Five years have passed since Kiran Sande launched Blackest Ever Black to release the debut 12″ from Raime, taking the label’s name from Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker’s 2007 album of electroacoustic sound.

At the time, Sande was a commissioning editor at FACT and the label was a just a germ of an idea, possibly one of those things you do to get out of your system. Come 2015 though, Sande has relocated from London to Berlin to focus on the label full time, and if you count albums, 12″s, reissues and mixtapes, BEB runs to just shy of 100 releases.

Over the last five years, what might have originally been understood as an electronic label has now come to occupy a different realm, not so much about a genre as an aesthetic. The label’s two fifth birthday parties seemed to consciously show off different aspects of the label’s oeuvre. There was the November event that unleashed Regis, Prurient and Felix K on the clubbers of Berghain. But there was also a more sedate all-day event at London’s ICA, showcasing long-time BEB troopers Dalhous and Raime alongside some older figures from the experimental, noise and improv fringes, including the first performance in 25 years from Mick Hobbs’ Officer! and a fiery jazz turn from the 69-year-old French trumpeter Jac Berrocal, backed by David Fenech on guitar and Vincent Epplay on electronics. This breadth is echoed in the label’s current crop of releases, which range from the cosmic drone punk of Bremen to the romantic wave music of Camella Lobo’s Tropic Of Cancer to the curious compositions of Tarquin Manek’s debut album Tarquin Magnet, a mysterious fog of Romany folk, chamber music and experimental composition.

If something around Blackest Ever Black feels deliberately obscure, though, there are those who have sought to pin it like a moth. The label’s activities have recently fed into discussion around oppressive or politically problematic imagery finding its way onto dancefloors – most recently, a well-meaning but peculiar essay entitled Fascism In Ambient Music on Femme Cult. I’ll leave Kiran to address his label’s aesthetics and politics directly below, although it feels worth at least pointing that the Blackest Ever Black take on the dark or “gothic” veers more towards the romantic, hermetic and mysterious than the violent, transgressive or shocking – particularly the label’s often sumptuous artwork, which appears to draw more on the melodrama and mystery of film noir or 60s paperbacks than anything more self-consciously ideological or provocative.

FACT conversed with Kiran Sande via email around the fifth birthday shows, discussing the influence of electroclash, breaking out of the dance music ghetto, and where Blackest Ever Black might go next.


“Curated” has become a bit of a dirty word, but BEB more than most similar ventures feels like a curated enterprise; it’s music collected along thematic rather than genre lines, and the theme feels like it’s only really understood as the discography has grown. How much of it has been planned out? How much of it has been a process of natural development?

I dislike the C-word probably more than most, but equally, I wonder, what on earth does an uncurated label do? Just release anything? If me making conscious choices about what I put out, and giving some thought to how I present it, makes me a “curator”, then I’ll accept the charge, albeit with a shudder. Still, the label is, and always has been, pretty erratic and impulsive – I’m not much of a strategist. On the contrary, I’ve always been a “first thought, best thought” sort of person. Very impatient, very short-termist. It means I get a lot done, I suppose, but I make a lot of mistakes too – most of which, mercifully, seem to go undetected.

In the early days, preparing a vinyl release was exhausting and frightening… a serious investment, and a shot in the dark, with absolutely no guarantee of return. Thinking more than one release ahead was impossible. I just didn’t have the capacity, nor, I suppose, was there enough interesting stuff coming my way. These days, certain aspects of the process have become easier, and there are always lots of different projects on the boil, and this does allow me a bit more freedom to consider the sequence of what I release and to organise it all into a bit of a narrative, if you like. Each record is a thing in itself, a stand-in for the whole, but I do like to think that together they all add up to something more than the sum of their parts, that they tell a larger story. I’m buggered if I know what it is, though.

Of course the aesthetic of the whole enterprise has developed – you’re always refining it, I think, consciously or otherwise. And of course you grow up too… I’m probably a bit less crass than I used to be. More specifically, I would say that the acutely gothic sensibility of the label’s early days has, over time, given way to a more broadly romantic worldview – romantic with a capital ‘R’, that is. Negative capability and all that. Which isn’t a huge leap, really: at the end of the day the gothic is, and always has been, just a heightened or exaggerated form of romanticism. And I’ve always been a big girl’s blouse.

When I look back on it now, I see that Blackest and its catalogue cleaves very closely to one of the oldest, simplest and purest pop traditions, in so far as it’s all about desire. For a lover, for a landscape, for the past, the future… the impossible, the unattainable. We want what we can’t have. So really… the theme is life!

