Text Alfonso Gomez
Since bringing Label Junkie back from the dead, JUICE has featured multiple newfangled indie labels from ‘round these parts. Don’t misconstrue the rise of dance labels here as a new phenomenon though; Kuala Lumpur-based Love International has been around since 2008. Founded by RaySoo – himself a low-key DJ-producer admired by anyone who’s in the know – and two of his friends, Manoj Kurian Masala and his then manager Zyra Khiruddin, the three of them had known one another from Ray’s heydays as a resident DJ at Zouk Club KL. “We did some other work together at first… with photography, art, and design,” he tells us. “One day we had this idea of doing a label – I had a strong feeling that I wanted to call the label something about love.”
And thus born was Love International, a self-styled ‘fully charity pop label’ that “[owed] to the diverse nature of [their respective] backgrounds and interests in music and life.” The whole conceptualising of a label based around the idea of love and sociopolitical concerns isn’t a novelty, it makes perfect sense considering Ray’s own background in environmental planning and the PLUR (peace, love, unity, respect) philosophy so engrained in dance culture. “You could say that [our ethos] is partly a natural progression from [PLUR],” he concedes as much before adding this rejoinder, “but to be frank, they are timeless age-old ideas that will always be important.”
However, despite having the name since its inception, the label hasn’t always been so overt about their values of love, giving, and sharing. It was only about three years ago that Ray started to really expand on the idea. “We were mostly focussed on releasing great music [in the beginning],” he informs us. “As time went by, I was questioning myself as an artiste more and more about what is the whole meaning of what I do as a DJ-producer/entertainer apart from just entertainment and touring.” That self-reflection eventually led to its natural conclusion; Love International needed to do a lot more for humanity than just releasing music – it went the philanthropic route.
“There are already millions of labels our there releasing music, so what’s so special about us?” Ray adds rhetorically to reaffirm his point.
Sure enough, Love International has real charity cred. Apart from the charity events held by Love International, or fundraising label club nights they’ve been holding biannually since two years ago (“A good frequency for now,” Ray says), they give away their revenues (sans costs) to social projects via Kiva – a non-profit organisation that connects poorer folks from around the world who are in need of microloans with those interested in supporting the initiative. “These loans have almost a 99% repayment rate and the loans repaid can be regenerated to help other projects,” says Ray lest we reacted in incredulity to the charitable, Kickstarter-esque platform. “It’s a highly sustainable model that does good for the world whilst adding enriching values to the people involved in the projects.”
Then there’s the environmental part of their cause – Love International is also a green label, after all. Ray’s passion for the environment means that the label actively tries to look for green projects to support – thus their partnership with the Yasmin Rasyid-run NGO EcoKnights, whose yearly EcoFilm Festival has done great work with spreading the awareness for sustainable living.
Whatever your preconceived notions of local activists are, don’t project any of it here – Ray isn’t one for preachiness. In fact, when questioned whether others in the scene don’t care as much about real world issues as much as they could have, he offers a sagely “I don’t know” before adding that it’s really up to the individual to decide whether they should or shouldn’t care. “[It’s] mainly ego-driven,” he posits; the self needs more energy and will power to care about wider aspects of life. It’s education and leadership that are key to change; “As a society, the collective consciousness can certainly have an effect on the individual, of course.”
The label could hypothetically be the leader of two particular sounds themselves – cursorily looking at their releases, it’s clear that they’re very house and techno-centric. No wonder then it’s stated that Love International is “based in KL via Berlin” – the capital of the two genres and converging point of the two’s devotees from all over the world. It helps that Ray has been spending three to six months in the German capital every year since 2007 for his annual European tours and just general sabbaticals. “I love Berlin as a city as I have many friends there and in terms of its infrastructure and space, and also attitude of the people there,” he gushes, adding that the residents manage to be both laidback and creative and are open to new ideas. So much love he has for the city that Love International’s current manager, Nils Bentlage, is from Germany – as was his predecessor. “Both KL and Berlin I would consider [as] my bases,” he clarifies in case one would mistake his praise for the latter to mean his diminishing love for the former. “Love International is really more the idea than its location.”
It’s obvious now that the label isn’t geography-specific – Love International has had international, regional, and local releases under their belt. With Malaysia’s market still firmly not outgrowing its EDM phase, it only makes sense that their geographically uninhibited nature sees them exploring the international market. Ray says the internet helps a great deal – “Geographical limitations are erased, we can reach people from all over the world wherever we are.” And despite what you’d think of house and techno’s (lack of) prominence in Malaysia (though the former is getting stronger reach-wise), the veteran only has this to say; “In some places around the world, they are not considered underground.”
Kuala Lumpur-based via Berlin, indeed.
Label founder RaySoo lays down who and what we should be paying attention to from Love International…
“Outstanding house producer from Kuala Lumpur and probably my favourite. Been spreading his sound for a few years now and gaining much support internationally for his music via many good labels from around the world. And a very nice and down to earth person!”
“Christopher Yeoh is originally from Penang and now based in KL as a high level executive of his company by day and techno ninja producer by night. He produces music purely for passion and his sound shows that – deep, experimental, and very stylistic. One of the very few quality techno producers in Malaysia as far as I know. Of course, also a super nice person.”
ReLove Anthology 1