Starting out as a producer is never easy, but for Adam Griffin he’s got quite the career to draw from. Cutting your teeth at Sony, promoting nights at London’s legendary, Hanover Grand, and DJing at iconic venues like The Cross and Turnmills is undoubtedly going to help. But where this story really begins is when Griffin set up, Perfect Havoc. Also a management agency, Perfect Havoc is a humble yet bold indie-label based out of Hoxon, London, that has recently hit an impressive 100 million streams on Spotify, Apple and YouTube, with a string of successful releases from the likes of Oliver Nelson, Tobtok, Karen Harding, Eat More Cake, Mahalo, Apres and more. If there were not enough feathers already in Griffin’s cap, he’s now turned his hand to production. Debut single came with Perfect Havoc signee, Tobtok in May 2019 in the from of The Sting – with support from Annie Nightingale – and he’s already back with follow up single, The Stand Off. Let’s deep-dive into the life and times of Adam Griffin, and one of dance music’s most refreshing imprints.
Welcome to DMC, Adam. Where are you in the world right now?
I’m travelling to my second home on earth – the AELTC for the Wimbledon Championships.
What inspired you to set up Perfect Havoc and how did yourself and Rob Davies come to work together?
My first job in the music business was at a dance label INCredible – an ident within Sony Music. It was post Lynn Cosgrove era and there was a new singles label called Direction. It was my first exposure to charting records, and I fell in love with it straight away. I started as everyone’s assistant, so I quickly got my teeth into A&R, marketing and promotion. Eventually, I worked my way up to product managing major US artists, and had five Top 5 hits along the way, including Khia “My Neck, My Back”, Sunset Strippers “Falling Stars”, Jurgen Vries Feat Charlotte Church “Opera Song” and Rogue Traders “Voodoo Child”. L
oI first met Rob at Sony; he was introduced to me by ex-Hanover Grand and Ministry of Sound promoter, Justin James. I actually joined Sony to take an unpaid job, that’s how badly I wanted to get into the recording side of the business. Rob went on to work for me before leaving for EA Games, he was the best assistant I’ve ever had. I eventually left Sony after 12 years and it was a challenging period of my life for various reasons. It was at that point that Rob encouraged me to carve my path, which eventually meant we did that together. It was one of the easiest and best decisions I have ever made. I knew what Rob could bring to the table, and he has.
What do you look for when signing artists to the management arm of your business?
When signing artists, we do a tonne of development with pure raw talent. They don’t have to be the finished article, far from it. Nowadays, I also look for their drive as an equally important factor. You can be the most talented geezer on the block, but without passion, you will get nowhere and the bloke around the corner with a work ethic but half your talent, will crush you.
Independent vs Major Label? What have you found to be the pros and cons of working on both sides of this coin?
It was only when I left Sony that I realised how much I had learnt. Each offer very different things and challenges. The pros of a major are great team spirit, getting to work with so many colleagues, learning from serious music industry players (Matthew Knowles and Roger Davies to name a few), and who can forget the freebies – CD’s, vinyl, gig tickets and merch! Pros of an independent are a better sense of achievement when success comes. You’re the master of your own destiny getting to do what you want, when you want.
Cons of a major are way too many meetings (meetings for meeting’s sake!) and regimented start times despite working all God’s hours. Cons at an indie are it can be all-consuming at times, there’s a loneliness when you start, and it takes time to build.
Perfect Havoc has hit 100 million streams online, that’s no mean feat. How have you achieved this in a relatively short time frame?
We are so lucky to have done this in around 3 years. We have a fantastic support network from Howard Corner and his team at our distributors, ADA Warner. We have great artists and it’s key that we can self-release and release off-roster. The level of submissions we are receiving is improving every day but has always been of a high standard. I would love to say it’s down to A&R, but the whole team, business partner (I call Rob The Machine), and our artists make this tick. I can take credit for the branding and ethos though, which we love more every day. I must thank Oliver Nelson and Tobtok as they helped us earn the money to set this up – we borrowed nothing. Most thanks goes to Howard Corner for taking a chance on us when unproven. We worked together at Sony Music and that’s all he had to go off! A special shout out goes to Laura Moat too.