How does it feel, assembling these fifth birthday shows? Is it stressful, bringing the label’s nocturnal activities onto the light of a stage?

I’m relieved they’re over. Both took up a huge amount of time and energy. The London show was actually the more stressful to organize, a lot of moving parts, but there’s a thrill, and a familiarity, in that. I feel all Blackest showcases have the whiff of the school play – fluffed lines, collapsing scenery, the lot. We had a good turn-out, and I was very pleased with how it went. It was an overdue outing for a side of the label which is well-represented on record but which, before now, I haven’t really had the opportunity to present in a live setting.

The Berlin leg was a much larger-scale affair, and for that reason was always going to feel a little more momentous – I mean, Berghain is a citadel, not a club. Despite that it was a real family affair, and very emotional. It really meant a lot to me to have all these artists who made the label what it is, and have hopefully got something out of it too, all gathered together in one room. It’s something that circumstances – geography, schedules, budget – don’t often allow. On a personal level, I think it was also the first Blackest showcase where I permitted myself to enjoy it – to stop being a control freak and just let it all wash over me. And you know what, I had quite a good time. In fact, a couple of days before, I made an End of the Affair -style pact with the gods: if the night was a classic, then for me it would be The Last Rave – I’d hang up my spurs for good and leave clubbing to the people it’s meant for: the young and the desperate. The gods kept up their side of the bargain, and I fully intend to keep mine.

To what extent has the label been a way of forging friendships with musicians in a way that perhaps would have compromised you, had you remained a music writer?

When you’re friends with anyone you work with, there’s potential to be compromised – it’s never fun, for instance, telling an artist that you’re actually not all that keen on whatever it is they’ve been labouring over for the past year and a half. And I regularly have to rebuff approaches from people – many of whom I like and respect – proposing projects to me that I don’t feel are right for the label. So I suppose I keep a bit of a distance from the artists I work with, and from artists in general, and that’s necessary, really, because you need to be able to say that’s not right, or hurry the fuck up, or simply “No”, and for it to carry some weight, and for it to ideally not cause any major offence or rupture either. 

 

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F Ingers

 

Is there stuff you like that doesn’t fit the remit of the label? Or is it a straightforward reflection of your own tastes?

I think the label’s certainly become a bit freer with time. I don’t think anyone would be particularly shocked by anything turning up on Blackest at this stage, provided it’s of a certain quality. I think the label’s existence up to this point, and its continued existence, is predicated on its ability to encompass a range of stuff, and to keep pace with my own changing interests, and my terrible mood swings as well. I would never put out anything which I felt undermined the other artists and records on the label. But I never want things to be static either, and I will always be keen to release records that perhaps challenge or refresh people’s idea of what the label is, and which cast our past releases in a new light.

How are you, as a label boss? A hard taskmaster? Is there much to-and-fro between you and artists, before a release is right for release?

I guess I must be reasonably demanding, otherwise we wouldn’t have the fairly prolific release schedule that we do. I think I have a bit of a mania, an addiction, when it comes to putting out records, and I certainly work hard. But at the same time, I’m not much of a multi-tasker: I’m happy to instigate, and nurture, a dozen different projects at once, but when it comes to realising them, actually getting the record designed and pressed and distributed, I have tunnel vision: I’m really only able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Apart from Sanjay, who helps out with the mail order, I do everything on my own, about as effectively as Basil Fawlty manages his hotel. This means I often have to ask artists to be patient with me. Having said that, when it’s on, it’s on: I pride myself on being able to turn a release round quickly. As an independent label there aren’t many luxuries you can offer an artist, but I think a decent turnaround time should be one of them.   

There’s a huge amount of to-ing and fro-ing, yes, though it tends to be over the sleeve design and other secondary considerations rather than the music. It depends on the artist really – some need a lot of support and advice, whereas others come to me with fully realized ideas that couldn’t possibly be improved by me intervening. When it comes to people I’ve been working with for a long time, I try to leave them to it: they have pretty much complete autonomy. I make suggestions when I feel the might be helpful, and of course if there’s anything I strongly dislike then I’ll object, but fundamentally I just facilitate and organise. I think something of Blackest seeps into the artists and their records, contaminates them if you like, but it’s always implicit and unspoken. At the end of the day I’m their publisher, not their co-author.

I know you were a big fan of electroclash. Has that had any shaping effect on the label, even in a more conceptual or presentational way?

