Sean Brosnan is the owner and A&R behind both the London based Needwant and renowned Future Disco record labels. A proven curator and selector, he is a passionate record collector and musical explorer, with an infectious love for discovering both the latest records and the digging deep into the past. That same selection expertise has taken him across the globe as a DJ and for many years one of the coveted terrace residents at the now legendary Carl Cox Tuesday nights at Space Ibiza.
Possibly best known for Future Disco compilation series, Sean has come to define and shape a genre in itself, consistently mapping tomorrow’s dancefloor and a hotbed of producers to watch. Future Disco continues to provide one of the most fun and interesting parties as well as selections of any music brand out there today. Much like Sean’s approach to DJing, great selections should ‘always take inspiration from the past but reinvent for the future.’
Ahead of the latest Future Disco release titled, ‘Technicolour Nights’ we decided it was time to find out more about the label and the mind powering its success.
As the owner and A&R or London based Needwant and Future Disco you must have a huge amount of new music passing through your hands. Is there a particular track, EP or album that stands out for better or worse?
I think in general there is an overwhelming amount of music being released each week if you are just a fan, A DJ or have a record label it’s hard to filter and get to what you want. Ironically streaming makes it easier than ever to find and consume music but it seems harder than ever to find what you want. Sometimes too much choice is bad.
I listen to a huge amount of music each week as I’m A&Ring and listening to demos, new tracks for the albums and radio show, also old records that I buy and promos too. Every now again a demo will catch my ears and I’ll want to listen again, I love buying old records too and discovering a hidden gem. For one released album recently that stands out the Kornel Kovacs album – I need to buy that on vinyl.
You previously held a residency at Space Ibiza on the legendary Tuesday night with Carl Cox. You were also invited to play at Carl Cox – The Final Chapter. Do you think Space and the people you met along the way have shaped your career?
It was a great opportunity to play there each week and to such big rooms. I guess you find Disco music again in big rooms lately, but 5/6 years ago when I was playing it wasn’t the norm so it was great to play tracks to a crowd who was so pumped and ready to go on a Tuesday night.
The Carl Cox night at Space was a one-off, it was 8000 people each week, all nationalities, all ages and a pretty broad range of music across the rooms. I think the island misses that event. You had to be quite versatile as a DJ as I played the first record each week and it can go from being an empty room to full in 10minutes. I’ll always be thankful for that opportunity, mainly it allowed me to meet so many people in Ibiza and bring DJs I loved to the island for the first time. People like John Talabot, Tiger & Woods, Kink. I felt like we laid some foundation there.
It is always easy to reminisce and look at things through ‘rose-tinted glasses’. How do you think dance music compares now to say the 80’s and in particular disco? Is there anything you wish still existed or glad to see the back of?
I’m generally optimistic about music, different scenes and the future. It’s easy to be cynical and look back and think it was better and let us be honest you can never replace those early music experiences when you are a teenager. Discovering music, going to a club or seeing a band for the first time. Ultimately it’s still about the same thing, great records, great clubs and great people – Community.
One of the only things I do miss is records given a bit more time to emerge and become classics. It doesn’t happen so much now because it’s so fractured in genres, so many records, so fast paced with new releases, fewer filters; As a result, records don’t really get the chance.
Also, I think in dance music we look back at legendary nights and night clubs and they were weekly events. That makes a special atmosphere, the crowd know the DJs, the DJs know the crowd, you build something together and that’s why they were so special. At the moment it’s all one-off big events, which are great but you don’t get that intimacy and you sometimes get 10 headliners playing 90minutes each, no one knows each other and it’s a harder to get that real magic of the clubs of yesteryear.
Future Disco has recently celebrated its tenth birthday with a new album titled, ‘Technicolour Nights’. There is some great disco on there and some exclusive content. Did you have an end goal in mind when putting the album together or was it a case of having a starting point and seeing where you ended up?
Thanks! I always have a rough idea of what I’m trying to do in the back of my mind, but I’m trying to pick the cream of the crop from what’s out there at any one moment. Therefore I’m at the mercy of what people are making too. Increasingly I’m doing edits or chatting to artists about creating exclusive tracks for the album, it makes it more interesting, more unique. It also creates another new challenge for myself when I’ve been doing it so long.
For this one, the name ‘Technicolour Nights’ came at the end of the process. I wanted to come up with a name that summed up a kind of freedom of expression and the colourful nature of Disco and House. Once I saw the final sleeve I was like Technicolour Nights makes sense.
After 10 years of Future Disco, how do you ensure the brand maintains forward motion? Are there any tips you have for longevity?
Keep taking risks, keep being passionate and carve your own path. It’s not always easy but you have to listen to your gut feeling. It’s also about the other people involved, Billy and Luke who work with me in the office, they’ve have been involved less time but they bring new energy, it’s never me alone on this journey.
Future Disco has crafted a unique sound that has travelled the world. Whether it be a flamboyant disco night at Pacha Ibiza, loft parties at NYC’s Schimanski or hosting stages at Gottwood Festival. What do you think makes the brand so appealing?
I think we captured a sound that no one had really bottled before, it was Disco for a new generation. When I started it felt like a very East London thing but then when I released the first compilation I realised there were lots of people around the world that also loved this music as much I did and it’s grown from there. I’ve been lucky to travel to great cities and play records and I look forward to doing that more in the future too.
If there was one artist past or present that you could collaborate with who would it be and why?
I think Larry Levan, As a DJ, producer and remixer he led the way. He had that right balance of understanding the importance of sound but also the atmosphere and never losing sight of the fact people just want to have a good time.
Dance music has always been a pretty open & forward-thinking community with its members at the forefront of social change. Do you think dance music has a role to play in the political landscape? For example the recent Extinction Rebellion protests or Brexit debacle.
The acid house arrival and early raves really set the agenda for dance music in the UK and it’s always felt a bit like an outsider movement for me. I think when you can mobilise thousands of people and particularly young people I think you can activate social change, 100%.
What I love about dance music and why I always wanted to work in it, is it’s so proactive, it’s full of entrepreneurs, ideas and passionate people working across so many fields and changing society every week. There is a whole subculture that exists outside the mainstream supported by a network, that’s now global: magazines, websites, record labels, events, DJs, sound systems, producers, clubs and many more are all employed by an industry that has nothing to do with the mainstream and with its own values and ideals.
I like it best when club culture or dance music isn’t political for the sake of it, but just has core values that spill out into mainstream culture. If you think about the ideals of freedom of expression or acceptance of gay culture, for example, dance culture has absolutely lead the way and Britain is a better place for it.
There has been a lot of attention given to artists physical and mental health recently and rightly so. What do you do to keep healthy?
I think it’s a fair debate, for all the good expressed above, dance music is built on excess and a world that never stops with social media glowing with endless images of success.
As for me, I’m currently on a self-imposed non-drinking period for the first time ever, I exercise regularly, but I think ultimately it’s always about taking a step back. It’s easy to get sucked into it all and I have been in the past, but this isn’t life or death. I actually really love going walking, seeing amazing views, which couldn’t be more contrasting to an urban club digital lifestyle – but for me, that’s the point. It’s the yin and the yang.