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emma's house recordings
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emma's house recordings

Pennyblackmusic have in stock most of the releases including the hard to find releases like Angel Corpus Christi and Leslies. Check out their website.

ehr & me Interview with John Clarkson of Penny Black Music

Emma's House Recordings is a small British independent label from Manchester, which specialises in releasing vinyl singles in hand made sleeves and very limited editions of between 100 to 200 copies. It was first established in the summer of 2000 by its owner Edward Jung, when he became bored, having returned to England, after spending five months living and working in the United States.

The first Emma's House Recordings single, 'Peacon', a 7" single in an edition of 200 copies by an Oxford based guitar band, the Workhouse, came out in September of that year. Since then there have been another eleven Emma's House releases, many of these by groups who come from outside Britain, including the Leslies from Sweden, Tuna from Germany and Angel Corpus Christi from San Francisco.

Jung operates a "release anything I like" policy, running Emma's House from a fan's perspective, and its catalogue is likewise similarly broad in style and scope, embracing records to date from the alternative country, alternative rock, indiepop and electronica genres.

The latest Emma's House Recording, 'Blue in the Mist' by the Italian post rock group, La Nuit Americaine, was released in January. Another record, 'Chard' by an unsigned Brighton indie pop duo Pico, that came out in March, appeared in the Radio 1 DJ John peel's Festive Fifty end of the year singles poll in December. With the Emma's House moniker becoming steadily more prolific, Pennyblackmusic asked Edward Jung some questions about his developing label.

PB : Why did you decide to call your label Emma's House ?

EJ : When I got back England, after a five month break in the US in 1999, I basically attempted to listen to every album I had. My record collection was one of the things I missed the most when I was over there. Then when the idea of starting a label came back to me I was listening to The Field Mice compilation 'Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way'. 'Emma's House' had always been a favourite of mine and basically at about 2am on a Saturday morning, I decided to call it that. My very first girlfriend was called Emma, so I thought it was even more apt. Actually 'Canada' and 'I Wish I Meant More To You' are my favourite Field Mice songs but they don't make quite as good record label names. Oh and I never did get round to listening to all my albums again.

PB : All the records that have come out so far on Emma's House have come out on vinyl and have been 7" and 10" singles. Why have you decided to opt to specialise in vinyl instead of CDs ?

EJ : I've always brought 7" records and 10"'s are my favourite format. Most of the time if something appears on vinyl and CD, I'd more than likely go for the vinyl version. You get bigger artwork to admire and get to turn the record over - I know crazy. In the end I think I wanted to produce something that would be a bit collectable for the people who would be buying it and anyway there are not that many places if at all who are willing to press 200 CD's for you.

PB :Could you ever see Emma's House releasing a CD ? What about a full length album ?

EJ : Someone was asking me this same question the other day and mentioned doing a compilation of the releases. The idea is a good one and many small independent labels have issued such compilations, so the answer is yes. I'm not too keen in releasing an album though as they are a lot harder to sell to people especially if it's an obscure band from abroad. I'd sure feel the same way if I've only heard one track from an album. With a single you can take that chance. I've discovered a lot of bands through buying their 7"'s on the off chance I'd like it. As I've maintained all along, the label is meant to be a springboard for less known musicians, maybe even a starting point. Hopefully after a release on my label they will go on to release a single/album on another label on a bigger scale and work upwards to become better known. I'll leave the albums to the labels who can afford it and have a bit more say in the music industry.

PB : All twelve of your releases to date have appeared in hand made sleeves. Many of the Emma's House recordings have also come out in coloured vinyl. You have said as well that you tend to release records in limited editions of 100-200 copies, in part due to a limited budget, but also because you admire the creativity that goes into something you do yourself. Is paying attention to aesthetic details for you one of the most important factors in running Emma's House ? What are the other important factors ?

EJ : Definitely, as I said previously releasing a vinyl record allows you to have bigger artwork for the sleeve. The artwork is more pronounced than on a CD so you should exploit this strength, anyway what's the point in releasing a record if you don't pay attention to the aesthetic details regardless of the format. Okay the music is by far the most important element but I feel the quality of the music on the record needs to be balanced by a good sleeve design. I see it as my contribution as part of the entire package. Since every sleeve has been designed/hand made/customised/numbered by myself what you get is also part of my interpretation of a release by a band.

