A bastion of quality music, New York-born, Miami-based label dotdotdot records (stylized …records) is a real favourite with house heads worldwide. Synonymous with forward-thinking house music that has made a global impact and with a signature sound full of heart and dancefloor heft, the label is behind huge hits like Colonel Abrams’ ‘Music Is The Answer’ and Chocolate Puma’s ‘I Wanna Be U’.
Now in its third decade, the label is arguably at the top of its game, building on its already impressive legacy by releasing fresh new music for the body and soul that’s delighting old fans and winning over plenty of new ones. Founder Ramon Wells is the man at the helm, and we asked him to connect the dots across the label’s storied history…
(lead photo Perry Engineering)
Hi Ramon, welcome to DMC World. What was New York City’s house scene like when dotdotdot records launched there in 1999?
“It was a really exciting and vibrant time to be living and working in New York. The city’s house music scene had blown up on the coattails of the early ’90s techno explosion, which was fronted by New York artists like Moby and Joey Beltran. As Masters at Work, Louie Vega and Kenny Dope had come into their own as leaders of the New York City house scene at the legendary Sound Factory Bar, on 21st Street; Strictly Rhythm and Gladys Pizarro dominated the New York City house music sound, and Danny Krivit had started the 718 Sessions after the closure of the Sound Factory Bar, where Strictly Rhythm had ruled. Twilo, then Palladium with Junior Vasquez, had become regular stops on the club circuit, and the New York City house music community was becoming a unified family, further strengthening the city’s dance music scene.”
The first release on the label was Trancesetters’ ‘Roaches (in NYC)’. Tell us a bit more about the record…
“dotdotdot records got off to a really strong start with this seminal track. Written and produced by Chocolate Puma’s Gaston Steenkist and Alex Dijksterhuis, it was originally released on Touché Records out of Amsterdam. It was then licensed to the UK’s Hooj Choons and featured on Sasha & Digweed’s ‘Communicate’ mix album. We brought some of New York’s hottest remixers of the time, including John Creamer & Stephane K, Danny ‘Buddah’ Morales, Rob Jr. and then newcomer Rob James, aka S.O.L.I.S, to the table, and packaged the release as a vinyl double-pack with six remixes. It was instantly supported by some of the biggest and most respected DJs of the time, like Victor Calderone, Danny Tenaglia, Peter Rauhofer, James Anderson, Jonathan Peters, Junior Vasquez and Manny Lehman. Furthermore, it was featured on various compilations for Moonshine, Topaz, 4 Play, Plastik Records, Max Music and SFP.
“It was an amazing way to start the label and this track will always have a special place in my heart. Every time I hear it, I’m instantly transported back to the hot and sweaty dancefloors of NYC.”
What was your own journey in music up to the launch of the label…
“Actually, I consider myself a DJ first. I DJed for 20 years through the ’70s and ’80s and this is where I developed my ear for what really works on the dancefloor. I’ve always taken a progressive approach to DJing, from R&B through to disco, punk and new wave – I may have been a bit ahead of the times!
“In 1986, I helped to establish the Seattle-based label Nastymix and held the position of Vice-President there, before moving to New York City to become VP of A&R at Cardiac Records in the early ’90s. During my time at Cardiac, I’m proud to say that I discovered and signed MK, aka Marc Kinchen. After starting my own BOLD! Records in 1992, I partnered at legendary New York labels eightball and empire state records between 1996 and 1998, where I discovered and signed Victor Calderone.
“In 1993, I also partnered with MCT management, which was looking after Moby, to form the MCT/BOLD! marketing company. At the time, we didn’t feel there was anyone out there that really understood how to market our music, in particular techno. We promoted and marketed techno leaning records and crossed them over to alternative or mainstream channels, and we were the first to market ‘electronica’. One of our many accomplishments was the success of the ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ album, by The Chemical Brothers. It performed really well in the US ‘Billboard 200’ chart and was nominated for a Grammy.
“I started dotdotdot records at the peak of the ’90s house music movement in New York City because I wanted to find and develop new talent.”
Like many of us, you’ve watched electronic music become a global phenomenon over the past few decades. Why does house music have such lasting appeal?
“House music is a great connector; it unites people regardless of race, religion, age, sexual orientation or whatever. But more specifically, house music has soul, and this is why it prevails from generation to generation.”
How did dotdotdot respond as the industry moved into the digital era?
