To celebrate Record Store Day 2013 which takes place at record stores all across the UK tomorrow I wanted this week’s interview to focus on the art of music so I met up with the owners of independent record label Ears Have Eyes to discuss music, supporting your local record store and their first release featuring London band Snapped Ankles.
South London based Miles and Joe launched Ears Have Eyes Records in December 2012 to ‘release music they like on vinyl’. Not wanting to do things by halves the first release EHE001 was a limited edition, hand numbered 10″ vinyl called True Ecology (Shit Everywhere), which is the name of the title track. Since it was released at the end of last year it has been hotly tipped in NME and has been mentioned in a number of UK and international music blogs including SeeSound, Elusive Little Comments and More Than Disco to name but a few.
Snapped Ankles are a supremely talented post-punk outfit who throw together a fusion of searing off kilter post-punk with a healthy dose of synthesized noise. Their music is a collision of raw analogue synthesizers and drum machines with guitars and drums which results in an energised post-punk sound. Think fast dancefloor rhythms with a jagged edge. The title track brims with energy while the second track on the A side, Nowhere, is a cover of a track from the little known Belgian noise-wave artist Snowy Red. For the new release Snapped Ankles have made Nowhere their own, infusing it with their trademark rhythm and pace.
The B side features a remix of True Ecology by Ears Have Eyes Records label owners Miles and Joe under the production name Fools. Their re-work takes the original in a totally new direction, giving it a deep, dubbed out house / disco sound.
The cover artwork is designed by label co-owner Miles in a clean, bold modernist style which is reminiscent of some of the early Factory Records cover art. True Ecology (Shit Everywhere) is available to buy direct from the label at www.earshaveeyes.co.uk and in selected independent record stores including Rough Trade, Flashback Records (Essex Road), Sister Ray (Soho) and Norman Records (Leeds). Each person who buys the vinyl will receive a code to download the digital release for free.
Here is what the Ears Have Eyes Records label owners Miles and Joe had to say about music, vinyl, record shops and why they do what they do:
How would you describe EHE Recordings to someone who has never heard of it?
M: We’re a label with a penchant for the weird and we are not bound by any genre restrictions. We will always release music that we discover or create ourselves. Continually searching for the peak of eternal light. J: Miles sums it up pretty nicely actually. We’ve always listened to and been inspired pretty much anything. The focus is on releasing music we like with a weird edge, whether that be punk, house, folk or anything else for that matter.
What inspired you to set up a label?
M: I’ve always wanted to dedicate as much of my life as possible to music. Having a label is a way to do exactly what we want with music, when we want. Labels like Honest Jon’s that have a diverse range of artists on their books are ultra interesting to me. They’ve got Actress next to Bonnie Prince Billy next to Lee Perry. Their ‘Sounds Unlimited’ ethos is inspiring. Stefan Marx’s ace artwork for Smallville and the artwork on the Ghost Box releases helped us decided us to not just rubber stamp the vinyl and actually spend some time and extra money on the artwork and printing. A record is a beautiful thing. We wanted to create a label with beautiful records to both look at and listen to. J: Ears Have Eyes first started as a party not long after we both moved to london with another mate of ours. It began in an “under the radar” venue in Whitechapel and was a pretty chaotic affair. It was based on an ethos of partying with friends to whatever music we wanted to play and we had some amazing nights. For me, setting up the label was the next logical step, putting out music we like with artists who become friends. Inspiration wise I’d have to say Peace Frog was the biggest influence for me in thinking how I’d want to run a label. To have the beautiful folk music of Jose Gonzales, the relentless dancefloor electronics of Kenny Larkin and the oddball dub-pop of Little Dragon all under one label is amazing.
What do you think sets Ears Have Eyes Records apart from other labels?
M: I don’t think we’re that different to other labels. We release vinyl and we release digital. If you buy the vinyl you can get any digital format for free. There’s nothing that really sets us apart operations wise. But at the moment we do it for love not for business. We want to take our time, take care, have fun. We hand number everything and everything is limited edition. We won’t repress. J: This idea of setting yourself apart seems like a big issue these days with the large number of people releasing music and the declining number of people willing to pay for it. I think sometimes people think too much about consciously setting yourself apart. You have to stick to what you believe and work hard at it. If other people like it too then you’ll be successful.
What did you love about Snapped Ankles that made you want to release it on your own label?
M: The name Snapped Ankles is what originally made me go and see them play live. I saw them in an old warehouse just off Brick Lane at the end of 2011. They played at 1am in green moss suits and they sounded like Devo and LCD sound system and Joy Division all at the same time. It went off. They’re a half electronic/ half traditional band and they use old drum machines and synths, incorporate wood into the mic stands and have bells hanging off their arms. I couldn’t imagine anything better for a band to look and sound like. Visually really organic but the sound is harsh jagged electronic tinged weirdness. The juxtaposition of these two things was perfect for our first release, EHE001. J: When Miles first sent me the Snapped Ankles’ music I was actually laid up on my sofa unable to walk after smashing my foot up. My first thought when I saw his email was that he was taking the piss to be honest! Then I listened to the music and was blown away. We’d been talking about starting the label on and off for a while and this seemed like the perfect way to launch it.
