TF Archives

Chris Cowie

Author: Jo Vraca
Monday, September 10, 2001
Scotland. Home of lochs, kilts, haggis and Irvine Welsh diatribe. It's also home to such clubs as Sublime and The Tunnel. On the flipside, there's Aberdeen, the country's oil capital and home to its long-standing musical ambassador, Chris Cowie…

With a staggering 500 productions under his belt, Cowie is still considered an unknown although mention his various pseudonyms including X-Cabs, Vegas Soul, Scan Carriers and his labels Hook and Bellboy and faces immediately light up with recognition. "[Pseudonyms] became difficult when doing interviews because the journalist would get lost with what I was, who I was. But I had to use pseudonyms because I was doing all the stuff on the labels, and I couldn't release all these records under one name. At one point I had a release going out somewhere every week for about a year." Hence Cowie's decision to shed the monikers in favour of his own name on productions, which was established with a remix of Frankie Knuckles' 'Black and White' earlier this year.

Cowie established Hook and Bellboy in 1992. With releases by artists including Transa, 808 State and Christopher Lawrence, he caught onto the trance wave as it was sweeping through Europe, before it spun down its cheesy spiral. "It's a shame that trance has become a dirty word. It's a very valid genre which I believe was cut down too early and replaced with extremely boring proggy trance which has about six months left.

"Trance did become way too cheesy with your Ferry Corsten's of the world so the magazines had enough and decided the game [was] over. I do feel sorry for the lost careers that many trance artists had. But they will just have to reinvent themselves I guess."

Known for their distinctive sounds, Hook for the trancier side and Bellboy for the tech-house grooves that he's so fond of, in the first five years, 95 percent of the labels' releases were produced by Cowie. A perfectionist or simply a matter of strict quality control- "I always kept an ear open for other artists to join the label, but I can honestly say I never heard a thing in the first five years that would fit in with the labels' sound. I became very protective of the sound and I suppose it became even harder for me to open the doors to other artists."

With a population of little more than 200, 000 you wouldn't be remiss for suggesting that nothing much happens in Aberdeen, Cowie's hometown in Northern Scotland. While Glasgow has had its success stories with indie label Chemical Underground and dance labels such as Soma and Limbo, in Aberdeen many have come and gone. "Aberdeen has many clubs and caters for the dance scene across the board. Although it does have a small town mentality and you will hear stuff like 'What! Start a label- No it would never work'. Now Aberdeen doesn't have any labels because we have moved to London."

While it took eight years, the move to London was well timed for Cowie. "The rot had set in and I had begun to start thinking about pension schemes and stuff. I realised I had become scared to take a chance so thought a move to London should be in order.

"If I had moved to London years ago, I don't think I would have been so prolific, and diverse. At the end of the day there wasn't much else to do [in Aberdeen] but music… There have been benefits to moving like being able to meet people in the industry face to face. I can now spot a bullshitter within 20 seconds."