Chuggy really is a man who needs no introduction, but for the purpose of this interview we’ll give him one anyway. The man behind the Emotional label “empire” — Emotional Rescue, Emotional Response and Emotional Especial — he covers all musical bases with each imprint catering to his various predilections.
Emotional Rescue focuses on reissues, responsible for giving the likes of Mr. & Mrs. Dale’s 1989 Garage House classic “It’s You” and the ambient new wave musings of Woo a fresh set of discerning ears. On the other hand, Emotional Response and Emotional Especial showcase contemporary offerings, the former “music for the home or for the head”and the latter being the catalyst for the breakthrough of artists like Khidja, Alphonse and Jamie Paton.
Alongside a vinyl-only mix entitled Celestial Lovers, that cruises through Lovers Rock on homegrown labels, he charts a life spent indebted to searching for forgotten sounds…
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
Yes definitely. My parents were in to pretty mainstream music, but the fact I grew up in both England and the US increased what I heard. Also, I have an older brother and sister, and while she was more into disco and pop, he was in to rock, so I was exposed to both and ended up somewhere in between.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
Music, music, music. How it makes you feel. The intricacies of it. The interaction it creates in your and others. Emotions. And the genius of it. Later came sharing with friends and cohorts. I love discovering new sounds all the time.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I keep the majority in a music room at home which doubles up as my office, but I keep an archive of my releases and overflow in a slightly converted space elsewhere. I am moving it all to a new space in the next year and will even start to sell parts of it selectively. Watch this space. Filing is by genre and then country or area. So House and Techno start in Detroit and Chicago and it goes from there to NYC, Philly, Miami etc. It works for me!
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Being a father and running all the labels has meant there was a period I stopped digging in stores, however, this year or so I have started again with a bit of a renewed interest. I think partly it’s the sound I’ve been digging which has been very British centred and inspired by a new generation of collectors I’ve got to know. I do still buy new music too and like to do a trawl through Soho from Soul Jazz to Phonica to Reckless and over to Honest Jon’s in Notting Hill, as well as popping to Juno to see the distro guys and pick up what I am after. Having been around a while I know a lot of the staff as friends so it’s as much a social.
I also like to go by Low Company, Love Vinyl, Eldica, World Of Echo, Rough Trade and a few other spots East now. Plus, I’m based South so mentions out to Rat Records, Book And Record Bar and Rye Wax. Overseas I’d say Paris and Barcelona are favourites and then there are a lot of dealers working online, via Instagram and mailing lists etc, that I do get the more selective things from. I’m actually in NYC as I type and will be heading to A1 and The Thing later!!
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
Maybe not unsung, but around the globe I have to say the Sound Metaphors and OYE crews in Berlin, Vincent in Paris, Gerad at Disco Paradiso in Barcelona and Disc Union in Tokyo. Back home, the guys at Time Capsule here in London, and more recently the one man dealers like James Thornington, Hampus Time and a special mention to Bruno aka Perfect Lives. A worthy mention should go to the old miseries who worked at Music & Video back in the glory days and to the one and only Toru at Reckless. Unsung buddy has to be Jonny Rock for the sharing, laughs and katsu curry.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
So many it’s not worth listing. I gave up feeling envious or upset about not owning a record years ago. It was a tough road to get there, but an epiphany to reach it!
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
I like to meander in my searching so go solo most of time. Open to suggestions though always.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
I do not feel daunted for a start. I don’t let others’ egos bump my day and realise it’s just fun and see what shows up. I like to go for the cheap bins found under the main selections or even ask what is out back once you get to know someone. I’ve found the best finds that way. I’m not really looking to bolster my collection with the records you find up top.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
Good question. It didn’t use to but it has more and more, especially if you are looking for a specific sound. In relation to the mix I’ve done, it’s Lovers Rock based (!), but with an angle of some lesser known British – mainly London – labels and so really for stamped and hand written white labels, things that look like they released one or two records themselves etc. In short, private pressings. Similar for more left field albums. I’m a sucker for white sleeves with pasted on art.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
Well as mentioned, it’s a UK reggae based mix. 90% of it is Lovers and the rest falls in some kind of lo-fi, private press, left field reggae-not-reggae odds and sods. I would say it’s all from London but don’t quote me on that! It’s something I’ve returned to this year after collecting the likes of Mad Professor’s Ariwa label back in my early 20s, but this is coming out of a series of reissues I want to do next year, including the first genre based compilations. I think you can guess what the first will be!