As with every other small label, money is an important factor. In fact all the advice I got from other people who have record labels was to have loads of money and be prepared to lose it all. However the fact that I have so little of it for the label has made the label what it is. When you are on a very tight budget you adapt to that situation very quickly. I know if I had a lot more money from the start I would have never had hand made any of the sleeves and would have released a 1000 copies of each single. I doubt that many people would have paid any more attention to the releases than they do now, the label would have been lost in the vast pool of independent labels vying for your attention. I'm proud of being the smallest and least known record label from Manchester.

The only other real important factor to run the label is finding time. That is time to put enough effort into the label and also time for me to step away from the label. Working in a full time job to fund the label is not the most ideal situation but it's work quite well so far and I've always told people that the label is nothing more than a big hobby as doing it full time is currently not an option. Sometimes you do feel overwhelmed by running a label as well as the day job. I've slowly learnt to keep enough time for myself to do things other than with the label. One last thing is never losing sight of what you started the label for.

PB : You have a "release anything I like policy". What kind of criteria are you looking for, if any, when deciding whether or not to add a band to your roster ? Do you just have to like them, or is there anything else ?

EJ : The 'release anything I like' policy is quite a general statement I make, but it is way I choose the releases. Almost everything I have been sent as a demo has been of excellent quality and I like most of it. I've not released all of them, but would have if I had the money. I try to look for that something done a bit different, whatever that something is. Of course in the back of your mind you do think about whether other people would like it and whether it will sell but that really isn't important. So all in all if I love something and I haven't released something of a similar nature before then there is probably a high chance I'd release it. With bands I personally contact it's slightly different as I will have liked their recordings already and if they agree to release something it's more of an honour for me to do so.

PBH : Emma's House is a very eclectic label. It has released records in a variety of genres including alt. country, alt rock, guitar pop,and electronica. Are your musical tastes similarly broad ? What sort of thing might be found on your turntable ? Do you hope that collectors of Emma's House records might be persuaded to expand their own musical horizons as a result of the label's varsity ?

EJ : When it comes to music I tend to keep an open mind. My tastes are broader than the label and I am trying to make the label as eclectic as my taste. If possible I'd like to reissue some obscure soul tracks and tracks from some power pop bands that were around in the 50's/60's/70's, 'Witchi Tai To' by Harpers Bizarre for example. However I doubt that would ever happen, as for one there are some great companies out there who are reissuing all these great tracks doing a better job than I could and I think it might be pushing the scope of the label away from the original plan a bit too far. Although if anybody sends me a great cover of 'Witchi Tao To' I might be tempted.

Currently on my record player at home is New Order's 'Brotherhood' album ('Bizarre Love Triangle' is in my top ten of all time favourite songs,Frente's cover is better than the original), 'Am Deister' by David Tyack (David is someone I rate very highly), Future Pilot AKA 'V's A Galaxy Of Sound'. I've also been listening to Cornelius' new album 'Point' which is very good, 'Shoop Shoop Song and other great Girl Group Hits' which I brought after seeing it in Record Collector and is excellent, World Of Twist's album and a few other bits an bobs. I have far too many records and I'm slowly losing touch with what I've got so try to rotate the collection around now and again. I used to buy so many records they sometimes just pile up and I end up listening to them weeks, sometimes months later. I've been better recently. I don't really mind mainstream music being played on the radio but it's not going to be on my record player. My favourite band of all time are The BMX Bandits, a band I attribute to influencing the Glaswegian pop scene a lot.

Hopefully the label will influence people to expand their horizons but I doubt that anyone would like every release, if they do I will be very surprised! I just don't want to pigeon hole the label as just releasing post-rock or electronica let say, there are plenty of other labels that do that already. Everyone should be open to listening to other genres and not just what's accepted by other people. I value other peoples comments as much as everyone else but no one is going to tell me what is good and what is bad, you make your own rules which should then be broken immediately.

PB :Many of the bands which have released records on the label are from outside Britain. The Leslies are from Sweden, Tuna are from Germany, Angel Corpus Christi is from San Francisco and La Nuit Americaine is from Italy. How did you first hear about these bands, and first make contact with them. Was it through the internet ?

