Label Love #3: Emotional Response/Rescue


From Timothy J Fairplay to Suns of Arqa via Doulgas McCarthy and Baris K , the Emotional Recordings empire, helmed by the debonair Stuart Leath, has been quietly putting out supremely high quality music from across the spectrum – both old and new. Paying meticulous attention to detail – with beautiful artwork adorning the releases and a very discerning ear driving the track/artist selection – the label(s) have developed an ardent following among those in the know.  In third in our series of Label Love features we had a chat with Mr Leath about everything surrounding the label and its ethos.

Hi Stuart. You manage and run a small empire of independent labels, please tell us a little about each one – how they differ to one another and why you chose to split the releases in this way?


Well to be honest its no grand plan, in fact the split idea came by accident.  When the labels started it was with Chris from Soft Rocks and he came in with the name Emotional Response and so I said lets call the reissue sister label Emotional Rescue, as of course its play on words and the name of one of disco-inspired-period Rolling Stones gems.   


Emotional Response was to be new music, but not dance or club stuff, because Chris already had the Kinfolk and Vibrations labels.   So more experimental, ambient, drone, kraut or balearic etc, while Emotional Rescue is simply licensed and remastered reissues.   


Then Chris decided to drop out after a couple releases in so I just carried on with it and realised I could now dip in to more club aimed music, so first was Emotional Relish which formed after after Andy Blake had sent me his dub of Headman and then Scott played me the music hed done with Robi and Douglas McCarthy.  The idea of doing the 4 EP series came from that – taking the digital only tracks of Relish and putting them on vinyl – simply to get my friends music on to vinyl. 


Finally from that came Especial. Jamie (Paton) played me the tracks off the Bizarre Feeling EP in demo form last year and he was not getting much interest from labels or distributors.   Then around Xmas I popped down in to Andrew and Tims studio bunker while Jamie was doing a session and heard it again and thought Ive got to put this out myself.    


So Especial is in effect a sub label to Response, aimed at the dance floor rather than the head. 


What is the most satisfying part of running the labels and whats the most frustrating?


Getting the music out is the most satisfying.   Other things come with it like finding it, working with the artists in putting a release together etc.  The art aspect comes after that and now its more established, building some sort of roster I guess is creeping in, although nothing is really that planned out too far ahead.

You recently put out a great Suns of Arqa record. Tell us the ins and outs of getting that one out, I know …


Well it followed the early SOA release I did the Brujo Magic EP – last year.   Im a fan of a lot their early music and while much of their music is now tarnished with that world hippy dance tag, I figured by reissuing some of the good ones it might open up some ears and minds.    A bit like a rehabilitation for young ears who might dismiss something because of its pigeon-holed.    


So after Brujo went well I turned to the idea of putting out some of Muslimgauzes music out as Im a huge fan, so choosing the Re-mixs was easy.   I love Byrns music, his outlook, his history, his influence on new producers like say Vatican Shadow or Shackleton and the fact it had never come on vinyl before sealed the deal.     I really think its a proper meeting of the music of the two artists. 


The releases feature some lovely artwork, whos responsible and how integral do you see it to the releases?


The artwork is central for me doing this as I started the labels with the idea that they were art projects rather than grand money making schemes. I was lucky that Paul (Apiento) from Test Pressing offered to have Village Green Studios, where he is a director, to work the logos and early releases.     


They really created a label style for each one and although weve both now moved on due to workload, I am eternally grateful.   I now work with a few people on each label, Robi Headman for Emotional Relish and recently some super talented screen printers in Lindsay from Firecracker Records and Spike at Honest Jons, while for Especial Jamie (Paton) is doing all the sleeve designs so watch this space.  


On all though I have tried to work as Art Director to get a vibe across, so I should apologise now to everyone whos had to put up with me.



With Emotional Rescue, what kind of ratio do you come up against when requesting to re-release stuff, Im assuming the answer isnt yes every time?!


