The brains behind Klasse Wrecks

Klasse Wrecks is a record label that does things exactly how it wants to with no compromises. Founded by Lucas Hunter (Luca Lozano) and Michael Ho (Mr. Ho), two DJ's and producers who share 20 years of experience in the music industry, Klasse Wrecks has made it's mark by maintaining a strong visual identity rooted deep in nostalgic graphic design references and pushing the boundaries of a typical record label by releasing publications, clothing capsules and even the odd eating utensil.

To introduce Klasse Wrecks to Supply, we asked founders Lucas and  Michael a few questions about the label, how it got started and operating it via correspondence.

Can you please tell us when and how was Klasse Wrecks was born?

KW was born out of the ashes of a couple of previous failed labels/projects…we both were in a transitionary time in terms of our music and social scenes. When we started Klasse Wrecks we made a clear statement to do things exactly how we wanted to and accept no compromise. We’ve both worked in the music industry for around 20 years and seen things we like and things we don’t, Wrecks was a way of creating our own ecosystem and our way of controlling our surroundings. I don’t remember the specific date it was started but it were coming up to 50 releases with approximately 5 releases a year so maybe even a decade ago!

Where are you two currently living?

Lucas: I live in Sheffield, in the north of the UK. I moved back to the UK in 2018 just before the pandemic after a 10-year stint in Berlin. Sheffield is a remarkably unfashionable industrial town that is enjoying the fruits of cheap rent and lack of hipsters. It’s also severely lacking a decent ramen spot despite lots of other good Asian food. It’s good for bike riding and taking the dog for a walk.

Michael: I live in Hong Kong, I lived in Berlin for a few years in the early days of Klasse Wrecks. I think it was important to be in the same city during that period.

Both being in different parts of the world, can you shed some light on some of the difficulties of operating the label via correspondence? Any tips on making it work? 

Lucas: The tools are there for immediate communication and things like WhatsApp help a lot. Me and Michael have worked together for years now so we kinda understand each others working schedule and operate around it. I think more importantly is we don’t really look at what we do as work…we do things when we feel like doing them and don’t function like a ’normal’ business. We both have healthy dislike of zoom calls and catch-ups…the blood drains from my face when someone suggests to ‘jump on a call’.

Michael is also very good at dealing with and tempering my crazy ideas and harebrained schemes, he hypes me up when I need it and talks me down when I’m manic and firing ideas at him. My main tip would be to find people that compliment you in the work environment, working with friends is great as long as you keep the communication WIDE open.

Michael: I agree. We are really open minded about each other's ideas and are comfortable to speak freely with our opinions. Aside from our friendship, I think what makes it really work is that we know and respect each other's strength and weaknesses, and when it comes to the label, the only thing that matters is making great products of which we are proud.

Have things changed much in the way you operate KW now compared to the early years?

Lucas: Not really, we’ve become very efficient at signing, making and releasing records. We have a good system and work with some reliable people. I think I’ve become less controlling over the years, it was important to me to establish ourselves as a company of no compromise at the start of our journey…these days it’s easier for me to relax on the reins a bit more. We also recently added Mark aka Omega III to our ranks, he takes care of the distribution from Barcelona and it’s been great to add another friend to the crew. I’ve known Mark since 1999 and there’s a lot of positives with working with someone who you’ve known for that long, we get each other in ways that other people cannot.

Michael: I think we've maybe become more brave in introducing new merchandise with our supporters. In the past we very much stuck to things like t shirts, but over the last 5 years we've included less conventional items such as Ramen Bowl and Mexican Candle.

What kind of things are you looking for when releasing new music?

Lucas: I would say number one for me is the intention, it sounds unquantifiable, but I think I’m very good at picking up on intention in music. Was it made for the right reasons? Was it made because dreamy breakbeat is so hot right now? Was it made to get famous? We released a lot of music from an unknown guy in Wichita, Kansas called Karlos Moran and that’s a great example of music made with good intention…he is so outside any scene of music the stuff he makes is a direct flow of creative energy. Other than that the dancefloor has to be a consideration, we make music to dance to and while I love to listen to and release ambient music…I’m always concerned with how the music will resonate with dancers on the floor.

