Neo-Psychedelia has become the fastest growing musical trend, and the genre that everyone who wants to be associated with. With that in mind, it’s easy to forget that it is people who make all of this possible and get the music out into the public domain in the first place.
Say Psych plans to address this issue by speaking to some of the labels most keenly associated with the best new psychedelia emerging and finding more about the men and women who are taking the time and energy to makes this great music accessible.
Next up we meet Blak Hand Records, a cassette only label who have become champions of some of the finest new music on offer.
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to speak to BSM. Firstly, tell us a bit about who’s involved with Blak Hand?
The label is run predominantly by myself, Brit Williams, in London UK, with help from Jacob Schoobridge-Chandler, a creative intern to help co-ordinate releases and social media design.
What was your motivation to start a record label and why the psych rock genre?
The label was started as an easy and affordable way to release music for our friends who were in bands, as there was a limitless amount of talent in Liverpool surrounding us. While also focusing on the emerging psychedelic scene in Liverpool at the time, we were aggravated by the rising cost of vinyl production so decided to use cassettes as a medium for the releases to keep the nostalgia factor in the scene at an affordable price.
Liverpool Psych Fest was the hottest new festival when we started and we wanted to jump on board in any way that we could. All of us are major fans of psych, so it felt like this was the kind of music we wanted to put out, so only felt appropriate to reach out to bands who were playing this kind of music. Psych falls into that 70s, nostalgic/hippy mind-power esthetic that we all shared, so when we put it on to cassette, that vintage sound was the perfect match. Since then we have released music for bands in Manchester, Stoke, Leeds and London, where Blak Hand Records is now based.
Where did the name come from, its quite unusual…
Blak Hand Records is a spin-off project of Blak Hand Design, an illustration company formed in Liverpool. Originally a concept of using the five fingers of a hand to distinguish the five sub-companies of “The Blak Hand”; Design, Records, TV, Photography and Clothing, it is Blak Hand Records which continues to create using the name.
After plenty of whiskey one winter night, designer Alex Wynne, filmmaker Dan Hewitson and I came up with the logo and concept for the label and the rest is history. Since then, Alex has moved on to focus with his garage/psych rock band Strange Collective, while Dan continues to work on his film projects around the U.K, leaving me in charge of the label.
Nice concept! Well the important bit now, tell us a bit about the bands you’ve put out to date
We’ve released 22 cassettes in three years, so we have quite a few amazing bands that we have worked with! To name a few CAESAR, TVAM, Strange Collective, The Stairs, Purple Heart Parade, Beach Skulls, Purs, Wild Birds of Britain and Psyence.
Did you have a vision for where you wanted the label to go?
We didn’t have a plan, if I’m honest! We just knew we wanted the music our friends were making to get heard – fast. The plan was to release cassettes until we got enough money together to start producing vinyl, and then everybody started producing vinyl and didn’t seem to give us that wow-factor.
With cassettes, we have been extremely surprised and lucky with the support from people and how in high demand we are! As most people may not know, we have transitioned into a company specialising in ‘Limited Edition Cassettes’ so bands don’t “sign” to us as they would a typical record label. We work with the artists and sort out what their vision is for the release, which is generally creating something special and collectible/ different than just a digital release. Each cassette is a little piece of art in its own, which we vibe off of.
Has there been a stand out moment?
Last year we were approached by the founders of the Independent Label Market to join their brand-new mentoring project with the London Arts Council. They chose us as their ‘little brother’ label to support us for a year and help create awareness about us as an up-and-coming record label in the UK. They have given us a lot of advice and promotion over the last few months, and we are really looking forward to working with them on a few projects this summer! It’s so cool to have someone with such a big following believe in us.
On the flip side, have there been any disasters?
Absolutely! You can never been too careful with anything, even if you’ve been doing it a while. I’d say our biggest ‘disaster’ was when we had posted out one of our releases to stores in France, Scotland, Spain and cities all around the UK, only to discover that the production company mistakenly forgot to record the audio on to the tapes. This resulted in having to pull the release from the shelves and give a lot of very understanding store managers and fans their money back. Massive lessons learned……and you can guarantee that from then on we listen to every cassette we receive. Now that’s DIY….!
Well that certainly was a steep learning curve! What can we expect in 2017?
We have a few releases from some familiar Blak Hand bands in the pipeline, a merch-booth at the Indie Label Market in London this summer, a few Blak Hand gigs planned around the country and our biggest Cassette Store Day release to date, coming this autumn.
A busy year ahead then! Have you time to make plans for the future?
For now, just going to keep on truckin’! We want to be the go-to record label that the bands can continue their creativity through, come to us like family, where they have all the say in design and production of the tapes. We want them to have something physical to show to the bigger record labels so they can follow their dreams, whatever they may be.