Independent Focus: Angular Recording Corporation
It is rare that an inspiration, by its nature often ethereal, may be given a fixed point on a map. But, for Joe Daniel, who co-founded Angular Recording Corporation (ARC) with Joe Margetts in 2003, that is exactly the case. In Hilly Fields, which backs onto the house where he was living in Brockley, South London, Daniel discovered a small concrete pillar, with a plaque stating it was the property of Ordnance Survey and providing a telephone number to report damage. Intrigued, Daniel telephoned the number to report some graffiti. It transpired that the pillar was a Triangulation Station (or Trig Point) used for map-making. For which, a theodolite would be placed on the brass plate (a circle bisected by a ‘Y’ formation of grooves) embedded on top of the pillar to take the required bearings from at least three points – ‘triangulation’. Ordnance Survey told Daniel that satellite technology had made the Triangulation Stations obsolete, and that although an adoption scheme had been discontinued “through lack of interest”, they suggested he unofficially adopt it.
“We thought it was a great idea as a premise for the record label,” says Daniel, “the Triangulation Station could be the record label, and where we took people for meetings”. In the middle of the night, Daniel and Margetts painted the pillar blue, with ‘ARCOO1′ stencilled in white, and it became ARC’s “first artefact”, whilst the shape of the brass sighting plate informed the label’s logo. ARC have subsequently made a feature of cataloguing artefacts associated with the label, in addition to the record releases. The adoption of another Triangulation Station occurs as every tenth item; a brown painted ARC010, natural concrete but white stencilled ARC020,and red ARC030 have all been put on the ARC map. Other artefacts include ARC003, a guitar which Daniel found graffiti’d with the word ‘The Thrasher’, which was duly painted and stencilled and donated as raffle prize to a Lewisham community event, whilst ARC018 is the label’s website, ARC019 its office, and ARC022 The Townace, its van.
There are obvious parallels with Factory Records, who applied FAC catalogue numbers to everything from The Hacienda nightclub (FAC51) and its cat (FAC191), to a roll of Sellotape (FAC136). Depsite Factory’s demise in 1992, the catalogue was still active, and so the film about the label, 24 Hour Party People, released in 2002, was FAC401, and the coffin of the label’s founder Anthony H. Wilson, who sadly died in August 2007, was FAC501. Daniel confirms the influence, and says that although he had long been a big fan of Happy Mondays, New Order, and Joy Division, 24 Hour Party People was really his introduction to Factory Records itself and more particularly the persona of Anthony H. Wilson, who he found particularly inspiring. So much so, that when Daniel’s band The Violets, played at Get Loaded in the Park in 2004, which also featured a Happy Mondays set introduced by Wilson, Daniel seized his opportunity: “I told him about the label and that it was very much influenced by what he’d done, and he seemed really pleased by that, and I gave him an Angular badge and he put it on!”.
Daniel is imbued with a distinctly Wilson-esque mix of media savvy and mischievousness, which is particularly to the fore in his coining of the term ‘Neu Rave’ to describe the music of Klaxons. The term caused as much abnegation as approbation, when it was picked up and popularised by the NME throughout 2006 and 2007 as ‘Neu/New/Nu Rave’, and generated a lot of ‘shrieking’ as to whether it actually even existed as a genre; which brings a wry smile to Daniel’s face. He is good friends with Jamie Reynolds (Klaxons’ founder, singer and bass player); “we spent a lot of time together whilst he was creating what he wanted the band to be; the sound, the look,” says Daniel, ” and because of the label, I was used to coming up with catchphrases to describe bands – people hate to be categorised but they always will be, so you might as well come up with your own thing for it – The Vichy Government were ‘Casio Nihilists’, The Fucks ‘Powershop Pop’, The Violets ‘Punk Delicate’ and so when we made the flyer for the first Klaxons gig I wrote ‘Neu Rave’ on it, that’s how it came about.”
ARC has embraced a fascinating, contradictory mix of homespun and high-tech; hand decorated vinyl stands proudly beside the availability of digital downloads, limited edition exclusivity hand-in-hand with YouTube and MySpace accessibility and proliferation. With Klaxons’ first single, Gravity’s Rainbow, released in March 2006 on 7 inch vinyl in a very limited run of 500, Daniel says “I had these really great little glittery pictures of rainbows, so I just wrote the word ‘gravity’ on the vinyl and then stuck on these little rainbows.” Aside from the fact that “it’s fun”, Daniel explains that the motivation is that “it’s very hard to make money without exploring every single facet of trying to get yourself out there and known.” A coda to which is that one of the Klaxons singles went to Steve Lamacq, who on the strength of it booked them to play a live session for his Radio 1 programme.
