Exiting Planet Dust; Astralwerks celebrates its 20th anniversary
Getting its start in 1993, Astralwerks began as a sub-label of Caroline Records, an independent US distributor whose main focus was rock n roll. Already established in the UK, electronic music needed a home on American soil and thus Astralwerks was born. Forward thinking from its inception, the label’s first release was from Amorphous Adrogynous, a spin-off of the wildly popular Future Sound of London. From there the iconic label’s roster grew until it became a veritable whose who of dance music taking on acts such as; The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta. The list reads like the roster of a dance music all star team.
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons joined the Astralwerks family in 1997 for the release of their breakthrough album “Dig Your Own Hole.” One of the pre-eminent releases of the late Nineties big beat movement, “DYOH” became a watershed release in the label’s lifecycle. Earning a Grammy that same year, an unprecedented achievement for electronic music at the time, the album would later come to define the late Nineties dance music explosion.
In the next year, Astralwerks would again turn its attention to electronic music, this time in the form of a young Norman Cook. Fatboy Slim, as the spines of his albums read, would go on to achieve crossover status with the release of “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby,” an album that charted to number 1 in the UK and number 34 in the US. Several of the album’s singles climbed Top 40 charts and Fatboy took over Hammerstein Ballroom for three nights, building his stage in the center of the Manhattan concert hall — bringing the nightclub atmosphere to one of New York’s premier rock venues.
In 2001, Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe joined the Astralwerks army under the Basement Jaxx moniker. Having already found success with their first album on the UK charts, the duo were eager to break into booming US market. With Astralwerks support, their second album, Rooty, and its lead single “Where’s Your Head At” would explode into one of the most pervasive dance music tracks of all time. The second act to break into the Top 40 for Astralwerks, the track paved the way for the impending mainstream explosion, led by none other than David Guetta.
Credited with bringing electronic music into the mainstream psyche of American culture, Guetta joined the Astralwerks family to release the original “Nothing But The Beat” using the US’s love for urban culture to introduce them to the sounds of electronic music. His album would be one of the most successful releases in Astralwerks history, making 2011 the year that dance music officially crossed over with Guetta and Astralwerks at the helm.
Before laptops and midi keyboards there was Kraftwerk, an act who got their start 23 years before Astralwerks was founded. True pioneers of electronic music, Kraftwerk’s discography is a history lesson in the growth of the scene from its infancy. When Kraftwerk planned to remaster their extensive catalog, Astralwerks immediately stepped up to the plate, taking on the work of the influential musicians and re-releasing them to a host of new fans.
The title of “biggest dance music act of all time” belongs to the laidback, infinitely-grinning, faux-mafiosos, Swedish House Mafia. While David Guetta is credited with bringing the music to America, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell, and Steve Angello brought the spectacle. The new wave’s deification of the DJ started with these three, curating such a huge cult of personality that the announcement of their final tour left thousands in tears. The first electronic artists to perform (and sell out) Madison Square Garden, the Mafia transcended Top 40 radio, nightclubs, and electronic music itself; their name has come to represent an entire new movement and the re-awakening of the world to dance music.
Looking ahead to 2013, the label continues to expand its dance music roster. Recognizing the counter culture lifestyle that electronic music promotes, Astralwerks has made it a clear focus to tap into various aspects of the culture. Enlisting acts like Australia’s Empire of the Sun, Eric Prydz, Mat Zo, and NERVO; the famed label has continued to establish itself as a leader in not just dance music, but the entire electronic space.