Michael: Like Lucas, I also look for that intangible quality of "intention" in music. Another thing is whether we can along as people with the artist. Having said that, I think when the intention of the music is right, the artist is usually a person with whom we can get along, or at least have an understanding.

Tell us about how the ‘Graffiti Tapes’ series came to be?

Lucas: First of all its GRAFITI with one F! That’s quite important, the bad spelling hints at the slightly wonky nature of the writers and music involved. I was a writer for many years, travelled Europe painting with Omega since early 2000s and love the culture and artists within. I always thought label that combined graffiti and music would be exciting and for some reason I thought the tape format would really suit the style, something about old mixtapes and boomboxes etc.

These days it’s a slow journey but every now and then something pops up that fits in the series perfectly, a particular highlight has been working with one of the first train writers in the UK….Coma aka Richard Sen.

Music aside, how important are the graphics and visual identity of the label?

Lucas: Easily as important as the music itself, I handle all the design for the label through my PLANETLUKE.COM moniker and love to design for music projects. I think a strong visual identity is priceless, we’ve worked hard on maintaining that style and many people try to copy it now.

Michael: The label would NOT be the same if it wasn't for Lucas' artwork. I get hyped each time I have a new release and get the privilege to bounce ideas with him about how it should look.

The KFAX zines are nostalgic goldmines for new graphic designers, where did the idea for these little archive books come from and how does it usually work collating the imagery to make them happen?

Lucas: I had the idea with KFAX3, the first volume of record label logos. I’ve always collected logos and ephemera, taken pictures while digging and thought it would be a cool idea to collate them together to show how creative some of the early designers and labels were. I thought it was an original idea, but I wasn’t the first to do it, there are now many other options for logo archives and the landscape is quite saturated. For the titles I’ve done, I usually work intensely on one subject for a month or two…collecting the logos and editing them to be printable with risograph. We’ve recently branched out and invited other contributors to join and it’s great to see other peoples input. I love the small format and the disposable nature of them, it’s a nice addition to the labels output.

You see a lot of new brands/designers referencing or straight ripping logos from the past, what are your thoughts on this?

Lucas: It circles back to intention again, I rip loads of stuff off and have never hidden that fact. Maybe it’s about differentiating between ‘homage’ and ‘plagiarism’. An old skate logo from a company that doesn’t exist anymore adapted into a new logo could signify respect and homage. People have different opinions and it’s about perspective too so it’s kinda an impossible question, I prefer to not really worry about what is what and spend my time just making stuff and putting it out there.

What are some of your favourite countries to travel to and play music?

Lucas: Japan is really a trip, for all the reasons you’ve heard before. The clubs are special and different and if you like ’stuff’ (eg records, clothes, toys etc) then you’re in for a treat. I have an affinity with Asia and love to play in Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Tbilisi in Georgia is also intriguing as its not conventional compared to the rest of Europe and inhabits that interesting part of the world where East meets West. London is always a vibe and I love the UK energy, its unparalleled…people are so up for it, even the quiet parties are fun to play.

Michael: I like Japan, Germany, India, Australia, UK, South Korea, Thailand, Brazil, China, Spain.. I look forward to Georgia, Mexico, Columbia and everywhere I haven't been before...

Any upcoming releases on the label you’re excited about this year?

Lucas: We get asked this question a lot and I always prefer to keep schtum…part of the excitement of hearing new music is the surprise and sudden impact. The current climate of social media and Instagram attention spans means things come and go quickly….we do everything we can do to catch the wave and ride it for as long as we can.

Michael: Honestly speaking I am excited about EVERY release this year.

Any last shout outs?

Lucas: Shouts to YOU GUYS and all the independent shops supporting our stuff, it’s always appreciated and we know life in this lane is done for the love and not the wallet. Working with creatives and passionate people around the world is a really lovely thing to do and without getting all #blessed about it you gotta remember you’re lucky to be doing what you’re doing. Every order we get puts a little smile on my face…so thank you.

Michael: Shout out to everyone who has supported us and Klasse Wrecks in any way. It’s still an incredible feeling for me to know that someone somewhere listens to the music we released or is wearing a t shirt that we made or is selling our products in their shop.