Indeed, for the first four years of the label’s journey, ARC only released singles or sampler albums, as Daniel explains “we didn’t have much money, and you can’t do an album with people because you can’t put into it what the album deserves, or even what it costs to make, so we tried to raise funds by doing compilations”. This has paid off, literally, as last year ARC released the debut albums by The Lodger and The Violets, and this year released These New Puritans’ debut album Beat Pyramid.
These New Puritans (TPNS) embody the pronounced visual and cultural articulacy that is common to the bands signed by ARC. With a disparate referential mix of Noel Coward and Shoegaze, the Book of Haggai and Fifth Element, TPNS were at the centre of the scene that developed around the club night Junk in Southend, through which they became an inspiration to fashion designer Hedi Slimane. To the degree that drummer George Barnett lived in Paris for six months working as Slimane’s muse, and his twin brother Jack, the band’s multi-talented singer and songwriter created the music for Slimane’s Dior Homme Show 2007. Preserving the mystique, ARC released the resultant 15 minute track, Navigate Navigate, in a limited edition run of 500 12 inch singles, which once again incorporated ARC’s individualistic approach, “It was a white label,” says Daniel, “hand-numbered in gold pen, see through clear vinyl, only one side has music on, one side is just completely shiny; very minimalist.”
Equally, The Violets, as Daniel says, are “into the whole visual thing as much as the way something sounds”. They also underline the prolific, and to a degree polymathic, nature of Daniel’s creativity and productivity over the last five years. Three months after creating ARC with Margetts, Daniel founded The Violets with singer Alexis Mary, and within a month of recording a demo of their first song Laxteen, whilst on holiday together in New York, they had written a further seven songs and performed their first gig. Now delighting in creating genre descriptions out of the limitations of MySpace criteria, he currently describes The Violets as ‘Concrete/Visual/Pop’, “I like it because the music sounds like concrete; it‘s not soft sounding,” he says. Mary’s powerful vocal style, drawing parallels with Siouxsie Sioux and Patti Smith, is compounded by Daniel’s wall of guitar sound; “I play the top string and let the note play out whilst playing other stuff”. David Bowie is both a key musical and visual reference for Daniel, “I really do love Diamond Dogs, especially those three songs Sweet Thing, Candidate, and Sweet Thing (reprise) … That’s incredible. He does epic really well.” On The Violet’s MySpace, Daniel has posted a picture of a very fragile looking Thin White Duke period Bowie being cradled by Elizabeth Taylor; “It’s two very iconic people; Elizabeth Taylor is glamour, and Bowie looks great in almost every picture there is of him.”
Triangulation came to Daniel’s career in August 2007, when he joined Klaxons to play bass, whilst Jamie Reynolds having broken his leg was confined to a wheelchair and latterly crutches. He played a series of eight gigs, that included Japan, Sweden, and culminated in England with the Leeds and Reading festivals. Daniel relished the experience; “every night it was quite a special moment when we played Gravity’s Rainbow,” he says, “Jamie would introduce me and say this is the guy that released this song and this is where it all started… and it opens with the bass as well.”
In marking the fifth anniversary of ARC, entirely appropriately with the label’s cartographic beginnings, it is as important for Daniel to map the memories of the journey so far as it is to plot the trajectory for the next five years. Keepsakes have always been key to him; “I have every ticket from the gigs I went to when I was teenager, it’s an important little pin to stick into the memory of that thing, and I’ve always taken holiday photos, and kept diaries, it’s all about a nostalgic thing of remembering what you’ve done in your life.” Fittingly, ARC’s latest release, The Long Blondes’ Singles straddles the tilt point of ARC’s past and future; whilst continuing the label’s momentum in album releases, for Daniel it also “immediately reminds me of that summer when we first did The Long Blondes”. The band featured on ARC’s second compilation Rip off Your Labels: More Angular Product released in June 2004.
As to the road ahead, Daniel says, “We feel very lucky and fortunate to have created something and then made it what we actually do, so I just want that to carry on; I don’t really care if I never make any money out of it, but I hate the idea of there not being an ARC100, if it just ended that would be awful. So we just need to make that happen.”
Watch an interview with Alexis Mary, lead singer of The Violets, including the promo video for Troubles of Keneat, on the Plectrum Broadcast player.
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