Greco-Roman has gone through a few forms over the years. Starting life in 2005 as a back-to-back DJ team comprised of Dom Mentsh, Alex "Full Nelson" Waldron and Hot Chip/2 Bears man Joe Goddard – the three were working at Island Records at the time – Greco-Roman quickly mutated into a club night, throwing speakeasy parties in London and Berlin, before arriving at its final incarnation as a record label. The label was originally set up to release David E. Sugar's Oi New York, This Is London back in 2007 but it inevitably grew, and six years on they've put out records by the likes of Disclosure, Hackman, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Tirzah and, perhaps most famously, Goddard and Valentina's unstoppable Gabriel.
Despite the stature of some of Greco-Roman's artists, the founding trio admit that they kept far too low a profile with the label, serving more as an outlet for music rather than asserting their own identity, and their compilation is a way to rectify that and put the Greco-Roman case forward. Named 'We Make Colourful Music Because We Dance In The Dark', the two-disc compilation takes in some of the bright pop music (the "colourful music") and some of the deeper club tunes ("dancing in the dark") that have found a home on the imprint over the years.
We took it to Dom, Alex and Joe to explain what the label was all about and to guide us through some of the key tracks on the compilation.
How did Greco-Roman begin?
Alex: We all worked together on record a few years ago, and we started DJing together. We called ourselves Greco-Roman because we thought we were like a wrestling tag team. Quite quickly after that I moved to Berlin and the guys stayed in London. It became quite difficult to keep it together, so we threw parties every now and again, and we called those Greco-Roman as well. So we turned Greco-Roman from a DJ team into a party, and we turned into a record label when, on our second party, David Sugar came and played, armed with two Nintendo GameBoys and a guitar pedal. He played this amazing gig, so we asked him to make a track for us as this soundclash-style battle weapon. We didn’t think he’d ever do it, but he turned up at another one of our parties with this CD-R with “Oi New York, This Is London” written on it. It kicked off – we looked at each other and thought, "we should probably release this". To be honest, we never meant to be a record label – we all worked at record labels, so that was actually the last thing it was meant to be.
Why put together the compilation now, in 2013?
Dom: We're just trying to generate revenue.
Alex: If there’s one bit of feedback we’ve always had, it's that no one really knows what we do – we’re not very good at communicating it. At the beginning, we were quite secretive about what we did, and years later some people know us as a record label, some people know us as a party, some people know us as a DJ team, and we just thought maybe now was a time to draw a line in the sand and tell people what we do. A lot of the artists get big but people don’t know they’re Greco-Roman because we keep the Greco-Roman bit quite quiet.
Disc One: Colourful Music
1. Joe Goddard feat. Valentina – Gabriel
Dom: Valentina had cut this track and it didn't quite fit with the other tracks she was working on. An idea was hatched that was initially meant to be an ode to Roy Davis Jr. and Pevan Everitt's garage classic and evolved into one of the most special records on the label.
2. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Garden
Alex: This is the first record on the label that attained underground anthem status and it really changed people’s perceptions of us, who I think were probably a little confused by our sporadic, genre-hopping output. This was the pop record that it was OK for DJs to like, and went on to be re-released on another label and used for a worldwide Nokia ad, but it never lost any of its charm. A classic.
3. Disclosure – Boiling
Dom: We were looking for vocalists for the project and Sinead appeared fortuitously from a meeting with her manager about another, entirely different project. The boys cut this track with her on the very first session. The rest, as they say… We wish it was all this easy.
4. Hackman – Close
Dom: Hackman was a Greco-Roman internet bromance. Having bought everything he had ever put out we were really excited that he was up for working with us. He started sending through ideas and the relationship developed from there. Close blew us all away when we heard it for the first time. We managed to work the entire project without having met. Joe and Alex met him at various DJ gigs but I met him face to face the first time this year at Glastonbury where his set was as on-point as he was. Respect.
5. Baio – Sunburn Modern
Alex: I met Chris Baio when I worked at XL as he plays bass in Vampire Weekend, and it was a nice surprise when he sent me this after hearing Joe Goddard’s ‘Harvest Festival’ album. It’s also always a surprise when a pop star is a badass DJ… and that’s exactly what he is deep down inside.
6. Roosevelt – Sea
Alex: I went all the way to Cologne to meet Roosevelt after I heard this demo, and he stood me up outside his studio. Two weeks later he sent me an email saying he had fallen asleep, and it made me wonder how long he had been asleep for. This is a great stoner pop song.