For me, it was all about Nag Nag Nag: I only went there a handful of times but I’d say it changed my life, absolutely. In my view – which, I will concede, is that of a bitter old man – electroclash was one of the last true subcultures, and Nag one of the last true clubs, before the internet changed us all, and the way we do things, forever. Nag really meant something: the people, the music, the clothes, the conversation, the drugs. It was a whole belief system, really. Queer and punk to the core – totally inclusive, provided you were there for the right reasons. And crucially, you had to go to the club or buy the records if you wanted to hear the music: you couldn’t get your fix sitting at home watching Boiler Room or some rubbish. For me, going there was also the consummation of a fantasy of London – and particularly of Soho and the West End – that I’d had since my early teens, and which evaporated almost immediately afterwards. Ghetto is long gone as far as I know, and it’s hard to imagine a basement off Tottenham Court Road ever being put to that kind of purpose again.

When people think of electroclash, they inevitably think of the often very silly stuff that crossed over – much of which I would defend to the death. But the beating heart of the scene – at least in and around Nag – was in fact really stripped-down, bassline-driven techno, EBM and electro. It was a genuinely weird scene, pulling in everyone from decomposing old New Romantics through to a new generation of very glamorous club kids, and down to the lowly likes of me, a 19-year-old bumpkin Megabussing it in from the sticks, wearing a hideous outfit cobbled together from a tenner spent in Traid earlier in the day: skin-tight Adidas cycle top, white studded belt, paisley neckerchief the colour of puke and tomato. Thankfully this was before the era of the camera-phone.

As I said before, electroclash connected rave and punk values in a way that made a lot of sense, to me, and I like to think that a similar synthesis lies at the heart of Blackest. I guess it offered a fairly attractive, postmodern spin on goth too – a far cry from Spiders, Hull’s premiere goth/alternative club, where I had most of my earliest experiences of nightlife. Crucially, it was my introduction to a lot of post-punk, EBM and industrial music too – I mean the biggies, like Cabs, TG, Nitzer Ebb, Front, Chris & Cosey. I don’t think I’d have encountered that stuff until much later otherwise. I think it also made me aware of the power of hearing the old and the new enmeshed, and how stimulating and progressive that can actually be: making connections, identifying secret lineages, between the past and the present, and then projecting into the future. That’s again something I would say has been an influence.

A dear old friend – the very friend who first introduced me to Nag, Trash et al way back when – was at the recent Blackest night at Berghain. At one point he pulled me over, told me he’d been taking in the people, the music, and the atmosphere, and that something had become very clear to him: that this night, and Blackest, was in some small way of part of the lineage of Nag Nag Nag and electroclash. I don’t know if this is true or whether it was just the pingers talking, but it was the biggest compliment I could possibly imagine, and I’ll take it.

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You’ve made a few limited edition mixes, such as Id Mud and Dream Theory In Haltemprice, which seem to have been compiled with some thought and purpose beyond what you might put into a simple mixtape. What significance do they have to you, or the label?

I mean, the primary purpose of the mixtapes – and radio shows too, though they’re a little more spontaneous – is the obvious, uncomplicated one: just to show people where your head is at, and share good music with them. They also offer a parallel narrative to the records, give some sense of the label’s inner life, I think. The mixes were particularly important in the early days, in establishing the mythology of the label, or the cosmology of it – they helped create a space around the records, and hopefully thereby elevate them a little bit. I wanted people to know where our allegiances were, not only what we aligned ourselves with, but also what we weren’t bothered with: arguably the most important thing about those mixes isn’t what’s included on them, but what’s excluded. Now that the label is a bit more widely known, and the catalogue sizeable I don’t believe the mixes and radio shows carry anything like the same weight, but I do still think they perform an important ongoing function: which is to help create the conditions and the context in which Blackest Ever Black records should ideally be received and understood.

You’ve also started working with local scenes: I’m thinking the Young Echo crew in Bristol, and these affiliated Australian musicians – F ingers, Tarcar, Tarquin Manek. Meanwhile, I Can’t Give You The Life You Choose was released in association with the LA-based record store Mount Analog. How have you forged these links, and has it been a surprise to find fellow travellers in relatively far-flung places?

