Label Love #65: Huntleys & Palmers
How much do you like biscuits? This is a question which might seem rather odd considering that I am about to go on and write about a Scottish record label. Andrew is still haunted by the rather coincidental clash of names which sees his record label share a brand name with an ex rich tea manufacturer. However, few people are aware of the true meaning behind the somewhat abstract reference.
When reading through a 50th anniversary piece on the Wolfenden Report Andrew became inspired by an old turn of phrase which was used to decriminalise homosexuals and prostitutes in the 1950's. These groups became respectively known as 'Huntleys' and 'Palmers'. Well aware of the connotations of such terms Andrew opted to reinvent the turn of phrase, egalitarianism has always been a staple of his ideology, the sounds simply followed suit.
In 2007 a musical entity emerged discreetly from the Glaswegian underground, they have since gone on to release some hugely influential music from the likes of Auntie Flo, Sophie, Lena Wilikens, Mehmet Aslan, Golden Teacher and Wolf Muller. Having evolved from the party culture of Glasgow's dive bar basements Huntleys & Palmers, as well as its affiliated Highlife label, has become one of the leading lights in experimental club music in Glasgow and beyond. Andrew Thomson, who has been the driving force behind the imprint, remains a man amongst the shadows. He continues to dodge the bullshit and focus on releasing exquisite records, each often more ambitious than the last. Next year the label will celebrate it's tenth anniversary, which is quite an achievement considering its humble beginnings as a mid noughties basement do.
The past two years have been the most significant in the label's timeline. Auntie Flo released his second album with the label in 2015, now some considerable time later the music is still being picked up by the likes of Dixon and more. Andrew reflects on the nature of what has been one of the label's biggest releases to date.
"The intention had been to get all of the tracks from Brian's album remixed but there was one track that we hadn't wanted anyone to touch. It didn't need it, it was perfect as it is but then The Revenge produced a simple edit. I got it. It was kind of a tool almost, it just made it more compatible to play on the dancefloor, he left all the spacing in it. Then all of a sudden we discovered that Dixon was rinsing it. He's even knocked up an edit of his own – which is now forthcoming on Philomena. I find it an amusing story about music having a life of its own once its out there. You just don't know what's going to happen to it."
Auntie Flo's 'Theory Of Flo'
The lifetime of a record label is short lived, it can be difficult to maintain momentum and remain relevant in an age where music is limitless and often excessive. The worlds creative output is vast, as a result the achievements of individuals can sometimes be forgotten and lost amidst a sea of information. Four Tet, Joakim, Aeroplane, James Holden, Silver Apples and an array more have all played for Andrew in Glasgow, much of this remains undocumented and sadly falls victim to the passage of time. Around Glasgow you will occasionally stumble across an old framed club poster in the likes of Stereo or Saramago, those were the days when the label was young, free and innocent. Andrew plans to release a book reflecting on the visual identity of the label across the ten years.
"The plan is to run ten parties in the UK, five in Glasgow, five in London. We want to try and do stuff with people who have played in the past, there are so many people who have played whom I don't think peple have ever even realised. It's an opportunity to make a big deal out of that. We're also going to do a book, which is something that i'd never really thought about doing before, it will act as a zine or journal and will feature a collection of prints. It's more to document the artwork than anything, it will be good to go back and show off the old posters which people have forgotten about."
Parties have always been a fundamental aspect of Huntleys & Palmers. The label itself originated from booking uniquely singular artists, it's a claim to fame which led to the label taking over Thursday night proceedings at the much loved Plastic People. During this time Andrew went on to book everyone from Hunee to DJ Sotofett, Carl Craig and beyond. The ten year celebration period will quite simply follow suit.
Huntleys & Palmers Thursday Night at Plastic People
Arguably one of Huntleys & Palmers greatest achievements has come in the form of its ability to break new artists. It very much remains a passion of Andrew and has stood him in good stead across the years. Auntie Flo, Mehmet Aslan and Hi & Saberhagen all released their first 12" record with the label. Many also often forget that Sophie, who has since gone on to become a PC Music affiliated superstar, first released his debut EP with Huntleys & Palmers back in 2012.
"I've only recently made the realisation that most of the artists i'm working with are people who are releasing their first ever record. Which has greater risk and more work involved than dealing with established artists who are considered an easier sell, but taking that route isn't very interesting to me. As a result, one thing I find myself doing regularly is managing expectations. Nowadays, people see the music world playing out on social media and I think it accelerates their expectations that things will start happening overnight, when in reality, it's usually a much lengthier process to start getting recognition. The main reason I've started the new label to strip away as much time between signing and releasing as possible – getting rid of artwork and excess manufacturing costs and keeping the focus purely on the music. Now things are poised to get started, I'm really excited about sharing a lot of amazing new material and artists."
This commitment to breaking music from those unfound previously remains vital to the label. In the recent months Huntleys & Palmers announced a new sub label which is simply titled 'Belters'. It's perfectly apt given the grassroots of the label and its reputation amongst Glaswegians.
What lies beyond this for the label is yet to be seen. Glasgow has always been a hotbed of creativity when it comes to the world of music, it's rainy as hell, maybe that's why. However, the evolution of labels such as Huntleys & Palmers indicate the fact that is is very much possible to evolve beyond the Scottish landscape. As Andrew said earlier, music has a life of its own, Huntleys & Palmers will continue to deliver it, where it may land who knows?The journey goes on…
Listen to an exclusive mix recorded by Andrew Thomson at a Huntleys & Palmers party in Glasgow with Lena Wilikens.
"This is the opening hour recorded at the CCA in Glasgow where Lena Willikens and myself took it in turns to play all night. Lena is someone I really enjoy playing with as her sound is distinctively broad and allows me to explore the weirder side of things."
Follow Huntleys & Palmers on Facebook HERE.