“Admittedly, as a vinyl-only label at the time, it took us a while to re-align, as more and more DJs went digital and the vinyl market dried up. It took us several years but we got back into the groove and relaunched as a digital-only label in 2018 with the Eric Kupper and Tedd Patterson remixes of Colonel Abrams’ legendary anthem ‘Music is the Answer’.”
What shape is the label in today?
“With the label now over 20 years young, it’s extremely exciting to witness its continued growth over the past few years. Staying true to our original ethos, we’re discovering and nurturing international talent, guiding young artists from demo submission through to worldwide release. We explore, we cultivate, we teach and produce fresh new international talent.”
One of those fresh international talents is Perry Engineering. What’s his story?
“O.M.G! Perry Engineering – aka Scott Perry from Adelaide – is dotdotdot records’ diamond in the rough. We discovered Scott when we were looking for remixers for the label and received his anthemic ‘My House’ demo, which fit perfectly with dotdotdot’s style. We knew immediately that we’d found an amazing artist. Scott’s love for US and European house music, and his years studying audio engineering, all filter through into his own rich and original sound designs.
“He’s had a run of great releases on the label now. His ‘Keeper’ track, which we released in October, is a brilliant slice of entrancing house music that’s equal parts hypnotic and energizing. And his new track ‘Falling’, which is primed for release this month, is a dynamic house cut full of soul.”
What can you tell us about Emran Badalov?
“Emran is another great artist who came to dotdotdot records through his demos. He’s from Azerbaijan and can do it all, from ambient and EDM to deep house. Working under a wide range of aliases, including Vinyl 33, Rolling Pistons and Bored Ape, he’s released music on a number of influential labels, like Chicago’s legendary Trax Records.
“We signed a couple of Emran’s tracks before he brought us ‘Take It Slow’, his collaboration with Finnish singer, songwriter, composer and producer Heidi B. Reminiscent of the classic disco era hit ‘Heartbeat’ by Taana Gardner, Emran’s original version has an irresistibly deep and sensuous funky groove. We packed this up into an EP release in October with an ‘Afro-House Mix’ from South African legend-in-the-making P.Tempo and a more straight-up house rework from Perry Engineering. Emran embraces a richly melodic house sound on ‘Pop It’, his next dotdotdot release, scheduled for late November.”
Over the summer we heard the dotdotdot release ‘I’m Not in Love’ drifting out from numerous beachside and pool parties in Ibiza. What’s the story behind that particular track?
“Jerome Drouot and Lita transformed the classic 10cc ballad from the ’70s into a dance-induced house track, and we put it out with banging remixes by Eric Kupper and Detox Radio’s Eran Hersh. All the versions are so infectious – they bring out the karaoke in people!
“Jerome is another DJ and producer we love working with. He’s based in New York but used to DJ at Manumission in Ibiza. We’re currently looking at album projects with both Jerome and Perry Engineering.”
Why does Eric Kupper’s name pop up so regularly on the label?
“A legendary producer, artist, DJ, songwriter and Apple certified mastering guru, Eric has been an integral part of dotdotdot records since our rebirth. He’s remixed a number of tracks on the label since our relaunch – Colonel Abrams’ ‘Music Is The Answer’, Jerome Drouot & Lita’s ‘I’m Not in Love’, ‘Feel The Love’ by Azsh and ‘Sunshine’ by Jerome Drouot featuring liquidS. I’m a huge fan of Eric’s work and these days he masters every single release on dotdotdot records. It helps that’s he a great person too. Our friendship actually began in the late ’80s when I hired Eric to remix a Fred Jorio track for Nastymix Records. Part of the same New York City house music community, we’ve been through many incarnations of our careers since then and we have always remained friends.”
What does the future look like for dotdotdot records?
“Well, with releases from Perry Engineering, Emran Badalov and Minneapolis artist RRD2 out before the end of the year, I’m feeling really invigorated as we head into 2023. We’ll kick off the new year by releasing Emran’s ‘Good For Me’ track in January, and I’m looking forward to discovering more new artists in the coming year while nurturing our current roster of talent. I’d like to think that dotdotdot records will continue to be synonymous with quality house music for some time to come.”
With the label well into its third decade, what gives you the most pleasure from running dotdotdot records?
“I’m always looking for artists and music that will work the dancefloor, but moreover I take the greatest pleasure in discovering exciting, fresh talent and helping springboard them to the next level of their career through dotdotdot records. I live for house music and still firmly believe that music is the answer.”