Well, those are three very different situations. Carla and Tarquin [of Tarcar and F ingers] moved to Berlin back in spring, though I’m not sure how long they’ll stay, and Sam, the third member of F ingers, was here for a big chunk of this year. So in a strange way I feel like those records, and Tarquin and Carla’s forthcoming solo LPs, are products of an ersatz little scene we had going on here. Having said that, the initial connection was made a long time ago: the three of them had been fans of the label for a good few years, and were also regular listeners of my radio show – in fact they told me that when they first sent me their demos over from Melbourne they were trying to make the kind of music I might play on the show. I can’t overstate how important, and energizing, their presence on the label has been this past year or two. Sometimes I think they know me better than I know myself, musically speaking – they make the music I dream of. I mean, wait until you hear their new stuff.

With Young Echo it’s a bit different: they’re very much a crew, and a location-specific one at that. I mean, we all love a gang of handsome young lads, don’t we? But I didn’t seek them out because of that… it just happened, really, that Killing Sound record. They played it to me just for my opinion, I think, and then I believe I threatened to castrate myself in front of them if they didn’t let me release it on Blackest. That record is a classic, I think I’m allowed to say that. With Ossia, I loved his music, but I think we bonded as fellow label owners and mail order men as much as anything else – there tends to be an instant rapport between people who spend their lives flattening cardboard boxes and queuing at the post office.

Maybe it’s not completely random, though – the places that these people are from, I mean, and how they relate to me. For a large chunk of last year I lived in Melbourne, where my girlfriend was working, and although I didn’t meet Tarquin and Carla there, I feel like in a strange way somehow being in their city and absorbing some of its atmosphere paved the way for collaboration. Same with Bristol – I lived in Bristol for a few years, so I feel like I know the world that music comes from, even if only dimly. I also know from experience that what people outside perceive as a “scene” is in reality usually just a few mates going to each other’s nights and keeping each other afloat. But I like that. I see it especially in Berlin, and the punk scene here – well, more accurately the micro-scene around Diät, and their drummer Iffi’s store, Static Shock – it’s self-sustaining, and all the better for it. Working the doors and merch tables of each other’s shows, sharing equipment, helping each other out, not fixating on cash. That’s the way it should be. It makes me despise the world of managers and agents and middlemen even more. Spoken like a true middleman, eh? But really: any meaningful culture is fundamentally DIY and self-reliant, I believe that now more than ever.

I was going to ask you about reissue culture, but actually I think it might be more interesting to ask you about working with older musicians – the evening show at the ICA, for instance, appear to largely feature men aged between their late 40s and their late 60s. These aren’t people cashing in on reformation culture or nostalgia, but career outsiders. What interests you about working with these sorts of figures?

Well, you know, it’s not an open call for geriatric outsiders – the music, and the people behind it, have to stack up. Oh, and of course I like stories – the older gents have the best stories. As you say, they’re career outsiders, not nostalgia monkeys. And they’re active too: they’re making new and vital music, not just trading off past glories. People who don’t rest on their laurels don’t really get old. They haven’t necessarily received the recognition they deserve, but nor are they desperately seeking it. I mean, anyone properly acquainted with Mick Hobbs’ Officer! work can see that he’s one of the finest songwriters of his generation, with a unique voice and sensibility – but that work, until now, has been mostly hidden. My job is to make it a little more visible.

I like to think that these people see some value in working with me because they know my enthusiasm is genuine, and that I want to present their work as well as I possibly can, but also that I’m not deluded and I have a realistic sense of what can be achieved with a particular project. In other words, I think they find my pessimism quite reassuring.

With Officer!, it all came about by accident: Mick is one of the guardians of the late Gareth Williams’ recorded legacy, and I first met him when seeking to do the vinyl release of Gareth and Mary Currie’s Flaming Tunes on Blackest back in 2012. Andrew Jacques, another of Williams’ close friends and now a Blackest recording artist as well, happens to be one of the most assiduous archivists of London’s musical underground: it was he who passed me a CD-R of the “lost” Hobbs material that ended up constituting Officer!’s Dead Unique [released on BEB in 2014]. A year later, I got the opportunity to put on the ICA show, and I invited – or perhaps challenged, I was quite drunk – Mick to come up with an Officer! live set, their first in more than 20 years. To his great credit, he went for it – pulling together a band that included, among others, longtime fellow travellers Mary Currie and Joey Stack. For me, their show was something I’ll never forget: tender, heartbreaking, hilarious, top-to-bottom life-affirming. There is such a joy and sadness that co-exists in Mick’s work, and of course in Gareth and Mary’s too, and for me it’s a real touchstone.

