Label Profile: Hilltown Disco

DIY electronic imprint Hilltown Disco is helping rejuvenate Dundee's music scene and proving there's life outside of Scotland's two main cities. Two of the label's curators, Ben Traill and Matt Laidler, tell us more

Feature by Michael Lawson | 15 Apr 2019
  • Hilltown Disco

“I was in the final year of my Business Studies degree at Abertay and one of the modules involved working with a local business for three months, with the aim of improving it operationally,” says Ben Traill, as he begins tracing the roots of his Hilltown Disco record label.

He decided to begin working with Barry Reeves, better known as local disco head Dicky Trisco, who runs Disco Deviance, Secret Squirrel and Home Taping amongst a cluster of underground electronic imprints. “At this point Barry was still doing all royalty statements the old school paper and calculator way, so I transferred all of this onto Excel documents and set-up templates to make it much easier and quicker in future. In return, I was learning how to run a record label.”

Inspired by Reeves’ proudly DIY ethos, Traill and friend Mikey Ramsay began laying the foundations for an imprint aimed at providing a platform for a handful of friends who were showing promise in the field of music production. Now all that was needed was a name. "Mikey had a flat in the Hilltown area of Dundee that became notorious and hated by neighbours after a string of parties,” he continues. “It made the front page of the Evening Telegraph and newspaper boards around the city ran with the headline 'HILLTOWN DISCO PARTY ANGER'. So that was the name for the label sorted there and then!"

Buoyed by solid first releases involving friends and contemporaries from the Dundee scene, it wasn’t long before Hilltown Disco began receiving demos and submissions from producers further afield. “I still remember when [French electro outfit] Crossmods sent us the tunes for HIL003,” enthuses Matt Laidler, who now runs the label with Traill and fellow local DJ Stephen Malloch. “They sounded so crisp and perfectly fitted into the sound we wanted to push. From then on we’ve been on the hunt for similar-sounding music.”

Running an independent, DIY record label doesn’t come without its challenges, particularly when both Traill and Laidler work long hours in their day jobs, but five records deep and it’s clear the imprint is going from strength to strength. As well as throwing regular parties at the city’s Reading Rooms to give the label an extra layer of financial sustainability, the crew have also turned their attention to a charitable cause in the form of their Art Angel fundraiser series – an online-only run of EPs where all proceeds are dedicated to the Tayside mental health charity of the same name.

“Art Angel is a fantastic local charity, and they caught our eye because of the work they do with people struggling with mental illness – something we’ve all dealt with in one way or another,” Laidler explains. “The fact they supply a safe space where people are encouraged to bring out their creative side is such a fantastic idea and they deserve all the funding they can get.”

And despite being far removed from notable electronic music hubs like Berlin, London or Amsterdam, the crew are convinced that the scene in Scotland’s fourth city is only headed in one direction. “There’s some exciting things happening in Dundee right now,” insists Laidler. “Whether it’s club nights like Guesthaus or Non Stop bringing exciting DJs to the city, or the recently-opened Le Freak Records that’s been throwing some great in-store parties."

Traill interjects: “Another huge bonus is the Reading Rooms... It’s effectively the beating heart of the Dundee scene, but its future was in serious doubt for a number of months. Thankfully, after a sustained period of fundraising, it's no longer in danger of closing down and the Dundee scene can continue to thrive.”

Hilltown Disco: Release Timeline

HIL001 (Jan 2017): East Ayrshire lo-fi fiend Treb, Edinburgh acid head J Wax and promising local producer Ansata combine for a compilation EP, and HIL001 is born.

HIL002 (Mar 2017): A strictly local affair as J Wax and Ansata return alongside disco edit royalty in the form of Dicky Trisco and his amusingly-titled I Heard It Through The Bleeps And Basslines.

HIL003 (Jul 2018): Looking further afield, HIL003 takes in three tracks from French electro duo Crossmods and one each from J Wax and Swedish veteran Edmundy.

HIL004 (Aug 2018): A further two tracks from Crossmods (one remixed by Belgian artist Datawave), one from Bournemouth's Chris Moss Acid and an electro cut from Crossover Network.

Ramiel (Jan 2019): A five-track, digital-only EP with all proceeds dedicated to Tayside mental health charity Art Angel.

HIL005 (Apr 2019): A sharp left sees the imprint tread into murky electro waters for the freshly-released HIL005, with Leipzig duo Robyrt Hecht & Int Main combining on three tracks and Utrecht’s w1b0 providing another two.

HIL005 is released on 5 Apr via Hilltown Disco
Hilltown Disco play Reading Rooms, Dundee, 19 May