Interview: Rob Luis, co-owner of iconic Brighton label Tru Thoughts


Iconic Brighton record label Tru Thoughts turned eighteen in 2017 and we are celebrating with a big birthday party, featuring two stages of funk, soul, tropical and electronic music. Co-owner and founder Rob Luis tells us more about the label, past, present and future.

What can audiences expect from the October 18th Birthday Party, which features some well-known names alongside newer signings?

A good celebration of some of the music that we have been releasing since the label began in Brighton. It is exciting to do a larger venue in our home town with just Tru Thoughts artists on the line up too. I am sure people will hear music they are familiar with alongside music that will be new to their ears with this line up.

Tru Thoughts has signed artists across all genres. What is the ethos of the label, and what do you look for in potential new signings?

The label has always been about supporting artists with their own strong musical vision. I like that Tru Thoughts does not push artists to make certain styles of music but just encourage them to be creative. My taste in music is quite wide and that is reflected in the variety of music we sign to Tru Thoughts. Nowadays alongside that strong creative side, we need to have artists who are prepared to work hard. The music industry is quite tough so hard work is a key factor not just good music.

What are some of the highlights in terms of the people you have worked with over the years?

I have really enjoyed working with Flowdan recently and releasing Grime music is very exciting for me. I used to try and get in touch with Grime artists in the days of MySpace to try and support their music but their world of London and Pirate Radio was away from mine! Watching the success of an artist like Bonobo is nice, as it is great to have been a part of his musical journey. The success of Hot 8 playing to so many people is brilliant. Of course working with Quantic across so many albums has been a big highlight…he is such a genius.

What were your original aims when you started Tru Thoughts in 1999?

The label started by trying to support music that I felt did not have a creative platform. It was only at our 10 year anniversary that I actually stopped for the first time to look back in any detail about what we had done at Tru Thoughts, as we were writing sleeve notes for an anniversary release. Before then we just kept pushing forward learning from mistakes and building from any success we had (which we pretty much do now). I am very happy where the label is today. We have great artists and a great team working at Tru Thoughts pushing the music.

What is your own musical background?

I have always been a big fan of music from a young age and got really into Hip Hop aged 11. DJing since I was 16 and running club nights since I was 18. I am not musical (as in I cannot play any instruments or sing or rap!) but I have a real love of music and searching new music to my ears (whether new or old).

How important has it been to keep Tru Thoughts 100% independent?

It is important to be independent. We have always been able to sign unusual music that might not necessarily sell 10,000’s but is worth supporting and giving a platform and this is the advantage of being independent. We have also had a number of successful artists who sell well. We have nine of us working from the Brighton office and two working in LA, USA and we can do this by being a dynamic independent.

How do you view the current music scene in Brighton. How has it changed over the last 18 years? Do you plan to keep Brighton as your main base?

The Brighton scene seems great. I am really into Bobbie Johnson and Lebeaux. I really like Normanton Street and how they are pushing the soulful side of music in Brighton. Shogun Audio do their Drum & Bass thing really well putting Brighton on the map. I have found Brighton has always been a creative place with lots of interesting specialist music scenes which can help motivate all artists. I personally am quite settled in Brighton and like the pace of life here. It is easy enough to get to London for any meetings and we travel around too.

At 18, Tru Thoughts is now grown up. What are your plans for its future?

I think it is important not to take anything for granted where we are today. I like the age range of artists we have on the label and want to continue to support artists already making a living from music and artists just starting on the path.

Tru Thoughts 18th Birthday Party is at Brighton Dome on 18 October.