Despite having a wealth of releases between them, Terry Ryan, Matt Welch (of Atomic Hooligan) and Jay Cunning discovered a mutual love for a certain type of breaks that were funky and full of bass. Yet this trio weren’t feeling what other record labels were putting out, so they put their money where their mouths were and set up their own label.
“Me and Jay were in a fish and chip shop in Queens Park in London after doing a radio show a few years ago,” Terry Ryan explains, “and we knew we needed a name for the label. I was saying ‘we can call it chair records or ketchup records, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s got a name’ then I pointed to the menu and said ‘we can even call it Menu Music‘ and it just stuck. We even went back there to do some of our press shots!” he laughs.
Setting up a music label in this day and age isn’t an easy thing. Many fold from financial pressures, or lose their focus as the green rolls in. Even Adam Freeland’s Marine Parade had to close briefly last year. With so many out there, how will Menu Music stand out? “Well, there’s really only one true way to make a label stand out,” states Ryan, “and that’s the music. You can have promo, good press, radio and all that stuff, but if the music ain’t good, the label won’t stand out. Plus, I think we have a good package. We have the radio show and the multi-deck show that Cunning and me do, so Menu will always have a presence in the clubs on the airwaves. And we have a really clear view of what we like and what we want to play, and that spills over into our A&R for Menu. I don’t think there are many labels at the moment that are really consistent. We are very, very selective with what we want to release. And we wanted to hear music with funk but with enough ass in the bottom end to make the walls shake. That’s what we wanted to hear, and that’s what we want on Menu. That’s quite a broad statement, we realise, but when you hear the first release from Rico Tubbs you will hopefully understand what we mean. Flashlighter and Brazilia sum this up perfectly. And we have even more of this kind of ass funk to come!”
Their style of breaks is hard to define, but it certainly gets the body moving. Rico Tubbs‘ tunes are the bomb, being full of funk with a phatass booty-shaking bassline, while on Atomic Hooligan’s new You Are Here the music unfurls in a confident and stylish manner, eschewing the ‘laddy’ tag that breaks sometimes conjures up and presents a much more mature and interesting side. “We have a couple of new guys I’m really excited about,” Ryan enthuses. “Jay Stewart really has the sound we want for Menu. The next release is by J-Cat who has made this amazing little, half big beat/half ripping breaks number, that’s also got an Atomic Hooligan remix. We have Majool from Argentina who has again given us something completely different but fits into the Menu ethic. And of course there’s Rico – we still have the best to come from him!”
With iTunes and legal internet downloading becoming widespread, I was interested to find out they view vinyl as very important for the label. “Menu will always release on vinyl as our primary format. Just because there are new formats doesn’t mean the old trusted ones are going to disappear. I think there is space for all the various ways for music to be heard, but I love vinyl, no two ways about it,” Ryan declares, “and so does Jay. Personally, vinyl still holds so much magic and potential.”
That said, they also embrace digital music. They sent me a pre-release copy of Flashlighter via email, a process that is becoming far more common. “It puts us closer to the consumer. With no middleman you can really see what’s going on,” Ryan says. “And it’s a worldwide format. On a real practical level, someone in South Africa, someone in Russia and someone in London can all buy the same tune on the day of release, and that’s very positive. No waiting around for weeks for it to get to your local record shop. Plus, it’s unlimited. Once the shops run out of the release, it may take a week or may never get re-stocked; this way, a release can just tick over forever. So if someone gets into the label at a latter date, they will have full access to past releases.”