"I imagine getting married to a wealthy Argentinian and Grosvenor's Drive Your Car being the first track we play as we drive away into the sunset." – Alex Waldron
7. Joe Goddard & Boris Dlugosch – Step Together
Joe: Boris Dlugosch is a house producer that I’ve always had respect for. A lot of the things he did in the 1990s still sound excellent and are still played by very well respected DJs – Ricardo Villalobos still plays his remix of Moloko's Sing It Back in his sets. He’s a producer with a lot of pedigree and history in house music. He sent me an instrumental and I worked on it – I came up with the vocal. It was all through email, and I only met him after we’d worked on the track together. And sometimes that can feel cold, but this came together very naturally and easily. The person is just presented with a finished piece of music, and it can make you feel very excited. I’m very pleased to be able to work with it.
8. Grovesnor – Drive Your Car
Alex: Grovesnor’s Rebel Quarter version is an alternate version to the sugary pop single which is more like a dusty bossa nova classic. I imagine getting married to a wealthy Argentinian and this being the first track we play as we drive away into the sunset. That’s kind of what the record is about actually.
9. Micachu & Tirzah – I'm Not Dancing
Dom: Micachu is a musical phenomenon and all of us on the label are big fans of all of her output. Her manager is an old friend who came to all the parties and when he played us her side project with long standing collaborator Tirzah we didn’t think twice. The whole EP is amazing.
10. Enchante – Swaynes Lane
11. Valentina – Ladders
Dom: The first of many amazing tracks Valentina has worked with Ben Esser on. As soon as we heard that bassline we were hooked. It kind of frames everything she is about, her amazing vocals that are venerable yet warm and commanding. This track is one of those that just gets better with each listen.
"This is about the moment you feel like the night is ending – at like six o’clock in the morning, when it feels like home time. I always get that feeling that the night should end now, not turn into the grotesque early morning. If you get out at the right moment, you just have this golden image of the night." – Joe Goddard
12. Joe Goddard – Lemon & Lime (Home Time)
Joe: There were quite a lot of instrumental tracks on that album ['Harvest Festival'], and it was really just me getting to make slightly deeper electronic stuff that doesn’t really generally fit onto Hot Chip records. There was a lot of stuff that wasn’t particularly poppy, but this was one of the pop songs on the album. This is about the moment you feel like the night is ending – at like six o’clock in the morning, when it feels like home time. I always get that moment, that feeling that the night should end now, not turn into the grotesque early morning version which Alex seems to really enjoy. If you get out at the right moment, you just have this golden image of the night.
Disc Two: Dancing In The Dark
1. Millennium – ICU
Alex: This whole EP is relatively awkward both conceptually and musically… and that’s why it’s great! It breaks out into pop music every now and again – that’s what Q&A is. There aren’t enough pop videos about job interviews so they guys made one. Dan Bodan bleached his hair blonde and acted in it. Weird.
2. Valentina – Wolves (Roman Flügel Remix)
3. Joe Goddard – Apple Bobbing (Four Tet Remix)
Joe: We’ve [Goddard and Four Tet] been friends for a very long time – he remixed a track for Hot Chip on one of our first EPs. I’ve been sending him my music since he was at university in Manchester, but it’s obviously really great to have him involved in the record. He was making the transition into more “dance” music at this point, whereas previously it had been more of a hip hop tempo. It was really good to have him involved, but you know – he’s worked on a few things for us in the past.
4. Baio – Sunburn Modern (Session Victim Remix)
5. Disclosure – What’s In Your Head
6. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Move On
7. Joe Goddard feat. Valentina – Gabriel (Soulwax Remix)
Joe: Soulwax have remixed Hot Chip before as well. The difference between the Hot Chip one and this one is that we had to pay for the Hot Chip one – the one for Gabriel they just did because they wanted to. I turned up to DJ at their Soulwaxmas parties, and I didn’t know they’d finished this remix, and I was just watching their DJ set and it suddenly just came on as part of it, with the visuals. I didn’t actually know they were doing it as part of their show, so that was a very nice moment for me, and it was the end of the year when Gabriel had come out, so it was a great moment.
8. Disclosure – Boiling (Dixon Remix)
9. Joe Goddard feat. Mara Carlyle – She Burns (The Invisible Remix)
Joe: Leo from The Invisible is an old friend. He’s one of the great modern British drummers. He plays with Grace Jones now, as well as The Invisible, and Gramme, his other band – their EP on Trevor Jackson’s Output Recordings was a massive influence on me when it came out. He’s also my Mara’s cousin. So it was an obvious thing to ask him to be involved in that.
10. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Walking Song (Lone Remix)
11. Hackman – Satisfy
12. Valentina – Ladders (David E Sugar Remix)
Greco-Roman released 'We Make Colourful Music Because We Dance In The Dark' on August 12th.