Interview: Graeme Swinton, the man behind our new favourite label LXXII
Photo of Graeme above © Martin Thompson.
We talk to Graeme Swinton, aka musician Palace Lido, the man behind our favourite new label, LXXII.
Those of you who watch Louder Than War closely will have spotted we’ve been raving more than a little bit about a new label called LXXII. Based in Bristol it’s headed by one Graeme Swinton who seemingly has an astonishing ability to discover exciting new electronica from around the world which is probably different to anything else you’ve ever heard.
The label’s now six releases in and as far as we can tell there’s been nary a duff track amongst the 12 we’ve so far been graced with. So needless to say it seemed like a great idea to have a word with Graeme to quiz him about his impressive curatorial skills, the ethos of the label, where it’s headed and yup, quite a bit more too.
But before we dive into the interview a few #fyi’s. First, reviews of the label’s releases 1 – 3 by Mark Whitby can be found here and reviews of 4 – 6, by Simon Tucker, can be found here. Second, LXXII07 is going to be a limited cassette and print / booklet by Videa Gam. Third, we recommend you keep up to date with LXXII’s releases by subscribing to the mailing list on the label’s website here: lxxii.co or by following it on twitter: @l__x__x__i__i.
And the final #fyi – here’s a video playlist drawing all 6 releases so far together, have a listen while you read our Qs and Graeme’s As below…
Louder Than War: The logical first question to any label as new as LXXII is why you decided to start it? And hopefully you’re not too bored of people asking about the name – I presume it’s Roman numerals, but what’s the significance?
I’ve been involved with music and bands and musicians for as long as I can remember. I design sleeve artwork, some of which is on swinton.co and I suppose I just love music, simple as that. LXXII was started for a whole variety of reasons, nothing really in particular or with a masterplan in mind.
I happened upon a few really, really great artists who were not released. I thought if I could combine the artwork side of things with their great music, then maybe there’s something in it.
LXXII is the roman numeral for 72. A rather great number and one that is the average number of heartbeats per minute for a resting adult and the number of members in National Senate of Argentina. So Wikipedia says…
And you make music yourself of course…
Well I do as it happens, under the name Palace Lido (hear some Palace Lido music on Soundcloud.) It’s all analogue bits and bobs and effects boxes synced to each other, I then record whatever happens live and make a mix down. Importantly it’s not programmed by a computer / sequencer, I like the haphazard nature of it this way. Also once it’s done it’s done, only a recording exists rather than project files. It’s very quick and hands-on.
How do you find all this amazing music?
Mostly Soundcloud. It really does contain some amazing unreleased music. I found Videa Gam on there and was blown away by his music and by checking out who liked him, who follows him and comments people have left I jumped all over the place. Six degrees of separation style I just connected people and put together playlists of artists I wanted to put out. I then contacted them and a few said yes. Other artists are friends, some of which are yet to be released…
So bearing that in mind, do you think you’d be putting music out now without the internet? I also often ask people whether they think, overall, the internet has been a boon for music so if you can answer that succinctly please have a go!
There definitely wouldn’t be LXXII without the internet, no. Simple as that… and yes I think as a whole the internet is definitely a boon for music. What has changed though is that the almost precious nature of music has diminished. There is too much choice and I feel that some people view music as a whole as being far too fleeting. It’s very difficult for artists to get noticed.
The music you’ve been releasing so far is all quite unique, and yet has a similar “feel” to it. Are you looking for anything in particular or do you always just know when you hear it?
Not sure, there’s definitely something about each and every one that has made me sit up and listen. Wicca for example I got very excited about. Then when I contacted him and got a better idea of the person it made me appreciate the songs even more. I must admit I’m heartened to hear that you think it all has a certain ‘feel’, I think that’s very important in a label. It’s kind of a gang really isn’t it. We’re a dysfunctional gang!
Have you spoken to the artists much about what forged their sound?
Posted on the lxxii website are questions and answers I have asked each of the artists (lxxii.co/artists) as I’m always curious as to how people make music or what drives them. They all have different answers but as a core theme I think it’s emotion in some shape or form that runs through.
The tracks are only available as digital downloads at the moment, what are your reasons for this and is there an ETA as regards when physicals might be available?
I think for singles such as the six that I’ve released so far that are two tracks each, digital / streaming works best; I love that it’s immediate and worldwide instantly and almost in a way throwaway. Pop music really.
