists. Highly regarded by events, for his work as a DJ, manager, videographer AND graphic designer (yes, he really is that talented!); Nik often sacrifices the opportunity to promote himself as a musician to give more air-time to the artists he works with. So we felt it was only fair, now in the spotlight, to really talk about himself as more than just an extension of his record labels.
So, as a DJ yourself, what can people expect to hear from your sets?
I recently took a step back to reformulate what I wanted out of my sets. I took a week off from life (mostly for family reasons), but it was a good time to just trove through the vast depths of the internet to find new and undiscovered music. And that, is precisely what you’ll hear, alongside the new, unheard promos that I receive on a daily basis.
Are there any genres or sub-genres that are growing on you at the moment?
I’m keeping my eye on Leftfield Techno at the moment. I’ve still not fully warmed up to it, but I like some of the bits from there. Paying more attention to Minimal as well at the moment. With the label though, it’s not all about Tech House, Tech House, Tech House so you may well hear some more Minimal or Leftfield Techno down the line, you never know.
Same question but reversed. Is there a genre or sub-genre that you feel has had its day?
EDM. Next question…
On a serious note, I used to play EDM way back when it wasn’t coined as it is now, but it just sounds atrocious now. Everything sounds exactly the same, same drum samples used, same fills, same breakdowns/drops, etc., it’s so boring. Maybe I am just looking in the wrong places when I hear it though, I am open to being prove wrong.
How about gigs. Are there any stand-out favourite gigs you have played?
Favourite gig lately was at the Krafted x Swerve Digital label showcase at Egg in the Loft. I was the last to play on the night, and got to play longer and wind down to a bit of a classics set. It was so much fun and to have people stick around till the very end is always such a rewarding feeling.
Recently I played at Thirty3Hz for a Techno night, The Emergency Room hosted by Dokter Zed, going b2b (beard to beard) with my bro Moritz Mello, which was hands down, the best energy behind any set I’ve ever experienced, and the crowd were 100% with us especially as it was a small venue, you got to see the intimacy and passion.
Is there a gig you dream of one day playing?
I’d love to play some major festivals in the next few years like Outlook, Sónar, Dimensions, Sonus, but some venues I’d love to play at would be Fabric, XOYO, Sankeys Ibiza and more.
Articles like this are often a great place to push artists that others may not have heard of, or artists that just simply deserve even more praise than they do get. If you had to name three producers to look out for, who would they be?
Jame Moorfield – Jame’s mixdowns are so clean and precise, and he always has such an charismatic flair to his music. Upbeat, punchy, funky. I love it.
Versus – I’ve been seeing these guys progress as of late, as it’s nothing short of amazing how far they’ve come, and next year is only going to be more success for them in my opinion.
Future Lab – This Brazilian duo have come out of nowhere but in turn, are delivering some insane Tech House bangers. Ones to watch for definite.
To end on a personal note, guilty pleasures… What music do you listen to in your down time? We won’t judge (Biebers and all).
I do love to wind down to a bit of Rokysöpp, M.A.N.D.Y, old school Outkast, old school Black Eyed Peas. Find me someone who doesn’t sing along to ‘Hey Ya’, haha.
A day in the life of Nikolas Syrimis?
So alongside running the record labels, I also run a graphic design/photography/videography studio, Desik Studio. So my days are extremely varied depending on what projects I’m working on.
But a usual day, in the simplest form, is catching up with the labels early in the morning, seeing how progress is coming along, completing any last bits of A&R, answering e-mails and getting any graphics/visuals completed. Then for the rest of the day, it’s designing for clients whilst keeping an eye on e-mails/social media for the labels, then winding down in the evening with the labels and catching up with the team members.
Any last little tips for anyone out there, whether they be DJ’s, label owners or just fans?
1. Be yourself and stay humble. Humble beginnings, humble ending. The more that people see you for you and don’t see a pretentious ********, then the more people will respect you.
2. Take an hour out of your day to unwind, relax or just watch something that takes your mind off any stresses. I like to watch YouTube or some comedy like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’. I’ve started to take time in the evenings after I’ve shut down for the night to play a new game, as the stories/challenge is always mentally stimulating. I’m currently playing ‘Chrono Trigger, which I would highly recommend to any gamers out there.
3. Achieve one thing a day. If you have at least one thing that you can be achieving a day, then it’ll keep you mentally active, and you’ll get that happiness when you complete it. Dont forget to praise and reward yourself after.
We will end on question I like to touch on with everyone I speak to. Are there ever days where you feel like giving up? How do you recover inspiration on those days?
OK, this is a topic near and dear to me, so thank you for this.
Yes, I’ve felt like this many times. There are a variety of reasons why and when I’ve felt like this, all too many and too personal to really get in to, but I’ve always come out the other end and gained my confidence and positivity back. It’s hard to look at where I’ve come from and the situations I’ve been in as it will often bring back traces of those feelings and make me doubt myself again and again, but I know that I will come out on the other end and do what I want to do.
It’s such a tough thing, because in this industry, getting on a personal level or publicly talking about personal matters, is very unspoken thing. We all expect DJs/artists/musicians to be always happy as they’re always doing amazing things, etc. but often (and I’m glad more people are speaking about it now), many of these people suffer depression or are dealing with some deep issues just like everybody else in the world. If kept inside, it just gets worse and worse till a point when there is literally no emotion or passion left for what you put your whole life into.
I recently got into listening to Binural music when I go to bed, as this now helps me to relax and unwind all the angers/aggression/worries that I had to just peacefully sleep, as sleep is important (and very undervalued by many DJs)! I know I’ve touched on something that is a bit more than the question itself, but I want to be one to highlight that we are all humans and we all go through mental troubles sometimes.
To answer the last questions, I always think back to a point where I’ve either helped someone physically/mentally or help someone to change their lives. I will always remember one friend (I won’t mention names) that I saved from a path of destruction, and I know now that my actions have saved a life. Life is finite so life needs to be lived.
Very well said.
- August 18th – Ibiza 2017 Sampler (Look out for the full review later this month on the-5:15.com)
- September 1st – Motion Sky – Dee Bop EP
- September 15th – Jame Moorfield EP
- August 19th – Thirty3Hz, Guildford – Headline Act: Jacky