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Belfast label Melted Music aims to promote the best of Northern Irish hip hop and electronica. Maeve Heslin caught up with label boss Matt Agnew...
Maeve Heslin, 10 Jul 2012
Agnew, originally from Antrim town, had the idea of setting up a label in Belfast after returning from a stint living in London, just over two years ago.
“I had been fascinated by the cult labels over there”, he recalls. “XL, Rough Trade, Warp… I interned at Ninja Tune [home to Mr. Scruff, Coldcut, The Qemists] and loved the idea of independent labels. When I looked at Ireland, we didn’t really have that when it came to hip hop – with the exception of Dublin’s All City. So I wanted to put my own stamp on things, especially in Belfast.”
And so he did. Along with Belfast rapper Jee4ce (Ronan Cherry to his mammy), Agnew built Melted Music from the ground up. The label is now proud home to Portadown producer SertOne and up-and-coming Belfast rapper Sketch Nine. Was the idea of starting from scratch as daunting as it sounds? “It still is daunting!”, Agnew laughs. “We’re expanding every day. I think we needed to be realistic about things and know that it wasn’t going be something we’d make livings from straight away. So we’ve kept it small, and have been building it up gradually.” So what you lack in funds you make up for in heart? “Yeah exactly”, he smiles. “Our label is basically a family – we’re all pretty much good friends. With small labels like ourselves, acts get just as involved in promoting our releases.” As a small business though, it must be tough coming up against major labels? Agnew nods; “Independents can’t really compete with the majors, they’re that strong in all areas. If the major labels aren’t spending time to develop their acts, they can basically get the independents to do all the development and then take over. There’s only so much an independent can do with an artist. The majors have basically the lion’s share of the resources.”
Nonetheless, all this hard work is paying off in bucketloads for Melted, a case in point being one Mr. Gareth 'Bosco' McAlinden, aka hip hop producer SertOne. The 23-year-old has been making major waves on the Irish music scene thanks to slick releases like The View From Above, Versions and Quesadillas. Juggling gigs with college (he’s just finished up a course in Popular Music Studies in Liverpool), McAlinden has served up sublime remixes of tracks by Crystal Castles, Halves and most recently, Cork electro duo Young Wonder. Put simply, you must be very proud?! “Definitely!”, enthuses Agnew, “we hit the ground running with Sert’s first release, the response we got was incredible in Ireland.” That first track was ‘Past, Present & Future’, which, Agnew explains, makes reference to the label’s beloved hometown; “Yeah, we were kinda cheeky when we decided to promote ‘Past, Present, Future’”, he grins. “It has a sample that mentions Belfast – so it was the obvious one to pick!” It certainly went down a treat with music fans, not to mention a certain fortnightly music magazine! “Luckily the chaps up north gave it a few spins on the radio, and we got a few mentions in magazines, including Celina Murphy picking it as song of the fortnight in Hot Press! – and we went from there.”