EJ : The first 4 singles I released I personally contacted the bands after hearing their music from singles that I own and compilations. I heard a track by Leslies on a March Record compilation and have been an admirer of Angel Corpus Christi for a while now. If I can find an email address I would email a band, but I've also written letters to bands to see if they are interested. The internet does allow me to find more information about the bands I'm interested as many have their own website, but a lot of them don't have any contact details so I just write to the record labels that have released their stuff. With other releases, the band have contacted me first after hearing about my label and they would send me a demo to listen. As I buy all sorts of singles and compilations on import and second hand, I do find myself being amazed at all the good stuff that people in the UK are missing out on, and that motivates me to try and release some material by those bands over here. Some bands aren't interested and others are. I think a lot of them do value having a UK release. I must admit although I do use the web a lot for my work, I hardly ever go on sites that promote new bands,because I find it difficult to choose from so many bands, it's too overwhelming and time consuming to find a band you like. I still think a demo is better being sent in a post to a label.

PB : Anna Kashfi's December release of the 6 track 'Philokalia' was the first release on Emma's House by a local Manchester band. Why have you waited until now to release a record by a local band ? What was it that appealed to you about Anna Kafshi that made you want to put out a record by them ?

EJ : I've always liked the work of Alt-Country and Americana artists, things like Pernice Brothers, Giant Sand and had been getting into a lot of country too (Kelly Hogan, Laura Cantrell) so was looking around to find a band of that genre to release something. Anna Kashfi was brought to my attention by a friend of a work colleague so I was open to getting a demo from them. They actually sent me a self released EP which was excellent combining great lyrics, vocals and beautiful instrumentation and it crosses the different genres nicely. The fact that they were from Manchester was just another bonus. James had a lot of ideas and Anna Kashfi have a good local support so I agreed to release a 10" by them in order to hopefully help them gain that deserved wider audience. I find a lot of the Manchester bands are trying to conform to existing musical styles that are currently in flavour in order to attract the major labels which just doesn't excite me at all but I guess it's the same everywhere.

PB : The latest release from Emma's House is a 7" by La Nuit Americaine, who Pennyblackmusic have also been doing a lot to promote. How did you first hear about La Nuit ? What was it about La Nuit's music that appealed to you that influenced you into releasing a record ?

EJ : Originally Christian emailed me regarding his project La Nuit Américaine and wanted to send me a demo. I had a look at his website and listened to the sound samples that were available. The tracks that Christian sent me was a mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks, at first I wasn't sure about Christians vocal style which was quite rough compared to the musical backdrop. Listening them a few more times I began to like it more and it made me think of Nick Cave and Arab Strap. Some of his creations are quite simplistic yet they are for me the strongest songs. His songs are like stories accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack.

PB : Another of your releases Pico's 'Chard' recently appeared on the John Peel show's Festive 50. How did you feel when you heard this news ?

EJ : It was actually on Christmas Day when the first part of the Festive Fifty was broadcasted and I heard it then. Of course I was ecstatic and pleased but more so for Pico and Lianne Hall who have had a great year in 2001. John never mentioned the label anyway but it was nice in a way to know there are people who have like what I released.

PB : What do you see as Emma's House's biggest achievement to date ?

EJ : It's difficult to say, but the fact that I survived this far and have had twelve releases is huge achievement for me. When you think that the label is actually run part time by myself starting out without knowing what running a label involves, I think I surprised myself. You can make it happen if you want to.

PB : Do you accept demos ? If so, where should bands and acts send them ?

EJ : Of course, 40% of what I've released so far has been from demos so they do play a big part for the label. You should email me first at emmashouse[at]onoffonoff[dot]org with some info and then I give you the details from there. The label does take up a lot of time and so it does take a while for me to respond to demos sent but I'll always give feedback regardless of if I want to release something or not.

PB : What other releases will be coming out on Emma's House in the near future ?

EJ : I've made the mistake in the past of planning too far ahead with releases as it means I don't fully concentrate on working on the current or next release, so I don't have six or seven releases lined up like some other labels. Due shortly is a 7" from Malory, a band from Germany who were asked by the Trembling Blue Stars to support them at a festival. They have this fantastically heavenly sound which is ambient and has hints of The Field Mice and Melys. Then following this will be a four-track 10" by String Builder. They are from Providence, Rhode Island in the United States. Their music is a cross of Folk, Americana, Alt-Country and as is the norm in these genres String Builder write great songs. The best place to find out what's coming is by looking at the website http://emmashouse.net/ where I try to keep people informed.

PB : Thank you

John Clarkson - January 2002

& me