What had originally began as a simple desire to release good music, independent hip-hop label, Fieldwerk Recordings, didnít actually come to fruition until founder David Humphries (aka Crushcon7) took the initiative and started releasing his own work. Itís been that blue-collar mentality and passion for hip-hop that has sustained Humphriesí efforts here in Chicago, and one that's turned Fieldwerk Recordings into one of the most well respected labels in the city.
Itís been two years since Fieldwerk officially debuted, and throughout that time it has accumulated a formidable roster; releasing projects with producers Zavala, PNS, Meaty Ogre, Void Pedal, Maker, Joe Beats and DJ Pratt. At this point it seems like the Fieldwerk family is ready to take things to the next level, so Centerstage caught up with Humphries to talk about everything from the labelís early history to the stellar projects on deck for 2011.
Could you tell me about how/when the label came to be? Was it something you guys had planned out from the beginning or did you just let it grow in its own way?
Both to a certain degree. Fieldwerk existed in name only and as an idea a couple of years before putting the first record out. I moved to Chicago in January 2003 to start a label which has always been my main objective. Around 2005/2006 I met Alex Zavala who has played a pivotal role in the development of Fieldwerk.
In June 2009 I released a 7" of two songs I produced on Fieldwerk making it the label's debut release: Crushcon7 feat. I Self Devine "Fieldwerk" b/w Crushcon7 feat. Skech185 "Letters From The Low End" (FW-701). The first 7" was followed by the split Grayskul 7" in July 2009. Initially Maker & Zavala planned on releasing a split instrumental 7" but at the time both artists were involved in projects with Grayskul: Maker producing Graymaker and Zavala working with Onry on Dark Time Sunshine.
Zavala came up with the concept of releasing the split Grayskul record which pairs JFK with Maker and Onry with Zavala. The Grayskul 7Ē is the first release with art direction by graphic designer Adam Garcia who has designed all of our releases to date.
The first two 7"s built the label's momentum and led to PNS & Zavala's split instrumental LP 'Canciones Modernas' which really helped establish the label.
What went into that decision of splitting the projects and is it something you guys are going to try and do more often?
The split instrumental LP series began with PNS and Zavala's 'Canciones Modernas.' PNS and Zavala had discussed putting together a split instrumental record and it was a project that I wanted to release on Fieldwerk. Right after Canciones I contacted Meaty to line up the second split LP to feature instrumentals by Meaty and myself (Crushcon7). The split instrumental LP series will most definitely continue. The next split is by Maker & Joe Beats and will be released early 2011.
How much say do you have in terms of the direction of the album or do you let the artist have full control?
I think itís important for the artist to have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to their music. Overall the releases have been a collaborative effort between the artists, art director and Fieldwerk. Adam Garcia has acted as art director on all of our releases so far. Heís done an amazing job at designing record covers that translate the music very well.
As an independent label what have been some of the biggest obstacles youíve had to overcome?
Intially, as with most start-ups, there were financing issues that made my life really stressful. Right now, after having a successful first year, it's managing the growth of Fieldwerk and expanding.
How does Chicago play a role, or rather influence you, in the way you guys operate?
Man, I love Chicago. I feel like my experiences here have helped me grow as a person and given me a lot of direction. My biggest influences have been the friends Iíve made here.
What have been your favorite collaborations so far?
Itís impossible to pick one favorite. They're all really dope and special and unique to me in their own ways. The Grayskul 7" is a favorite because "Mod Volatile" is the first collaboration between Onry and Zavala (Dark Time Sunshine). 'Canciones Modernas' is a classic...
I'm really excited about the releases that are coming in 2011. Void Pedal's Omni-Colour full-length, Maker and Joe Beats' split instrumental LP and also a Zavala project. We'll also be continuing Fieldwerk Night at Subterranean Lounge the first Friday of every month featuring guest DJs and producers/beatmakers. You can visit fieldwerk.com for updates on everything Fieldwerk.