Italian blog Movimenta invited us to make a mixtape for their Half Past Mix series.
It features; Morten Feldman, Brian Harnetty & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Supersilent, Mercury Rev, Carter Tutti,Einsturzende Neubauten, Laurel Halo, Arve Henriksen and Magnolia Electric Co.
I recently chatted to Sounds Of A Tired City about all things Gizeh Records and made them a label mixtape.
Gizeh Records is an independent label based in Manchester, UK. Founded by Richard Knox in Leeds, 2004 and focusing on a fiercely DIY ethic, Gizeh has grown with its artists over the years to form a strong community of musicians and artists from around the world, most of them collaborating together over the years across various projects, helping the label and those involved progress and evolve in an organic, inspiring and galvanising way. Their aim is to conduct themselves with modesty and humility in an ever changing industry. They put love, care and passion into their records and their artists and continue to push their ideals and their collective as far as they can within the available means. They have no care for genres or pigeon-holes – simply the noise of harmony and the harmony of noise and the inspiration and spirit of the people who are making that noise. We spoke to Richard Knox to find out more about the artists and the history of the label and the perks of an enthusiastic DIY attitude. He also made a splendid guest mix, featuring some of the best tracks released on Gizeh Records.
How did you first get involved with music?
I was fairly late getting properly ‘into’ music, probably in my late teens really. I was at school when ‘Brit-Pop’ happened so that was my first introduction and the first time I’d been aware of particular scenes, trends and movements. Things really changed when I started to discover bands like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Labradford who were all releasing their first records around a similar time. I remember seeing Mogwai in Leeds on the ‘Young Team’ tour in a tiny venue that has now unfortunately closed down. It was incredible and I’d never experienced live music like it before. That was the beginning of realising there was some music I could properly relate to and immerse myself in. Glissando was born out of this soon after.
When and how did you get the idea to give birth to Gizeh Records?
We’d made the very first Glissando recordings and wanted to figure out what to do with them. There were some friends making great music as 30 Day Hex back then, in the early 2000’s and we played a bunch of shows together. The label started as just a simple way to put a name on some CDr’s to sell at shows. There was no masterplan at that stage and I never envisaged doing what I’m doing now. Over the years it steadily grew piece by piece and I released a few other small things on CDr until I decided to try and do something more substantial with it all.
How would you describe the sound of Gizeh Records in 5 words?
There is no definitive sound.
What is the concept of the label?
It’s a DIY label first of all. Distribution aside we handle everything ourselves and always have. We have always tried to build something with a collaborative element in that we encourage our artists to work together, tour together and we look for artists with similar expectations and work ethics. Having a particular concept can close certain paths so we try to be open minded, try new things, work hard but mostly it’s simply about working with music we love, made by people who we respect and trust and whose company we also enjoy.
Why ‘Gizeh’ Records?
It was actually the name of mine and Elly May’s first band before Glissando. I liked the name and we never did anything more than play a few shows so I decided to take it with me. I enjoy the way it’s written and the fact that no one really knows how to pronounce it. It’s taken from the ancient pyramids in Egypt.
How do you usually find and select the artists/music you’re going to sign to your label?
They usually find us. Mostly there is already a connection somewhere to someone or something. Occasionally we happen upon an artist randomly but it’s important to get to know people before working too closely together.
What do you find the most stimulating/disappointing thing about running a label?
The obvious things are true. Hearing a piece of music one of our artists has written, getting finished physical copies back from the pressing plant, seeing an artist play a stunning show are all really exciting parts that never get old. The hardest thing is usually finances and constantly questioning and calculating if we can release a record. While the freedom of running an independent label is very liberating you have to always make mistakes or errors in judgement in order to learn and progress.
Do you think that in our digital era the non-musical elements – eg. album artwork – are overlooked and not appreciated enough? How important are these kind of aesthetics for Gizeh Records?
