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Label Spotlight: Interview with Alfred of Reference Mark Recordings

We spoke to Alfred, who is the founder of Leeds label Reference Mark Recordings. Initially set up as a means of releasing his own music, RMR has since evolved into a platform that seeks to spotlight the amazing work of associated artists across Leeds. We spoke to Alfred about how the label began, about past and future releases, and about some of the talented people involved in the label.

For those who haven't heard of you, how would you describe Reference Mark Recordings?

RMR is a label and brand project run solely by myself (Alfred). The logo is a typographic mark historically used in east asian writing to call attention to an important sentence or idea. In the same vein, the label is designed to draw attention to music and artists that are important to me.

What were your initial intentions with creating the label, and how have they changed since?

Initially RMR was designed as an outlet for my own productions and mixes. The first release back in January 2019, the Amber EP, saw support from DJs in the underground music scene such as Moxie, Conducta and Monika Taneska. I then wanted to put on parties to give a platform for all of my amazingly talented DJ friends to play out. All the parties so far have been in the small room downstairs at the Old Red Bus Station, which has been an intimate space that perfectly reflects the aesthetics of the label. The intentions of the brand have remained the same since its inception – promote underground music and artists that I feel are important and should be heard.

Can you tell us about your release that came out in June?

I had been sitting on Zx4 from the beginning of last year and had been umming and erring about releasing it. Only once I started (and quite quickly finished) the “B side” did I seriously consider putting it out. I think I was a bit hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure if it had the same garagey feel as the first two releases. Then I realised it was my own label/brand so I can sculpt that feel any way I please. I sent the stems to a few close producer friends and when I got a few back I instantly knew that the Gibbin remix of Reshift was going to go on the release. It was quite daunting for me to finally have the first “non-Alfred” track on the label but in all honesty, I think that remix is the best release on the label so far.

What are some of the organisations/ stations / labels in Leeds that have influenced and inspired you?

I love how close producers and DJs in the Leeds underground music scene are. When I first moved here in 2017 my gateway into the scene was the University of Leeds DJ and Electronic Music Society (BPM Society). I probably met 90% of the friends I have now in Leeds through BPM. There are too many parties to mention in Leeds but off the top of my head On Rotation, Small Talk, Electric Boogaloo, Spin City and Flesh In Tension stand out for me. DJingwise I have to shout out Tañ, DJ Kimura and the late Alex T as big inspirations. Productionwise, I’ve been sending tunes back and forth to Adam Pits and Skins which has been both helpful and intimidating – they’re both absolute wizards on the buttons.

Tell us about the mix series that you run, and some of the people you have had on.

Again, this was initially designed to showcase my friend’s skills behind the decks. For a lot of the people I’ve hosted on the series, it was their first time recording a mix for a series which was really exciting and humbling to see. All are personal friends that I’ve made over the years throughout the UK. There are really no restrictions in terms of genre or feel; the only premise I give is for it to be an hour of referencing the sounds that define you (impossible I know). As such they’re all very unique and we’ve had all types of genres from disco to techno to bollywood soundtrack.

How has the lockdown period affected operations at Reference Mark Recordings?

We had a party booked in for the start of April but obviously that’s being postponed. Apart from that, it’s not been too bad. Reference Mark is really a passion project that I spend time on when I’m not in the lab doing research for my chemistry PhD, so the lockdown has actually given me more time to focus on making and curating music.

You’ve previously run a series of events from Old Red Bus Station- do you have any plans in the works for more after lockdown?

Yeah; the night that was due to take place in April was with Gibbin, SIMBA, Cohen and myself and that will be the first event when we’re allowed back. After that I haven’t got anything set in stone, but I have a tonne of talented friends that haven’t yet made an appearance so I’m sure they’ll be a few more parties to look forward to.

What can we expect from you next?

In terms of the label, I’ve got the first non-Alfred full release coming up - there’s no date set yet, but it should be coming before the end of the year. The artist is a relatively unknown Leeds based producer called Mußh so check him out beforehand. The sound is following on from the last release, taking it up even further in terms of BPM and energy. After that, there may be a VA coming out on the label. Personally, I’ve got a few tracks that may be getting a release on a relatively big Leeds based label but unfortunately, I can’t confirm anything yet.

Thanks for having me – hopefully I’ll see you in the dance soon!

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