DJ Katch on 10 Things That Define the History of Hydrofunk Records
DJ Katch on 10 Things That Define the History of Hydrofunk Records
DJ Katch on 10 Things That Define the History of Hydrofunk Records
DJ Katch on 10 Things That Define the History of Hydrofunk Records

Resin Dogs members DJ Katch and Dave Dogg Atkins founded the indie label Hydrofunk Records in 1997. Along with releasing with multiple albums by their own project, Hydrofunk has handled releases for The Boy Of Many Colors, Downsyde, Calski, Ben Walsh, Tigermoth, Def Wish Cast and many more.

Hydrofunk remains a going concern 25 years later. As DJ Katch says, Hydrofunk isn’t your average label. “We are still about making art and we care about the art form of music and how it’s made.” In celebration of the label’s 25th anniversary, they’ve put together the 35-track Hydrofunk Records 25th Anniversary Compilation. Here, DJ Katch runs us through ten moments that sum up the label’s quarter-century history.

Resin Dogs – ‘Bad Dog’ feat. Harlen

The first Hydrofunk party in the mid-1990s

DJ Katch: Hydrofunk originally started out as hip hop nights that showcased local rappers and DJs. We also used to bring in stuff to sell, like second-hand or doubles of records, or even tapes we had at the time.

Travelling to the UK

Katch: I travelled to the UK with Dave Dogg to get the records cut and to see some labels and distribution companies. We ended up cutting the records out at Wembley as that’s where Ninja Tune had done theirs, and we were shown how to cut to the lacquer vinyl, which we had never experienced.

Selling out our first Resin Dogs show at The Zoo, Brisbane

Katch: We were still managing ourselves at the time. We did all the marketing and promotions ourselves and I used to hit the streets and do the poster runs myself. We even dressed The Zoo up with a huge military cargo net and added to the stage. Not too long after this show we were approached by Media Rare to manage the band.

Pressing our first CD

Katch: Another big moment early on was pressing our first CD and linking a distribution deal with the now defunct Oracle Records.

The Groove Train radio show on triple j

Katch: We had called up Sharif [Galal] as we heard they were doing an Australian beats special and were having guests in from Creative Vibes and a few other local Sydney artists. So we invited ourselves down to Sydney to appear on the show.

Sharif wasn’t expecting us to arrive unannounced at triple j, so he sort of had to let us in. It was like a weird awkwardness in the room that we bum-rushed our way onto his show. After we played our track, it was really quiet and an artist at the time, Trapazoid, who was on Creative Vibes, yells out, “That’s fucking awesome.”

That moment broke the ice and everyone started talking. I think a few spliffs got lit that night. Sharif has been a big supporter of the Dogs and the label from that day, and I consider him one of the greats guys in the industry.

2 Dogs – ‘Use Your Imagination’

Signing to Virgin EMI

Katch: Getting Hydrofunk Records signed to Virgin EMI as well as the Dogs was a big deal, as this wasn’t an ordinary deal. No hip hop beats artist had ever gotten this and I believe it was the first where we wrote the deal so an artist also got a label deal. It was the only way they could contain us as we were all indie artists individually, so they did it to keep us from going elsewhere – sort of like how Wu-Tang did.

We were already doing 2Dogs shows and Blunted Stylus had his own thing going on too. So, we did the deal, and I’ve got to mention Brian, aka “Smash”, our management at the time for going into bat for this one as he struck a pretty good deal.

I don’t think they were ready for Australian hip hop at the time, but doors were definitely opened up for people because of this deal. The deal was signed backstage, 20 minutes before performing at Homebake festival in Sydney. I think that was in 1999. We were on the main stage that year.

Not being on Virgin EMI anymore

Katch: In 2004, we parted ways due to unresolvable differences, but we got all our artist masters back and regained our independence. It was a quick re-learning curve for being independent distribution for ourselves on a national level. I did it all myself from home for about a year. I had to stock all indie record stores but then having to deal with JB Hi-Fi, Sanity, HMV, and a few others.

We finally made the decision to go with MGM as we had seen a few labels but nobody wanted to touch us for a while. We even became our own booking agents as well. At around this time a business friend, Zsolt, aka the Big Hun, came on board to help us out and is still part of the team today.

Putting out Def Wish Cast’s The Legacy Continues record

Katch: To me, this is the ultimate hip hop record coming from Australia at the time and I still believe nobody can touch that record, ever. Sonically, it sounds amazing. They represented the graffiti writers, the breakers, the DJs, and the MCs.

This record celebrated Australian hip hop culture and I’m really proud of these boys and what they still do for this scene and culture. Plus, the album cover looks amazing on CD, but the vinyl cover is still one of the best packaged records we have ever put out.

Def Wish Cast – ‘The Lions Roar’

Setting up Hydrofunk HQ studios

Katch: We’ve always been studio rats and we always dreamed of having our own space. The studio has gone from having MBox Pro Tools to a 32-channel Neve 74 desk with full-blown Pro Tools and a lot of other toys we have collected. Unfortunately, we had a little setback during the year when we got hit by the floods, but we are back up and running again now with a steady flow of artists coming through.

Opening up the label in Japan in 2017

Katch: Zsolt was working with some people in Japan and mentioned maybe we can push the label over there. So, it did happen after a bit of work, and we have worked with several artists from over there and toured a few of ours over in Japan as well.

Further Reading

Chapter Music Turns 30 – Ten Things That Define the Melbourne Indie Label

Ice Cube, Cypress Hill and The Game to Tour Australia in 2023

Hilltop Hoods, DMA’S, Dope Lemon Lead Lineup for Rolling Sets 2022 on the Central Coast

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