Yes, I do. These things are very important to us but things are changing really quickly right now and it’s not financially possible to do the things we have previously done, so you have to find new ways or be clever or sometimes even follow a trend to get the most out of a record for the artist and ourselves. The fact is that less people are buying physical products but a lot of people still are, so the calculations we have to do before deciding to release a record can be quite complex. The music industry is in a very weird place right now and it feels like it’s really trying to figure itself out. It seems like everything is almost at the maximum it can be before it breaks and collapses. As I said in another recent interview, the money pie is getting smaller and there are more people eating from that pie. It can’t continue and I don’t really see how it sustains itself going forward.
How does a ‘regular day’ look like at the Gizeh Records office?
Well, I’m an early riser so I’m usually working with a nice strong coffee at 7:30am. I do a lot of different jobs aside from or as an extension of the label; press work, tour booking, design work and obviously making music as well so I have to structure my week depending on what’s most important. Normally I’ll start the day by making a list of jobs to be done and adding things that didn’t get finished the previous day/week. I’ll then tackle as many outstanding emails as I can before heading into the main work for the day. With a label like ours there is always something more you can be doing so the work never really ends. I’ll usually do around 11 hours per day but it depends on workload. Sometimes the evenings can be free and relaxing or sometimes there is music to work on or rehearsals etc. It can be very difficult to find the right balance.
Are there any artists you would secretly love to sign to Gizeh Records?
Plenty! I’ll keep those a secret though.
Do you have a personal favourite among your releases? Which one are you the most proud of?
I’m proud of everything we’ve done in different ways because the conditions of each release always change and throw you new challenges. I think I’m most proud of the fact that we still exist without any external help.
Do you remember a particularly wonderful moment in the history of the label?
I have many great memories but if I had to pick one I think the FareWell Poetry album launch night in Paris was very special. It was in the beautiful Saint-Merry Church, right in the centre of Paris, next to the Pompidou Centre. We spent the whole day building a stage and installing the visuals in the church and so many people came. The show was just amazing and I joined them on guitar at the end of the last song which added an extra personal element to the excitement. It felt like something that would live with me for a long time.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting their own label?
I’d say that right now is not the best time to be trying to do that. However, I’ve never been one to adhere to such advice myself, so I think most importantly you must start out with no ambitions to make any money –especially in the early stages. That will then give you a feel of if you want to do it long-term because it can be really, really difficult and the rewards can be minimal at best at times. Obviously there are plenty of amazing elements to running a label otherwise people wouldn’t do it. It’s important to set out your expectations and your budget carefully – never stretch beyond your means. Be sure you work with artists who share your ambitions and your desires and your expectations. Communication is key and don’t be afraid to ask people for advice.
What is the latest news at Gizeh Records? What should we keep our eyes and ears on?
Our recent releases were from Ormonde and Last Harbour and we have a new Shield Patterns EP in March. There’s a new Aidan Baker album coming in April and a new 20 minute, one-track piece of music from Tomorrow We Sail which we just announced. A lot of our artists are touring in the coming months which is nice to see too, I’ll be away with Shield Patterns in Europe for a few weeks so I’m very much looking forward to that. We’re having a few months off in the summer and then there are a couple more records scheduled for the last part of the year.
The new Shield Patterns EP is finally out and you can hear it in full below. We have a large EU/UK tour beginning on Saturday so please come say hello if you are attending a show.
14.03 Milton Keynes (UK) - MK Gallery
16.03 Ramsgate (UK) - Music Hall w/ Portico
17.03 Rouen (FR) - Le Rêve de l'Escalier
18.03 Paris (FR) - Oliver Peel Session
19.03 Heilbronn (DE) - Complex23
20.03 Thun (CH) - Mokka
21.03 Innsbruck (AT) - Die Bäckerei
22.03 Offenbach (DE) - Hafen2 (early show)
23.03 Cologne (DE) - Die Wohngemeinschaft
26.03 Hannover (DE) - Feinkostlampe
27.03 Groningen (NL) - Synagogue
28.03 Nijmegen (NL) - Derde Wal
29.03 Hamburg (DE) - Private House Show
30.03 Berlin (DE) - ACUD
31.03 Leipzig (DE) - Bau Bau
01.04 Vienna (AT) - FLUC
02.04 Prague (CZ) - Palac Akropolis
23.04 Edinburgh (UK) - Assembly Roxy
24.04 Newcastle (UK) - Head of Steam
25.04 Salford (UK) - The Eagle Inn
27.04 Leeds (UK) - tba
28.04 Sheffield (UK) - Rocking Chair
29.04 Norwich (UK) - Blueberry
30.04 Cambridge (UK) - tba
01.05 Bristol (UK) - Cafe Kino
02.05 Wrexham (UK) - Undegun
Moon Duo - Animal
Taken from Shadow Of The Sun - Out now on Sacred Bones
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld - The Sun Roars Into View.
