LOCAL HEROES: HANDPICKED CASSETTE TAPESMarch 15, 2017
Cover Art: Milk & Honey – Cheeky Forty
March is music month for UO. From interviews and live performances, to panel discussions and more, we’re celebrating all month long. We caught up with Mr. Tuner, the founder of Glaswegian label, Handpicked Cassette Tapes to find out more about their first ever release (a 50 x Limited Edition Neon Cassette), their DIY ethos and Glasgow as a creative hub.
UO: Can you tell us a little about Handpicked Cassette Tapes and how you got started?
Handpicked is a physical release music label operating out of Glasgow, Scotland – we throw parties, put out tapes, book artists that we want to see and just generally play music with friends. It started as a kind of pet project of mine – I’ve been involved in the Glasgow music scene for a good few years now, so have always been aware of the city’s wealth of talent, and wanted to bring everything together in my own way.
We kicked off the label with our first compilation tape, a 50 x Limited Edition Neon Cassette which I dubbed myself one-by-one on a Pioneer double speed cassette deck – I had been collecting tapes for a bit after rediscovering them through Bandcamp and felt that a physical release documenting the promising producers coming out of Scotland was well overdue. Since then we’ve kept the same idea, but are operating a bit more efficiently due to trial and error. The first time I attempted dubbing tapes I was using the last tape that was recorded instead of having a master, after getting through the first 8 or so I listened back and realized each tape sounded worse than the last, so had to start again from scratch – now we’ve got 5 tape decks running in real time, recording straight from the source so that every tape is essentially a master copy.
UO: How would you describe the ethos of HCT in three words?
DO IT YOURSELF!
UO: What kind of genres can we find on a Handpicked Cassette Tape?
The label started with a whole variety of beats via the compilations, so I think we’ve set ourselves up to move between genres quite comfortably. So far from our solo artists releases we’ve had sample based, instrumental hip hop from Cheeky Forty, more electronic boom bap beats from Bristol’s Ile Flottante, a West Coast boogie belter courtesy of High Park Funk, and our latest release, Mantra’s debut cassette tape, which is a bit harder to pin down, but has a few dub and jazz influences translated to a more electronic style. I don’t want to pigeonhole the label into just releasing one style or subcategory of music.
UO: Who are the brains behind HCT?
I run most of the label by myself when it comes to what’s going out, who we’re booking and where we’re putting it on, but I have a lot of influence and input from those involved in the label. I’d also have to say that the artists themselves are the real brains behind the operation – I like to think of myself as more of a facilitator, giving the crew a place to showcase projects they’ve been working on and get them out as a finished, tangible product – all under the creative control of the original authors.
UO: Can you describe the process behind creating each cassette?
Each tape will have a different process – at first we’ll speak to whoever’s music we’re releasing – with Cheeky Forty, he had a lot of tracks and the concept of Milk & Honey, so we elaborated on that and came up with a few ideas for how the tape was going to be presented – we ended up settling with a 16 page typographic booklet, honey jar and ice cream recipe that ended up featured on Bandcamp’s Merch Table. With High Park Funk’s it was a bit more straightforward – he had the whole thing ready to go, artwork and all. Once we’ve got the final tracklist together, we order the tapes and get to dubbing – depending on how long the projects are it could take a day or two’s work to finish recording, then we’ll order the artwork to be printed and get to folding. Dub, print, fold, repeat.
UO: Favourite way to listen to music? (Cassette, vinyl, CD, streaming?)
It depends on the setting really! I love listening to albums in tape format in my living room or out on a walk because you can hear the full project in it’s intended form. I also love listening to and playing records as well, there’s just that extra oomph that you get from vinyl and the ever-present possibility of throwing your day away to a mix once you stick one on. CD’s and streaming services I don’t really use much, I’ll listen to some tracks on YouTube for accessibility but it’s not always the best sound quality. A lot of my old CD collection got either lost, borrowed or scratched, which hasn’t been the case with the majority of my tapes and records, aside from the fallen few.
UO: How and where do you find artists to design the cover artwork for each cassette?
As well as being a hotspot of musical talent, we’ve also got some amazing visual artists residing in Glasgow or that have a link with the city. The creative community here is quite close knit, so there’s always an opportunity to check out different people’s work that might suit the Handpicked aesthetic. Our latest artwork has been done by Vis, who does all our club visual stuff – I think it’s important to work with those who either have a similar mindset, or an understanding of what the label represents.
UO: Where can we next hear a showcase of tracks from HCT?
We’ve got a few things coming up on the cusp of summer – we’ll be teaming up with Frogbeats this Friday for our first Hip Hop & Jungle night of the year at Glasgow’s infamous Art School – we’ve been running these for a while now and it’s always a sick night. This time round we’re in the Assembly Hall upstairs, with a bunch of production and the head’s going back to back on the tunes. We’ve also got myself and Bessa supporting Onra next Thursday at Broadcast, as well as the upcoming showcase in your fine establishment.
UO: What do you love about the music scene in Glasgow?
What a question! I’m born and bred Glasgow so have a lot of love for what goes on here – I like to call it the black hole city because once you’re involved then it’s solid to remove yourself. There’s pockets within pockets of different musical communities that all integrate at the various reputable clubs and after parties across the city, all with different tastes but existing side by side and subtly influencing one another. The afters are a big thing here, with clubbing hours cut short at 3am – I won’t go into that much as it seems everyone is touching on it these days, but it’s difficult to meet up “just for one drink” through here. We’re absolutely spoiled by the abundance of artists that perform here week in week out – just last weekend I went to an art exhibition in a flat, the old boy’s favourite boozer The Arlington, a reggae night with 2 sound systems hooked up in a 100 capacity venue and topped it off with a juke/footwork night – all in the space of 4 hours. A lot of the decent venues in Glasgow are pretty centralised, so you can do a bit of club hopping if there’s more than one thing on that you want to get out to.
UO: Have you got any upcoming releases you can tell us about?
Our next release is from Handpicked OG Bessa – we’ve been planning this for a while now, don’t want to say too much but it’s definitely the most ambitious project we’ve taken on! That’ll hopefully be coming out around April / May, but we’re going to make sure it’s just right before it hits the streets. It’s our first time stepping into the world of vinyl, but we’re going to keep the same aesthetic as with our other releases and keep it personal to the artist.
UO: Who is exciting you most in music right now?
I go through a lot of music, but lately, I’ve been feeling all the Acorn Tapes cats releases, their last one with Josh Hey has been getting rinsed. Got to give a shout out to the heads as well, Bessa, Jazz Spastiks and Buscrates are always on solid rotation over here! Also been listening to a lot of Jakarta Records stuff, I think that live instrumentation has been more prominent lately, whether it’s samplers, synths, pianos or guitars, artists are making a lot more effort lately to work outside the box – it’s really refreshing! We had MNDSGN playing a live set here last year with Ivan Ave on the vocals and it was incredible, at the end Ringgo was just making up drum beats on the spot, full of the rum!
UO: What do you want to achieve this year and beyond?
I’m looking forward to putting out more releases from core Handpicked contributors and booking more artists that haven’t been to Glasgow to come and check it out. I want to travel a bit more with the crew as well – last year we went to Amsterdam and done a couple of sets via Red Light Radio and Hill Street Blues. I’d like to get around Europe a bit more, play some music and meet some like-minded heads. We’re also looking at getting a bit of studio space to accommodate our live jams, and to have a more permanent home for the duplication set up. We’re just going to keep working and pushing forward!