Refuge Recordings are a label who have popped up time and again on the pages of Le Visiteur. Based in Australia they combine releases from some of the finest artists from across the globe with a whole host of home grown talent, something that we love to see here at LV. Delivering scintillating dancefloor focused house music that is highly reverent of what has gone before but with a decidedly modern feel. They are a perfect blueprint for labels today. With a fantastic release incoming next week from Joey Coco & Jason Hodges (more on that incoming) I thought it was high time that I tracked spoke to one of the heads behind the label Oscar de Lima about all things Refuge along with some chat about his own successful DJ career.
Oscar also stepped up to the decks for Le Visiteur and delivered an absolute killer of a mix for our Selectors series. If you love this as much as I do please jump over to Soundcloud and give it a share and help us spread the love.
Hi Oscar thanks for talking to us today,
First up please can you give us a little background on your personal journey in music
My house was always around futbol & music. My dad, Pablo was what we call a ‘tumbador, a percussionist so I was really influenced by Fania Records which gave birth to artists like Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon & Celia Cruz. Up until about 14/15, I was into hip hop through the likes of Dr. Dre, De La Soul, KRS One, ATCQ but It wasn’t until my brother, Dani introduced me to Kings of Tomorrow, Cassius and Junior Sanchez. A turning point as I got into vinyl, turntablism and essentially fell in love with the blend. This was when I started djing under Oscar de Lima which translates to Oscar from Lima in Spanish.
Oscar di Lima
What were some of the records which got you hooked on house music in the early days?
My early days were driven by whatever my brother, Dani was listening to and his friends.
These were the key records that shaped my style now:
Masters At Work – To Be In Love
I never really heard music like this that was so deep (for a 14 year old haha) and groovy and then had these drum breaks in the middle of the track. It was really a blend of latin culture and house music and this was what essentially became my style
Cassius – 1999
I used to watch Rage with my younger brother, Martin before futbol in the mornings and we would record the videos and play the audio over cartoons at home. This was such a fun record, I didn’t know what I was listening to but I just wanted to dance.
Ron Carroll – Back Together
On my 21st birthday, Jazzy Jeff did a house set at Tank and he opened with this and I didn’t know what to do with myself. At that time, the dancefloor was just much more soulful and between this and MAW, I always wanted to slow the dancefloor down.
What are some of your own personal favourite DJ moments from across the years, and what do you think makes the perfect club night?
Hi Ibiza // The Wild Corner
Last year,I got to play at The Wild Corner at Hi Ibiza and it was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had. The week before, Louie Vega was playing and I kept thinking ‘woah, louie was just here, now I am’
Goya Social Club // Madrid
My cousins live in Madrid and we set out to get me a gig at Goya. I’ve played there 5 times over the last 7/8 years and the last time I played there, I had so much family and friends that it felt like a local gig. Being able to travel and see so many familiar faces make a new dancefloor feel like a residency.
Music Room // Melbourne
I have been a resident here for the last 2 years and it’s a special place. Small, intimate, perfect booth and unreal sound system. We get to play 8 hour sets starting from 115 bpm chuggy house to 130 bpm acid. Not many places give you that freedom to control the dancefloor. I feel it’s made me appreciate the dancefloor in a different way. Big ups, JNETT!
Perfect Club Night:
This is a real tricky one for me because a little while ago, I thought I had established that but that story is for another time. I think it would be small room around 200-300 cap with well-tuned sound system and a big booth.
The people would need to be in love with the space, the staff and the culture.
Essentially a place where the groove ruled and the people wanted to just dance for hours on end.
The residents would be royalty and the guests would come to compliment that roster.
You are behind the brilliant Refuge Recordings based in Gold Coast. What lead you to the establish of the label?
Close friend, Adamwah had written some records for NYC label that went really well about 10/11 years ago. We had finished some follow up records and we couldn’t get anyone to listen to them. Not that they were even declining us but we didn’t get the chance to play them.
From that point, we said, if it hot, we will put it out. Refuge became a place where we would offer a home to the artists who were trying to make a career. Over time, we created bonds with our idols and now working with some quality artists all over the world. As an Australia label, we still reserve a lot of release slots for local artists and aim to connect them with our global fam.
Our mantra has always been, we love, release and play house music. There’s No Place Like House.
How would you describe the musical style and ethos of Refuge Recordings right now in 2024?
Refuge has really entered a new chapter over the last few years. I would say ‘Old school sound with a new school feel’. If it grooves, it’ll get released but we aren’t tied to a genre. We look at artists that are testing their own boundaries and committed to their future. We aim to build partnerships with artists and help guide them where we can.
And what do you think it is that makes Refuge Recordings really stand out against the competition?