Taken from Never Were The Way She Was - Out 28.04.15 on Constellation.
Our Sleeping Land track was recently remixed by Max Cooper and Max included it in his Essential Mix for Radio 1 this week. Take a listen here or download the remix from Max's soundcloud page here.
"I wanted to make this mix a fusion of everything that I love most about music, without any restraints. As a result it plays a little like a trip through the inside of my head. I was lucky enough to receive some amazing unreleased tracks from some of the best out there; Nils Frahm, Lusine, Rob Clouth and Tim Hecker. I've hidden a couple of new tracks of mine in there too. I hope there's something in there you enjoy!".
Max Cooper February 2015.
Kate Bush-esque vocals set the tone for Manchester based Shield Patterns. Mystical and sensual, Shield Patterns have a dark electro-pop sound that draws you in and captures the essence of something otherworldly throughout their whole musical process. Claire Brentnall and Richard Knox are Shield Patterns and their latest EP Contour Lines will be released for your aural pleasure in early March.
The process in which they create their music is a beautiful and natural balance between the two with Bretnall writing and delivering melodies whilst Knox works on the textures and more atmospheric side of their musical foundations. Their creativity is so solid that is inevitable the direction of Shield Patterns has taken its on an organic course that will continue to flourish. Don’t miss out on catching them on the European and UK tour which kicks off next month!
KALTBLUT: Could you tell me a bit about the experimentation process behind your latest EP Violet?
Claire: My ankles are totally knackered because I used to run a lot, so they click. So I sampled them clicking and made some beats! There are other bits of field recordings on Violet. I really enjoyed making the clarinet melodies at the end of the EP. On Contour Lines, my clarinet on Charon was pretty wild and improvised, so I liked taking a more structured approach and carefully layering clarinet parts to create something more flowing and melodic. We played this live at Union Chapel in London recently which sounded nice and full in the gorgeous building.
Richard: I feel we create in quite a unique way, in that we hardly ever work together in the same room or sit down and improvise new ideas. There’s a lot of sharing sounds and beats back and forth, destroying or manipulating what one another has built and that brings something new each time. Each element of the piece is experimented on in some way, taking what is essentially a sort of pop song and putting on a rack and stretching it as far as it will go.
KALTBLUT: How do you feel your sound has evolved since your previous album Contour Lines?
Richard: It’s evolved in a very natural and organic way. The atmosphere of the new material is similar but I feel there’s a slightly more minimal, bleaker side to the production. Claire is constantly writing new music and because of that everything feels quite seamless as there are no huge gaps between working on new material. We placed a couple of the new tracks in the live set on the last tour and they held up quite well, the writing process was pretty much the same as with Contour Lines and the past year has been very busy with touring and being heavily involved with the album so this new EP is very much part of that same process.
KALTBLUT: Your music is an eclectic mix of dark electro-pop… Would you say you have a certain dark side to yourselves?
Richard: I almost always veer towards what you might deem ‘darker’ arts. It must be the way I am wired, I don’t know any other way. Claire is so good at writing melodies and she is much more musical than I am in a traditional sense. My strengths reside in textures and atmospheres and sounds so when the two things are married together it forms a really interesting result. Claire also has a great ability to surprise me with some really heavy and intense sounds sometimes. She just worked on a remix for Dutch Uncles and I was blown away by what she created with that. It was exactly the way I would have approached the remix!
KALTBLUT: Do you feel Manchester has influenced your sound in any kind of way?
Richard: Not massively. It’s an influence in terms of the people we are surrounded by but I wouldn’t say the city itself informs what we write. I feel like we would make the same music wherever we were based.
