It’s a labyrinth that’s dark and densely packed with record boxes, unfolded t-shirts, stuff yet to be stamped, packed and sent. At the back, there are three rooms for rehearsing and recording, a bit dirty and all-over-the-place just as you’d expect. Jonathan "Jona" Nido, head of Hummus Records, has a tenuous link with needles: at first glance one might think of tattoo artists, but of course it’s more a case of gramophone needles, (with which he could have been vaccinated !). A true storyteller with a flowery verve and sparkling eyes.
So, are we talking fertile soil here? "That's very poetic, but no, we're Hummus with two m's, as in the chickpea dip. We also have a 7-inch collection called Tahini. It's a bit silly, but that's typically us, we have a large propensity to get carried away by our own madness."
It must be said that the small Chaux-de-Fonds label is going through a great period. The excellent first Emilie Zoé album, released on 9th November called The very start is doing really well. Coilguns have not stopped touring - the band in which Jonathan Nido plays guitar -, alongside, among others, the edgier Louis Jucker. What’s the connecting theme? « We all love each other ». An enthusiasm that is sometimes difficult to channel. « This label is the result of a human process. We’re like a family, plenty of elbow grease and lots of hard work, at first without really knowing what we were doing. »
Funk the system
In 7 years of activity, Hummus Records has released 67 records, sometimes up to fifteen to twenty releases a year. "At first, we just created this label to put out our own records that nobody wanted. Then we ended up with loads of albums of our mates’ groups that nobody wanted, they came with their finished products and we just put our logo on it." After a period of overheating and restructuring, it’s now a question of channeling all this energy only into certain groups and finding a good cruise-control rhythm. What’s the great strength of Hummus Records? To have managed to develop an autonomous microcosm that’s friendly, tight-knit, and very motivated. The label has an excellent international distribution network and uses an original financial windfall system called Indago, an association that’s a cross between micro-banking and management. It’s supervised by a committee that the groups are members of, they contribute to it regularly and it allows them to draw out funds and receive managerial assistance when needed. The Hummus artists are therefore both owners of the money they have invested thanks to Indago and also their records thanks to the set up of the label, which essentially acts as a hub offering consulting to its artists who remain autonomous and are therefore quickly reimbursed on their sales.
"The spirit of DIY (Do it yourself) and resourcefulness is in our DNA. We’ve never had money and our income is very modest, so we tinker away on homemade stuff quite happily. For example, the cover of Coilguns' first album, for which the label was created, was made from a silk screen print and sealed freezer bags. It's funny! In fact, what was pretty incredible for us was to realize at one point that we could do what we wanted, when we wanted, that we could have control over the whole process." Hence, there's a lot of ingenuity and craftmanship being developed at Hummus Records, where words like "entrepreneurship" and "business" (not often heard on the independent label scene) are now being used ad hoc. "We want to continue developing like this, and if by chance some groups get approached by bigger fish, we’d frankly advise them to consider first and foremost the development of their career. That's the ultimate goal, that bands can live from their music. And whatever happens we will always be very proud to have released their first records!"
What’s next ?!
On the list of forthcoming projects, there are actually three releases in early March: a new Louis Jucker LP - Kråkeslottet [The Crow's Castle] - and also 15 shows in a Cellar - a double live album that contains 18 tracks from his residency at Cully Jazz Festival 2018; as well as an Edmond Jefferson & Sons The Winter LP. Then, there’s a new Coilguns release in the fall and the continuation of the "Hummus Fest", the label’s mini traveling festival that’s been around for three years and which this year plans to develop big things with various partnership locations in Switzerland.