Stefan Jaworzyn I met through Luke Younger a couple of years ago, traded some records and some misanthropic emails, realizing in the process that we share an irrational hatred of certain people and a possibly slightly less irrational fear of bowel cancer. From there, some kind of collaboration was inevitable. Phil Todd and Ashtray Navigations – I’m just a fan, I really wanted them to play at the show, and out of that other things inevitably arose… there’ll be a new Ashtrays LP on Blackest in 2016. Lastly Jac Berrocal: someone I’m in total awe of, and would’ve never thought to approach, or known how to, but in the end didn’t need to: I was on holiday last year and Jac’s bandmate, David Fenech, got in touch to say that he was a fan of the label, and wondered whether I might be interested in providing a home for an album they were working on. One listen to the demos and it was a done deal. I hold a very hippieish belief that if you see eye to eye with someone musically, I mean properly, then you will most likely get on as people too – and so far, this has been borne out, every single time.

 

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Tropic of Cancer

 

Was there a stage where you sort of shucked off a portion of your audience who assumed Blackest Ever Black was a dance label, or making club music?

Ha! Maybe. I’m always a bit of a dickhead when it comes to techno and dance culture…because really, that’s what I come from. You know how it is, you have an affectionate disdain for any club that might have you as a member…and I do like winding that lot up, I can’t deny. It’s so easy! But it’s like your parents or your hometown: you can slag them off as much as I like, but if someone else dares to do the same, it’s not on. All it is was, I just didn’t want the label to get stuck in a “club” or “dance” music ghetto – which was probably never going to happen anyway, given how little BEB records lend themselves to dancing. But I suppose the label began its life in that “dance” ecosystem, because that was the only world I felt I properly understood the economic, social and distribution dynamics of, and so later on I did feel I had to actively break away from it a little bit – get the stabilisers off, as it were. I’m not sure if I ever succeeded. And you know, you always go back: next year I’m releasing what could justly be described as the holy grail of 90s UK techno.

I think, in the end, Blackest falls between every stool going, and doesn’t belong to any one scene: everyone, from the techno fan to the rock ‘n roll fan, is a little bit suspicious of it; no one really wants to claim it. And I like that a lot.

There has been much online discussion recently about the imagery and aesthetics of noise and power electronics, or other forms of transgressive or ambiguous content, finding its way onto dance floors. Any reflections on this?

The only online discussion I’ve read recently was about how to replace the door gasket on my fridge. Honestly, between earning a living, attending to my nearest and dearest and watching a bit of telly, I just haven’t got the time for social media slagging matches.

But of course I protest too much, and of course I do have an inkling of what you’re referring to. So I will say this: people love to provoke, and people love to be outraged. If you ask me, the existence of both factions is probably necessary for a civilized society, even if their sparring bores us all to tears. So let them have at it. Personally, I believe certain transgressions are necessary for a medium or genre to evolve. It’s up to the individual what he or she is willing to risk, and willing to accept. People must suit themselves.

Still, I am quite shocked, when I talk to people a little younger than me, to find what censorious and moralizing little berks some of them are. I mean, isn’t “ambiguous content” the lifeblood of art? Take away ambiguity, take away doubt and contradiction, and art is no longer fit to serve reality, never mind fantasy. Take ambiguity away and what would be the point in anything? I’d fucking top myself.

But does BEB have a political stance to speak of? Does music have a duty to explain itself?

Well, like the poet says: we don’t give lectures… when we give, we give ourselves. I don’t know. If there is a political stance of any kind, it’s the records themselves – people can infer from them whatever they wish. More than anything, I hope that the label upholds some traditional values of independence and self-reliance: I’ve put out record after record, in not necessarily the most favourable conditions, and on my own terms, and will continue to do so for as long as I can. While hardly the height of nobility or sacrifice, this is something I’m proud of, and it’s my only conscious “political” act.

I’m not apolitical, but I would say I have an experiential relationship with the world rather than an ideological one… I understand the world in my own way. I’m all too aware of the forces that control us, and of how little I’m doing to overthrow them, and indeed how complicit I might be in my own serfdom. I live in hope of the world becoming ever kinder and fairer, but that’s about it: I’m not much of an activist, sad to say. So I wouldn’t presume to tell other people what to think. How could I keep a straight face?  The music I like is, broadly speaking, visionary music – it’s got very little to do with rational thought. It’s generally not mediated by historical, or social, or political circumstances, though it may of course be coloured by them. Essentially, poetry and abstraction interests me far more than politics. Sorry, everyone!  When the revolution comes, I’ll almost certainly be strung up for my willful blindness and decadence – but really, won’t we all?