KALTBLUT: The intensity of your sound mixed with Claire’s Kate Bush-esque vocals team together to create something truly magical and unique… As a duo could you explain your musical process?
Claire: As Richard mentioned before we tend to work alone. Perhaps I will make a melody or a beat, then pass it to Richard and he will add drones, beats, or vice versa, and so on. It tends to be a process of passing music back and forth between us. We then work on the production together. The majority of the songs on Contour Lines, I wrote alone. The music usually comes first then I write the lyrics and vocal melodies based on how the music makes me feel, or what sort of ideas it conjures in my mind. Violet was a bit more collaborative in the actual writing process, but still we tended to be alone when actually working! It’s really nice this way! We both create something, then come together to let it transform. We approach making music in quite different ways, so it’s always exciting to see what the other will come up with.
KALTBLUT: You’re starting your big European Tour… What can we expect from one of your shows?
Claire: We strive to play as many of the elements as we can live. There are no laptops on stage which is something we decided on pretty early. We have a lot of gear and a lot of wires. There are many pads and triggers for making the various sounds and beats, we have some programmed longer drones and bass parts but some of this is essential as each tracks contains between 30 and 50 individual sounds so it’s impossible to be able to play every detail live. It can be quite an intense experience at times which is wholly intentional.
KALTBLUT: You’re debut album was only released in June last year. What was the idea in bringing out your EP Violet so soon after the album?
Claire: I guess we just like making music and we work pretty fast! I loved making Contour Lines, and more music kept coming, and these four songs we felt worked well together as an EP. We are making music most of the time and have a bunch of songs that I’m excited about that may go towards a new album, we’ll see!
KALTBLUT: When you’re not making music what do you guys get up to?
Claire: We spend most of our time together! We live together. We laugh a lot! We walk and go to the pub and I like drawing, making art and reading.
Richard: I run Gizeh Records which takes up a lot of time as well as managing the band and booking the tours… we’re very self-contained in that way. I very much enjoy cycling in my spare time too.
KALTBLUT: Do your lyrics come from a personal place and are they shared between the both of you?
Claire: The lyrics tend to be personal. I really like playing with words and phrases and ideas. I like to write in a kind of stream of consciousness and begin to form ideas around thoughts, feelings, things that have happened. Sometimes I’ll do lots and lots of versions of lyric ideas. The lyrics in our songs tend to be very inward looking, which can be a form of catharsis.
A Closer Listen list 'The Rustle of the Stars' in their 'Best 25 Winter Albums Of All Time' chart. Nice!
"The triumph and tragedy of the early explorers is lovingly outlined by Knox and Oberland in this bleak but emotionally satisfying opus. Occasionally a captain and crew would return from the polar regions outwardly victorious, but inwardly hollowed and hardened. These musicians find sympathy in their stories and inject empathy into their eulogies. The Rustle of the Stars imagines their hopes and their struggles as they wander into the great unknown."
Max Cooper has just released a remix of 'Sleeping Land' by the Rustle of the Stars. Available to stream and download for free.
Some words from Max:
"Your December free download is a remix, and an important piece of music to me personally. Partly because it was the result of a chance string of events driven by my love of the original track and a fortuitous meeting with Frederic D. Oberland, one half of The Rustle of the Stars with Richard Knox. And partly because I love the intensity and feeling of the original which I have tried to convey in my own way with little regard for the usual rules of making music - ambient strings arrangement at one end, and a drum and bass wall of sound at the other, because that's what I felt was required to communicate the emotions I found in the original piece, inspired by "a musical passage through the North Pole explorer diaries".
Here's what Richard and Frederic said about the original: "We would like to think of this as a polar journey to the ends of the earth through the arctic sea. We kept in mind the first polar expeditions, Edgar Allan Poe's Dream-Land, the ships trapped or crushed by ice, the point of no-return, the minds sinking, the attempt on the Pole ending in disaster, the quest of the Northwest Passage, Erebus & Terror, the Mercy Bay, Mangazeya, Charles Francis Hall, Beechey Island, the Midnight sun and the Polar night."
It's very winter-y. And I'm very pleased Richard and Frederic agreed to allow me to give the remix away for free to anyone who would like to hear it this Christmas!"