In the latest instalment of Labels, we're speaking to Andrew Thomson, one of the brains behind Huntleys & Palmers. Established in 2007, the party-organising imprint is responsible for introducing us to SOPHIE, DrumTalk and Auntie Flo. We discussed how Glasgow’s great at incubating creativity, the importance of vinyl, and the WTF element that lives inside all good music. He even gave us a free mix to digest.
What do you think Huntley and Palmers stands for? You don’t stick to a sub genre but there are definitely consistent sounds through all your releases.
I would like to think that our consistent ‘sound’ is more of a degree of quality, and maybe something more original and different from what is currently out there. Something I’m interested in is a track having immediacy and a certain ‘WTF is this?’ characteristic.
You did SOPHIE’s first release; what’s your take on the whole PC Music thing?
SOPHIE is extremely talented and his possible involvement on the new Madonna album comes as little surprise. It will only be a matter of time before mainstream pop music takes its cues from the likes of SOPHIE and PC Music. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is really down to the beholder. I think it’s exciting at the moment as they’re both pretty out there but I’m not sure if I share the same enthusiasm for the anticipated imitators that always follow such trailblazers.
There’s a lot of interesting music coming out of Glasgow, where you guys are now based, with artists like Golden Teacher and General Ludd. Is there a scene up there more akin to what H&P stands for?
I think there’s more of a ‘scene’ here than in London full stop. That’s a result of the city’s relatively small size and population (600k) than anything else. There’s always been exciting stuff happening, it just doesn’t always meet the glare of the London media.
The combination of bad weather and fairly inexpensive rent encourages a lot of creativity. The Turner prize was won by another Glasgow based artist this year - not sure what the count is now - but think that speaks a lot for creativity in the city. People are always collaborating on one project or another. Golden Teacher are a perfect example as they’re made up of individuals who are all involved in other bands ranging from noise, Afro, analogue house, etc.
Tell us about the African influence on the label: I heard you’re putting out a Highlife compilation?
It's important to state that 'Highlife' here doesn't refer to the Ghanaian music genre; it's the name of our Afro-futurist club night which we started 5 years ago. The aim is to promote obscure and interesting music from all over the world, not just Africa. We are particularly interested in the Black Atlantic diaspora but not limited to that. It started when all we were hearing was US and European House, techno, disco and electro. (Even Gilles Peterson was predominantly playing stuff like James Blake and Julio Bashmore at that point.) So we wanted to do something different and created Highlife.
Highlife, the label, has been releasing music over the past year from international artists with spotlights on the Middle East, South Africa, South America and India. These have only just been released on vinyl. A lot of people have been asking about where and how they can get the tracks without buying the record, so to tie in with the 5 year anniversary of the parties next year, we’re going to release a bespoke USB with the previous vinyl-only tracks, a bunch of new exclusives and maybe some mixes.
You are starting a show on Rinse FM, where do you think you fit in on their roster and how important is radio in our digital age?
I reckon there’s a definite home for our sound at Rinse because of the immediacy in the releases I mentioned, and also the international influences; London is the most international city in Europe, so the audience is out there.
I think people are now – with digital technology having accelerated so rapidly - looking toward a reliable platform to serve as a filter for the good stuff. To that end, we will be focusing on playing as many exclusives and pre-releases as possible. Outside of the club, radio is still the best place to share new music and break new tracks.
There is an intrinsic similarity between London, Berlin and Glasgow, all of which have been important in various clubbing scenes since the birth of dance music, but do you think London is slowly losing this to gentrification?
It’s possible, although gentrification in London has been going on for a long time. It seems to becoming more of a crisis and talking point as now there’s hardly anywhere in the city left without a Pret-A-Manger.
One thing I’m enjoying about being back in Glasgow is how little things have changed; gentrification is a word unfamiliar to most up here. I’ve been surprised to find some of the same shite bars are still here, and still shite.
With regards to dance music specifically, there is definitely a demand for at least one mid-sized club, probably a few smaller ones too. I did feel that promoting in London was like providing a service for the workers of the city looking for that release at the end of the week. The success of somewhere like the Dance Tunnel [in Dalston, London] isn’t purely down to its location and great booking policy. There is a growing market for similar venues, which isn’t being catered for and I guess that’s where rising rent prices make it much more difficult for someone to come along and get something started.
There’s definitely no lack of small labels releasing niche electronic music, it’s probably a doubled edged sword in that it’s easier than ever to set up a label but this glut of new arrivals perhaps waters down the importance of pressing vinyl.
There’s perhaps some truth to that, but there’s far less vinyl releases coming out each week compared to digitals, so I suppose vinyl serves as a filter in some respects. Mediums such as DJs, promoters and radio stations are becoming more and more vital, which is no bad thing in my book.
The H+P label releases on both formats mainly because I want to make the music available to everyone, but I remember that before the label started, I wouldn’t feel that it would be an actual label unless there was a physical object to hold. I’m not sure if that was conditioned into me or not, it just felt right at the time.
What were your some of your favourite releases this year?
Not including label stuff…
And your least favourite releases of 2014?
There’s too much good music out there to record the bad.