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
For now most are a secret but maybe check the photos ha.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
I think most have been well documented enough. The most formative are my friends who we all collected and shared in our teens and twenties. I still share things with two of them now, but they are not like scene names etc. It was a huge education and fun period to listen to so much amazing music. A worthy mention should go to Piers Harrison from Soft Rocks, who I run the Mysiticisms label with. He has amazing taste and follows a pretty cool path. His head will explode when he reads that!
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
Even though he’s not so young (!), Pol who is part of Time Capsule is an amazing collector and lovely friend. His taste is implacable and I learn a lot when I hear him play. Behind a lot of scenes is an unsung hero and for one happening here in London – that I won’t name – it’s him. I also really like what Deborah and Wind & Skins play; it’s a breath of freshness I needed to hear. Then there is young Bruno, who I mentioned before, and I’m working on the compilations with, is a wave coming in with his own energy and vibe. Closer to home, the parties of South East London are staying fresh and pushing an eclectic club sound – just I don’t go out to so many these days.
You head up Emotional Response, Emotional Rescue and Emotional Especial. With Emotional Rescue focused on reissues and Especial and Response catering to contemporary electronic music, how does the A&R process differ for each imprint?
They differ a lot. Reissues is like digging through your favourites from your collection or maybe a wants too, and then finding and licensing. The best part of it is the stories behind the releases you get to hear and seeing the record come out and finding new ears. I’m super proud to have released the likes of Jaki Whitren, Woo, Luis Delgado, Jah Wobble, Michael Stearns, Ramjac and Ernest Ranglin for example.
Emotional Response is actually my favourite as it’s very personal. Music for the home or for the head in the main, it’s the hardest to get gravitas but then the likes of The Naturals, Roy Of The Ravers and Brainwaltzera have crossed over to reach new audiences in quite a big way.
Especial is just my take on a type of club sound. I never thought it was part of that (dreary) drug chug that popped up when the label started. It’s way more eclectic than that, covering new wave, proto-house, breaks, electro, italo and more. Breaking out artists like Khidja, Jamie Paton and Alphonse and see where they go on it – plus hopefully recently with Weird Weather and Project Runaway – has been a pleasure.
Are there any releases that hold a lot of significance or sentimental value?
There have been loads to be honest. Pinch yourself moments of working with people you admire, whether old or new. If I had to pick one, then putting together Woo’s Into The Heart Of Love because it was like releasing an unsung masterpiece and it had never been released on vinyl before.
Is there anyone else who’s fundamental to running the labels?
People who support and buy records.
What’s coming up for the labels this year? Any releases you’re excited about?
Sorry many haha. Always trying to do something interesting and with quality. Something I would want to buy is the basic premise. Being excited about what’s coming is a major reason for doing it. A snapshot could be, Emotional Rescue has two series of EPs collecting 80/90s “world music” coming from The New Morning and International Noise Orchestra due shortly, before reaching the 100th release with a “hope it comes together” unheralded English singer, before going in to next year with a lot of reggae, funk, disco and electro 12”s from the likes of Noel Williams, One Blood and 101 Band that will be backed by “Discomix” style versions from stalwarts like Diesel & Jarvis, Lexx and DJ Duckcomb to name a few. Response just announced a great collaborative release from Seahawks & Woo that is super exciting and will hopefully evolve in to a live set up next year, plus Cherrystones and I are hopefully working towards something, plus a great release with Benedikt Frey that will appear. Finally, for Especial we are getting close to completing EPs from Kris Baha and Kim Ann Foxman with the myriad of remixes / remixers that they’ll include. It’s a long and ever evolving list.
On top of that you’re also involved with Mysticisms alongside Piers Harrison and Sacred Summits with Lindsay from Firecracker. Anything coming up for both of these?
As the other labels release quite regularly it’s nice to work with others on a more irregular basis. Sacred Summits does have two LPs in the works, one of new music and the other a reissue. I can’t say when they will appear right now as Lindsay has been super busy and recently got married (congrats!), but they are pretty much ready. Mysticisms is definitely something fun to do with Piers as we’ve known each other for quite a few years and laugh a lot at our ineptitude. Next up is a “life goals” reissue of Nail’s first ever recording, Cassiopeia. It came out on a DiY Sound System / Warp Records compilation in 1993 so this is a chance to put it out on 12” at last and comes with a 2019 remix. After that we are working on a few releases, mixing old and new. I also started a project with Ziggy from Bahnsteig 23 out of Berlin late last year. Wanting to move away from edits Ziggy shut B23 and we’ve spun it off in to doing licensed reissues. A little under the radar we’ve done 10 releases already somehow – which trust me, is not easy to do! – including a series on Exquisite Corpse and Bourbonese Qualk and soon to release two great and super sought after albums by Mr Concept and Vox Populi!. Lots incoming, as you might as well enjoy it while it lasts. And I do.