About 10-20% of approaches get to a release I would say.   The nos are split between no reply at all or not interested or dont own the rights, but a good percentage is also that they are working with another label.


Ive missed out on a bunch of releases to other labels, but that is not something to worry about as its not a competition.   Im the first to admit when other labels are more suited to reissuing a record than I am


Have there been any holy grails that you just cant get the rights to for love nor money?


Yes for sure, loads. Most diggers will probably know a lot and I wouldnt want to give too much away as there are always new discoveries that are mind-blowing.  


The all time music personal favourite has to be Charles Bullens Lifetones album.    It was recorded a mile from where Ive lived for the past 20 years, is full of my favourite musical references in post punk and dub and is just such a heartfelt piece of music.  


Charles is an allusive guy but I did manage to find out where he lived and made an approach but I wont say more than that except it didnt happen at that moment but was very amusing too in a good way.      Quite a few DJ / Collector friends have actually said it would be cool if this one didnt come out and I know what they mean totally, but I have heard recently that it might in fact be coming so lets see.       


Listening to the stuff across all of your releases to date, the most striking thing to me is that this is definitely a mature sound youre cultivating. I cant imagine too many kids picking it up but can imagine it going down a storm with the 30 plus brigade. Out of interest, are the artists you work with all 30 plus themselves?


Well that could make sense as Im in my (early) 40s, but there are a couple of 20 somethings involved, just they are a minority.    I listen and love a lot of music and totally think the future should come from each new generation, no matter whether I get it or not.   


Im just following my own path and not stressing out about what is in or out, but I would say I wont be releasing any music where it sounds like someones spent several days reconstructing a Mood2Swing hi hat sound to create another bland homogenous House record!


Dont get me wrong I really like a lot of the music that has emerged out of the House rebirth, as well as what has appeared via the cassette scene and guys like 1991, but my favourite younger producer has to be Bullion.   He includes so many references in his music while being new and fresh and also, importantly to me, sounding very British.      


What do you think about the economy around the independent record industry? Ive read you say that you cant make a thing unless you sell 1,000 copies of a record, yet you (and many other independents) are only pressing 300. Where it may be all well and good to be a passionate hobbyist, isnt there a real danger of the industry combusting if everyones losing money?


Ha, did I?   Probably as I am quite vocal at times. I cant comment on other labels or how many they press but I guess what I mean is if you included the hours you put in and if you took a wage from that then you would be making a huge loss.   


Sometimes I do only press 300 copies but others have been a lot more than that after represses so it evens out.   Ive definitely seen a (small) uplift in numbers since starting so maybe that bares out what people are saying that vinyl sales are on the up.   


I think there will always be people who are prepared to release records for fun or love of it and as long as it stays that way its cool.   Also, having more than one label helps!   


I know that your release schedule is pretty hectic to say the least over the next couple of months, can you give us a rundown of whats forthcoming?


I was a bit nave and daft to release so much this spring / summer, but its pretty much done now.   Each label has its own sounds for me, so going forward I want to just keep putting out good music, but I will definitely do less of it.   I took August off so in September will see a steady return of the labels with the final Emotional Relish release with although Dan Averys Airstrike EP.


Ive heard talk of a trip to Dusseldorf in the pipeline, for which you may even be joined by a R$N scribe, can you tell us a bit about this?


Yep its happening.   It is to celebrate and launch the release of the Musiccargo album on Emotional Response.    I have actually put back the album to the Autumn because I wanted to it to stand alone from the releases on the labels this summer, as I think the music is so good.  


Emotional Response is the label that needs the most work and love, but is actually my favourite of all the family of labels.  RSN headboy is down to come (uh oh – sub ed), as is Tako from the killer Redlight Records in Amsterdam and even young Lexx over in Zurich mumbled he might drive up when I saw him at the weekend (I hope hes reading this!).   


Could be a good one.   


Thanks Stuart, anything else you want to add?


Yes, look out for a mixtape coming soon from Apophenia!  

Find out more: / Emotional Response Facebook / Emotional Rescue Facebook  


Joe Evans