Does music have a duty to explain itself? Maybe. It’s only rock ‘n roll, isn’t it? Me, I like a bit of mystery…I’m not obsessed, like some people, with deciphering things. You know how it is: the whodunit is thrilling until you find out whodunit. To unpick the thing is to kill it – resolution is a kind of death. So I guess there’s only one sensible choice: never explain, never apologise. Keep the idiots guessing.

What non-BEB music have you been enjoying in 2015? Anything more broadly cultural that’s particularly occupied you?

Christ, where to begin… I live round the corner from Hard Wax and pop in quite often, so I think I’m well placed to observe that most new house and techno is pretty dire. At least it means the good bits stand out: anything from the Acido, Sued and Sex Tags axis is buy-on-sight, really. Weevil Neighbourhood I quite like. Oh, and after years of rumblings on the periphery, there seems to be a concerted wave of sort of jungle-techno stuff coming through from the UK: people like Borai, Filter Dread, Etch. I’m not mad for all of it, but it’s interesting enough, I reckon, and it sounds young and full-of-itself, which is what you want. There’s some decent drum’n’bass stuff around, particularly out of Germany: Hidden Hawaii rarely disappoints, Alphacut and its sub-labels I usually like, and the occasional thing on Samurai too. Problem with a lot of the contemporary d’n’b stuff is that they put so much effort into the “dark” ambience and sound design, which is all very impressive, but they forget about groove…some of it ends up being quite stiff, there’s no real dynamism to it, and you can forget about hooks or melodies. So yeah, I blow hot and cold with that stuff.

Dubstep seems to have got quite good again, brought on by the grime revival I guess – can’t think of much off the top of my head…. Commodo, and the German label Version, are the obvious ones. The O$VMV$M record on Idle Hands is really good, sounds like grime reimagined as a product of the early 80s tape underground, but not as contrived as I’m making it sound. There’ve been some really good punk records this year: Diat, GG King and Coneheads spring to mind. Though to be honest recently I’ve spent most of my punk pound on the second-hand section at Static Shock, which is also dangerously near by. Beyond that, there are a handful of labels that I think are always worth checking: La Scie Doree, Holidays, Antinote, Hieratique, Penultimate Press, V-I-S, Another Dark Age. I loved the John T Gast album on Planet Mu, probably the one record this year that I really wish had come out on Blackest. Oh and tons of other stuff: Russell St Bombings, The Lloyd Pack LP on Amish, Susanna Gartmeyer’s record, the new Silvia Kastel. There’s loads.

In terms of other cultural things… I don’t know, I’ve not really left the house much, my life in Berlin is properly hermetic. In terms of books I enjoyed Andrew Hurley’s The Loney and, more recently, Phil Norman’s A History of Television In 100 Programs – which, despite its dreadful title, is brilliant, very droll and insightful. You have to realize I spend most of my free time watching bland, derivative mainstream TV murder mysteries, none of which I could possibly recommend here. Film-wise, all I can remember is my biggest disappointment of the year: Carol Morley’s The Falling, which on paper was probably the most Blackest-friendly film ever conceived, and should have been a classic, but was alas very poorly executed.

More broadly, what next for the label? Anything in particular you’re excited about? Can you see BEB making it to 10?

I don’t know… I didn’t want to think about the future until the fifth anniversary events were over. I was worried they might prove to be less a celebration of the label, and more an epitaph, somehow. As it happens, I’ve come out of the other side of them actually feeling quite excited about the road ahead, and with a clearer sense of what I want the label to be. Having said that, I’m at a transitional point in life – I’m moving back to London next year and will have to readjust to the brute economics of the place, which I’m not looking forward to, and which will inevitably take its toll on the label. For a start I’ll need to get another job, I would’ve thought. Equally, I’m a more engaged and outgoing person when I’m in London, and it’s also where Blackest’s soul is I think, so I’m actually relishing the return  – one way or another, it will bring things to a head. Will Blackest make it to 10? Probably, in some shape or form. Whether it’ll be a glorious and dignified 10th birthday, or a humiliating one, we’ll have to wait and see.

For now, you can look forward to new records in 2016 from Raime, Secret Boyfriend, Carla dal Forno, Amateur Childbirth, Dalhous, Ashtray Navigations and many more, including some reissues (yes I know, sorry). It never stops raining round here.

  

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