That’s not to say there won’t be a physical release at some point. I’ve been mulling over a cassette with one of the artists that would come with a booklet of artwork. This idea also goes full circle, kind of a homage to the DIY attitude of old.
Some people might have thought the way to go would’ve been to do a compilation, is this something you considered doing? I guess this might loop back to the last question – a vinyl / CD of the first six releases would be a mighty fine artifact imo!
Ha yes, this was the plan, when I contacted the artists originally it was for a compilation album. However when listening to Deflection Pulley it is a whole different experience to listening to FKOFF1963 and having them separated gives them an individuality and purpose. Also with the ease of digital distribution I thought why not just keep putting things out. See what happens. The compilation album can come later on down the line. On heavyweight double vinyl perhaps.
Have you been surprised by the reaction to the releases so far?
Yes, frankly. If I’m honest I thought it would go unnoticed… There’s so much amazing music at the moment that I just assumed the LXXII stuff without massive promotion would simply not appear on anyone’s radar. Both Louder Than War and the Quietus have featured the label though and I’m very much appreciative of the support.
Indeed – there’s so much music out there and it’s so easy for people to make music these days! But at the same time you must have known the music you had was pretty special?
That’s very kind of you to say. I certainly did yes and it’s great when other people pick up on the same thing. I only wish I had VirginEMIs marketing budget then I know I could get it out there to more people. It deserves to be heard!
Do you think the label being based in Bristol is something that will help or hinder the label’s growth?
None of the artists are from Bristol. Videa Gam, Papertiger and Wiicca are in the US. Leedian is from Tokyo, Deflection Pulley from Geneva and FKOFF1963 is from Brazil. It would be great to have a label showcase in Bristol with an artist or two playing but I don’t see this happening sadly. Maybe I’ll turn up with a laptop and play some unreleased stuff in the back room of a pub wearing my LXXII t-shirt instead.
In terms of label growth, I don’t know, if I go back to the label inception and there not being a masterplan then growth is not really a key objective. This really is a very organic exercise and it will continue as long as people like it and there is great music to put out there. None of the artists are signed exclusively, it’s on each and every release. Saying that though, the new tracks that Videa Gam sent through are absolutely incredible and I was delighted when he sent them over to me. It will be an honour to put them out. Really he should be signed to a major label with a huge marketing spend and his music should be everywhere!
Have you had any contact with people in the Bristol electronic music scene? Because what you’re describing there sounds exactly like Boundary Object at The Bell (if it’s still going!) – I’m sure an LXXII showcase as part of that series would be perfect!
I know a few Bristol electronic folk but I’m not in with a scene or anything. I don’t know about Boundary Object still being at The Bell. Nice little garden there if I recall though.
There’s a really strong visual side to the releases – the website, cover art, fonts you use etc is always amazing. This is intentional I presume? How important do you think how you package your output is?
Thanks very much! Yes absolutely, the design of the label is extremely important and completely intentional. As I mentioned I do a lot of artwork for posters, sleeves and all that and I really want this label to have a unique and very strong identity. It needs to stand alongside labels I love such as Blackest Ever Black and Kontra. Tranquility Tapes too. Something new, a bit different. Something that catches your eye but you’re not quite sure why.
I think artwork is so very, very important. It reinforces a label’s ‘look’ and hints at a sound. In fact there are releases recently I’ve bought simply on the strength of their sleeves. Restless Idylls by Tropic of Cancer and Turkish Leather by Ritual Howls to name but two. Both ace albums. It also works the other way though. Can’t Let You Go by John Travolta has an amazing sleeve but…
Pulling together two of the questions above – do you think the internet’s been helpful in getting that across or not? Fewer people will be holding a records sleeve, say, in their hands looking at it but on the other hand you get to be creative with websites, Tumblrs, Pinterest etc if you’re so minded…
This is a tricky one, whilst I believe strongly that a label needs a strong and consistent visual side by the time the artwork appears on Rdio / Spotify or on a phone it gets a bit lost because of the scale of the image. I think it was the Spiritualized album Huh? or Sweet Heart Sweet Light or whatever it was called that made a decision to have super simple artwork so it would work at 80px square in iTunes. Now Tumblr I do like and in fact the LXXII website is built on Tumblr. This was a conscious decision as any piece of artwork on the site can be shared really simply and quickly and then it all gets linked back to the site itself. This ties back in with LXXII releases being digital only for now also. Simple and widespread distribution quickly and the ability for songs / artwork to be shared.
Brilliant – thanks for your time and we’ll def be keeping our focus trained on the label for the foreseeable!