What is your favourite record and why?
M: At the moment Snapped Ankles, True Ecology (Shit Everywhere) because it sounds fantastic and looks pretty. J: Good answer Miles. Other than the Ankles (of course) it’s hard to pick my favourite record. No, not hard. Impossible.
What is your favourite record store and why?
M: There’s a nice little run of shops you can take in central London, starting on Hanway Street with JB’s then along Oxford Street to Berwick Street and Broadwick Street where you can pop into Sister Ray’s, Sounds of the Universe, Music & Video Exchange and then to Phonica on Poland Street. J: Wow – another difficult question. I’d have to go for a record shop that doesn’t exist anymore, Flip in Shrewsbury. This was where I first got the love for digging for and buying vinyl. It sold some dubious dance music but they did have a second hand section where you could dig out some absolute gems. I remember pulling out a Trax records compilation (that started my love for old Chicago house music) and some early Orbital releases.
Why do you think it’s important for people to buy music from their local record stores?
M: I think it’s more fun and exciting to spend hours looking through records, hunting for music you love in shops. I tend to take more risks buying from shops, decisions based on texture and what the cover looks like not just what it sounds like. And there’s definitely a buzz for me from that, until you’ve reached your dust limit on the old lungs. You can also get first hand advice (good or bad) from the people that work there. I got scolded for buying the King of Comedy OST in a shop once because they guy working hated Robbie Robertson. There’s this awful photo of Scorsese and Robertson on the sleeve looking all 80s and garish and we had conversation about who you’d rather be trapped in a lift with. That’s something you don’t get checking out on Paypal. J: Yeah record shops are a vital hub for like-minded people where you can meet folks and feel part of a scene. Also whenever I go to a new city I always head to local record stores to get a feel for the place. It’s where you see the flyers for the local nights and where DJs and music collectors hang out. One thing I would say is that record store staff seem to have got a lot friendlier over the last few years. I remember them being almost as rude and condescending as French waiters but they seem to be all smiles now.
Why is vinyl so important to you?
M: It goes back to what I said before about wanting to make beautiful records not just to listen to but something tangible, to hold. This is much less effective with a small thumbnail and an mp3 on a computer. We’re all about the physical. J: For me vinyl is simply the best format for listening to, collecting and DJing music and the main thing is that it lasts. It’s something you can hold, feel and you hear the crackle when you put the stylus down. I’m not a purist, I buy lots of digital music, but it was important for us to put out vinyl out because it feels more lasting. People seem to have a problem with paying for digital music which I can’t understand. Someone put their heart and soul into writing it and people want to steal it for free! You can’t steal a record!
What are you listening to right now?
M: I’m listening to a lot of mixes at the moment. There’s a really excellent DJ Qu podcast on XLR8R from a month or so ago that I’ve listened to a lot. I’ve also had ‘Comin Home Baby!’ by Mel Torne on repeat which is one of the records that Jonny Trunk has been flogging on his 50p Fridays. J: I’ve actually just re-discovered the Dare album by the Human League. Such an amazing album! Darkness in particular, can’t get enough of that track. New music wise, for electronic music the best stuff for me has been coming out of Holland on labels like Clone, Delsin and Rush Hour. They bridge the divide between classic sounding house and techno and pushing things forward. Other than that I’ve been listening to a lot of afrobeat after picking up a Strut compilation from a charity shop around the corner from me.
What are you working on right now?
M: We’re working on the next release which we won’t say too much about now but it will be an off centre house/techno record I think. It will be out later this year with a bit of luck. I’ve also got a release coming out on the wonderful Cambrian Line records based in Berlin which will be my first solo release under the name M.S.S.S. J: We’re putting a lot of energy into promoting the first release and planning the second at the moment. I’ve got another EP coming out on Vitalik called XXX under the name Joe Europe which I’m really excited about. Other than that it’s time for me to start writing some new tracks!
What should people expect from EHE in the future?
M: Aside from the records we’re looking at putting on a new regular party in Paris and will be heading over for our annual party in Mainz, Germany in the winter. J: Yeah all of that plus we’ve got our next Disco Biscuit party coming up on Saturday 27th April at Bar 512 in Dalston which is a night we put on with good mates Wil Troup and Joe “Robots” Roberts. We’ve got Capracara coming to play this time which is really exciting, it’s going to be a top night!
You can listen to and buy the Snapped Ankles, True Ecology (Shit Everywhere) limited edition, hand numbered 10″ vinyl here.