The third of Tiger’s Hidden Depths events, following editions dedicated to Ninja Tune and Hyperdub, focusses on drum ‘n bass institution Hospital Records.
Presented in association with FACT and Black Atlantic, the Hidden Depths of Hospital party will take place at London’s XOYO club on Wednesday 25 July. Headlining is Photek – playing a Modus Operandi set based around his game-changing debut album of 1997. One of the most influential and satisfying full-lengths ever to have come out of jungle, we’re literally drooling at the prospect of Rupert Parkes revisiting it. He’ll be joined by some of the biggest names in d’n’b, as befits a label that’s been at the top of its game for over fifteen years: High Contrast, Fred V & Grafix, MC Wrec, Landslide, Swell Session, Other Echoes and Hospital co-founder Chris Goss. More info here.
FACT recently paid a visit to Hospital HQ to talk to Goss and his compadre Tony Colman (aka London Elektricity) about the mid-90s origins of the label – a time of near-death experiences, acid jazz, silly names and broken promises.
“We did release some shocking records as well as some good ones. But that’s how you learn.”
Tony Colman: “We don’t want to work together! We never did and we still don’t…let’s get that straight from the start [laughs]. Honestly, it’s such a long time ago, it’s getting on for 20 years ago. I’d been doing another label on my own, and I met Chris because he designed a flyer for me for a gig at Ronnie Scott’s. I had a kind of acid jazzy band called Izit at the time, who were doing marginally well in Japan. I liked Chris and I said, do you want to come and run the label [Tongue & Groove] with me?
Chris Goss: “I knew Izit, I had a few records of theirs in my collection, I’d been DJing since college. But I wanted to be a graphic designer…I was doing loads of graphic design work for nothing, but thinking i was really smashing it! [laughs] I was working at Soul Jazz Records in Soho for two days a week which I was really loving, and I was just enjoying being in London. The last thing that I expected was for to Tony to want me to come and work with him on a record label, so it kind of blew my mind a bit… then I just figured, well, why not? There’s nothing to lose. I’m clearly not going to make any money working with Tony and I’m not making any money as it is, so…. [laughs]. It looked like it would be really chaotic and fun, and thankfully that’s how it turned out.”
T: “I remember shortly after you joined, we landed a really big deal for Izit in Japan – we got about £100, 000 from it, and we bought the most expensive Apple Mac for you [Chris] – which was probably 128kb memory in total, but cost £6500…and that was maxed, one of those beige Apples, 18 years ago.”
C: “And you feel like you’ve really arrived…check us out…look at that [laughs].”
T: “I remember the RAM we put in it cost about three grand and it wasn’t until you [Chris] upgraded to the next Mac that you realised that in order to actually use the extra RAM, you had to allocate it in the Mac…[laughs]. Those were the days, Mac geeks…”
C: “So we worked together on this Tongue & Groove label that Tony had started it. Tony’s band, Izit, had signed this deal in Japan which was quite a massive deal to us, a huge amount of money, with huge promotion and marketing. We went over to Japan in ’95, it was the first time that either of us had been. We had this tour stopping of in eight different cities and it was incredible…and then soon after that the label folded.”
C: “There was this period – this three years between early ’93 and ’96 – where a lot happened.”
T: “I know. Though at the time it seemed like it dragged on forever…”
C: “We had some massive highs, and some huge lows and then…”
T: Three years now seems like nothing, but back then it was everything.”
C: “With Tongue & Groove I guess we were aspiring to be like labels like Ninja or Dorado or Talkin’ Loud, who were friends of ours and some of some of the leading labels at the time…”
“I went to Morocco and caught some mystery virus and nearly died…”
T: “…and Acid Jazz, who started the Blue Note.”
C: “Yeah, and Izit were doing really well, but we just couldn’t really make it work as a label. We worked with some other amazing artists -”
T: “- and some crap artists as well, it has to be said [laughs]. We did release some shocking records as well as some good ones. But that’s how you learn – if you want to do it properly you’ve got to have a trial run. And Tongue & Groove was definitely our trial run for Hospital.
C: “It did mean that we stopped Tongue & Groove and had to let go of the artists and two staff that we were working with, and there was a fair amount of soul-searching for me and Tony. I myself had a massive crisis of confidence – because on the one hand you’ve got a record deal in Japan and you go there and you’re treated like stars, and then you come back to Tottenham and it’s properly the other side of the coin, and you realise that actually a lot of other things really aren’t going all that well.
T: “Yeah, it was hardcore.”
C: “We were both doing lots of other work on the side, whether it was doing corporate music or working in a record store or whatever, all sorts of bits and pieces to pay the rent.”
T: “I went to Morocco and walked up the Atlas Mountains and caught some mystery virus and nearly died…”
T: …but I found myself in the process. [laughs]. And then we changed our names: I was Pondlife and he was Goose.”
C: “All these great ideas that you have down the pub in Hammersmith late at night…”
T: “And one of those great ideas was calling the new label Hospital. Who knew it would work as well as it did?”