Would you say you’re a hands-on manager with your artists? If so, how and with whom?
I’m a very hands-on manager with all our artists. I make the most of my experience covering remix management, A&R, major record company dealings, marketing, promotions and being salesman. I also handle contracts and negotiations, although that mainly Rob’s area.
How did your productions with Tobtok come about? Was it always the plan to get yourself in the studio?
The first track, The Sting, came around when Rob kicked my damn harris to do so. I’ve been very hands-on for about a year in the creation of a number of our releases, so Rob felt it was the next step. I had no idea it would go so well. I also came up with the concept and co-produced ‘Something ‘Bout The Music’ for Tobtok, AKA George and Oliver Nelson. It has now reached 1.5 million streams. Now with the release of “The Stand Off”, I feel like I’m improving in every session.L
Rolling back the years, when you promoted parties at the legendary Hanover Grand, what kind of acts were you booking? What was life as a promoter like in the 90s?
Future Perfect was the house night I helped promote. It was tough because it followed in the footsteps of the legendary Craig Richards night “Malibu Stacey” – the one where the lovely host, Toni Tambourine had you doing mad stuff to get in, like kiss your same-sex heterosexual mate. We had all the best house DJ’s at the time play, like Brandon Block, John Kelly, Judge Jules, Craig Jensen and Allister Whitehead. I promoted a room once a month downstairs with my now best man, Miles Mcgoun. We started off being paid £5 to get people in and earned a fiver per person. It went so well that they hired me. These were very happy times, we used to get in and drink for free on most of Hanover’s various nights. I also worked for Ministry’s Friday night “Move” with a peach of a job, picking up the DJ’s, looking after them, stocking the VIP and DJ booths with booze, and I had all the drinks tickets!
What about your days DJing at an iconic London venue, The Cross? Any standout memories from those days?
The Cross was my favourite place to DJ and still is the best venue/club night I have ever been too. I was so nervous when I was booked to play L’Amour. I planned to arrive at 3am as I was on Graveyard detail from 4-6, but the promoter asked me if I knew anyone to help on the door. I did, but this same young lady was my guest for the night. With her on the door, it led to hours for me waiting in the club, working myself into an unnecessary frenzy. I recall having a word with myself in the toilet mirror a few times. Once the first record went on, I was fine. I half emptied the other room where Alex P was playing and the gentlemen that he with, came in and congratulated me. Other highlights include playing back to back with Sister Bliss at a Faithless greatest hits launch party, sets at Ministry, Turnmills, Eden Ibiza, and a part residency with Dusted.
We hear you’re an avid vinyl collector. What are the most precious records you own that you would never part with?
I have all my vinyl stored in the loft at my Mum’s. I have so many treasured bits that include all the Manifesto/Positiva originals and tonnes of white labels of now house classics like Nalin and Kane’s “Beachball”, ATB “Till I Come'”, Todd Terry’s “Jumpin”, Kadoc’s “The Night Train”, and JDS “Nine Ways” to name a few.L
OWhat’s coming out next on Perfect Havoc that we should we keep an ear out for?
We have a plethora of releases coming from The Ashton Shuffle, PARXS, Alex Ross, Eat More Cake, Tobtok and Redondo, Todd Terry, Robbie G, Serg from MDE, AKA George, Kelli Leigh, Kisch, TCTS and many more. We are blessed!
What’s up next for Perfect Havoc Disco? These parties seem to pop-up all over the world!
We are planning to extend the Perfect Havoc events side and do big, stand-alone Perfect Havoc nights. Our next Perfect Havoc Disco is at Dalston Rooftop on September 20th.
Are you looking to sign any new talent? If so, how can artists get on your radar?
I’m always looking for new talent on the records and management side. We’ve just signed two brilliant brothers to manage called Fuse, and a new track from a young artist called Roman Pearce. All demos to go to… email@example.com
Do you have any DJ dates in the calendar – where can we catch you?
I’m still in DJ semi-retirement only playing at Perfect Havoc events but could have my arm twisted!
Thanks, Adam, it’s been a pleasure.
Thank you for having me DMC!
The Stand Off by Tobtok & Adam Griffin featuring Hayley May is out now on Perfect Havoc https://fanlink.to/bV6q
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