Our label is small, our team is even smaller and we aim to lift up where we can to support their careers as much as possible. We do our best to create opportunities for our artists that have trusted us with their art.
We try and create a partnership that does not end at the release, exploring options for mixes, premieres, events and overall friendship and guidance.
We are committed to our quality.
What are some of your key releases from across the years?
Sondrio – Reaction
This has been a bit of an anthem at Revolver Upstairs pioneered by Boogs & Spacey Space. We used to get videos of people at Revolver hearing these djs play it all weekend. Huge record by one of our label staples, Sondrio. Setting the platform to work with Oliver Dollar on the remix too.
Jason Hodges, Joey Coco ft Emerson Alexander – Opus
Idea by Joey Coco and we brought in Hodges because we knew it hit his style. One of best releases to date that turned heads across the globe. Louie Vega, Mark Farina & Honey Dijon all spinning this cut that started the evolution of our label.
Oliver Dollar – Dope Tool
Oliver Dollar wrote ‘Dope Tool’ 12 years ago when he was a resident at Panorama Bar. We spoke about the release and I questioned him about the record being included. He told me straight, ‘Bruv, I’m telling you this is the one!’ Like clockwork, ‘Dope Tool’ is the essential cut that has been supported by major artists all over the world. Helping keep Refuge’s name in the game.
Junior Sanchez – Melbourne
Long time homie, Junior hit me up on IG and said ‘ I wrote this and thought of you, what you think?”. A record that allowed us to turn a corner with our idols. The feeling that artists we have admired all our lives would wake up and consider us allowed to feel proud of our work and keep pushing on. One of the best to ever do it.
What other labels do you admire? Who do you think does it right?
Labels that I admire.
Rekids, MIURA, Jack City, Purveyor Underground, Industry Standard, Heat Trax, Arms & Legs
For me, the guys that do it right at Purveyor Underground & No Art. Built on a solid roster and quality over everything.
How would you say the house scene is out in Australia right now? What are the exciting club nights and who are the heads from the scene who are really making a noise right now?
In my opinion, Australia has always been an electronic music country. While House music is very popular, the scene is still dominated by a lot of different electronic genres. This makes it very easy to hear lots of different genres. Its super strong but its not always focused just to house music.
With that in mind, there are some great clubs that offer up the very best.
Dane Gorrell – Club 77
Jnett – Music Room
Rob Anthony – Electric
Henry Who – Revolver Upstairs
Andrew 88 – 88 House of Friends
My fave Australian artists at the moment are Forge, Ritmiq, Jwalker, Josefina Tapia, Binofski, Jerk Boy, Joey Coco, Snaxx, Jacob Tompkins, Ca Lou.
What does a day in the life of Oscar de Lima look like at Refuge Recordings?
Well, I still have a full time job so that takes up most of the day but when I am not doing that, its label work, playing futbol and going to the beach. When I am not in the booth, I try to keep my life very light so spending time with my partner (shout out Svjet!) and hanging at the beach is where you’ll find me.
Where do you see the label going in the next 5 years?
Hopefully growing with our artist roster alongside building our capability to tour our international artists in Australia. We want to keep contributing to club culture and ideally have a weekly club night so we can rotate the crew
In these turbulent times for labels what are some of your essential essential tips for budding label owners out there?
1. Being organised will save you time and money. Keep your schedules tight
2. Spend your money on building artists not just releases
3. Remix fees will never move the needle
4. Do your best to cultivate a community, it will help you connect your artists to fans
5. Do it for the culture, not the fame.
Who are some of the artists from across the globe who you think are bringing something positive to the scene?
Personally, these are the artists/djs that are turning my head.
Tiptoes, Tucillo, Don Swing, Demuir, Ritmiq, Forge, Pinto (NYC), Aj Christou, The Checkup, M-High, Jazzmik.
As a DJ and music lover first and foremost, how do you source new music?
Digging on Beatport/bandcamp but also still hitting the record stores. I love supporting local labels so I try stay across what they are doing.
One of my fave radio shows is Big Pack from House Salad Music. Slothboogie also deliver amazing radio shows.
What can you tell us about the mix that you have done for Le Visiteur and what are some of the stand out tracks for you?
This mix is a blend of what I love playing. Deep, jackin’ souful with little latin flavour. I have some new bits from our label courtesy of Ben Silver, Jason Hodges, Joey Coco and Emerson Alexander.
What are your plans for 2024 and do you have any exciting projects that you are working on right now that we should be looking out for?
2024 is 10 years of Refuge so we are trying to organise something special. Hit us up if you want us in your city and we will definitely try to get there. The plan is to go on the road and meet the people that keep the label alive. Push out vinyl and keep rocking the dance.
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Tags: Oscar de Lima, Refuge Recordings