We all had a favourite teddy bear when we were younger (yes even the road men among you). A shoulder to cry on during the hard moments and a companion to celebrate the good times, teddy bears were the emotional bedrock to our childhood. They’ve been with us through every peak and trough in our journey to maturity. For us, LateNightTales represents a similar emotional equivalent for our adult music-loving years. Expertly curated by some of our favourite artists, they’ve provided soundtracks to all parts of life, while also being an important music discovery tool for new and old sounds.
This year they celebrate 15 years, and so we caught up with label boss Paul Glancy about how the last decade and a half has panned out. He’s also sent over a retrospective discovery mix, compiled with the help of Late Night Tale fans. No easy task to sum up 15 years of releases in just an hour, but this really is a pleasure to take in. And it’s introduced by Benedict Cumberbatch no less! Grab the tracklist at the bottom.
15 years – congratulations! What’s your overriding emotion as you approach such a big milestone?
A mixture of excitement, disbelief, positivity and exhaustion!
Let’s take things back to the start, as many of our readers were still in primary school when you first started (sorry for making you feel old!). What’s the story behind the origins of LNT the label and series concept?
The series was originally named Another Late Night but there was a legal issue (long story) with the name and it changed to Late Night Tales in 2003 with Nightmares on Wax. We’ve released over 30 Late Night Tales since then and the ethos has always been the same – we invite the world’s best artists to delve deep into their music collections to create the ultimate “late night” selection.
Outside yourself, has there been anyone involved who’s been pivotal in the label’s development?
The series was was started in 1999 by Austin Wilde, who was also involved in All Back To Mine. Nowadays we have three publicists, a designer, photographer, licensing person, accountant, web developer, engineer, someone who packs all our web site orders, and me trying to coordinate it all! It’s a worldwide but tight knit operation. Bill Brewster has been involved since day one, contributing liner notes for every release – from Fila Brazilia up to Sasha: Scene Delete – as well as compiling and mixing three albums in his spin off After Dark series.
Could you talk us through the aesthetic and artwork of the label? Who’s behind that and what did you want it to say about the label and series?
I work closely with our photographer Peter Ashworth and designer Matt Hughes on the layout. The imagery ideally reflects the tone of the music included and has a common thread with the previous albums. We like the cover imagery to send a visual message of what’s inside.
Late Night Tales has released such a diverse range of music over the years, but do you feel there’s a common tie that runs through the compilations, either in a philosophy or music policy?
I think it’s based on a love for discovering and sharing music, no matter the age or style. There’s definitely a distinct vibe to Late Night Tales, but one that is very hard to define in words. It’s a question that’s probably best answered by our mix.
Following on from that, what have you looked for in a LNT curator to keep that common thread consistent?
More often than not the curator is a slightly obsessive record collector and/or DJ and relishes the opportunity to focus on their love of other music rather than their own output. What makes each special varies from artist to artist. With solo collections like Jon Hopkins or Nils Frahm you get a clear, singular vision but where a band collaborates on the tracklist there’s a wider peek into what makes up their shared influences – the Belle & Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand albums are both great at that. Both styles are fascinating to dig into.
Looking back over the last 15 years, what are some of your proudest achievements?
Both are very recent. Releasing Khruangbin’s debut album is right up there and the new Sasha album is a close second for me right now.
And what have been some of the greatest difficulties you’ve had to overcome?
When Spotify and streaming came along and popularised the playlist format we were thinking maybe the concept had run its course. But I think it has only drawn new followers to what we do. We also pride ourselves that the artists put a lot of effort into the mix that’s part of every release. The Cinematic Orchestra spent over a year on their mix and you can hear that. If you listen to Nils Frahm’s track selections as a playlist then as the mix, they are very very different experiences. The artist’s cover version and closing spoken word story have become integral to the format too.
As the face of underground music has changed over the last 15 years, have you adapted the way you run the label in any way?
The main change is being very focused on only releasing music of the highest quality (not that there has ever been any lower quality on Late Night Tales!). With the advent of free music platforms, what we release has to stand head and shoulders above that.
Let’s play Desert Island Late Night Tales: what three comps would you take with to cover all musical bases, moods and occasions?
Have there been any guest curators that got away over the years?
David Bowie, Caribou and Arcade Fire are amongst those that have passed on us. We’ve still got a big wishlist including Kate Bush, Bjork, Flying Lotus, Massive Attack, Burial, Boards of Canada and Depeche Mode.
You’ve been making some nice movements releasing original music recently, esp. with Khruangbin. What was the thinking behind adding this string to your bow as a label?
From discovering Khruangbin via Bonobo’s edition to releasing a 7”, follow up EPs and their debut LP, we’re enormously proud to see them doing so well. We definitely want to continue to release more original music. Sasha’s Scene Delete is essentially our fourth original artist album after David Shrigley, Rae & Christian and Khruangbin.
Could you tell us about the mix you made for us?
Discovery has always been a key theme of Late Night Tales, so we put the question to our followers on our socials: “which track has been your favourite discovery”. The response was extensive but we selected some of the more popular ones along with those that held personal value. The initial mix was over two hours long but between Paul Morris (engineer), Benjamin Smith (publicity and DJ) and I we arrived at a track order, and after some more revisions and mixing tweaks we eventually arrived at this version.
Did you enjoy looking back through Twitter at some of the memories and stories from fans surrounding certain tracks?
Very much. It was very encouraging to read all the new, and old, connections to music people have made through Late Night Tales.
@LateNightTales Hands down,it was discovering the 1 sided single Love Will Set You Free by Carrie Cleveland that came with Franz Ferdinand.
— WhereAreYou? (@Scubeedo) January 23, 2016
@LateNightTales Hi! Gotta be Love Vibration//Joe Simon. Filthy disco monster.
— DirtyDiscoSound (@DirtyDiscoSound) January 14, 2016
Bringing things up to the modern day, what DJs, artists and labels are exciting you at the moment?
Its an almost never ending list. You’re best off following our Late Night Tales Likes playlist on Spotify.
Do you have any plans for some 15th Birthday parties this year?
We’ve a few things planned throughout the year. Tom Findlay from Groove Armada is playing our first main party at Small Horse Social Club, Bristol on 19th March. Our resident Late Night Tales DJs have regular nights in Bristol and London and will be DJing between acts on the main stage at Farm Festival in July too. Late Night Tales is also a sponsor of Nils Frahm’s Piano Day on 28th March. Khruangbin are touring with Father John Misty in May, which is sure to be one long party!
What’s coming up in the next few months we should look out for?
Sasha: Scene Delete is released on 1st April and soon after we’ll be announcing our next official Late Night Tales, but we can’t quite say who that is yet! There’s one more Late Night Tales coming later in the year. Khruangbin have a special 12” out on Record Store Day too, which has a very elaborate sleeve design. It’s our very own ‘Blue Monday’.
And finally, where would you like to see LNT by the time it reaches its 20th birthday?
With all the ever changing obstacles and pressures of the industry, we’ll be happy still being here. We hope to see you all at the party!