'Iris Light" records is a predominately dance/electronica label run by Adam Sykes. Although established around the world, with artists like The Corkyees from as far away as Japan, it is very much an indie label and a labour of love on the part of Adam, who runs it alone. He is often forced to work a day job until 6.30 and then work solidly on the label until 1.30 in the morning, before getting up again to head for the day job.

The label has released music from a diverse selection of artists, ranging from the drum ‘n’ bass of Sykes (not to be mistaken with the label boss himself) and The Corkyees through to the dark ambience of Band Of Pain, and a combination of Hungarian folk music and jungle from Szeki Kurva.

Alongside Iris Light, Adam runs two other labels. The first is Retinal Scan, which has released music from the Blind Passengers and the second is Relight, which is designed to reissue avant-garde albums that Adam thinks should have received more attention.

As for Iris Light itself, plenty is planned. The latest releases are from Dense Vision Shrine and Pr.Smalls, a side project of Sykes as well as a compilation of remixes of a single piece by Host Productions named (position) ARRAY.

Pennyblackmusic was able to speak to Adam to find out about his future plans for the label.

PB: When did you actually decide to start Iris Light records?

Adam Sykes: I started it in 1996. Before that I was running a little mail order company called Independent records. The guy who ran one of the labels I used to order stock from, Dirta Promotions in Kent, had his own group called Band Of Pain, and wanted me to release his second album. I had already been thinking that I would like to run my own label, and I decided that this was the band I wanted to start the whole thing of with.

PB: Why did you decide upon the name, Iris Light ?

AS: It actually comes from a poem. I’ve been writing poems for sixteen years and had a publishing deal with a small publishing house in Scotland.

One of the collections I released had a poem in it called 'Undertow' which included the phrase “Iris Light” in one of the lines. I thought that seeing as I owned the copyright it would be a good name for the label. I like it because it doesn’t show what the music will actually sound like. It isn’t something like Digital Hardcore, but seems to suggest that I can release anything. That meant it was possible for me to have as the label’s first release Dark Ambient music and the
second as Hungarian folk music clashed with jungle.

PB: What have been the best moments of running your own label?

AS: There are two really. The first is hearing a new unreleased album by an artist and thinking that it is exactly what you wanted to hear. And the second is when you get a complete album back from the pressing plant and you see it as a package that people will buy and it will go into their CD collections and might stay there for years. My three favourite albums on the label would have to be the Hoodlum Priest, Sykes and Corkyees albums. I think they are the strongest

PB: How long does it tend to take you to put a CD out?

AS: From the moment I get in contact with an artist I like to get the ball rolling quite quickly. Hopefully they’ll already have material prepared or will have within two th three months. From there I start sending out promos to the press and then hope to have it pressed up within six months of making contact. But sometimes it can go on for much longer. The Ashfelt album was supposed to come out in 1999 and still hasn’t. The single was stunning but the band has been keen
to make alterations. I think they want their debut album to be perfect. In fact, an album can come out in a little as a month. I like to try and make sure that albums come out at the right time of year. So a summery album might come out in June whilst others I’ll try to delay until October.

PB: How do you tend to get in contact with the bands you’ve worked with?

AS: It can depend. Band Of Pain came to me when I started the label, and I have been sent complete albums in the post to consider. The Corkyees were a band who sent a demo from Japan, which I didn’t listen to for six months but eventually realised that they were very good, taking a western base but making it very distinctive, and thankfully they hadn’t signed to anyone else so I was able to
release their album.

Generally I tend to listen to demos and let artists come to me. I think the label is very open so I don’t really need to search people out. That is one of the advantages of the Internet and people being able to make music in their bedrooms. When I do compilations it’s just a case of blanket bombing as many people as possible so then I do have to seek people out.

PB: How many demos do you receive then ?

AS: I tend to get about 20 a week and I do try my hardest to listen to about 3 or 4 tracks of each demo and to reply saying yay or nay. Sometimes you hear a bandand think that they’ll fit in somewhere but not Iris Light. I think it’s important to at least listen to everything I get sent, as every so often I’ll hear something I like.

PB: Is there any type of music you definitely wouldn’t release on Iris Light ?

AS: Any kind of manufactured pop music. I’m not at all interested. I’m not saying the artists can’t do songs but I want these to be the sort of albums that you can play and they’ll stand out and they still will if I go back to them in five years time. It used to be metal as well but since meeting Stuart from Cradle Of Filth I’ve been turned on to some genres of rock and metal music. Up until a year ago I wouldn’t have even considered releasing it but now I have started the Retinal Scan label purely to deal with it.

PB: How much influence do you have on the actual recording ?

AS: None, by choice. Once I’ve heard a demo and liked it I don’t think I should get involved. I think you should leave the artist alone to create. You’d never see an art gallery trying to change the way a painter operates, saying “Hmm, could do with a bit more yellow” and I think it should be the same with labels. If I start telling the bands what to do, even though I can play an instrument and can write music, it would be like releasing me and that’s not what I want. I
come on board when the music is finished to release it and to promote it, but I think the artist should be free to release the album they want.

PB: What about sleeve designs ? Do you design them?

AS: Yes, unless they have a specific designer in mind to do it. But the artists do have a decision. I put forward the ideas but it is up to them to decide what works best to represent the music they’ve created.

PB: What sort of music do you like to listen to, other than what you release on Iris Light?

AS: I’ve always been a fan of 4AD as a label, I like the whole period from 1983 to 1992 but I especially love the Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. Other than that I like people like the Chemical Brothers and Atari Teenage Riot and I also like a lot of dark ambient music. I guess that music has a quite depressing feel, but if you’re not a naturally depressed person than I find that music can often do the opposite of what its supposed to and uplift you. But for the main
my favourite band is The Cocteau Twins. I’d have loved to work with them, and I’ve actually got everything they’ve ever done.

PB: How long do you think that the label will last?

AS: I don’t think that the label will ever stop because my energy for music is still the same as when I was 16 and now I’m 32.

Maybe if my knowledge of modern music decreases, which I hope it won’t, I’ll do less but I don’t think it will ever stop because I get a lot of pride out of releasing music. I enjoy the fact that people will go out and buy stuff on Iris Light. It’s completely self-sufficient and just a labour of love so as long as I enjoy doing it I’ll carry on. There’s nothing to stop me. In fact, I’d quite like it to go beyond the grave. Maybe I could persuade some other poor bugger to carry it on!

PB: What, then, are your main ambitions for the label ?

AS: To continue putting out music that I’m proud of and to continue releasing music that I’ll be listening to personally in five years time. To continue to put out good quality music with good packaging is the main ambition. And to push the electronic scene further!

The electronic genre is seen as being avant-garde and is ignored by the majority of music lovers, but I’d like to make it so that it wasn’t divided by genre. I’d like people just to think of it as music. I know that you need genre classifications to promote records but I like to think of it all as music, and that’s how I want people to see electronic music. I want electronic music to be more obtainable and less difficult to listen to. And the ultimate goal is to retire to a beach in Barbados!

PB : Thank you

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