Jeff Craven 'Keeping it Large'
Large Music dives back into the deep with the latest instalment of their acclaimed series, Get Large Miami 2016. Loaded with top tracks from their current talent roster, the mix album is an essential musical tribute to one of the greatest cities in the World.
- ‘Get Large Miami 2016’ is available on Traxsource: HERE
The esteemed label has been releasing House Music for 23 years this month. We were very happy to catch up with label boss Jeff Craven to quiz him about how he has steered his label to success through some of the most taxing times the industry has ever seen.
Twenty-three years in the game is a considerable achievement. And to have survived, thrived and successfully kept up to date with House Music’s ever changing demographic while never once losing touch with your roots, is an achievement to be applauded. Chicago’s Large Music began releasing house music in 1992, kicking off with Kerri Chandler’s ‘Raw Grooves’ EP and they quickly assembled an enviable roster of quality underground artists including Mateo & Matos, DJ Sneak, DJ Rasoul and Dennis Ferrer.
Their largest commercial success was with the huge crossover ‘Gabriel’ from Roy Davis Jr & Peven Everett, an exquisite slice of vocal/machine soul which made an appearance in the UK pop charts, was huge on the UK garage scene and which hit DJ playlists worldwide.
How does it feel to have Gabriel exploding on vinyl all over again – 20 years later?
“It has been overwhelming to see such a strong reaction to our vinyl reissue of Gabriel. It soared to the #1 position on the Juno vinyl chart and we sold out of our first pressing in a matter of hours. To be honest, all of our classic Large re-pressings are selling out and being met with a huge demand. Again, it is so exciting to watch an entire new generation discover these releases. For Large to be so intertwined within the fabric of the history of House Music is perhaps the greatest honor of all.”
In the early 2000s, Large continued to lead the way, embracing the West Coast sound of Halo and Miguel Migs. It is this ability to develop new talent that has kept them squarely on the map all these years, and it is a strategy that Jeff has continued to utilise:
“2012 was a tipping point for the label. The long period of US artists and labels dominating the global House scene had come to an end. I was firm in my commitment to “rebrand” Large without sacrificing our integrity and core sound, so we followed a very detailed plan. As a result, 2013 was our best year sales-wise in a decade, and we even topped that in 2015. I attribute the success mostly the enormously talented roster of artists that came on board at the time. Young artists such as James Dexter, Lars Vegas (half of Detroit Swindle), Jacob Bech, Steve Mill, Roland Nights and many others set the trajectory and sound for the “New Large” with a firm understanding of our 90’s roots mixed with a focus on future sounds.”
So the Large Music crew currently find themselves riding high at the forefront of the House Music market. But like the entire industry, there have been moments in the last fifteen years of the digital revolution when the going got tough: “I remember a key moment in 2005 when I thought it was indeed all over for us.” Flexibility and the willingness to embrace change without compromising seems to have got Large through the rough times and they can now rightly count themselves as a House Music institution:
“I remember so clearly having a conversation with an artist last year when he told me that he grew up listening to Large Music because his dad was a DJ. I remember thinking about that for weeks – that we as a company had survived enormous challenges and yet were still relevant to a new crop of music lovers. We continue to follow our plan and work with new talent and I couldn’t be more excited about the future.”
Jeff is also a big fan of the digital age and all the opportunities that it brings, and perhaps this willingness to accept the new, rather than stay attached to the old has also contributed to Large’s continued success. “I personally LOVE the digital age; so many tools at our disposal now and the ability to access great music at the click of a mouse is truly breathtaking.”
And what about digital DJing?
“One thing that really bothers me, is this false premise that if a DJ doesn’t play vinyl then he isn’t a “real DJ”.I find that to be downright silly…and even pretentious. There was a time not so long ago when DJs could only dream of doing some of the things we can now do with the CDJ Nexus series… Picking great music and formatting it well is the key to being a great DJ – regardless of the format. A great DJ should be able to use both vinyl and digital seamlessly.”
Curve ball question, a mutual friend told us you enjoy the game of Craps – how would you compare this casino dice game to the music industry, specifically House Music?
““Wow that is a curve ball question! Yes it’s true, those who know me well understand that I love the game of Craps and playing is one of my hobbies. I love the history of the game and the strategy of the game. In some ways I think running a record label in 2016 is analogous to the game of craps. There are several strategies you can try to implement. For instance, there is a way to play the game known as “hit and run”. You try and guess what the winning numbers are going to be and bet your chips accordingly. I liken this to a record label plan of always following trends and signing music only based on a “hype” factor. To be fair, it does work sometimes and you can find yourself with a hit.
Another strategy (which is the one I use in the game) is called the “grinder” method. You pick your numbers in advance and play them consistently–eventually you do win smaller amounts just based on statistics; over the long run your results add up nicely. I think this is the kind of strategy we have always followed with Large Music. We are committed to an authentic, vibrant deep house template that has become, over time, the Large Music “sound”. We are not interested in following trends or comprising our history or integrity.”
So with the label in rude health and with the craft of DJing ever-developing, does Jeff think that the House scene is in good shape at the moment?
“I think the general market has never been healthier, and I see a real movement towards proper House music within the younger generation. Perhaps the EDM phenomenon has served as a “gateway” of sorts for the discovery of the roots of House? I couldn’t be more excited or motivated to continue to grow and spread our ethos to a new fanbase. As I often tell my artists, “good music, in the end, is what rules the day.”
And we just found our motto for this week: Good Music Rules The Day.
Help celebrate 23 years of Large Music by checking out the gold-mine that is Large Music’s back catalog.